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Charlotte Brontė



JANE EYRE

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

A prefaceto the first edition of "Jane Eyre" being unnecessaryI gavenone:  this second edition demands a few words both ofacknowledgmentand miscellaneous remark.

My thanksare due in three quarters.

To thePublicfor the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain talewith fewpretensions.

To thePressfor the fair field its honest suffrage has opened toan obscureaspirant.

To myPublishersfor the aid their tacttheir energytheirpracticalsense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown andunrecommendedAuthor.

The Pressand the Public are but vague personifications for meandI mustthank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite:so arecertain generous critics who have encouraged me as onlylarge-heartedand high-minded men know how to encourage a strugglingstranger;to themi.e.to my Publishers and the select ReviewersI saycordiallyGentlemenI thank you from my heart.

Havingthus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided andapprovedmeI turn to another class; a small oneso far as I knowbut notthereforeto be overlooked.  I mean the timorous orcarpingfew who doubt the tendency of such books as "Jane Eyre:" inwhose eyeswhatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in eachprotestagainst bigotry--that parent of crime--an insult to pietythatregent of God on earth.  I would suggest to such doubterscertainobvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simpletruths.

Conventionalityis not morality.  Self-righteousness is notreligion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.  To pluckthe maskfrom the face of the Phariseeis not to lift an impioushand tothe Crown of Thorns.

Thesethings and deeds are diametrically opposed:  they are asdistinctas is vice from virtue.  Men too often confound them:  theyshould notbe confounded:  appearance should not be mistaken fortruth;narrow human doctrinesthat only tend to elate and magnify afewshould not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed ofChrist. There is--I repeat it--a difference; and it is a goodandnot a badaction to mark broadly and clearly the line of separationbetweenthem.

The worldmay not like to see these ideas disseveredfor it hasbeenaccustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to makeexternalshow pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed wallsvouch forclean shrines.  It may hate him who dares to scrutiniseandexpose--to rase the gildingand show base metal under it--topenetratethe sepulchreand reveal charnel relics:  but hate as itwillitis indebted to him.

Ahab didnot like Micaiahbecause he never prophesied goodconcerninghimbut evil; probably he liked the sycophant son ofChenaannahbetter; yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody deathhadhe butstopped his ears to flatteryand opened them to faithfulcounsel.

There is aman in our own days whose words are not framed to tickledelicateears:  whoto my thinkingcomes before the great ones ofsocietymuch as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings ofJudah andIsrael; and who speaks truth as deepwith a power asprophet-likeand as vital--a mien as dauntless and as daring.  Isthesatirist of "Vanity Fair" admired in high places?  Icannottell; butI think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greekfire ofhis sarcasmand over whom he flashes the levin-brand of hisdenunciationwere to take his warnings in time--they or their seedmight yetescape a fatal Rimoth-Gilead.

Why have Ialluded to this man?  I have alluded to himReaderbecause Ithink I see in him an intellect profounder and more uniquethan hiscontemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him asthe firstsocial regenerator of the day--as the very master of thatworkingcorps who would restore to rectitude the warped system ofthings;because I think no commentator on his writings has yet foundthecomparison that suits himthe terms which rightly characterisehistalent.  They say he is like Fielding:  they talk of hiswithumourcomic powers.  He resembles Fielding as an eagle does avulture: Fielding could stoop on carrionbut Thackeray never does.His wit isbrighthis humour attractivebut both bear the samerelationto his serious genius that the mere lambent sheet-lightningplayingunder the edge of the summer-cloud does to the electricdeath-sparkhid in its womb.  FinallyI have alluded to Mr.Thackeraybecause to him--if he will accept the tribute of a totalstranger--Ihave dedicated this second edition of "JANE EYRE."

CURRERBELL.

December21st1847.

 

NOTE TOTHE THIRD EDITION

 

I availmyself of the opportunity which a third edition of "JaneEyre"affords meof again addressing a word to the Publictoexplainthat my claim to the title of novelist rests on this oneworkalone.  Ifthereforethe authorship of other works of fictionhas beenattributed to mean honour is awarded where it is notmerited;and consequentlydenied where it is justly due.

Thisexplanation will serve to rectify mistakes which may alreadyhave beenmadeand to prevent future errors.

CURRERBELL.

April13th1848.

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

There wasno possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had beenwanderingindeedin the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning;but sincedinner (Mrs. Reedwhen there was no companydined early)the coldwinter wind had brought with it clouds so sombreand arain sopenetratingthat further out-door exercise was now out ofthequestion.

I was gladof it:  I never liked long walksespecially on chillyafternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilightwithnipped fingers and toesand a heart saddened by the chidingsof Bessiethe nurseand humbled by the consciousness of myphysicalinferiority to ElizaJohnand Georgiana Reed.

The saidElizaJohnand Georgiana were now clustered round theirmama inthe drawing-room:  she lay reclined on a sofa by thefiresideand with her darlings about her (for the time neitherquarrellingnor crying) looked perfectly happy.  Meshe haddispensedfrom joining the group; saying"She regretted to be underthenecessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heardfromBessieand could discover by her own observationthat I wasendeavouringin good earnest to acquire a more sociable andchildlikedispositiona more attractive and sprightly manner--somethinglighterfrankermore naturalas it were--she reallymustexclude me from privileges intended only for contentedhappylittlechildren."

"Whatdoes Bessie say I have done?" I asked.

"JaneI don't like cavillers or questioners; besidesthere issomethingtruly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in thatmanner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantlyremainsilent."

A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-roomI slipped in there. Itcontaineda bookcase:  I soon possessed myself of a volumetakingcare thatit should be one stored with pictures.  I mounted into thewindow-seat: gathering up my feetI sat cross-leggedlike a Turk;andhaving drawn the red moreen curtain nearly closeI was shrinedin doubleretirement.

Folds ofscarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to theleft werethe clear panes of glassprotectingbut not separatingme fromthe drear November day.  At intervalswhile turning overthe leavesof my bookI studied the aspect of that winterafternoon. Afarit offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near ascene ofwet lawn and storm-beat shrubwith ceaseless rain sweepingawaywildly before a long and lamentable blast.

I returnedto my book--Bewick's History of British Birds:  theletterpressthereof I cared little forgenerally speaking; and yetthere werecertain introductory pages thatchild as I wasI couldnot passquite as a blank.  They were those which treat of thehaunts ofsea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by themonlyinhabited; of the coast of Norwaystudded with isles from itssouthernextremitythe Lindenessor Nazeto the North Cape -

 

"Wherethe Northern Oceanin vast whirlsBoilsround the nakedmelancholy islesOffarthest Thule; and the Atlantic surgePours inamong the stormy Hebrides."

 

Nor couldI pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores ofLaplandSiberiaSpitzbergenNova ZemblaIcelandGreenlandwith"thevast sweep of the Arctic Zoneand those forlorn regions ofdrearyspace--that reservoir of frost and snowwhere firm fieldsof icethe accumulation of centuries of wintersglazed in Alpineheightsabove heightssurround the poleand concentre themultipliedrigours of extreme cold."  Of these death-white realms Iformed anidea of my own:  shadowylike all the half-comprehendednotionsthat float dim through children's brainsbut strangelyimpressive. The words in these introductory pages connectedthemselveswith the succeeding vignettesand gave significance tothe rockstanding up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to thebrokenboat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastlymoonglancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

I cannottell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyardwith itsinscribed headstone; its gateits two treesits lowhorizongirdled by a broken walland its newly-risen crescentattestingthe hour of eventide.

The twoships becalmed on a torpid seaI believed to be marinephantoms.

The fiendpinning down the thief's pack behind himI passed overquickly: it was an object of terror.

So was theblack horned thing seated aloof on a rocksurveying adistantcrowd surrounding a gallows.

Eachpicture told a story; mysterious often to my undevelopedunderstandingand imperfect feelingsyet ever profoundlyinteresting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narratedon wintereveningswhen she chanced to be in good humour; and whenhavingbrought her ironing-table to the nursery hearthshe allowedus to sitabout itand while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frillsandcrimped her nightcap bordersfed our eager attention withpassagesof love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and otherballads;or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages ofPamelaand HenryEarl of Moreland.

WithBewick on my kneeI was then happy:  happy at least in my way.I fearednothing but interruptionand that came too soon.  Thebreakfast-roomdoor opened.

"Boh! Madam Mope!" cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused:he foundthe room apparently empty.

"Wherethe dickens is she!" he continued.  "Lizzy! Georgy! (callingto hissisters) Joan is not here:  tell mama she is run out into therain--badanimal!"

"Itis well I drew the curtain" thought I; and I wished ferventlyhe mightnot discover my hiding-place:  nor would John Reed havefound itout himself; he was not quick either of vision orconception;but Eliza just put her head in at the doorand said atonce -

"Sheis in the window-seatto be sureJack."

And I cameout immediatelyfor I trembled at the idea of beingdraggedforth by the said Jack.

"Whatdo you want?" I askedwith awkward diffidence.

"Say'What do you wantMaster Reed?'" was the answer.  "Iwant youto comehere;" and seating himself in an arm-chairhe intimated bya gesturethat I was to approach and stand before him.

John Reedwas a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years olderthan Ifor I was but ten:  large and stout for his agewith adingy andunwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visageheavylimbs and large extremities.  He gorged himself habitually attablewhich made him biliousand gave him a dim and bleared eyeand flabbycheeks.  He ought now to have been at school; but hismama hadtaken him home for a month or two"on account of hisdelicatehealth."  Mr. Milesthe masteraffirmed that he would dovery wellif he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home;but themother's heart turned from an opinion so harshand inclinedrather tothe more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing toover-applicationandperhapsto pining after home.

John hadnot much affection for his mother and sistersand anantipathyto me.  He bullied and punished me; not two or three timesin theweeknor once or twice in the daybut continually:  everynerve Ihad feared himand every morsel of flesh in my bones shrankwhen hecame near.  There were moments when I was bewildered by theterror heinspiredbecause I had no appeal whatever against eitherhismenaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offendtheiryoung master by taking my part against himand Mrs. Reed wasblind anddeaf on the subject:  she never saw him strike or heardhim abusemethough he did both now and then in her very presencemorefrequentlyhoweverbehind her back.

Habituallyobedient to JohnI came up to his chair:  he spent somethreeminutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he couldwithoutdamaging the roots:  I knew he would soon strikeand whiledreadingthe blowI mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance ofhim whowould presently deal it.  I wonder if he read that notion inmy face;forall at oncewithout speakinghe struck suddenly andstrongly. I totteredand on regaining my equilibrium retired backa step ortwo from his chair.

"Thatis for your impudence in answering mama awhile since" saidhe"andfor your sneaking way of getting behind curtainsand forthe lookyou had in your eyes two minutes sinceyou rat!"

Accustomedto John Reed's abuseI never had an idea of replying toit; mycare was how to endure the blow which would certainly followtheinsult.

"Whatwere you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.

"Iwas reading."

"Showthe book."

I returnedto the window and fetched it thence.

"Youhave no business to take our books; you are a dependentmamasays; youhave no money; your father left you none; you ought tobegandnot to live here with gentlemen's children like usand eatthe samemeals we doand wear clothes at our mama's expense.  NowI'll teachyou to rummage my bookshelves:  for they ARE mine; allthe housebelongs to meor will do in a few years.  Go and stand bythe doorout of the way of the mirror and the windows."

I did sonot at first aware what was his intention; but when I sawhim liftand poise the book and stand in act to hurl itIinstinctivelystarted aside with a cry of alarm:  not soon enoughhowever;the volume was flungit hit meand I fellstriking myheadagainst the door and cutting it.  The cut bledthe pain wassharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.

"Wickedand cruel boy!" I said.  "You are like a murderer--youarelike aslave-driver--you are like the Roman emperors!"

I had readGoldsmith's History of Romeand had formed my opinion ofNeroCaligula&c.  Also I had drawn parallels in silencewhichIneverthought thus to have declared aloud.

"What!what!" he cried.  "Did she say that to me?  Didyou hear herEliza andGeorgiana?  Won't I tell mama? but first--"

He ranheadlong at me:  I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder:he hadclosed with a desperate thing.  I really saw in him a tyrantamurderer.  I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickledownmy neckand was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering:  thesesensationsfor the time predominated over fearand I received himin franticsort.  I don't very well know what I did with my handsbut hecalled me "Rat!  Rat!" and bellowed out aloud. Aid was nearhim: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reedwho was goneupstairs: she now came upon the scenefollowed by Bessie and hermaidAbbot.  We were parted:  I heard the words -

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

"Didever anybody see such a picture of passion!"

Then Mrs.Reed subjoined -

"Takeher away to the red-roomand lock her in there."  Fourhandswereimmediately laid upon meand I was borne upstairs.

 

CHAPTER II

 

I resistedall the way:  a new thing for meand a circumstancewhichgreatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbotweredisposed to entertain of me.  The fact isI was a triflebesidemyself; or rather OUT of myselfas the French would say:  Iwasconscious that a moment's mutiny had already rendered me liableto strangepenaltiesandlike any other rebel slaveI feltresolvedin my desperationto go all lengths.

"Holdher armsMiss Abbot:  she's like a mad cat."

"Forshame! for shame!" cried the lady's-maid.  "WhatshockingconductMiss Eyreto strike a young gentlemanyour benefactress'sson! Your young master."

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

"No;you are less than a servantfor you do nothing for your keep.Theresitdownand think over your wickedness."

They hadgot me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs.Reedandhad thrust me upon a stool:  my impulse was to rise fromit like aspring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.

"Ifyou don't sit stillyou must be tied down" said Bessie. "MissAbbotlend me your garters; she would break mine directly."

Miss Abbotturned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.Thispreparation for bondsand the additional ignominy it inferredtook alittle of the excitement out of me.

"Don'ttake them off" I cried; "I will not stir."

Inguarantee whereofI attached myself to my seat by my hands.

"Mindyou don't" said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that Iwas reallysubsidingshe loosened her hold of me; then she and MissAbbotstood with folded armslooking darkly and doubtfully on myfaceasincredulous of my sanity.

"Shenever did so before" at last said Bessieturning to theAbigail.

"Butit was always in her" was the reply.  "I've toldMissis oftenmy opinionabout the childand Missis agreed with me.  She's anunderhandlittle thing:  I never saw a girl of her age with so muchcover."

Bessieanswered not; but ere longaddressing meshe said--"Youought tobe awareMissthat you are under obligations to Mrs.Reed: she keeps you:  if she were to turn you offyou would haveto go tothe poorhouse."

I hadnothing to say to these words:  they were not new to me: myvery firstrecollections of existence included hints of the samekind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-songin myear:  very painful and crushingbut only half intelligible.Miss Abbotjoined in -

"Andyou ought not to think yourself on an equality with the MissesReed andMaster Reedbecause Missis kindly allows you to be broughtup withthem.  They will have a great deal of moneyand you willhavenone:  it is your place to be humbleand to try to makeyourselfagreeable to them."

"Whatwe tell you is for your good" added Bessiein no harshvoice"you should try to be useful and pleasantthenperhapsyouwould havea home here; but if you become passionate and rudeMissiswill send you awayI am sure."

"Besides"said Miss Abbot"God will punish her:  He might strikeher deadin the midst of her tantrumsand then where would she go?ComeBessiewe will leave her:  I wouldn't have her heart foranything. Say your prayersMiss Eyrewhen you are by yourself;for if youdon't repentsomething bad might be permitted to comedown thechimney and fetch you away."

They wentshutting the doorand locking it behind them.

Thered-room was a square chambervery seldom slept inI might sayneverindeedunless when a chance influx of visitors at GatesheadHallrendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodationitcontained:  yet it was one of the largest and stateliestchambersin themansion.  A bed supported on massive pillars of mahoganyhung withcurtains of deep red damaskstood out like a tabernaclein thecentre; the two large windowswith their blinds always drawndownwerehalf shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery;the carpetwas red; the table at the foot of the bed was coveredwith acrimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blushof pink init; the wardrobethe toilet-tablethe chairs were ofdarklypolished old mahogany.  Out of these deep surrounding shadesrose highand glared whitethe piled-up mattresses and pillows ofthe bedspread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane.  Scarcely lessprominentwas an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of thebedalsowhitewith a footstool before it; and lookingas Ithoughtlike a pale throne.

This roomwas chillbecause it seldom had a fire; it was silentbecauseremote from the nursery and kitchen; solemnbecause it wasknown tobe so seldom entered.  The house-maid alone came here onSaturdaysto wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week's quietdust: and Mrs. Reed herselfat far intervalsvisited it to reviewthecontents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobewhere werestoreddivers parchmentsher jewel-casketand a miniature of herdeceasedhusband; and in those last words lies the secret of thered-room--thespell which kept it so lonely in spite of itsgrandeur.

Mr. Reedhad been dead nine years:  it was in this chamber hebreathedhis last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borneby theundertaker's men; andsince that daya sense of drearyconsecrationhad guarded it from frequent intrusion.

My seatto which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left merivetedwas a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bedrosebefore me; to my right hand there was the highdark wardrobewithsubduedbroken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; tomy leftwere the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between themrepeatedthe vacant majesty of the bed and room.  I was not quitesurewhether they had locked the door; and when I dared moveI gotup andwent to see.  Alas! yes:  no jail was ever more secure.ReturningI had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinatedglanceinvoluntarily explored the depth it revealed.  All lookedcolder anddarker in that visionary hollow than in reality:  and thestrangelittle figure there gazing at mewith a white face and armsspeckingthe gloomand glittering eyes of fear moving where allelse wasstillhad the effect of a real spirit:  I thought it likeone of thetiny phantomshalf fairyhalf impBessie's eveningstoriesrepresented as coming out of loneferny dells in moorsandappearingbefore the eyes of belated travellers.  I returned to mystool.

Superstitionwas with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hourforcomplete victory:  my blood was still warm; the mood of therevoltedslave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had tostem arapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to thedismalpresent.

All JohnReed's violent tyranniesall his sisters' proudindifferenceall his mother's aversionall the servants'partialityturned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in aturbidwell.  Why was I always sufferingalways browbeatenalwaysaccusedfor ever condemned?  Why could I never please?  Why was ituseless totry to win any one's favour?  Elizawho was headstrongandselfishwas respected.  Georgianawho had a spoiled temperavery acridspitea captious and insolent carriagewas universallyindulged. Her beautyher pink cheeks and golden curlsseemed togivedelight to all who looked at herand to purchase indemnity foreveryfault.  John no one thwartedmuch less punished; though hetwistedthe necks of the pigeonskilled the little pea-chickssetthe dogsat the sheepstripped the hothouse vines of their fruitand brokethe buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory:  hecalled hismother "old girl" too; sometimes reviled her for herdark skinsimilar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; notunfrequentlytore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still "herowndarling."  I dared commit no fault:  I strove tofulfil everyduty; andI was termed naughty and tiresomesullen and sneakingfrommorning to noonand from noon to night.

My headstill ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received:no one hadreproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I hadturnedagainst him to avert farther irrational violenceI wasloadedwith general opprobrium.

"Unjust!--unjust!"said my reasonforced by the agonising stimulusintoprecocious though transitory power:  and Resolveequallywroughtupinstigated some strange expedient to achieve escape frominsupportableoppression--as running awayorif that could not beeffectednever eating or drinking moreand letting myself die.

What aconsternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon!  Howall mybrain was in tumultand all my heart in insurrection!  Yetin whatdarknesswhat dense ignorancewas the mental battlefought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question--WHY Ithussuffered; nowat the distance of--I will not say how manyyearsIsee it clearly.

I was adiscord in Gateshead Hall:  I was like nobody there; I hadnothing inharmony with Mrs. Reed or her childrenor her chosenvassalage. If they did not love mein factas little did I lovethem. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing thatcould notsympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thingopposed tothem in temperamentin capacityin propensities; auselessthingincapable of serving their interestor adding totheirpleasure; a noxious thingcherishing the germs of indignationat theirtreatmentof contempt of their judgment.  I know that hadI been asanguinebrilliantcarelessexactinghandsomerompingchild--thoughequally dependent and friendless--Mrs. Reed would haveendured mypresence more complacently; her children would haveentertainedfor me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; theservantswould have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of thenursery.

Daylightbegan to forsake the red-room; it was past four o'clockand thebeclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight.  I heardthe rainstill beating continuously on the staircase windowand thewindhowling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold asa stoneand then my courage sank.  My habitual mood of humiliationself-doubtforlorn depressionfell damp on the embers of mydecayingire.  All said I was wickedand perhaps I might be so;whatthought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself todeath? That certainly was a crime:  and was I fit to die?  Or wasthe vaultunder the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?In suchvault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried; and led bythisthought to recall his ideaI dwelt on it with gathering dread.I couldnot remember him; but I knew that he was my own uncle--mymother'sbrother--that he had taken me when a parentless infant tohis house;and that in his last moments he had required a promise ofMrs. Reedthat she would rear and maintain me as one of her ownchildren. Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise;and so shehadI dare sayas well as her nature would permit her;but howcould she really like an interloper not of her raceandunconnectedwith herafter her husband's deathby any tie?  Itmust havebeen most irksome to find herself bound by a hard-wrungpledge tostand in the stead of a parent to a strange child shecould notloveand to see an uncongenial alien permanently intrudedon her ownfamily group.

A singularnotion dawned upon me.  I doubted not--never doubted--that ifMr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly; andnowas Isat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls--occasionallyalso turning a fascinated eye towards the dimlygleaningmirror--I began to recall what I had heard of dead mentroubledin their graves by the violation of their last wishesrevisitingthe earth to punish the perjured and avenge theoppressed;and I thought Mr. Reed's spiritharassed by the wrongsof hissister's childmight quit its abode--whether in the churchvault orin the unknown world of the departed--and rise before me inthischamber.  I wiped my tears and hushed my sobsfearful lest anysign ofviolent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfortmeorelicit from the gloom some haloed facebending over me withstrangepity.  This ideaconsolatory in theoryI felt would beterribleif realised:  with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it--Iendeavoured to be firm.  Shaking my hair from my eyesI liftedmy headand tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this momenta lightgleamed on the wall.  Was itI asked myselfa ray from themoonpenetrating some aperture in the blind?  No; moonlight wasstillandthis stirred; while I gazedit glided up to the ceilingandquivered over my head.  I can now conjecture readily that thisstreak oflight wasin all likelihooda gleam from a lanterncarried bysome one across the lawn:  but thenprepared as my mindwas forhorrorshaken as my nerves were by agitationI thought theswiftdarting beam was a herald of some coming vision from anotherworld. My heart beat thickmy head grew hot; a sound filled myearswhich I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me;I wasoppressedsuffocated:  endurance broke down; I rushed to thedoor andshook the lock in desperate effort.  Steps came runningalong theouter passage; the key turnedBessie and Abbot entered.

"MissEyreare you ill?" said Bessie.

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

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

"Whatfor?  Are you hurt?  Have you seen something?" againdemandedBessie.

"Oh! I saw a lightand I thought a ghost would come."  I hadnowgot holdof Bessie's handand she did not snatch it from me.

"Shehas screamed out on purpose" declared Abbotin some disgust."Andwhat a scream!  If she had been in great pain one would haveexcuseditbut she only wanted to bring us all here:  I know hernaughtytricks."

"Whatis all this?" demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs.Reed camealong the corridorher cap flying wideher gown rustlingstormily. "Abbot and BessieI believe I gave orders that Jane Eyreshould beleft in the red-room till I came to her myself."

"MissJane screamed so loudma'am" pleaded Bessie.

"Lether go" was the only answer.  "Loose Bessie's handchild:you cannotsucceed in getting out by these meansbe assured.  Iabhorartificeparticularly in children; it is my duty to show youthattricks will not answer:  you will now stay here an hour longerand it isonly on condition of perfect submission and stillness thatI shallliberate you then."

"Oaunt! have pity!  Forgive me!  I cannot endure it--let mebepunishedsome other way!  I shall be killed if--"

"Silence! This violence is all most repulsive:" and sono doubtshe feltit.  I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerelylooked onme as a compound of virulent passionsmean spiritanddangerousduplicity.

Bessie andAbbot having retreatedMrs. Reedimpatient of my nowfranticanguish and wild sobsabruptly thrust me back and locked meinwithout farther parley.  I heard her sweeping away; and soonafter shewas goneI suppose I had a species of fit:unconsciousnessclosed the scene.

 

CHAPTERIII

 

The nextthing I remember iswaking up with a feeling as if I hadhad afrightful nightmareand seeing before me a terrible redglarecrossed with thick black bars.  I heard voicestoospeakingwith ahollow soundand as if muffled by a rush of wind or water:agitationuncertaintyand an all-predominating sense of terrorconfusedmy faculties.  Ere longI became aware that some one washandlingme; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting postureand thatmore tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.I restedmy head against a pillow or an armand felt easy.

In fiveminutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved:  I knewquite wellthat I was in my own bedand that the red glare was thenurseryfire.  It was night:  a candle burnt on the table; Bessiestood atthe bed-foot with a basin in her handand a gentleman satin a chairnear my pillowleaning over me.

I felt aninexpressible reliefa soothing conviction of protectionandsecuritywhen I knew that there was a stranger in the roomanindividualnot belonging to Gateshead.and not related to Mrs.Reed. Turning from Bessie (though her presence was far lessobnoxiousto me than that of Abbotfor instancewould have been)Iscrutinised the face of the gentleman:  I knew him; it was Mr.Lloydanapothecarysometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when theservantswere ailing:  for herself and the children she employed aphysician.

"Wellwho am I?" he asked.

Ipronounced his nameoffering him at the same time my hand:  hetook itsmiling and saying"We shall do very well by-and-by."Then helaid me downand addressing Bessiecharged her to be verycarefulthat I was not disturbed during the night.  Having givensomefurther directionsand intimates that he should call again thenext dayhe departed; to my grief:  I felt so sheltered andbefriendedwhile he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as heclosed thedoor after himall the room darkened and my heart againsank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.

"Doyou feel as if you should sleepMiss?" asked Bessierathersoftly.

Scarcelydared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might berough. "I will try."

"Wouldyou like to drinkor could you eat anything?"

"Nothank youBessie."

"ThenI think I shall go to bedfor it is past twelve o'clock; butyou maycall me if you want anything in the night."

Wonderfulcivility this!  It emboldened me to ask a question.

"Bessiewhat is the matter with me?  Am I ill?"

"Youfell sickI supposein the red-room with crying; you'll bebettersoonno doubt."

Bessiewent into the housemaid's apartmentwhich was near.  I heardher say -

"Sarahcome and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my lifebe alonewith that poor child to-night:  she might die; it's such astrangething she should have that fit:  I wonder if she sawanything. Missis was rather too hard."

Sarah cameback with her; they both went to bed; they werewhisperingtogether for half-an-hour before they fell asleep.  Icaughtscraps of their conversationfrom which I was able only toodistinctlyto infer the main subject discussed.

"Somethingpassed herall dressed in whiteand vanished"--"A greatblack dogbehind him"--"Three loud raps on the chamber door"--"Alight inthe churchyard just over his grave" &c. &c.

At lastboth slept:  the fire and the candle went out.  For methewatches ofthat long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strainedby dread: such dread as children only can feel.

No severeor prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of thered-room;it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel thereverberationto this day.  YesMrs. Reedto you I owe somefearfulpangs of mental sufferingbut I ought to forgive youforyou knewnot what you did:  while rending my heart-stringsyouthoughtyou were only uprooting my bad propensities.

Next dayby noonI was up and dressedand sat wrapped in a shawlby thenursery hearth.  I felt physically weak and broken down: butmy worseailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind:  awretchednesswhich kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner hadI wipedone salt drop from my cheek than another followed.  YetIthoughtIought to have been happyfor none of the Reeds weretherethey were all gone out in the carriage with their mama.Abbottoowas sewing in another roomand Bessieas she movedhither andthitherputting away toys and arranging drawersaddressedto me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness.This stateof things should have been to me a paradise of peaceaccustomedas I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thanklessfagging;butin factmy racked nerves were now in such a statethat nocalm could sootheand no pleasure excite them agreeably.

Bessie hadbeen down into the kitchenand she brought up with her atart on acertain brightly painted china platewhose bird ofparadisenestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebudshad beenwont tostir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; andwhichplate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my handin orderto examine it more closelybut had always hitherto beendeemedunworthy of such a privilege.  This precious vessel was nowplaced onmy kneeand I was cordially invited to eat the circlet ofdelicatepastry upon it.  Vain favour! cominglike most otherfavourslong deferred and often wished fortoo late!  I could noteat thetart; and the plumage of the birdthe tints of the flowersseemedstrangely faded:  I put both plate and tart away.  Bessieasked if Iwould have a book:  the word BOOK acted as a transientstimulusand I begged her to fetch Gulliver's Travels from thelibrary. This book I had again and again perused with delight.  Iconsideredit a narrative of factsand discovered in it a vein ofinterestdeeper than what I found in fairy tales:  for as to theelveshaving sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bellsundermushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooksI had atlength made up my mind to the sad truththat they were allgone outof England to some savage country where the woods werewilder andthickerand the population more scant; whereasLilliputandBrobdignag beingin my creedsolid parts of the earth'ssurfaceIdoubted not that I might one dayby taking a longvoyagesee with my own eyes the little fieldshousesand treesthediminutive peoplethe tiny cowssheepand birds of the onerealm; andthe corn-fields forest-highthe mighty mastiffsthemonstercatsthe tower-like men and womenof the other.  Yetwhenthischerished volume was now placed in my hand--when I turned overitsleavesand sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I hadtill nownever failed to find--all was eerie and dreary; the giantswere gauntgoblinsthe pigmies malevolent and fearful impsGulliver amost desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerousregions. I closed the bookwhich I dared no longer peruseand putit on thetablebeside the untasted tart.

Bessie hadnow finished dusting and tidying the roomand havingwashed herhandsshe opened a certain little drawerfull ofsplendidshreds of silk and satinand began making a new bonnet forGeorgiana'sdoll.  Meantime she sang:  her song was -

 

"Inthe days when we went gipsyingA longtime ago."

 

I hadoften heard the song beforeand always with lively delight;for Bessiehad a sweet voice--at leastI thought so.  But nowthough hervoice was still sweetI found in its melody anindescribablesadness.  Sometimespreoccupied with her workshesang therefrain very lowvery lingeringly; "A long time ago" cameout likethe saddest cadence of a funeral hymn.  She passed intoanotherballadthis time a really doleful one.

 

"Myfeet they are soreand my limbs they are weary;Long isthe wayand the mountains are wild;Soonwill the twilight close moonless and drearyOverthe path of the poor orphan child. Why didthey send me so far and so lonelyUpwhere the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?Men arehard-heartedand kind angels onlyWatcho'er the steps of a poor orphan child.

Yetdistant and soft the night breeze is blowingCloudsthere are noneand clear stars beam mildGodinHis mercyprotection is showingComfortand hope to the poor orphan child. Ev'nshould I fall o'er the broken bridge passingOrstray in the marshesby false lights beguiledStillwill my Fatherwith promise and blessingTake toHis bosom the poor orphan child.

Thereis a thought that for strength should avail meThoughboth of shelter and kindred despoiled;Heavenis a homeand a rest will not fail me;God isa friend to the poor orphan child."

 

"ComeMiss Janedon't cry" said Bessie as she finished.  Shemight aswell have said to the fire"don't burn!" but how could shedivine themorbid suffering to which I was a prey?  In the course ofthemorning Mr. Lloyd came again.

"Whatalready up!" said heas he entered the nursery.  "Wellnursehowis she?"

Bessieanswered that I was doing very well.

"Thenshe ought to look more cheerful.  Come hereMiss Jane: yourname isJaneis it not?"

"YessirJane Eyre."

"Wellyou have been cryingMiss Jane Eyre; can you tell me whatabout? Have you any pain?"

"Nosir."

"Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out withMissis inthe carriage" interposed Bessie.

"Surelynot! whyshe is too old for such pettishness."

I thoughtso too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the falsechargeIanswered promptly"I never cried for such a thing in mylife: I hate going out in the carriage.  I cry because I ammiserable."

"OhfieMiss!" said Bessie.

The goodapothecary appeared a little puzzled.  I was standingbeforehim; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily:  his eyes weresmall andgrey; not very brightbut I dare say I should think themshrewdnow:  he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face.Havingconsidered me at leisurehe said -

"Whatmade you ill yesterday?"

"Shehad a fall" said Bessieagain putting in her word.

"Fall!whythat is like a baby again!  Can't she manage to walk ather age? She must be eight or nine years old."

"Iwas knocked down" was the blunt explanationjerked out of mebyanotherpang of mortified pride; "but that did not make me ill" Iadded;while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.

As he wasreturning the box to his waistcoat pocketa loud bellrang forthe servants' dinner; he knew what it was.  "That's foryounurse" said he; "you can go down; I'll give Miss Jane alecturetill you come back."

Bessiewould rather have stayedbut she was obliged to gobecausepunctualityat meals was rigidly enforced at Gateshead Hall.

"Thefall did not make you ill; what didthen?" pursued Mr. LloydwhenBessie was gone.

"Iwas 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! Whatyou are a baby after all!  You are afraid of ghosts?"

"OfMr. Reed's ghost I am:  he died in that roomand was laid outthere. Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at nightifthey canhelp it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without acandle--socruel that I think I shall never forget it."

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

"No: but night will come again before long:  and besides--I amunhappy--veryunhappyfor other things."

"Whatother things?  Can you tell me some of them?"

How much Iwished to reply fully to this question!  How difficult itwas toframe any answer!  Children can feelbut they cannot analysetheirfeelings; and if the analysis is partially effected inthoughtthey know not how to express the result of the process inwords. Fearfulhoweverof losing this first and only opportunityofrelieving my grief by imparting itIafter a disturbed pausecontrivedto frame a meagrethoughas far as it wenttrueresponse.

"Forone thingI have no father or motherbrothers or sisters."

"Youhave a kind aunt and cousins."

Again Ipaused; then bunglingly enounced -

"ButJohn Reed knocked me downand my aunt shut me up in the red-room."

Mr. Lloyda second time produced his snuff-box.

"Don'tyou think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?" asked he."Areyou not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?"

"Itis not my housesir; and Abbot says I have less right to behere thana servant."

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

"If Ihad anywhere else to goI should be glad to leave it; but Ican neverget away from Gateshead till I am a woman."

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

"Ithink notsir."

"Nonebelonging to your father?"

"Idon't know.  I asked Aunt Reed onceand she said possibly Imight havesome poorlow relations called Eyrebut she knewnothingabout them."

"Ifyou had suchwould you like to go to them?"

Ireflected.  Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so tochildren: they have not much idea of industriousworkingrespectablepoverty; they think of the word only as connected withraggedclothesscanty foodfireless gratesrude mannersanddebasingvices:  poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.

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

"Noteven if they were kind to you?"

I shook myhead:  I could not see how poor people had the means ofbeingkind; and then to learn to speak like themto adopt theirmannersto be uneducatedto grow up like one of the poor women Isawsometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at thecottagedoors of the village of Gateshead:  noI was not heroicenough topurchase liberty at the price of caste.

"Butare your relatives so very poor?  Are they working people?"

"Icannot tell; Aunt.  Reed says if I have anythey must be abeggarlyset:  I should not like to go a begging."

"Wouldyou like to go to school?"

Again Ireflected:  I scarcely knew what school was:  Bessiesometimesspoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in thestockswore backboardsand were expected to be exceedingly genteelandprecise:  John Reed hated his schooland abused his master; butJohnReed's tastes were no rule for mineand if Bessie's accountsofschool-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a familywhere shehad lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhatappallingher details of certain accomplishments attained by thesesame youngladies wereI thoughtequally attractive.  She boastedofbeautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed;of songsthey could sing and pieces they could playof purses theycould netof French books they could translate; till my spirit wasmoved toemulation as I listened.  Besidesschool would be acompletechange:  it implied a long journeyan entire separationfromGatesheadan entrance into a new life.

"Ishould indeed like to go to school" was the audible conclusionof mymusings.

"Wellwell! who knows what may happen?" said Mr. Lloydas he gotup. "The child ought to have change of air and scene" headdedspeakingto himself; "nerves not in a good state."

Bessie nowreturned; at the same moment the carriage was heardrolling upthe gravel-walk.

"Isthat your mistressnurse?" asked Mr. Lloyd.  "Ishould like tospeak toher before I go."

Bessieinvited him to walk into the breakfast-roomand led the wayout. In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. ReedIpresumefrom after-occurrencesthat the apothecary ventured torecommendmy being sent to school; and the recommendation was nodoubtreadily enough adopted; for as Abbot saidin discussing thesubjectwith Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one nightafter Iwas in bedandas they thoughtasleep"Missis wasshedared sayglad enough to get rid of such a tiresomeill-conditionedchildwho always looked as if she were watchingeverybodyand scheming plots underhand."  AbbotI thinkgave mecredit forbeing a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.

On thatsame occasion I learnedfor the first timefrom MissAbbot'scommunications to Bessiethat my father had been a poorclergyman;that my mother had married him against the wishes of herfriendswho considered the match beneath her; that my grandfatherReed wasso irritated at her disobediencehe cut her off without ashilling;that after my mother and father had been married a yearthe lattercaught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor ofa largemanufacturing town where his curacy was situatedand wherethatdisease was then prevalent:  that my mother took the infectionfrom himand both died within a month of each other.

Bessiewhen she heard this narrativesighed and said"Poor MissJane is tobe pitiedtooAbbot."

"Yes"responded Abbot; "if she were a nicepretty childone mightcompassionateher forlornness; but one really cannot care for such alittletoad as that."

"Nota great dealto be sure" agreed Bessie:  "at anyrateabeautylike Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the samecondition."

"YesI doat on Miss Georgiana!" cried the fervent Abbot. "Littledarling!--withher long curls and her blue eyesand such a sweetcolour asshe has; just as if she were painted!--BessieI couldfancy aWelsh rabbit for supper."

"Socould I--with a roast onion.  Comewe'll go down." They went.

 

CHAPTER IV

 

From mydiscourse with Mr. Lloydand from the above reportedconferencebetween Bessie and AbbotI gathered enough of hope tosuffice asa motive for wishing to get well:  a change seemed near--I desiredand waited it in silence.  It tarriedhowever:  days andweekspassed:  I had regained my normal state of healthbut no newallusionwas made to the subject over which I brooded.  Mrs. Reedsurveyedme at times with a severe eyebut seldom addressed me:since myillnessshe had drawn a more marked line of separationthan everbetween me and her own children; appointing me a smallcloset tosleep in by myselfcondemning me to take my meals aloneand passall my time in the nurserywhile my cousins wereconstantlyin the drawing-room.  Not a hinthoweverdid she dropaboutsending me to school:  still I felt an instinctive certaintythat shewould not long endure me under the same roof with her; forherglancenow more than everwhen turned on meexpressed aninsuperableand rooted aversion.

Eliza andGeorgianaevidently acting according to ordersspoke tome aslittle as possible:  John thrust his tongue in his cheekwheneverhe saw meand once attempted chastisement; but as Iinstantlyturned against himroused by the same sentiment of deepire anddesperate revolt which had stirred my corruption beforehethought itbetter to desistand ran from me tittering execrationsand vowingI had burst his nose.  I had indeed levelled at thatprominentfeature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; andwhen I sawthat either that or my look daunted himI had thegreatestinclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but hewasalready with his mama.  I heard him in a blubbering tonecommencethe tale of how "that nasty Jane Eyre" had flown at himlike a madcat:  he was stopped rather harshly -

"Don'ttalk to me about herJohn:  I told you not to go near her;she is notworthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or yoursistersshould associate with her."

Hereleaning over the banisterI cried out suddenlyand withoutat alldeliberating on my words -

"Theyare not fit to associate with me."

Mrs. Reedwas rather a stout woman; buton hearing this strange andaudaciousdeclarationshe ran nimbly up the stairswept me like awhirlwindinto the nurseryand crushing me down on the edge of mycribdared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that placeorutter onesyllable during the remainder of the day.

"Whatwould Uncle Reed say to youif he were alive?" was myscarcelyvoluntary demand.  I say scarcely voluntaryfor it seemedas if mytongue pronounced words without my will consenting to theirutterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.

"What?"said Mrs. Reed under her breath:  her usually cold composedgrey eyebecame troubled with a look like fear; she took her handfrom myarmand gazed at me as if she really did not know whether Iwere childor fiend.  I was now in for it.

"MyUncle Reed is in heavenand can see all you do and think; andso canpapa and mama:  they know how you shut me up all day longand howyou wish me dead."

Mrs. Reedsoon rallied her spirits:  she shook me most soundlysheboxed bothmy earsand then left me without a word.  Bessiesuppliedthe hiatus by a homily of an hour's lengthin which sheprovedbeyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned childeverreared under a roof.  I half believed her; for I felt indeedonly badfeelings surging in my breast.

NovemberDecemberand half of January passed away.  Christmas andthe NewYear had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festivecheer;presents had been interchangeddinners and evening partiesgiven. From every enjoyment I wasof courseexcluded:  my shareof thegaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of ElizaandGeorgianaand seeing them descend to the drawing-roomdressedout inthin muslin frocks and scarlet sasheswith hair elaboratelyringletted;and afterwardsin listening to the sound of the pianoor theharp played belowto the passing to and fro of the butlerandfootmanto the jingling of glass and china as refreshments werehandedtothe broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room dooropened andclosed.  When tired of this occupationI would retirefrom thestairhead to the solitary and silent nursery:  therethoughsomewhat sadI was not miserable.  To speak truthI had notthe leastwish to go into companyfor in company I was very rarelynoticed;and if Bessie had but been kind and companionableI shouldhavedeemed it a treat to spend the evenings quietly with herinstead ofpassing them under the formidable eye of Mrs. Reedin aroom fullof ladies and gentlemen.  But Bessieas soon as she haddressedher young ladiesused to take herself off to the livelyregions ofthe kitchen and housekeeper's roomgenerally bearing thecandlealong with her.  I then sat with my doll on my knee till thefire gotlowglancing round occasionally to make sure that nothingworse thanmyself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sankto a dullredI undressed hastilytugging at knots and strings asI bestmightand sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.To thiscrib I always took my doll; human beings must lovesomethingandin the dearth of worthier objects of affectionIcontrivedto find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded gravenimageshabby as a miniature scarecrow.  It puzzles me now torememberwith what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toyhalffancying it alive and capable of sensation.  I could not sleepunless itwas folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safeand warmI was comparatively happybelieving it to be happylikewise.

Long didthe hours seem while I waited the departure of the companyandlistened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs:sometimesshe would come up in the interval to seek her thimble orherscissorsor perhaps to bring me something by way of supper--abun or acheese-cake--then she would sit on the bed while I ate itand when Ihad finishedshe would tuck the clothes round meandtwice shekissed meand said"Good nightMiss Jane."  WhenthusgentleBessie seemed to me the bestprettiestkindest being inthe world;and I wished most intensely that she would always be sopleasantand amiableand never push me aboutor scoldor task meunreasonablyas she was too often wont to do.  Bessie Lee mustIthinkhave been a girl of good natural capacityfor she was smartin all shedidand had a remarkable knack of narrative; soatleastIjudge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.She waspretty tooif my recollections of her face and person arecorrect. I remember her as a slim young womanwith black hairdark eyesvery nice featuresand goodclear complexion; but shehad acapricious and hasty temperand indifferent ideas ofprincipleor justice:  stillsuch as she wasI preferred her toany oneelse at Gateshead Hall.

It was thefifteenth of Januaryabout nine o'clock in the morning:Bessie wasgone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet beensummonedto their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warmgarden-coatto go and feed her poultryan occupation of which shewas fond: and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeperandhoarding up the money she thus obtained.  She had a turn fortrafficand a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in thevending ofeggs and chickensbut also in driving hard bargains withthegardener about flower-rootsseedsand slips of plants; thatfunctionaryhaving orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young ladyall theproducts of her parterre she wished to sell:  and Elizawould havesold the hair off her head if she could have made ahandsomeprofit thereby.  As to her moneyshe first secreted it inoddcornerswrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some ofthesehoards having been discovered by the housemaidElizafearfulof one daylosing her valued treasureconsented to intrust it tohermotherat a usurious rate of interest--fifty or sixty percent.;which interest she exacted every quarterkeeping heraccountsin a little book with anxious accuracy.

Georgianasat on a high stooldressing her hair at the glassandinterweavingher curls with artificial flowers and faded feathersof whichshe had found a store in a drawer in the attic.  I wasmaking mybedhaving received strict orders from Bessie to get itarrangedbefore she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed meas a sortof under-nurserymaidto tidy the roomdust the chairs&c.). Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dressI went tothewindow-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll's housefurniturescattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to letherplaythings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrorsthe fairyplates andcupswere her property) stopped my proceedings; andthenforlack of other occupationI fell to breathing on thefrost-flowerswith which the window was frettedand thus clearing aspace inthe glass through which I might look out on the groundswhere allwas still and petrified under the influence of a hardfrost.

From thiswindow were visible the porter's lodge and the carriage-roadandjust as I had dissolved so much of the silver-whitefoliageveiling the panes as left room to look outI saw the gatesthrownopen and a carriage roll through.  I watched it ascending thedrive withindifference; carriages often came to Gatesheadbut noneeverbrought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in frontof thehousethe door-bell rang loudlythe new-comer was admitted.All thisbeing nothing to memy vacant attention soon foundlivelierattraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robinwhichcame andchirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailedagainstthe wall near the casement.  The remains of my breakfast ofbread andmilk stood on the tableand having crumbled a morsel ofrollIwas tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the window-sillwhenBessie came running upstairs into the nursery.

"MissJanetake off your pinafore; what are you doing there?  Haveyou washedyour hands and face this morning?"  I gave another tugbefore Iansweredfor I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread:the sashyielded; I scattered the crumbssome on the stone sillsome onthe cherry-tree boughthenclosing the windowI replied -

"NoBessie; I have only just finished dusting."

"Troublesomecareless child! and what are you doing now?  You lookquite redas if you had been about some mischief:  what were youopeningthe window for?"

I wasspared the trouble of answeringfor Bessie seemed in toogreat ahurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to thewashstandinflicted a mercilessbut happily brief scrub on my faceand handswith soapwaterand a coarse towel; disciplined my headwith abristly brushdenuded me of my pinaforeand then hurryingme to thetop of the stairsbid me go down directlyas I waswanted inthe breakfast-room.

I wouldhave asked who wanted me:  I would have demanded if Mrs.Reed wasthere; but Bessie was already goneand had closed thenursery-doorupon me.  I slowly descended.  For nearly three monthsI hadnever been called to Mrs. Reed's presence; restricted so longto thenurserythe breakfastdiningand drawing-rooms were becomefor meawful regionson which it dismayed me to intrude.

I nowstood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-roomdoorandI stoppedintimidated and trembling.  What a miserablelittlepoltroon had fearengendered of unjust punishmentmade ofme inthose days!  I feared to return to the nurseryand feared togo forwardto the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitatedhesitation;the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decidedme; I MUSTenter.

"Whocould want me?" I asked inwardlyas with both hands I turnedthe stiffdoor-handlewhichfor a second or tworesisted myefforts. "What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?--aman or awoman?"  The handle turnedthe door unclosedand passingthroughand curtseying lowI looked up at--a black pillar!--suchat leastappeared to meat first sightthe straightnarrowsable-cladshape standing erect on the rug:  the grim face at thetop waslike a carved maskplaced above the shaft by way ofcapital.

Mrs. Reedoccupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signalto me toapproach; I did soand she introduced me to the stonystrangerwith the words:  "This is the little girl respecting whom Iapplied toyou."

HEfor itwas a manturned his head slowly towards where I stoodand havingexamined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyeswhichtwinkled under a pair of bushy browssaid solemnlyand in abassvoice"Her size is small:  what is her age?"

"Tenyears."

"Somuch?" was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutinyfor someminutes.  Presently he addressed me--"Your namelittlegirl?"

"JaneEyresir."

Inuttering these words I looked up:  he seemed to me a tallgentleman;but then I was very little; his features were largeandthey andall the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.

"WellJane Eyreand are you a good child?"

Impossibleto reply to this in the affirmative:  my little worldheld acontrary opinion:  I was silent.  Mrs. Reed answered for meby anexpressive shake of the headadding soon"Perhaps the lesssaid onthat subject the betterMr. Brocklehurst."

"Sorryindeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" andbendingfrom the perpendicularhe installed his person in the arm-chairopposite Mrs. Reed's.  "Come here" he said.

I steppedacross the rug; he placed me square and straight beforehim. What a face he hadnow that it was almost on a level withmine! whata great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominentteeth!

"Nosight so sad as that of a naughty child" he began"especiallya naughtylittle girl.  Do you know where the wicked go afterdeath?"

"Theygo to hell" was my ready and orthodox answer.

"Andwhat is hell?  Can you tell me that?"

"Apit full of fire."

"Andshould you like to fall into that pitand to be burning therefor ever?"

"Nosir."

"Whatmust you do to avoid it?"

Ideliberated a moment; my answerwhen it did comewasobjectionable: "I must keep in good healthand not die."

"Howcan you keep in good health?  Children younger than you diedaily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or twosince--agood little childwhose soul is now in heaven.  It is tobe fearedthe same could not be said of you were you to be calledhence."

Not beingin a condition to remove his doubtI only cast my eyesdown onthe two large feet planted on the rugand sighedwishingmyself farenough away.

"Ihope that sigh is from the heartand that you repent of everhavingbeen the occasion of discomfort to your excellentbenefactress."

"Benefactress!benefactress!" said I inwardly:  "they all call Mrs.Reed mybenefactress; if soa benefactress is a disagreeablething."

"Doyou say your prayers night and morning?" continued myinterrogator.

"Yessir."

"Doyou read your Bible?"

"Sometimes."

"Withpleasure?  Are you fond of it?"

"Ilike Revelationsand the book of Danieland Genesis and Samueland alittle bit of Exodusand some parts of Kings and Chroniclesand Joband Jonah."

"Andthe Psalms?  I hope you like them?"

"Nosir."

"No?ohshocking!  I have a little boyyounger than youwho knowssix Psalmsby heart:  and when you ask him which he would ratherhaveagingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learnhesays: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he'Iwish to bea little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts inrecompensefor his infant piety."

"Psalmsare not interesting" I remarked.

"Thatproves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God tochangeit:  to give you a new and clean one:  to take away yourheart ofstone and give you a heart of flesh."

I wasabout to propound a questiontouching the manner in whichthatoperation of changing my heart was to be performedwhen Mrs.Reedinterposedtelling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carryon theconversation herself.

"Mr.BrocklehurstI believe I intimated in the letter which I wroteto youthree weeks agothat this little girl has not quite thecharacterand disposition I could wish:  should you admit her intoLowoodschoolI should be glad if the superintendent and teacherswererequested to keep a strict eye on herandabove allto guardagainsther worst faulta tendency to deceit.  I mention this inyourhearingJanethat you may not attempt to impose on Mr.Brocklehurst."

Well mightI dreadwell might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was hernature towound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence;howevercarefully I obeyedhowever strenuously I strove to pleasehermyefforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences astheabove.  Nowuttered before a strangerthe accusation cut me tothe heart;I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hopefrom thenew phase of existence which she destined me to enter; Ifeltthough I could not have expressed the feelingthat she wassowingaversion and unkindness along my future path; I saw myselftransformedunder Mr. Brocklehurst's eye into an artfulnoxiouschildandwhat could I do to remedy the injury?

"Nothingindeed" thought Ias I struggled to repress a sobandhastilywiped away some tearsthe impotent evidences of my anguish.

"Deceitisindeeda sad fault in a child" said Mr. Brocklehurst;"itis akin to falsehoodand all liars will have their portion inthe lakeburning with fire and brimstone; she shallhoweverbewatchedMrs. Reed.  I will speak to Miss Temple and the teachers."

"Ishould wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting herprospects"continued my benefactress; "to be made usefulto bekepthumble:  as for the vacationsshe willwith your permissionspend themalways at Lowood."

"Yourdecisions are perfectly judiciousmadam" returned Mr.Brocklehurst. "Humility is a Christian graceand one peculiarlyappropriateto the pupils of Lowood; Ithereforedirect thatespecialcare shall be bestowed on its cultivation amongst them.  Ihavestudied how best to mortify in them the worldly sentiment ofpride;andonly the other dayI had a pleasing proof of mysuccess. My second daughterAugustawent with her mama to visittheschooland on her return she exclaimed:  'Ohdear papahowquiet andplain all the girls at Lowood lookwith their hair combedbehindtheir earsand their long pinaforesand those littlehollandpockets outside their frocks--they are almost like poorpeople'schildren! and' said she'they looked at my dress andmama'sasif they had never seen a silk gown before.'"

"Thisis the state of things I quite approve" returned Mrs. Reed;"hadI sought all England overI could scarcely have found a systemmoreexactly fitting a child like Jane Eyre.  Consistencymy dearMr.Brocklehurst; I advocate consistency in all things."

"Consistencymadamis the first of Christian duties; and it hasbeenobserved in every arrangement connected with the establishmentofLowood:  plain faresimple attireunsophisticatedaccommodationshardy and active habits; such is the order of theday in thehouse and its inhabitants."

"Quiterightsir.  I may then depend upon this child being receivedas a pupilat Lowoodand there being trained in conformity to herpositionand prospects?"

"Madamyou may:  she shall be placed in that nursery of chosenplantsand I trust she will show herself grateful for theinestimableprivilege of her election."

"Iwill send herthenas soon as possibleMr. Brocklehurst; forI assureyouI feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility thatwasbecoming too irksome."

"Nodoubtno doubtmadam; and now I wish you good morning.  Ishallreturn to Brocklehurst Hall in the course of a week or two:my goodfriendthe Archdeaconwill not permit me to leave himsooner. I shall send Miss Temple notice that she is to expect a newgirlsothat there will he no difficulty about receiving her.Good-bye."

"Good-byeMr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and MissBrocklehurstand to Augusta and Theodoreand Master BroughtonBrocklehurst."

"Iwillmadam.  Little girlhere is a book entitled the 'Child'sGuide'read it with prayerespecially that part containing 'Anaccount ofthe awfully sudden death of Martha G -a naughty childaddictedto falsehood and deceit.'"

With thesewords Mr. Brocklehurst put into my hand a thin pamphletsewn in acoverand having rung for his carriagehe departed.

Mrs. Reedand I were left alone:  some minutes passed in silence;she wassewingI was watching her.  Mrs. Reed might be at that timesome sixor seven and thirty; she was a woman of robust framesquare-shoulderedand strong-limbednot tallandthough stoutnotobese:  she had a somewhat large facethe under jaw being muchdevelopedand very solid; her brow was lowher chin large andprominentmouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her lighteyebrowsglimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark andopaqueher hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as abell--illnessnever came near her; she was an exactclever manager;herhousehold and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; herchildrenonly at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn;shedressed welland had a presence and port calculated to set offhandsomeattire.

Sitting ona low stoola few yards from her arm-chairI examinedherfigure; I perused her features.  In my hand I held the tractcontainingthe sudden death of the Liarto which narrative myattentionhad been pointed as to an appropriate warning.  What hadjustpassed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr.Brocklehurst;the whole tenor of their conversationwas recentrawandstinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as Ihad heardit plainlyand a passion of resentment fomented nowwithin me.

Mrs. Reedlooked up from her work; her eye settled on mineherfingers atthe same time suspended their nimble movements.

"Goout of the room; return to the nursery" was her mandate. Mylook orsomething else must have struck her as offensivefor shespoke withextreme though suppressed irritation.  I got upI wentto thedoor; I came back again; I walked to the windowacross theroomthenclose up to her.

SPEAK Imust:  I had been trodden on severelyand MUST turn:  buthow? What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist?  Igatheredmy energies and launched them in this blunt sentence -

"I amnot deceitful:  if I wereI should say I loved you; but Ideclare Ido not love you:  I dislike you the worst of anybody inthe worldexcept John Reed; and this book about the liaryou maygive toyour girlGeorgianafor it is she who tells liesand notI."

Mrs.Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive:  her eye of icecontinuedto dwell freezingly on mine.

"Whatmore have you to say?" she askedrather in the tone in whicha personmight address an opponent of adult age than such as isordinarilyused to a child.

That eyeof hersthat voice stirred every antipathy I had.  Shakingfrom headto footthrilled with ungovernable excitementIcontinued-

"I amglad you are no relation of mine:  I will never call you auntagain aslong as I live.  I will never come to see you when I amgrown up;and if any one asks me how I liked youand how youtreatedmeI will say the very thought of you makes me sickandthat youtreated me with miserable cruelty."

"Howdare you affirm thatJane Eyre?"

"Howdare IMrs. Reed?  How dare I?  Because it is the TRUTH. Youthink Ihave no feelingsand that I can do without one bit of loveorkindness; but I cannot live so:  and you have no pity.  Ishallrememberhow you thrust me back--roughly and violently thrust meback--intothe red-roomand locked me up thereto my dying day;though Iwas in agony; though I cried outwhile suffocating withdistress'Have mercy!  Have mercyAunt Reed!'  And that punishmentyou mademe suffer because your wicked boy struck me--knocked medown fornothing.  I will tell anybody who asks me questionsthisexacttale.  People think you a good womanbut you are badhard-hearted. YOU are deceitful!"

Ere I hadfinished this replymy soul began to expandto exultwith thestrangest sense of freedomof triumphI ever felt.  Itseemed asif an invisible bond had burstand that I had struggledout intounhoped-for liberty.  Not without cause was this sentiment:Mrs. Reedlooked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; shewaslifting up her handsrocking herself to and froand eventwistingher face as if she would cry.

"Janeyou are under a mistake:  what is the matter with you?  Whydo youtremble so violently?  Would you like to drink some water?"

"NoMrs. Reed."

"Isthere anything else you wish forJane?  I assure youI desireto be yourfriend."

"Notyou.  You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad characteradeceitfuldisposition; and I'll let everybody at Lowood know whatyou areand what you have done."

"Janeyou don't understand these things:  children must becorrectedfor their faults."

"Deceitis not my fault!" I cried out in a savagehigh voice.

"Butyou are passionateJanethat you must allow:  and now returnto thenursery--there's a dear--and lie down a little."

"I amnot your dear; I cannot lie down:  send me to school soonMrs. Reedfor I hate to live here."

"Iwill indeed send her to school soon" murmured Mrs. Reed sottovoce; andgathering up her workshe abruptly quitted the apartment.

I was leftthere alone--winner of the field.  It was the hardestbattle Ihad foughtand the first victory I had gained:  I stoodawhile onthe rugwhere Mr. Brocklehurst had stoodand I enjoyedmyconqueror's solitude.  FirstI smiled to myself and felt elate;but thisfierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did theacceleratedthrob of my pulses.  A child cannot quarrel with itseldersasI had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolledplayas Ihad given minewithout experiencing afterwards the pangof remorseand the chill of reaction.  A ridge of lighted heathaliveglancingdevouringwould have been a meet emblem of my mindwhen Iaccused and menaced Mrs. Reed:  the same ridgeblack andblastedafter the flames are deadwould have represented as meetlymysubsequent conditionwhen half-an-hour's silence and reflectionhad shownme the madness of my conductand the dreariness of myhated andhating position.

Somethingof vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromaticwine itseemedon swallowingwarm and racy:  its after-flavourmetallicand corrodinggave me a sensation as if I had beenpoisoned. Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed'spardon;but I knewpartly from experience and partly from instinctthat wasthe way to make her repulse me with double scorntherebyre-excitingevery turbulent impulse of my nature.

I wouldfain exercise some better faculty than that of fiercespeaking;fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling thanthat ofsombre indignation.  I took a book--some Arabian tales; Isat downand endeavoured to read.  I could make no sense of thesubject;my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I hadusuallyfound fascinating.  I opened the glass-door in thebreakfast-room: the shrubbery was quite still:  the black frostreignedunbroken by sun or breezethrough the grounds.  I coveredmy headand arms with the skirt of my frockand went out to walk ina part ofthe plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I foundnopleasure in the silent treesthe falling fir-conesthecongealedrelics of autumnrusset leavesswept by past winds inheapsandnow stiffened together.  I leaned against a gateandlookedinto an empty field where no sheep were feedingwhere theshortgrass was nipped and blanched.  It was a very grey day; a mostopaquesky"onding on snaw" canopied all; thence flakes felt itintervalswhich settled on the hard path and on the hoary leawithoutmelting.  I stooda wretched child enoughwhispering tomyselfover and over again"What shall I do?--what shall I do?"

All atonce I heard a clear voice call"Miss Jane! where are you?Come tolunch!"

It wasBessieI knew well enough; but I did not stir; her lightstep cametripping down the path.

"Younaughty little thing!" she said.  "Why don't you comewhen youarecalled?"

Bessie'spresencecompared with the thoughts over which I had beenbroodingseemed cheerful; even thoughas usualshe was somewhatcross. The fact isafter my conflict with and victory over Mrs.ReedIwas not disposed to care much for the nursemaid's transitoryanger; andI WAS disposed to bask in her youthful lightness ofheart. I just put my two arms round her and said"ComeBessie!don'tscold."

The actionwas more frank and fearless than any I was habituated toindulgein:  somehow it pleased her.

"Youare a strange childMiss Jane" she saidas she looked downat me; "alittle rovingsolitary thing:  and you are going toschoolIsuppose?"

I nodded.

"Andwon't you be sorry to leave poor Bessie?"

"Whatdoes Bessie care for me?  She is always scolding me."

"Becauseyou're such a queerfrightenedshy little thing.  Youshould bebolder."

"What!to get more knocks?"

"Nonsense! But you are rather put uponthat's certain.  My mothersaidwhenshe came to see me last weekthat she would not like alittle oneof her own to be in your place.--Nowcome inand I'vesome goodnews for you."

"Idon't think you haveBessie."

"Child!what do you mean?  What sorrowful eyes you fix on me! Wellbut Missisand the young ladies and Master John are going out to teathisafternoonand you shall have tea with me.  I'll ask cook tobake you alittle cakeand then you shall help me to look over yourdrawers;for I am soon to pack your trunk.  Missis intends you toleaveGateshead in a day or twoand you shall choose what toys youlike totake with you."

"Bessieyou must promise not to scold me any more till I go."

"WellI will; but mind you are a very good girland don't beafraid ofme.  Don't start when I chance to speak rather sharply;it's soprovoking."

"Idon't think I shall ever be afraid of you againBessiebecauseI have gotused to youand I shall soon have another set of peopleto dread."

"Ifyou dread them they'll dislike you."

"Asyou doBessie?"

"Idon't dislike youMiss; I believe I am fonder of you than of alltheothers."

"Youdon't show it."

"Youlittle sharp thing! you've got quite a new way of talking.What makesyou so venturesome and hardy?"

"WhyI shall soon be away from youand besides"--I was going tosaysomething about what had passed between me and Mrs. Reedbut onsecondthoughts I considered it better to remain silent on thathead.

"Andso you're glad to leave me?"

"Notat allBessie; indeedjust now I'm rather sorry."

"Justnow! and rather!  How coolly my little lady says it!  Idaresay now ifI were to ask you for a kiss you wouldn't give it me:you'd sayyou'd RATHER not."

"I'llkiss you and welcome:  bend your head down."  Bessiestooped;wemutually embracedand I followed her into the house quitecomforted. That afternoon lapsed in peace and harmony; and in theeveningBessie told me some of her most enchaining storiesand sangme some ofher sweetest songs.  Even for me life had its gleams ofsunshine.

 

CHAPTER V

 

Fiveo'clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th ofJanuarywhen Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found mealready upand nearly dressed.  I had risen half-an-hour before herentranceand had washed my faceand put on my clothes by the lightof ahalf-moon just settingwhose rays streamed through the narrowwindownear my crib.  I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coachwhichpassed the lodge gates at six a.m.  Bessie was the only personyet risen;she had lit a fire in the nurserywhere she nowproceededto make my breakfast.  Few children can eat when excitedwith thethoughts of a journey; nor could I.  Bessiehaving pressedme in vainto take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread shehadprepared for mewrapped up some biscuits in a paper and putthem intomy bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnetandwrapping herself in a shawlshe and I left the nursery.  As wepassedMrs. Reed's bedroomshe said"Will you go in and bid Missisgood-bye?"

"NoBessie:  she came to my crib last night when you were gone downto supperand said I need not disturb her in the morningor mycousinseither; and she told me to remember that she had always beenmy bestfriendand to speak of her and be grateful to heraccordingly."

"Whatdid you sayMiss?"

"Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothesand turned fromher to thewall."

"Thatwas wrongMiss Jane."

"Itwas quite rightBessie.  Your Missis has not been my friend:she hasbeen my foe."

"OMiss Jane! don't say so!"

"Good-byeto Gateshead!" cried Ias we passed through the hall andwent outat the front door.

The moonwas setand it was very dark; Bessie carried a lanternwhoselight glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recentthaw. Raw and chill was the winter morning:  my teeth chattered asI hasteneddown the drive.  There was a light in the porter's lodge:when wereached itwe found the porter's wife just kindling herfire: my trunkwhich had been carried down the evening beforestoodcorded at the door.  It wanted but a few minutes of sixandshortlyafter that hour had struckthe distant roll of wheelsannouncedthe coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lampsapproachrapidly through the gloom.

"Isshe going by herself?" asked the porter's wife.

"Yes."

"Andhow far is it?"

"Fiftymiles."

"Whata long way!  I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her sofaralone."

The coachdrew up; there it was at the gates with its four horsesand itstop laden with passengers:  the guard and coachman loudlyurgedhaste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie'snecktowhich I clung with kisses.

"Besure and take good care of her" cried she to the guardas helifted meinto the inside.

"Ayay!" was the answer:  the door was slapped toa voiceexclaimed"All right" and on we drove.  Thus was I severed fromBessie andGateshead; thus whirled away to unknownandas I thendeemedremote and mysterious regions.

I rememberbut little of the journey; I only know that the dayseemed tome of a preternatural lengthand that we appeared totravelover hundreds of miles of road.  We passed through severaltownsandin onea very large onethe coach stopped; the horseswere takenoutand the passengers alighted to dine.  I was carriedinto aninnwhere the guard wanted me to have some dinner; butasI had noappetitehe left me in an immense room with a fireplace ateach enda chandelier pendent from the ceilingand a little redgalleryhigh up against the wall filled with musical instruments.Here Iwalked about for a long timefeeling very strangeandmortallyapprehensive of some one coming in and kidnapping me; for Ibelievedin kidnapperstheir exploits having frequently figured inBessie'sfireside chronicles.  At last the guard returned; once moreI wasstowed away in the coachmy protector mounted his own seatsoundedhis hollow hornand away we rattled over the "stony street"of L-.

Theafternoon came on wet and somewhat misty:  as it waned intoduskIbegan to feel that we were getting very far indeed fromGateshead: we ceased to pass through towns; the country changed;great greyhills heaved up round the horizon:  as twilight deepenedwedescended a valleydark with woodand long after night hadovercloudedthe prospectI heard a wild wind rushing amongst trees.

Lulled bythe soundI at last dropped asleep; I had not longslumberedwhen the sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coach-door wasopenand a person like a servant was standing at it:  Isaw herface and dress by the light of the lamps.

"Isthere a little girl called Jane Eyre here?" she asked.  Ianswered"Yes" and was then lifted out; my trunk was handed downand thecoach instantly drove away.

I wasstiff with long sittingand bewildered with the noise andmotion ofthe coach:  Gathering my facultiesI looked about me.Rainwindand darkness filled the air; neverthelessI dimlydiscerneda wall before me and a door open in it; through this doorI passedwith my new guide:  she shut and locked it behind her.There wasnow visible a house or houses--for the building spreadfar--withmany windowsand lights burning in some; we went up abroadpebbly pathsplashing wetand were admitted at a door; thentheservant led me through a passage into a room with a firewhereshe leftme alone.

I stoodand warmed my numbed fingers over the blazethen I lookedround;there was no candlebut the uncertain light from the hearthshowedbyintervalspapered wallscarpetcurtainsshiningmahoganyfurniture:  it was a parlournot so spacious or splendidas thedrawing-room at Gatesheadbut comfortable enough.  I waspuzzlingto make out the subject of a picture on the wallwhen thedooropenedand an individual carrying a light entered; anotherfollowedclose behind.

The firstwas a tall lady with dark hairdark eyesand a pale andlargeforehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawlhercountenancewas graveher bearing erect.

"Thechild is very young to be sent alone" said sheputting hercandledown on the table.  She considered me attentively for aminute ortwothen further added -

"Shehad better be put to bed soon; she looks tired:  are youtired?"she askedplacing her hand on my shoulder.

"Alittlema'am."

"Andhungry toono doubt:  let her have some supper before she goesto bedMiss Miller.  Is this the first time you have left yourparents tocome to schoolmy little girl?"

Iexplained to her that I had no parents.  She inquired how longthey hadbeen dead:  then how old I waswhat was my namewhether Icouldreadwriteand sew a little:  then she touched my cheekgentlywith her forefingerand saying"She hoped I should be agoodchild" dismissed me along with Miss Miller.

The lady Ihad left might be about twenty-nine; the one who wentwith meappeared some years younger:  the first impressed me by hervoicelookand air.  Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy incomplexionthough of a careworn countenance; hurried in gait andactionlike one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand:shelookedindeedwhat I afterwards found she really wasanunder-teacher. Led by herI passed from compartment tocompartmentfrom passage to passageof a large and irregularbuilding;tillemerging from the total and somewhat dreary silencepervadingthat portion of the house we had traversedwe came uponthe hum ofmany voicesand presently entered a widelong roomwith greatdeal tablestwo at each endon each of which burnt apair ofcandlesand seated all round on benchesa congregation ofgirls ofevery agefrom nine or ten to twenty.  Seen by the dimlight ofthe dipstheir number to me appeared countlessthough notin realityexceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brownstufffrocks of quaint fashionand long holland pinafores.  It wasthe hourof study; they were engaged in conning over their to-morrow'staskand the hum I had heard was the combined result oftheirwhispered repetitions.

MissMiller signed to me to sit on a bench near the doorthenwalking upto the top of the long room she cried out -

"Monitorscollect the lesson-books and put them away!  Four tallgirlsarose from different tablesand going roundgathered thebooks andremoved them.  Miss Miller again gave the word of command-

"Monitorsfetch the supper-trays!"

The tallgirls went out and returned presentlyeach bearing a traywithportions of somethingI knew not whatarranged thereonand apitcher ofwater and mug in the middle of each tray.  The portionswerehanded round; those who liked took a draught of the waterthemug beingcommon to all.  When it came to my turnI drankfor Iwasthirstybut did not touch the foodexcitement and fatiguerenderingme incapable of eating:  I now sawhoweverthat it was athin oatencake shared into fragments.

The mealoverprayers were read by Miss Millerand the classesfiled offtwo and twoupstairs.  Overpowered by this time withwearinessI scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom wasexceptthatlike the schoolroomI saw it was very long.  To-nightI was tobe Miss Miller's bed-fellow; she helped me to undress:when laiddown I glanced at the long rows of bedseach of which wasquicklyfilled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single lightwasextinguishedand amidst silence and complete darkness I fellasleep.

The nightpassed rapidly.  I was too tired even to dream; I onlyonce awoketo hear the wind rave in furious gustsand the rain fallintorrentsand to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her placeby myside.  When I again unclosed my eyesa loud bell was ringing;the girlswere up and dressing; day had not yet begun to dawnand arushlightor two burned in the room.  I too rose reluctantly; it wasbittercoldand I dressed as well as I could for shiveringandwashedwhen there was a basin at libertywhich did not occur soonas therewas but one basin to six girlson the stands down themiddle ofthe room.  Again the bell rang:  all formed in filetwoand twoand in that order descended the stairs and entered the coldand dimlylit schoolroom:  here prayers were read by Miss Miller;afterwardsshe called out -

"Formclasses!"

A greattumult succeeded for some minutesduring which Miss Millerrepeatedlyexclaimed"Silence!" and "Order!"  When itsubsidedIsaw themall drawn up in four semicirclesbefore four chairsplaced atthe four tables; all held books in their handsand agreatbooklike a Biblelay on each tablebefore the vacant seat.A pause ofsome seconds succeededfilled up by the lowvague humofnumbers; Miss Miller walked from class to classhushing thisindefinitesound.

A distantbell tinkled:  immediately three ladies entered the roomeachwalked to a table and took her seat.  Miss Miller assumed thefourthvacant chairwhich was that nearest the doorand aroundwhich thesmallest of the children were assembled:  to this inferiorclass Iwas calledand placed at the bottom of it.

Businessnow beganthe day's Collect was repeatedthen certaintexts ofScripture were saidand to these succeeded a protractedreading ofchapters in the Biblewhich lasted an hour.  By the timethatexercise was terminatedday had fully dawned.  Theindefatigablebell now sounded for the fourth time:  the classesweremarshalled and marched into another room to breakfast:  howglad I wasto behold a prospect of getting something to eat!  I wasnow nearlysick from inanitionhaving taken so little the daybefore.

Therefectory was a greatlow-ceiledgloomy room; on two longtablessmoked basins of something hotwhichhoweverto my dismaysent forthan odour far from inviting.  I saw a universalmanifestationof discontent when the fumes of the repast met thenostrilsof those destined to swallow it; from the van of theprocessionthe tall girls of the first classrose the whisperedwords -

"Disgusting! The porridge is burnt again!"

"Silence!"ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Millerbut one ofthe upperteachersa little and dark personagesmartly dressedbut ofsomewhat morose aspectwho installed herself at the top ofone tablewhile a more buxom lady presided at the other.  I lookedin vainfor her I had first seen the night before; she was notvisible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table where I satand astrangeforeign-lookingelderly ladythe French teacherasIafterwards foundtook the corresponding seat at the other board.A longgrace was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought insome teafor the teachersand the meal began.

Ravenousand now very faintI devoured a spoonful or two of myportionwithout thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hungerbluntedIperceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burntporridgeis almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soonsickensover it.  The spoons were moved slowly:  I saw each girltaste herfood and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effortwas soonrelinquished.  Breakfast was overand none hadbreakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not gotand asecondhymn chantedthe refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.I was oneof the last to go outand in passing the tablesI sawoneteacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked attheothers; all their countenances expressed displeasureand one ofthemthestout onewhispered -

"Abominablestuff!  How shameful!"

A quarterof an hour passed before lessons again beganduring whichtheschoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time itseemed tobe permitted to talk loud and more freelyand they usedtheirprivilege.  The whole conversation ran on the breakfastwhichone andall abused roundly.  Poor things! it was the soleconsolationthey had.  Miss Miller was now the only teacher in theroom: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with seriousand sullengestures.  I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurstpronouncedby some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her headdisapprovingly;but she made no great effort to cheek the generalwrath;doubtless she shared in it.

A clock inthe schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circleandstanding in the middle of the roomcried -

"Silence! To your seats!"

Disciplineprevailed:  in five minutes the confused throng wasresolvedinto orderand comparative silence quelled the Babelclamour oftongues.  The upper teachers now punctually resumed theirposts: but stillall seemed to wait.  Ranged on benches down thesides ofthe roomthe eighty girls sat motionless and erect; aquaintassemblage they appearedall with plain locks combed fromtheirfacesnot a curl visible; in brown dressesmade high andsurroundedby a narrow tucker about the throatwith little pocketsof holland(shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied infront oftheir frocksand destined to serve the purpose of a work-bag: alltoowearing woollen stockings and country-made shoesfastenedwith brass buckles.  Above twenty of those clad in thiscostumewere full-grown girlsor rather young women; it suited themillandgave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.

I wasstill looking at themand also at intervals examining theteachers--noneof whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was alittlecoarsethe dark one not a little fiercethe foreigner harshandgrotesqueand Miss Millerpoor thing! looked purpleweather-beatenand over-worked--whenas my eye wandered from face to facethe wholeschool rose simultaneouslyas if moved by a commonspring.

What wasthe matter?  I had heard no order given:  I was puzzled.Ere I hadgathered my witsthe classes were again seated:  but asall eyeswere now turned to one pointmine followed the generaldirectionand encountered the personage who had received me lastnight. She stood at the bottom of the long roomon the hearth; forthere wasa fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girlssilentlyand gravely.  Miss Miller approachingseemed to ask her aquestionand having received her answerwent back to her placeand saidaloud -

"Monitorof the first classfetch the globes!"

While thedirection was being executedthe lady consulted movedslowly upthe room.  I suppose I have a considerable organ ofvenerationfor I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which myeyestraced her steps.  Seen nowin broad daylightshe lookedtallfairand shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in theiriridsanda fine pencilling of long lashes roundrelieved thewhitenessof her large front; on each of her temples her hairof avery darkbrownwas clustered in round curlsaccording to thefashion ofthose timeswhen neither smooth bands nor long ringletswere invogue; her dressalso in the mode of the daywas of purpleclothrelieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; agold watch(watches were not so common then as now) shone at hergirdle. Let the reader addto complete the picturerefinedfeatures;a complexionif paleclear; and a stately air andcarriageand he will haveat leastas clearly as words can giveitacorrect idea of the exterior of Miss Temple--Maria TempleasIafterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to meto carryto church.

Thesuperintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having takenher seatbefore a pair of globes placed on one of the tablessummonedthe first class round herand commenced giving a lesson ongeography;the lower classes were called by the teachers:repetitionsin historygrammar&c.went on for an hour; writingandarithmetic succeededand music lessons were given by MissTemple tosome of the elder girls.  The duration of each lesson wasmeasuredby the clockwhich at last struck twelve.  Thesuperintendentrose -

"Ihave a word to address to the pupils" said she.

The tumultof cessation from lessons was already breaking forthbutit sank ather voice.  She went on -

"Youhad this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you mustbehungry:--I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall beserved toall."

Theteachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.

"Itis to be done on my responsibility" she addedin anexplanatorytone to themand immediately afterwards left the room.

The breadand cheese was presently brought in and distributedtothe highdelight and refreshment of the whole school.  The order wasnow given"To the garden!"  Each put on a coarse straw bonnetwithstrings ofcoloured calicoand a cloak of grey frieze.  I wassimilarlyequippedandfollowing the streamI made my way intothe openair.

The gardenwas a wide inclosuresurrounded with walls so high as toexcludeevery glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down onesideandbroad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores oflittlebeds:  these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils tocultivateand each bed had an owner.  When full of flowers theywoulddoubtless look pretty; but nowat the latter end of Januaryall waswintry blight and brown decay.  I shuddered as I stood andlookedround me:  it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; notpositivelyrainybut darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all underfoot wasstill soaking wet with the floods of yesterday.  Thestrongeramong the girls ran about and engaged in active gamesbutsundrypale and thin ones herded together for shelter and warmth intheverandah; and amongst theseas the dense mist penetrated totheirshivering framesI heard frequently the sound of a hollowcough.

As yet Ihad spoken to no onenor did anybody seem to take noticeof me; Istood lonely enough:  but to that feeling of isolation Iwasaccustomed; it did not oppress me much.  I leant against apillar ofthe verandahdrew my grey mantle close about meandtrying toforget the cold which nipped me withoutand theunsatisfiedhunger which gnawed me withindelivered myself up totheemployment of watching and thinking.  My reflections were tooundefinedand fragmentary to merit record:  I hardly yet knew whereI was;Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to animmeasurabledistance; the present was vague and strangeand of thefuture Icould form no conjecture.  I looked round the convent-likegardenand then up at the house--a large buildinghalf of whichseemedgrey and oldthe other half quite new.  The new partcontainingthe schoolroom and dormitorywas lit by mullioned andlatticedwindowswhich gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tabletover thedoor bore this inscription:-

"LowoodInstitution.--This portion was rebuilt A.D.--by NaomiBrocklehurstof Brocklehurst Hallin this county."  "Let yourlight soshine before menthat they may see your good worksandglorifyyour Father which is in heaven."-- St. Matt. v. 16.

I readthese words over and over again:  I felt that an explanationbelongedto themand was unable fully to penetrate their import.  Iwas stillpondering the signification of "Institution" andendeavouringto make out a connection between the first words andthe verseof Scripturewhen the sound of a cough close behind memade meturn my head.  I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near;she wasbent over a bookon the perusal of which she seemed intent:from whereI stood I could see the title--it was "Rasselas;" a namethatstruck me as strangeand consequently attractive.  In turninga leaf shehappened to look upand I said to her directly -

"Isyour book interesting?"  I had already formed the intentionofasking herto lend it to me some day.

"Ilike it" she answeredafter a pause of a second or twoduringwhich sheexamined me.

"Whatis it about?" I continued.  I hardly know where I found thehardihoodthus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step wascontraryto my nature and habits:  but I think her occupationtouched achord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked readingthough ofa frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest orcomprehendthe serious or substantial.

"Youmay look at it" replied the girloffering me the book.

I did so;a brief examination convinced me that the contents werelesstaking than the title:  "Rasselas" looked dull to mytriflingtaste; Isaw nothing about fairiesnothing about genii; no brightvarietyseemed spread over the closely-printed pages.  I returned itto her;she received it quietlyand without saying anything she wasabout torelapse into her former studious mood:  again I ventured todisturbher -

"Canyou tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?What isLowood Institution?"

"Thishouse where you are come to live."

"Andwhy do they call it Institution?  Is it in any way differentfrom otherschools?"

"Itis partly a charity-school:  you and Iand all the rest of usarecharity-children.  I suppose you are an orphan:  are noteitheryourfather or your mother dead?"

"Bothdied before I can remember."

"Wellall the girls here have lost either one or both parentsandthis iscalled an institution for educating orphans."

"Dowe pay no money?  Do they keep us for nothing?"

"Wepayor our friends payfifteen pounds a year for each."

"Thenwhy do they call us charity-children?"

"Becausefifteen pounds is not enough for board and teachingandthedeficiency is supplied by subscription."

"Whosubscribes?"

"Differentbenevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in thisneighbourhoodand in London."

"Whowas Naomi Brocklehurst?"

"Thelady who built the new part of this house as that tabletrecordsand whose son overlooks and directs everything here."

"Why?"

"Becausehe is treasurer and manager of the establishment."

"Thenthis house does not belong to that tall lady who wears awatchandwho said we were to have some bread and cheese?"

"ToMiss Temple?  Ohno!  I wish it did:  she has toanswer to Mr.Brocklehurstfor all she does.  Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our foodand allour clothes."

"Doeshe live here?"

"No--twomiles offat a large hall."

"Ishe a good man?"

"Heis a clergymanand is said to do a great deal of good."

"Didyou say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?"

"Yes."

"Andwhat are the other teachers called?"

"Theone with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to theworkandcuts out--for we make our own clothesour frocksandpelissesand everything; the little one with black hair is MissScatcherd;she teaches history and grammarand hears the secondclassrepetitions; and the one who wears a shawland has a pocket-handkerchieftied to her side with a yellow ribbandis MadamePierrot: she comes from Lislein Franceand teaches French."

"Doyou like the teachers?"

"Wellenough."

"Doyou like the little black oneand the Madame -?--I cannotpronounceher name as you do."

"MissScatcherd is hasty--you must take care not to offend her;MadamePierrot is not a bad sort of person."

"ButMiss Temple is the best--isn't she?"

"MissTemple is very good and very clever; she is above the restbecauseshe knows far more than they do."

"Haveyou been long here?"

"Twoyears."

"Areyou an orphan?"

"Mymother is dead."

"Areyou happy here?"

"Youask rather too many questions.  I have given you answers enoughfor thepresent:  now I want to read."

But atthat moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-enteredthehouse.  The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcelymoreappetising than that which had regaled our nostrils atbreakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vesselswhencerose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat.  I found the messto consistof indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meatmixed andcooked together.  Of this preparation a tolerably abundantplatefulwas apportioned to each pupil.  I ate what I couldandwonderedwithin myself whether every day's fare would be like this.

Afterdinnerwe immediately adjourned to the schoolroom:  lessonsrecommencedand were continued till five o'clock.

The onlymarked event of the afternoon wasthat I saw the girl withwhom I hadconversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by MissScatcherdfrom a history classand sent to stand in the middle ofthe largeschoolroom.  The punishment seemed to me in a high degreeignominiousespecially for so great a girl--she looked thirteen orupwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress andshame; butto my surprise she neither wept nor blushed:  composedthoughgraveshe stoodthe central mark of all eyes.  "How canshebear it soquietly--so firmly?" I asked of myself.  "Were I inherplaceitseems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow meup. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond herpunishment--beyondher situation:  of something not round her norbeforeher.  I have heard of day-dreams--is she in a day-dream now?Her eyesare fixed on the floorbut I am sure they do not see it--her sightseems turned ingone down into her heart:  she is lookingat whatshe can rememberI believe; not at what is really present.I wonderwhat sort of a girl she is--whether good or naughty."

Soon afterfive p.m. we had another mealconsisting of a small mugof coffeeand half-a-slice of brown bread.  I devoured my bread anddrank mycoffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as muchmore--Iwas still hungry.  Half-an-hour's recreation succeededthenstudy;then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cakeprayersand bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.

 

CHAPTER VI

 

The nextday commenced as beforegetting up and dressing byrushlight;but this morning we were obliged to dispense with theceremonyof washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen.  A changehad takenplace in the weather the preceding eveningand a keennorth-eastwindwhistling through the crevices of our bedroomwindowsall night longhad made us shiver in our bedsand turnedthecontents of the ewers to ice.

Before thelong hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading wasoverIfelt ready to perish with cold.  Breakfast-time came atlastandthis morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality waseatablethe quantity small.  How small my portion seemed!  I wishedit hadbeen doubled.

In thecourse of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourthclassandregular tasks and occupations were assigned me:hithertoI had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood;I was nowto become an actor therein.  At firstbeing littleaccustomedto learn by heartthe lessons appeared to me both longanddifficult; the frequent change from task to tasktoobewilderedme; and I was glad whenabout three o'clock in theafternoonMiss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yardslongtogether with needlethimble&c.and sent me to sit in aquietcorner of the schoolroomwith directions to hem the same.  Atthat hourmost of the others were sewing likewise; but one classstillstood round Miss Scatcherd's chair readingand as all wasquietthesubject of their lessons could be heardtogether withthe mannerin which each girl acquitted herselfand theanimadversionsor commendations of Miss Scatcherd on theperformance. It was English history:  among the readers I observedmyacquaintance of the verandah:  at the commencement of thelessonher placehad been at the top of the classbut for some error ofpronunciationor some inattention to stopsshe was suddenly sentto thevery bottom.  Even in that obscure positionMiss Scatcherdcontinuedto make her an object of constant notice:  she wascontinuallyaddressing to her such phrases as the following:-

"Burns"(such it seems was her name:  the girls here were all calledby theirsurnamesas boys are elsewhere)"Burnsyou are standingon theside of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately." "Burnsyou pokeyour chin most unpleasantly; draw it in."  "BurnsIinsiston yourholding your head up; I will not have you before me in thatattitude"&c. &c.

A chapterhaving been read through twicethe books were closed andthe girlsexamined.  The lesson had comprised part of the reign ofCharlesI.and there were sundry questions about tonnage andpoundageand ship-moneywhich most of them appeared unable toanswer;stillevery little difficulty was solved instantly when itreachedBurns:  her memory seemed to have retained the substance ofthe wholelessonand she was ready with answers on every point.  Ikeptexpecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; butinstead ofthatshe suddenly cried out -

"Youdirtydisagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nailsthismorning!"

Burns madeno answer:  I wondered at her silence.  "Why"thought I"doesshe not explain that she could neither clean her nails norwash herfaceas the water was frozen?"

Myattention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold askein ofthread:  while she was winding itshe talked to me fromtime totimeasking whether I had ever been at school beforewhether Icould markstitchknit&c.; till she dismissed meIcould notpursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.When Ireturned to my seatthat lady was just delivering an orderof which Idid not catch the import; but Burns immediately left theclassandgoing into the small inner room where the books werekeptreturned in half a minutecarrying in her hand a bundle oftwigs tiedtogether at one end.  This ominous tool she presented toMissScatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietlyandwithoutbeing toldunloosed her pinaforeand the teacher instantlyandsharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch oftwigs. Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; andwhile I paused from mysewingbecause my fingers quivered at this spectacle with asentimentof unavailing and impotent angernot a feature of herpensiveface altered its ordinary expression.

"Hardenedgirl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct youof yourslatternly habits:  carry the rod away."

Burnsobeyed:  I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from thebook-closet;she was just putting back her handkerchief into herpocketand the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.

Theplay-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction ofthe day atLowood:  the bit of breadthe draught of coffeeswallowedat five o'clock had revived vitalityif it had notsatisfiedhunger:  the long restraint of the day was slackened; theschoolroomfelt warmer than in the morning--its fires being allowedto burn alittle more brightlyto supplyin some measuretheplace ofcandlesnot yet introduced:  the ruddy gloamingthelicenseduproarthe confusion of many voices gave one a welcomesense ofliberty.

On theevening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flogher pupilBurnsI wandered as usual among the forms and tables andlaughinggroups without a companionyet not feeling lonely:  when Ipassed thewindowsI now and then lifted a blindand looked out;it snowedfasta drift was already forming against the lower panes;putting myear close to the windowI could distinguish from thegleefultumult withinthe disconsolate moan of the wind outside.

Probablyif I had lately left a good home and kind parentsthiswould havebeen the hour when I should most keenly have regrettedtheseparation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; thisobscurechaos would have disturbed my peace! as it wasI derivedfrom botha strange excitementand reckless and feverishI wishedthe windto howl more wildlythe gloom to deepen to darknessandtheconfusion to rise to clamour.

Jumpingover formsand creeping under tablesI made my way to oneof thefire-places; therekneeling by the high wire fenderI foundBurnsabsorbedsilentabstracted from all round her by thecompanionshipof a bookwhich she read by the dim glare of theembers.

"Isit still 'Rasselas'?" I askedcoming behind her.

"Yes"she said"and I have just finished it."

And infive minutes more she shut it up.  I was glad of this."Now"thought I"I can perhaps get her to talk."  I satdown byher on thefloor.

"Whatis your name besides Burns?"

"Helen."

"Doyou come a long way from here?"

"Icome from a place farther northquite on the borders ofScotland."

"Willyou ever go back?"

"Ihope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."

"Youmust wish to leave Lowood?"

"No!why should I?  I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and itwould beof no use going away until I have attained that object."

"Butthat teacherMiss Scatcherdis so cruel to you?"

"Cruel? Not at all!  She is severe:  she dislikes my faults."

"Andif I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resisther. If she struck me with that rodI should get it from her hand;I shouldbreak it under her nose."

"Probablyyou would do nothing of the sort:  but if you didMr.Brocklehurstwould expel you from the school; that would be a greatgrief toyour relations.  It is far better to endure patiently asmartwhich nobody feels but yourselfthan to commit a hasty actionwhose evilconsequences will extend to all connected with you; andbesidesthe Bible bids us return good for evil."

"Butthen it seems disgraceful to be floggedand to be sent tostand inthe middle of a room full of people; and you are such agreatgirl:  I am far younger than youand I could not bear it."

"Yetit would be your duty to bear itif you could not avoid it:it is weakand silly to say you CANNOT BEAR what it is your fate toberequired to bear."

I heardher with wonder:  I could not comprehend this doctrine ofendurance;and still less could I understand or sympathise with theforbearanceshe expressed for her chastiser.  Still I felt thatHelenBurns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes.  Isuspectedshe might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder thematterdeeply; like FelixI put it off to a more convenient season.

"Yousay you have faultsHelen:  what are they?  To me you seemverygood."

"Thenlearn from menot to judge by appearances:  I amas MissScatcherdsaidslatternly; I seldom putand never keepthingsinorder; Iam careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn mylessons; Ihave no method; and sometimes I saylike youI cannotBEAR to besubjected to systematic arrangements.  This is all veryprovokingto Miss Scatcherdwho is naturally neatpunctualandparticular."

"Andcross and cruel" I added; but Helen Burns would not admit myaddition: she kept silence.

"IsMiss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"

At theutterance of Miss Temple's namea soft smile flitted overher graveface.

"MissTemple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to anyoneeventhe worst in the school:  she sees my errorsand tells meof themgently; andif I do anything worthy of praiseshe gives memy meedliberally.  One strong proof of my wretchedly defectivenature isthat even her expostulationsso mildso rationalhavenotinfluence to cure me of my faults; and even her praisethough Ivalue itmost highlycannot stimulate me to continued care andforesight."

"Thatis curious" said I"it is so easy to be careful."

"ForYOU I have no doubt it is.  I observed you in your class thismorningand saw you were closely attentive:  your thoughts neverseemed towander while Miss Miller explained the lesson andquestionedyou.  Nowmine continually rove away; when I should belisteningto Miss Scatcherdand collecting all she says withassiduityoften I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into asort ofdream.  Sometimes I think I am in Northumberlandand thatthe noisesI hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook whichrunsthrough Deepdennear our house;--thenwhen it comes to myturn toreplyI have to be awakened; and having heard nothing ofwhat wasread for listening to the visionary brookI have no answerready."

"Yethow well you replied this afternoon."

"Itwas mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading hadinterestedme.  This afternooninstead of dreaming of DeepdenIwaswondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustlyandunwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought whata pity itwas thatwith his integrity and conscientiousnesshecould seeno farther than the prerogatives of the crown.  If he hadbut beenable to look to a distanceand see how what they call thespirit ofthe age was tending!  StillI like Charles--I respecthim--Ipity himpoor murdered king!  Yeshis enemies were theworst: they shed blood they had no right to shed.  How dared theykill him!"

Helen wastalking to herself now:  she had forgotten I could notvery wellunderstand her--that I was ignorantor nearly soof thesubjectshe discussed.  I recalled her to my level.

"Andwhen Miss Temple teaches youdo your thoughts wander then?"

"Nocertainlynot often; because Miss Temple has generallysomethingto say which is newer than my own reflections; herlanguageis singularly agreeable to meand the information shecommunicatesis often just what I wished to gain."

"Wellthenwith Miss Temple you are good?"

"Yesin a passive way:  I make no effort; I follow as inclinationguidesme.  There is no merit in such goodness."

"Agreat deal:  you are good to those who are good to you.  Itisall I everdesire to be.  If people were always kind and obedient tothose whoare cruel and unjustthe wicked people would have it alltheir ownway:  they would never feel afraidand so they wouldneveralterbut would grow worse and worse.  When we are struck atwithout areasonwe should strike back again very hard; I am sureweshould--so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to doit again."

"Youwill change your mindI hopewhen you grow older:  as yet youare but alittle untaught girl."

"ButI feel thisHelen; I must dislike those whowhatever I do topleasethempersist in disliking me; I must resist those who punishmeunjustly.  It is as natural as that I should love those who showmeaffectionor submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved."

"Heathensand savage tribes hold that doctrinebut Christians andcivilisednations disown it."

"How? I don't understand."

"Itis not violence that best overcomes hate--nor vengeance thatmostcertainly heals injury."

"Whatthen?"

"Readthe New Testamentand observe what Christ saysand how Heacts; makeHis word your ruleand His conduct your example."

"Whatdoes He say?"

"Loveyour enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them thathate youand despitefully use you."

"ThenI should love Mrs. Reedwhich I cannot do; I should bless herson Johnwhich is impossible."

In herturnHelen Burns asked me to explainand I proceededforthwithto pour outin my own waythe tale of my sufferings andresentments. Bitter and truculent when excitedI spoke as I feltwithoutreserve or softening.

Helenheard me patiently to the end:  I expected she would then makea remarkbut she said nothing.

"Well"I asked impatiently"is not Mrs. Reed a hard-heartedbadwoman?"

"Shehas been unkind to youno doubt; because you seeshe dislikesyour castof characteras Miss Scatcherd does mine; but howminutelyyou remember all she has done and said to you!  What asingularlydeep impression her injustice seems to have made on yourheart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings.  Would younot behappier if you tried to forget her severitytogether withthepassionate emotions it excited?  Life appears to me too short tobe spentin nursing animosity or registering wrongs.  We areandmust beone and allburdened with faults in this world:  but thetime willsoon come whenI trustwe shall put them off in puttingoff ourcorruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall fromus withthis cumbrous frame of fleshand only the spark of thespiritwill remain--the impalpable principle of light and thoughtpure aswhen it left the Creator to inspire the creature:  whence itcame itwill return; perhaps again to be communicated to some beinghigherthan man--perhaps to pass through gradations of gloryfromthe palehuman soul to brighten to the seraph!  Surely it willneveronthe contrarybe suffered to degenerate from man to fiend?No; Icannot believe that:  I hold another creed:  which no oneevertaught meand which I seldom mention; but in which I delightandto which Icling:  for it extends hope to all:  it makes Eternity arest--amighty homenot a terror and an abyss.  Besideswith thiscreedIcan so clearly distinguish between the criminal and hiscrime; Ican so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last:with thiscreed revenge never worries my heartdegradation nevertoo deeplydisgusts meinjustice never crushes me too low:  I livein calmlooking to the end."

Helen'sheadalways droopingsank a little lower as she finishedthissentence.  I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk tomebutrather to converse with her own thoughts.  She was notallowedmuch time for meditation:  a monitora great rough girlpresentlycame upexclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent -

"HelenBurnsif you don't go and put your drawer in orderand foldup yourwork this minuteI'll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and lookat it!"

Helensighed as her reverie fledand getting upobeyed the monitorwithoutreply as without delay.

 

CHAPTERVII

 

My firstquarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden ageeither; itcomprised an irksome struggle with difficulties inhabituatingmyself to new rules and unwonted tasks.  The fear offailure inthese points harassed me worse than the physicalhardshipsof my lot; though these were no trifles.

DuringJanuaryFebruaryand part of Marchthe deep snowsandaftertheir meltingthe almost impassable roadsprevented ourstirringbeyond the garden wallsexcept to go to church; but withintheselimits we had to pass an hour every day in the open air.  Ourclothingwas insufficient to protect us from the severe cold:  wehad nobootsthe snow got into our shoes and melted there:  ourunglovedhands became numbed and covered with chilblainsas wereour feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured fromthis causeevery eveningwhen my feet inflamed; and the torture ofthrustingthe swelledrawand stiff toes into my shoes in themorning. Then the scanty supply of food was distressing:  with thekeenappetites of growing childrenwe had scarcely sufficient tokeep alivea delicate invalid.  From this deficiency of nourishmentresultedan abusewhich pressed hardly on the younger pupils:wheneverthe famished great girls had an opportunitythey wouldcoax ormenace the little ones out of their portion.  Many a time Ihaveshared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown breaddistributedat tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half thecontentsof my mug of coffeeI have swallowed the remainder with anaccompanimentof secret tearsforced from me by the exigency ofhunger.

Sundayswere dreary days in that wintry season.  We had to walk twomiles toBrocklebridge Churchwhere our patron officiated.  We setout coldwe arrived at church colder:  during the morning servicewe becamealmost paralysed.  It was too far to return to dinnerandanallowance of cold meat and breadin the same penuriousproportionobserved in our ordinary mealswas served round betweentheservices.

At theclose of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed andhillyroadwhere the bitter winter windblowing over a range ofsnowysummits to the northalmost flayed the skin from our faces.

I canremember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along ourdroopinglineher plaid cloakwhich the frosty wind flutteredgatheredclose about herand encouraging usby precept andexampleto keep up our spiritsand march forwardas she said"likestalwart soldiers."  The other teacherspoor thingsweregenerallythemselves too much dejected to attempt the task ofcheeringothers.

How welonged for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we gotback! Butto the little ones at leastthis was denied:  eachhearth inthe schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double rowof greatgirlsand behind them the younger children crouched ingroupswrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.

A littlesolace came at tea-timein the shape of a double ration ofbread--awholeinstead of a halfslice--with the deliciousadditionof a thin scrape of butter:  it was the hebdomadal treat towhich weall looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath.  I generallycontrivedto reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;but theremainder I was invariably obliged to part with.

The Sundayevening was spent in repeatingby heartthe ChurchCatechismand the fifthsixthand seventh chapters of St.Matthew;and in listening to a long sermonread by Miss Millerwhoseirrepressible yawns attested her weariness.  A frequentinterludeof these performances was the enactment of the part ofEutychusby some half-dozen of little girlswhooverpowered withsleepwould fall downif not out of the third loftyet off thefourthformand be taken up half dead.  The remedy wasto thrustthemforward into the centre of the schoolroomand oblige them tostandthere till the sermon was finished.  Sometimes their feetfailedthemand they sank together in a heap; they were thenpropped upwith the monitors' high stools.

I have notyet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeedthatgentleman was from home during the greater part of the firstmonthafter my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friendthearchdeacon:  his absence was a relief to me.  I need notsaythat I hadmy own reasons for dreading his coming:  but come he didat last.

Oneafternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood)as I wassittingwith a slate in my handpuzzling over a sum in longdivisionmy eyesraised in abstraction to the windowcaught sightof afigure just passing:  I recognised almost instinctively thatgauntoutline; and whentwo minutes afterall the schoolteachersincludedrose en masseit was not necessary for me to look up inorder toascertain whose entrance they thus greeted.  A long stridemeasuredthe schoolroomand presently beside Miss Templewhoherselfhad risenstood the same black column which had frowned onme soominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead.  I now glancedsidewaysat this piece of architecture.  YesI was right:  it wasMr.Brocklehurstbuttoned up in a surtoutand looking longernarrowerand more rigid than ever.

I had myown reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too wellIremembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about mydisposition&c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to appriseMissTemple and the teachers of my vicious nature.  All along I hadbeendreading the fulfilment of this promise--I had been lookingout dailyfor the "Coming Man" whose information respecting my pastlife andconversation was to brand me as a bad child for ever:  nowthere hewas.

He stoodat Miss Temple's side; he was speaking low in her ear:  Idid notdoubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and Iwatchedher eye with painful anxietyexpecting every moment to seeits darkorb turn on me a glance of repugnance and contempt.  Ilistenedtoo; and as I happened to be seated quite at the top of theroomIcaught most of what he said:  its import relieved me fromimmediateapprehension.

"IsupposeMiss Templethe thread I bought at Lowton will do; itstruck methat it would be just of the quality for the calicochemisesand I sorted the needles to match.  You may tell MissSmith thatI forgot to make a memorandum of the darning needlesbutshe shallhave some papers sent in next week; and she is noton anyaccountto give out more than one at a time to each pupil:  if theyhave morethey are apt to be careless and lose them.  AndO ma'am!I wish thewoollen stockings were better looked to!--when I was herelastIwent into the kitchen-garden and examined the clothes dryingon theline; there was a quantity of black hose in a very bad stateofrepair:  from the size of the holes in them I was sure they hadnot beenwell mended from time to time."

He paused.

"Yourdirections shall be attended tosir" said Miss Temple.

"Andma'am" he continued"the laundress tells me some of thegirls havetwo clean tuckers in the week:  it is too much; the ruleslimit themto one."

"Ithink I can explain that circumstancesir.  Agnes and CatherineJohnstonewere invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton lastThursdayand I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for theoccasion."

Mr.Brocklehurst nodded.

"Wellfor once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstanceoccur toooften.  And there is another thing which surprised me; Ifindinsettling accounts with the housekeeperthat a lunchconsistingof bread and cheesehas twice been served out to thegirlsduring the past fortnight.  How is this?  I looked over theregulationsand I find no such meal as lunch mentioned.  Whointroducedthis innovation? and by what authority?"

"Imust be responsible for the circumstancesir" replied MissTemple: "the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils couldnotpossibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fastingtilldinner-time."

"Madamallow me an instant.  You are aware that my plan in bringingup thesegirls isnot to accustom them to habits of luxury andindulgencebut to render them hardypatientself-denying.  Shouldany littleaccidental disappointment of the appetite occursuch asthespoiling of a mealthe under or the over dressing of a dishtheincident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with somethingmoredelicate the comfort lostthus pampering the body andobviatingthe aim of this institution; it ought to be improved tothespiritual edification of the pupilsby encouraging them toevincefortitude under temporary privation.  A brief address onthoseoccasions would not be mistimedwherein a judiciousinstructorwould take the opportunity of referring to the sufferingsof theprimitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to theexhortationsof our blessed Lord Himselfcalling upon His disciplesto take uptheir cross and follow Him; to His warnings that manshall notlive by bread alonebut by every word that proceedeth outof themouth of God; to His divine consolations"If ye sufferhunger orthirst for My sakehappy are ye."  Ohmadamwhen youput breadand cheeseinstead of burnt porridgeinto thesechildren'smouthsyou may indeed feed their vile bodiesbut youlittlethink how you starve their immortal souls!"

Mr.Brocklehurst again paused--perhaps overcome by his feelings.MissTemple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; butshe nowgazed straight before herand her facenaturally pale asmarbleappeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of thatmaterial;especially her mouthclosed as if it would have requiredasculptor's chisel to open itand her brow settled gradually intopetrifiedseverity.

MeantimeMr. Brocklehurststanding on the hearth with his handsbehind hisbackmajestically surveyed the whole school.  Suddenlyhis eyegave a blinkas if it had met something that either dazzledor shockedits pupil; turninghe said in more rapid accents than hehadhitherto used -

"MissTempleMiss Templewhat--WHAT is that girl with curled hair?Red hairma'amcurled--curled all over?"  And extending his canehe pointedto the awful objecthis hand shaking as he did so.

"Itis Julia Severn" replied Miss Templevery quietly.

"JuliaSevernma'am!  And why has sheor any othercurled hair?Whyindefiance of every precept and principle of this housedoessheconform to the world so openly--here in an evangelicalcharitableestablishment--as to wear her hair one mass of curls?"

"Julia'shair curls naturally" returned Miss Templestill morequietly.

"Naturally! Yesbut we are not to conform to nature; I wish thesegirls tobe the children of Grace:  and why that abundance?  I haveagain andagain intimated that I desire the hair to be arrangedcloselymodestlyplainly.  Miss Templethat girl's hair must becut offentirely; I will send a barber to-morrow:  and I see otherswho havefar too much of the excrescence--that tall girltell herto turnround.  Tell all the first form to rise up and direct theirfaces tothe wall."

MissTemple passed her handkerchief over her lipsas if to smoothaway theinvoluntary smile that curled them; she gave the orderhoweverand when the first class could take in what was required ofthemtheyobeyed.  Leaning a little back on my benchI could seethe looksand grimaces with which they commented on this manoeuvre:it was apity Mr. Brocklehurst could not see them too; he wouldperhapshave felt thatwhatever he might do with the outside of thecup andplatterthe inside was further beyond his interference thanheimagined.

Hescrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutesthenpronounced sentence.  These words fell like the knell of doom -

"Allthose top-knots must be cut off."

MissTemple seemed to remonstrate.

"Madam"he pursued"I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is notof thisworld:  my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts ofthe flesh;to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facednessandsobrietynot with braided hair and costly apparel; and each ofthe youngpersons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaitswhichvanity itself might have woven; theseI repeatmust be cutoff; thinkof the time wastedof--"

Mr.Brocklehurst was here interrupted:  three other visitorsladiesnow entered the room.  They ought to have come a littlesooner tohave heard his lecture on dressfor they were splendidlyattired invelvetsilkand furs.  The two younger of the trio(finegirls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hatsthen infashionshaded with ostrich plumesand from under the brim of thisgracefulhead-dress fell a profusion of light tresseselaboratelycurled;the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawltrimmedwith ermineand she wore a false front of French curls.

Theseladies were deferentially received by Miss Templeas Mrs. andthe MissesBrocklehurstand conducted to seats of honour at the topof theroom.  It seems they had come in the carriage with theirreverendrelativeand had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny ofthe roomupstairswhile he transacted business with thehousekeeperquestioned the laundressand lectured thesuperintendent. They now proceeded to address divers remarks andreproofsto Miss Smithwho was charged with the care of the linenand theinspection of the dormitories:  but I had no time to listento whatthey said; other matters called off and enchanted myattention.

Hithertowhile gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst andMissTempleI had notat the same timeneglected precautions tosecure mypersonal safety; which I thought would be effectedif Icould onlyelude observation.  To this endI had sat well back onthe formand while seeming to be busy with my sumhad held myslate insuch a manner as to conceal my face:  I might have escapednoticehad not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip frommy handand falling with an obtrusive crashdirectly drawn everyeye uponme; I knew it was all over nowandas I stooped to pickup the twofragments of slateI rallied my forces for the worst.It came.

"Acareless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurstand immediatelyafter--"Itis the newpupilI perceive."  And before I could draw breath"Imust notforget I have a word to say respecting her."  Then aloud:how loudit seemed to me!  "Let the child who broke her slate comeforward!"

Of my ownaccord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed:  but thetwo greatgirls who sit on each side of meset me on my legs andpushed metowards the dread judgeand then Miss Temple gentlyassistedme to his very feetand I caught her whispered counsel -

"Don'tbe afraidJaneI saw it was an accident; you shall not bepunished."

The kindwhisper went to my heart like a dagger.

"Anotherminuteand she will despise me for a hypocrite" thoughtI; and animpulse of fury against ReedBrocklehurstand Co.bounded inmy pulses at the conviction.  I was no Helen Burns.

"Fetchthat stool" said Mr. Brocklehurstpointing to a very highone fromwhich a monitor had just risen:  it was brought.

"Placethe child upon it."

And I wasplaced thereby whom I don't know:  I was in no conditionto noteparticulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up tothe heightof Mr. Brocklehurst's nosethat he was within a yard ofmeandthat a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and acloud ofsilvery plumage extended and waved below me.

Mr.Brocklehurst hemmed.

"Ladies"said heturning to his family"Miss Templeteachersandchildrenyou all see this girl?"

Of coursethey did; for I felt their eyes directed like burning-glassesagainst my scorched skin.

"Yousee she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinaryform ofchildhood; God has graciously given her the shape that Hehas givento all of us; no signal deformity points her out as amarkedcharacter.  Who would think that the Evil One had alreadyfound aservant and agent in her?  Yet suchI grieve to sayis thecase."

Apause--in which I began to steady the palsy of my nervesand tofeel thatthe Rubicon was passed; and that the trialno longer tobeshirkedmust be firmly sustained.

"Mydear children" pursued the black marble clergymanwith pathos"thisis a sada melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty towarn youthat this girlwho might be one of God's own lambsis alittlecastaway:  not a member of the true flockbut evidently aninterloperand an alien.  You must be on your guard against her; youmust shunher example; if necessaryavoid her companyexclude herfrom yoursportsand shut her out from your converse.  Teachersyou mustwatch her:  keep your eyes on her movementsweigh well herwordsscrutinise her actionspunish her body to save her soul:ifindeedsuch salvation be possiblefor (my tongue falters whileI tell it)this girlthis childthe native of a Christian landworse thanmany a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma andkneelsbefore Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!"

Now came apause of ten minutesduring which Iby this time inperfectpossession of my witsobserved all the female Brocklehurstsproducetheir pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their opticswhile theelderly lady swayed herself to and froand the twoyoungerones whispered"How shocking!"  Mr. Brocklehurstresumed.

"ThisI learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitablelady whoadopted her in her orphan statereared her as her owndaughterand whose kindnesswhose generosity the unhappy girlrepaid byan ingratitude so badso dreadfulthat at last herexcellentpatroness was obliged to separate her from her own youngonesfearful lest her vicious example should contaminate theirpurity: she has sent her here to be healedeven as the Jews of oldsent theirdiseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; andteacherssuperintendentI beg of you not to allow the waters to stagnateroundher."

With thissublime conclusionMr. Brocklehurst adjusted the topbutton ofhis surtoutmuttered something to his familywho rosebowed toMiss Templeand then all the great people sailed in statefrom theroom.  Turning at the doormy judge said -

"Lether stand half-an-hour longer on that stooland let no onespeak toher during the remainder of the day."

There wasIthenmounted aloft; Iwho had said I could not bearthe shameof standing on my natural feet in the middle of the roomwas nowexposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy.  What mysensationswere no language can describe; but just as they all rosestiflingmy breath and constricting my throata girl came up andpassedme:  in passingshe lifted her eyes.  What a strange lightinspiredthem!  What an extraordinary sensation that ray sentthroughme!  How the new feeling bore me up!  It was as if amartyra herohad passed a slave or victimand imparted strength in thetransit. I mastered the rising hysterialifted up my headandtook afirm stand on the stool.  Helen Burns asked some slightquestionabout her work of Miss Smithwas chidden for thetrivialityof the inquiryreturned to her placeand smiled at meas sheagain went by.  What a smile!  I remember it nowand Iknowthat itwas the effluence of fine intellectof true courage; it litup hermarked lineamentsher thin faceher sunken grey eyelike areflectionfrom the aspect of an angel.  Yet at that moment HelenBurns woreon her arm "the untidy badge;" scarcely an hour ago I hadheard hercondemned by Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and wateron themorrow because she had blotted an exercise in copying it out.Such isthe imperfect nature of man! such spots are there on thedisc ofthe clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's can onlysee thoseminute defectsand are blind to the full brightness ofthe orb.

 

CHAPTERVIII

 

Ere thehalf-hour endedfive o'clock struck; school was dismissedand allwere gone into the refectory to tea.  I now ventured todescend: it was deep dusk; I retired into a corner and sat down onthefloor.  The spell by which I had been so far supported began todissolve;reaction took placeand soonso overwhelming was thegrief thatseized meI sank prostrate with my face to the ground.Now Iwept:  Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left tomyself Iabandoned myselfand my tears watered the boards.  I hadmeant tobe so goodand to do so much at Lowood:  to make so manyfriendsto earn respect and win affection.  Already I had madevisibleprogress:  that very morning I had reached the head of myclass;Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiledapprobation;she had promised to teach me drawingand to let melearnFrenchif I continued to make similar improvement two monthslonger: and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils; treatedas anequal by those of my own ageand not molested by any; nowhere I layagain crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?

"Never"I thought; and ardently I wished to die.  While sobbing outthis wishin broken accentssome one approached:  I started up--againHelen Burns was near me; the fading fires just showed hercoming upthe longvacant room; she brought my coffee and bread.

"Comeeat something" she said; but I put both away from mefeeling asif a drop or a crumb would have choked me in my presentcondition. Helen regarded meprobably with surprise:  I could notnow abatemy agitationthough I tried hard; I continued to weepaloud. She sat down on the ground near meembraced her knees withher armsand rested her head upon them; in that attitude sheremainedsilent as an Indian.  I was the first who spoke -

"Helenwhy do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be aliar?"

"EverybodyJane?  Whythere are only eighty people who have heardyou calledsoand the world contains hundreds of millions."

"Butwhat have I to do with millions?  The eightyI knowdespiseme."

"Janeyou are mistaken:  probably not one in the school eitherdespisesor dislikes you:  manyI am surepity you much."

"Howcan they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"

"Mr.Brocklehurst is not a god:  nor is he even a great and admiredman: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himselfliked. Had he treated you as an especial favouriteyou would havefoundenemiesdeclared or covertall around you; as it isthegreaternumber would offer you sympathy if they dared.  Teachers andpupils maylook coldly on you for a day or twobut friendlyfeelingsare concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere indoingwellthese feelings will ere long appear so much the moreevidentlyfor their temporary suppression.  BesidesJane"--shepaused.

"WellHelen?" said Iputting my hand into hers:  she chafed myfingersgently to warm themand went on -

"Ifall the world hated youand believed you wickedwhile your ownconscienceapproved youand absolved you from guiltyou would notbe withoutfriends."

"No;I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough:if othersdon't love me I would rather die than live--I cannot bearto besolitary and hatedHelen.  Look here; to gain some realaffectionfrom youor Miss Templeor any other whom I truly loveI wouldwillingly submit to have the bone of my arm brokenor tolet a bulltoss meor to stand behind a kicking horseand let itdash itshoof at my chest--"

"HushJane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you aretooimpulsivetoo vehement; the sovereign hand that created yourframeandput life into ithas provided you with other resourcesthan yourfeeble selfor than creatures feeble as you.  Besidesthisearthand besides the race of menthere is an invisible worldand akingdom of spirits:  that world is round usfor it iseverywhere;and those spirits watch usfor they are commissioned toguard us;and if we were dying in pain and shameif scorn smote uson allsidesand hatred crushed usangels see our torturesrecogniseour innocence (if innocent we be:  as I know you are ofthischarge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeatedatsecond-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in yourardenteyes and on your clear front)and God waits only theseparationof spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.Whythenshould we ever sink overwhelmed with distresswhen lifeis so soonoverand death is so certain an entrance to happiness--to glory?"

I wassilent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity sheimpartedthere was an alloy of inexpressible sadness.  I felt theimpressionof woe as she spokebut I could not tell whence it came;and whenhaving done speakingshe breathed a little fast andcoughed ashort coughI momentarily forgot my own sorrows to yieldto a vagueconcern for her.

Resting myhead on Helen's shoulderI put my arms round her waist;she drewme to herand we reposed in silence.  We had not sat longthuswhenanother person came in.  Some heavy cloudsswept fromthe sky bya rising windhad left the moon bare; and her lightstreamingin through a window nearshone full both on us and on theapproachingfigurewhich we at once recognised as Miss Temple.

"Icame on purpose to find youJane Eyre" said she; "I wantyou inmy room;and as Helen Burns is with youshe may come too."

We went;following the superintendent's guidancewe had to threadsomeintricate passagesand mount a staircase before we reached herapartment;it contained a good fireand looked cheerful.  MissTempletold Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one sideof thehearthand herself taking anothershe called me to herside.

"Isit all over?" she askedlooking down at my face.  "Haveyoucried yourgrief away?"

"I amafraid I never shall do that."

"Why?"

"BecauseI have been wrongly accused; and youma'amand everybodyelsewillnow think me wicked."

"Weshall think you what you prove yourself to bemy child.Continueto act as a good girland you will satisfy us."

"ShallIMiss Temple?"

"Youwill" said shepassing her arm round me.  "And nowtell mewho is thelady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"

"Mrs.Reedmy uncle's wife.  My uncle is deadand he left me toher care."

"Didshe notthenadopt you of her own accord?"

"Noma'am; she was sorry to have to do it:  but my uncleas I haveoftenheard the servants saygot her to promise before he died thatshe wouldalways keep me."

"WellnowJaneyou knowor at least I will tell youthat when acriminalis accusedhe is always allowed to speak in his owndefence. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself tome as wellas you can.  Say whatever your memory suggests is true;but addnothing and exaggerate nothing."

Iresolvedin the depth of my heartthat I would be most moderate--mostcorrect; andhaving reflected a few minutes in order toarrangecoherently what I had to sayI told her all the story of mysadchildhood.  Exhausted by emotionmy language was more subduedthan itgenerally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindfulof Helen'swarnings against the indulgence of resentmentI infusedinto thenarrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.Thusrestrained and simplifiedit sounded more credible:  I felt asI went onthat Miss Temple fully believed me.

In thecourse of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having cometo see meafter the fit:  for I never forgot theto mefrightfulepisode ofthe red-room:  in detailing whichmy excitement wassureinsome degreeto break bounds; for nothing could soften inmyrecollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when Mrs.Reedspurned my wild supplication for pardonand locked me a secondtime inthe dark and haunted chamber.

I hadfinished:  Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence;she thensaid -

"Iknow something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his replyagreeswith your statementyou shall be publicly cleared from everyimputation;to meJaneyou are clear now."

She kissedmeand still keeping me at her side (where I was wellcontentedto standfor I derived a child's pleasure from thecontemplationof her faceher dressher one or two ornamentsherwhiteforeheadher clustered and shining curlsand beaming darkeyes)sheproceeded to address Helen Burns.

"Howare you to-nightHelen?  Have you coughed much to-day?"

"Notquite so muchI thinkma'am."

"Andthe pain in your chest?"

"Itis a little better."

MissTemple got uptook her hand and examined her pulse; then shereturnedto her own seat:  as she resumed itI heard her sigh low.She waspensive a few minutesthen rousing herselfshe saidcheerfully-

"Butyou two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such."She rangher bell.

"Barbara"she said to the servant who answered it"I have not yethad tea;bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies."

And a traywas soon brought.  How prettyto my eyesdid the chinacups andbright teapot lookplaced on the little round table nearthe fire! How fragrant was the steam of the beverageand the scentof thetoast! of whichhoweverIto my dismay (for I wasbeginningto be hungry) discerned only a very small portion:  MissTemplediscerned it too.

"Barbara"said she"can you not bring a little more bread andbutter? There is not enough for three."

Barbarawent out:  she returned soon -

"MadamMrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity."

Mrs.Hardenbe it observedwas the housekeeper:  a woman after Mr.Brocklehurst'sown heartmade up of equal parts of whalebone andiron.

"Ohvery well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it doBarbaraIsuppose."  And as the girl withdrew she addedsmiling"FortunatelyI have it in my power to supply deficiencies for thisonce."

Havinginvited Helen and me to approach the tableand placed beforeeach of usa cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toastshe gotupunlocked a drawerand taking from it a parcel wrappedin paperdisclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

"Imeant to give each of you some of this to take with you" saidshe"butas there is so little toastyou must have it now" andsheproceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feastedthat evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the leastdelight ofthe entertainment was the smile of gratification withwhich ourhostess regarded usas we satisfied our famishedappetiteson the delicate fare she liberally supplied.

Tea overand the tray removedshe again summoned us to the fire; wesat one oneach side of herand now a conversation followed betweenher andHelenwhich it was indeed a privilege to be admitted tohear.

MissTemple had always something of serenity in her airof state inher mienof refined propriety in her languagewhich precludeddeviationinto the ardentthe excitedthe eager:  something whichchastenedthe pleasure of those who looked on her and listened toherby acontrolling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:but as toHelen BurnsI was struck with wonder.

Therefreshing mealthe brilliant firethe presence and kindnessof herbeloved instructressorperhapsmore than all thesesomethingin her own unique mindhad roused her powers within her.They wokethey kindled:  firstthey glowed in the bright tint ofher cheekwhich till this hour I had never seen but pale andbloodless;then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyeswhichhadsuddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of MissTemple's--abeauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelashnorpencilledbrowbut of meaningof movementof radiance.  Then hersoul saton her lipsand language flowedfrom what source I cannottell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enoughvigorous enoughto holdthe swelling spring of purefullfervid eloquence?  Suchwas thecharacteristic of Helen's discourse on thatto mememorableevening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a verybrief spanas much as many live during a protracted existence.

Theyconversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and timespast; ofcountries far away; of secrets of nature discovered orguessedat:  they spoke of books:  how many they had read! Whatstores ofknowledge they possessed!  Then they seemed so familiarwithFrench names and French authors:  but my amazement reached itsclimaxwhen Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched amoment torecall the Latin her father had taught herand taking abook froma shelfbade her read and construe a page of Virgil; andHelenobeyedmy organ of veneration expanding at every soundingline. She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime! nodelaycould be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us bothsayingasshe drewus to her heart -

"Godbless youmy children!"

Helen sheheld a little longer than me:  she let her go morereluctantly;it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was forher she asecond time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tearfrom hercheek.

Onreaching the bedroomwe heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd:  shewasexamining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns'sandwhen weentered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimandand toldthatto-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily foldedarticlespinned to her shoulder.

"Mythings were indeed in shameful disorder" murmured Helen to mein a lowvoice:  "I intended to have arranged thembut I forgot."

NextmorningMiss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on apiece ofpasteboard the word "Slattern" and bound it like aphylacteryround Helen's largemildintelligentand benign-lookingforehead.  She wore it till eveningpatientunresentfulregardingit as a deserved punishment.  The moment Miss Scatcherdwithdrewafter afternoon schoolI ran to Helentore it offandthrust itinto the fire:  the fury of which she was incapable hadbeenburning in my soul all dayand tearshot and largehadcontinuallybeen scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sadresignationgave me an intolerable pain at the heart.

About aweek subsequently to the incidents above narratedMissTemplewho had written to Mr. Lloydreceived his answer:  itappearedthat what he said went to corroborate my account.  MissTemplehaving assembled the whole schoolannounced that inquiryhad beenmade into the charges alleged against Jane Eyreand thatshe wasmost happy to be able to pronounce her completely clearedfrom everyimputation.  The teachers then shook hands with me andkissed meand a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of mycompanions.

Thusrelieved of a grievous loadI from that hour set to workafreshresolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty:  Itoiledhardand my success was proportionate to my efforts; mymemorynot naturally tenaciousimproved with practice; exercisesharpenedmy wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class;in lessthan two months I was allowed to commence French anddrawing. I learned the first two tenses of the verb ETREandsketchedmy first cottage (whose wallsby-the-byeoutrivalled inslopethose of the leaning tower of Pisa)on the same day.  Thatnightongoing to bedI forgot to prepare in imagination theBarmecidesupper of hot roast potatoesor white bread and new milkwith whichI was wont to amuse my inward cravings:  I feastedinstead onthe spectacle of ideal drawingswhich I saw in the dark;all thework of my own hands:  freely pencilled houses and treespicturesquerocks and ruinsCuyp-like groups of cattlesweetpaintingsof butterflies hovering over unblown rosesof birdspicking atripe cherriesof wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggswreathedabout with young ivy sprays.  I examinedtooin thoughtthepossibility of my ever being able to translate currently acertainlittle French story which Madame Pierrot had that day shownme; norwas that problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fellsweetlyasleep.

Well hasSolomon said--"Better is a dinner of herbs where love isthan astalled ox and hatred therewith."

I wouldnot now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations forGatesheadand its daily luxuries.

 

CHAPTER IX

 

But theprivationsor rather the hardshipsof Lowood lessened.Springdrew on:  she was indeed already come; the frosts of winterhadceased; its snows were meltedits cutting winds ameliorated.Mywretched feetflayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air ofJanuarybegan to heal and subside under the gentler breathings ofApril; thenights and mornings no longer by their Canadiantemperaturefroze the very blood in our veins; we could now enduretheplay-hour passed in the garden:  sometimes on a sunny day itbegan evento be pleasant and genialand a greenness grew overthosebrown bedswhichfreshening dailysuggested the thoughtthat Hopetraversed them at nightand left each morning brightertraces ofher steps.  Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snow-dropscrocusespurple auriculasand golden-eyed pansies.  OnThursdayafternoons (half-holidays) we now took walksand foundstillsweeter flowers opening by the waysideunder the hedges.

Idiscoveredtoothat a great pleasurean enjoyment which thehorizononly boundedlay all outside the high and spike-guardedwalls ofour garden:  this pleasure consisted in prospect of noblesummitsgirdling a great hill-hollowrich in verdure and shadow; ina brightbeckfull of dark stones and sparkling eddies.  Howdifferenthad this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneaththe ironsky of winterstiffened in frostshrouded with snow!--when mistsas chill as death wandered to the impulse of east windsalongthose purple peaksand rolled down "ing" and holm tilltheyblendedwith the frozen fog of the beck!  That beck itself was thena torrentturbid and curbless:  it tore asunder the woodand senta ravingsound through the airoften thickened with wild rain orwhirlingsleet; and for the forest on its banksTHAT showed onlyranks ofskeletons.

Apriladvanced to May:  a bright serene May it was; days of blueskyplacid sunshineand soft western or southern gales filled upitsduration.  And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shookloose itstresses; it became all greenall flowery; its great elmashandoak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodlandplantssprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties ofmossfilled its hollowsand it made a strange ground-sunshine outof thewealth of its wild primrose plants:  I have seen their palegold gleamin overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetestlustre. All this I enjoyed often and fullyfreeunwatchedandalmostalone:  for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was acausetowhich it now becomes my task to advert.

Have I notdescribed a pleasant site for a dwellingwhen I speak ofit asbosomed in hill and woodand rising from the verge of astream? Assuredlypleasant enough:  but whether healthy or not isanotherquestion.

Thatforest-dellwhere Lowood laywas the cradle of fog and fog-bredpestilence; whichquickening with the quickening springcreptinto theOrphan Asylumbreathed typhus through its crowdedschoolroomand dormitoryandere May arrivedtransformed theseminaryinto an hospital.

Semi-starvationand neglected colds had predisposed most of thepupils toreceive infection:  forty-five out of the eighty girls layill at onetime.  Classes were broken uprules relaxed.  The fewwhocontinued well were allowed almost unlimited license; becausethemedical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent exerciseto keepthem in health:  and had it been otherwiseno one hadleisure towatch or restrain them.  Miss Temple's whole attentionwasabsorbed by the patients:  she lived in the sick-roomneverquittingit except to snatch a few hours' rest at night.  Theteacherswere fully occupied with packing up and making othernecessarypreparations for the departure of those girls who werefortunateenough to have friends and relations able and willing toremovethem from the seat of contagion.  Manyalready smittenwenthome onlyto die:  some died at the schooland were buried quietlyandquicklythe nature of the malady forbidding delay.

Whiledisease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowoodand death itsfrequentvisitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls;while itsrooms and passages steamed with hospital smellsthe drugand thepastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia ofmortalitythat bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills andbeautifulwoodland out of doors.  Its gardentooglowed withflowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as treeslilies had openedtulips androses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds weregay withpink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriarsgave outmorning and eveningtheir scent of spice and apples; andthesefragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates ofLowoodexcept to furnish now and then a handful of herbs andblossomsto put in a coffin.

But Iandthe rest who continued wellenjoyed fully the beautiesof thescene and season; they let us ramble in the woodlikegipsiesfrom morning till night; we did what we likedwent wherewe liked: we lived better too.  Mr. Brocklehurst and his familynever camenear Lowood now:  household matters were not scrutinisedinto; thecross housekeeper was gonedriven away by the fear ofinfection;her successorwho had been matron at the LowtonDispensaryunused to the ways of her new abodeprovided withcomparativeliberality.  Besidesthere were fewer to feed; the sickcould eatlittle; our breakfast-basins were better filled; whenthere wasno time to prepare a regular dinnerwhich often happenedshe wouldgive us a large piece of cold pieor a thick slice ofbread andcheeseand this we carried away with us to the woodwhere weeach chose the spot we liked bestand dined sumptuously.

Myfavourite seat was a smooth and broad stonerising white and dryfrom thevery middle of the beckand only to be got at by wadingthroughthe water; a feat I accomplished barefoot.  The stone wasjust broadenough to accommodatecomfortablyanother girl and meat thattime my chosen comrade--one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewdobservantpersonagewhose society I took pleasure inpartlybecauseshe was witty and originaland partly because she had amannerwhich set me at my ease.  Some years older than Ishe knewmore ofthe worldand could tell me many things I liked to hear:with hermy curiosity found gratification:  to my faults also shegave ampleindulgencenever imposing curb or rein on anything Isaid. She had a turn for narrativeI for analysis; she liked toinformIto question; so we got on swimmingly togetherderivingmuchentertainmentif not much improvementfrom our mutualintercourse.

And wheremeantimewas Helen Burns?  Why did I not spend thesesweet daysof liberty with her?  Had I forgotten her? or was I soworthlessas to have grown tired of her pare society?  Surely theMary ArmWilson I have mentioned was inferior to my firstacquaintance: she could only tell me amusing storiesandreciprocateany racy and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in;whileifI have spoken truth of Helenshe was qualified to givethose whoenjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of farhigherthings.

Truereader; and I knew and felt this:  and though I am a defectivebeingwith many faults and few redeeming pointsyet I never tiredof HelenBurns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment ofattachmentas strongtenderand respectful as any that everanimatedmy heart.  How could it be otherwisewhen Helenat alltimes andunder all circumstancesevinced for me a quiet andfaithfulfriendshipwhich ill-humour never sourednor irritationnevertroubled?  But Helen was ill at present:  for some weeksshehad beenremoved from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.She wasnotI was toldin the hospital portion of the house withthe feverpatients; for her complaint was consumptionnot typhus:and byconsumption Iin my ignoranceunderstood something mildwhich timeand care would be sure to alleviate.

I wasconfirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice comingdownstairson very warm sunny afternoonsand being taken by MissTempleinto the garden; buton these occasionsI was not allowedto go andspeak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom windowand thennot distinctly; for she was much wrapped upand sat at adistanceunder the verandah.

Oneeveningin the beginning of JuneI had stayed out very latewith MaryAnn in the wood; we hadas usualseparated ourselvesfrom theothersand had wandered far; so far that we lost our wayand had toask it at a lonely cottagewhere a man and woman livedwho lookedafter a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the mast inthe wood. When we got backit was after moonrise:  a ponywhichwe knew tobe the surgeon'swas standing at the garden door.  MaryAnnremarked that she supposed some one must be very illas Mr.Bates hadbeen sent for at that time of the evening.  She went intothe house;I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in my garden ahandful ofroots I had dug up in the forestand which I fearedwouldwither if I left them till the morning.  This doneI lingeredyet alittle longer:  the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; itwas such apleasant eveningso sereneso warm; the still glowingwestpromised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moonrose withsuch majesty in the grave east.  I was noting these thingsandenjoying them as a child mightwhen it entered my mind as ithad neverdone before:-

"Howsad to be lying now on a sick bedand to be in danger ofdying! This world is pleasant--it would be dreary to be called fromitand tohave to go who knows where?"

And thenmy mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend whathad beeninfused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for thefirst timeit recoiledbaffled; and for the first time glancingbehindoneach sideand before itit saw all round an unfathomedgulf: it felt the one point where it stood--the present; all therest wasformless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at thethought oftotteringand plunging amid that chaos.  While ponderingthis newideaI heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came outandwith himwas a nurse.  After she had seen him mount his horse anddepartshe was about to close the doorbut I ran up to her.

"Howis Helen Burns?"

"Verypoorly" was the answer.

"Isit her Mr. Bates has been to see?"

"Yes."

"Andwhat does he say about her?"

"Hesays she'll not be here long."

Thisphraseuttered in my hearing yesterdaywould have onlyconveyedthe notion that she was about to be removed toNorthumberlandto her own home.  I should not have suspected thatit meantshe was dying; but I knew instantly now!  It opened clearon mycomprehension that Helen Burns was numbering her last days inthisworldand that she was going to be taken to the region ofspiritsif such region there were.  I experienced a shock ofhorrorthen a strong thrill of griefthen a desire--a necessity tosee her;and I asked in what room she lay.

"Sheis in Miss Temple's room" said the nurse.

"MayI go up and speak to her?"

"Ohnochild!  It is not likely; and now it is time for you to comein; you'llcatch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling."

The nurseclosed the front door; I went in by the side entrancewhich ledto the schoolroom:  I was just in time; it was nineo'clockand Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.

It mightbe two hours laterprobably near elevenwhen I--nothavingbeen able to fall asleepand deemingfrom the perfectsilence ofthe dormitorythat my companions were all wrapt inprofoundrepose--rose softlyput on my frock over my night-dressandwithout shoescrept from the apartmentand set off in questof MissTemple's room.  It was quite at the other end of the house;but I knewmy way; and the light of the unclouded summer moonenteringhere and there at passage windowsenabled me to find itwithoutdifficulty.  An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned mewhen Icame near the fever room:  and I passed its door quicklyfearfullest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me.  Idreadedbeing discovered and sent back; for I MUST see Helen--Imustembrace her before she died--I must give her one last kissexchangewith her one last word.

Havingdescended a staircasetraversed a portion of the housebelowandsucceeded in opening and shuttingwithout noisetwodoorsIreached another flight of steps; these I mountedand thenjustopposite to me was Miss Temple's room.  A light shone throughthekeyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervadedthevicinity.  Coming nearI found the door slightly ajar; probablyto admitsome fresh air into the close abode of sickness.Indisposedto hesitateand full of impatient impulses--soul andsensesquivering with keen throes--I put it back and looked in.  Myeye soughtHelenand feared to find death.

Close byMiss Temple's bedand half covered with its whitecurtainsthere stood a little crib.  I saw the outline of a formunder theclothesbut the face was hid by the hangings:  the nurseI hadspoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; anunsnuffedcandle burnt dimly on the table.  Miss Temple was not tobe seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a deliriouspatient inthe fever-room.  I advanced; then paused by the cribside: my hand was on the curtainbut I preferred speaking before Iwithdrewit.  I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.

"Helen!"I whispered softly"are you awake?"

Shestirred herselfput back the curtainand I saw her facepalewastedbut quite composed:  she looked so little changed that myfear wasinstantly dissipated.

"Canit be youJane?" she askedin her own gentle voice.

"Oh!"I thought"she is not going to die; they are mistaken: shecould notspeak and look so calmly if she were."

I got onto her crib and kissed her:  her forehead was coldand hercheek bothcold and thinand so were her hand and wrist; but shesmiled asof old.

"Whyare you come hereJane?  It is past eleven o'clock:  Iheardit strikesome minutes since."

"Icame to see youHelen:  I heard you were very illand I couldnot sleeptill I had spoken to you."

"Youcame to bid me good-byethen:  you are just in time probably."

"Areyou going somewhereHelen?  Are you going home?"

"Yes;to my long home--my last home."

"NonoHelen!"  I stoppeddistressed.  While I tried todevour mytearsafit of coughing seized Helen; it did nothoweverwake thenurse;when it was overshe lay some minutes exhausted; then shewhispered-

"Janeyour little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself withmy quilt."

I did so: she put her arm over meand I nestled close to her.After along silenceshe resumedstill whispering -

"I amvery happyJane; and when you hear that I am deadyou mustbe sureand not grieve:  there is nothing to grieve about.  We allmust dieone dayand the illness which is removing me is notpainful;it is gentle and gradual:  my mind is at rest.  I leave noone toregret me much:  I have only a father; and he is latelymarriedand will not miss me.  By dying youngI shall escape greatsufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very wellin theworld:  I should have been continually at fault."

"Butwhere are you going toHelen?  Can you see?  Do you know?"

"Ibelieve; I have faith:  I am going to God."

"Whereis God?  What is God?"

"MyMaker and yourswho will never destroy what He created.  I relyimplicitlyon His powerand confide wholly in His goodness:  Icount thehours till that eventful one arrives which shall restoreme to Himreveal Him to me."

"Youare surethenHelenthat there is such a place as heavenand thatour souls can get to it when we die?"

"I amsure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I canresign myimmortal part to Him without any misgiving.  God is myfather;God is my friend:  I love Him; I believe He loves me."

"Andshall I see you againHelenwhen I die?"

"Youwill come to the same region of happiness:  be received by thesamemightyuniversal Parentno doubtdear Jane."

Again Iquestionedbut this time only in thought.  "Where is thatregion? Does it exist?"  And I clasped my arms closer round Helen;she seemeddearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let hergo; I laywith my face hidden on her neck.  Presently she saidinthesweetest tone -

"Howcomfortable I am!  That last fit of coughing has tired me alittle; Ifeel as if I could sleep:  but don't leave meJane; Ilike tohave you near me."

"I'llstay with youDEAR Helen:  no one shall take me way."

"Areyou warmdarling?"

"Yes."

"Good-nightJane."

"Good-nightHelen."

She kissedmeand I herand we both soon slumbered.

When Iawoke it was day:  an unusual movement roused me; I lookedup; I wasin somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying methroughthe passage back to the dormitory.  I was not reprimandedforleaving my bed; people had something else to think about; noexplanationwas afforded then to my many questions; but a day or twoafterwardsI learned that Miss Templeon returning to her own roomat dawnhad found me laid in the little crib; my face against HelenBurns'sshouldermy arms round her neck.  I was asleepand Helenwas--dead.

Her graveis in Brocklebridge churchyard:  for fifteen years afterher deathit was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a greymarbletablet marks the spotinscribed with her nameand the word"Resurgam."

 

CHAPTER X

 

Hitherto Ihave recorded in detail the events of my insignificantexistence: to the first ten years of my life I have given almost asmanychapters.  But this is not to be a regular autobiography. I amonly boundto invoke Memory where I know her responses will possesssomedegree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight yearsalmost insilence:  a few lines only are necessary to keep up thelinks ofconnection.

When thetyphus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation atLowooditgradually disappeared from thence; but not till itsvirulenceand the number of its victims had drawn public attentionon theschool.  Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourgeandby degreesvarious facts came out which excited public indignationin a highdegree.  The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantityandquality of the children's food; the brackishfetid water usedin itspreparation; the pupils' wretched clothing andaccommodations--allthese things were discoveredand the discoveryproduced aresult mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurstbut beneficial totheinstitution.

Severalwealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribedlargelyfor the erection of a more convenient building in a bettersituation;new regulations were made; improvements in diet andclothingintroduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to themanagementof a committee.  Mr. Brocklehurstwhofrom his wealthand familyconnectionscould not be overlookedstill retained thepost oftreasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his dutiesbygentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds:  hisoffice ofinspectortoowas shared by those who knew how tocombinereason with strictnesscomfort with economycompassionwithuprightness.  The schoolthus improvedbecame in time a trulyuseful andnoble institution.  I remained an inmate of its wallsafter itsregenerationfor eight years:  six as pupiland two asteacher;and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value andimportance.

Duringthese eight years my life was uniform:  but not unhappybecause itwas not inactive.  I had the means of an excellenteducationplaced within my reach; a fondness for some of my studiesand adesire to excel in alltogether with a great delight inpleasingmy teachersespecially such as I lovedurged me on:  Iavailedmyself fully of the advantages offered me.  In time I roseto be thefirst girl of the first class; then I was invested withthe officeof teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:but at theend of that time I altered.

MissTemplethrough all changeshad thus far continuedsuperintendentof the seminary:  to her instruction I owed the bestpart of myacquirements; her friendship and society had been mycontinualsolace; she had stood me in the stead of mothergovernessandlatterlycompanion.  At this period she marriedremovedwith her husband (a clergymanan excellent manalmostworthy ofsuch a wife) to a distant countyand consequently waslost tome.

From theday she left I was no longer the same:  with her was goneeverysettled feelingevery association that had made Lowood insomedegree a home to me.  I had imbibed from her something of hernature andmuch of her habits:  more harmonious thoughts:  whatseemedbetter regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.I hadgiven in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believedI wascontent:  to the eyes of othersusually even to my ownIappeared adisciplined and subdued character.

Butdestinyin the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmythcame between meand MissTemple:  I saw her in her travelling dress step into apost-chaiseshortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched thechaisemount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and thenretired tomy own roomand there spent in solitude the greatestpart ofthe half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.

I walkedabout the chamber most of the time.  I imagined myself onlyto beregretting my lossand thinking how to repair it; but when myreflectionswere concludedand I looked up and found that theafternoonwas goneand evening far advancedanother discoverydawned onmenamelythat in the interval I had undergone atransformingprocess; that my mind had put off all it had borrowedof MissTemple--or rather that she had taken with her the sereneatmosphereI had been breathing in her vicinity--and that now I wasleft in mynatural elementand beginning to feel the stirring ofoldemotions.  It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawnbutrather asif a motive were gone:  it was not the power to betranquilwhich had failed mebut the reason for tranquillity was nomore. My world had for some years been in Lowood:  my experiencehad beenof its rules and systems; now I remembered that the realworld waswideand that a varied field of hopes and fearsofsensationsand excitementsawaited those who had courage to goforth intoits expanseto seek real knowledge of life amidst itsperils.

I went tomy windowopened itand looked out.  There were the twowings ofthe building; there was the garden; there were the skirtsof Lowood;there was the hilly horizon.  My eye passed all otherobjects torest on those most remotethe blue peaks; it was those Ilonged tosurmount; all within their boundary of rock and heathseemedprison-groundexile limits.  I traced the white road windinground thebase of one mountainand vanishing in a gorge betweentwo; how Ilonged to follow it farther!  I recalled the time when Ihadtravelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descendingthat hillat twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the daywhichbrought me first to Lowoodand I had never quitted it since.Myvacations had all been spent at school:  Mrs. Reed had neversentfor me toGateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever beento visitme.  I had had no communication by letter or message withthe outerworld:  school-rulesschool-dutiesschool-habits andnotionsand voicesand facesand phrasesand costumesandpreferencesand antipathies--such was what I knew of existence.And now Ifelt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine ofeightyears in one afternoon.  I desired liberty; for liberty Igasped;for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on thewind thenfaintly blowing.  I abandoned it and framed a humblersupplication;for changestimulus:  that petitiontooseemedswept offinto vague space:  "Then" I criedhalf desperate"grantme atleast a new servitude!"

Here abellringing the hour of suppercalled me downstairs.

I was notfree to resume the interrupted chain of my reflectionstillbedtime:  even then a teacher who occupied the same room withme kept mefrom the subject to which I longed to recurby aprolongedeffusion of small talk.  How I wished sleep would silenceher. It seemed as ifcould I but go back to the idea which hadlastentered my mind as I stood at the windowsome inventivesuggestionwould rise for my relief.

Miss Grycesnored at last; she was a heavy Welshwomanand till nowherhabitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in anyotherlight than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deepnotes withsatisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-effacedthought instantly revived.

"Anew servitude!  There is something in that" I soliloquised(mentallybe it understood; I did not talk aloud)"I know thereisbecause it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such wordsasLibertyExcitementEnjoyment:  delightful sounds truly; but nomore thansounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is merewaste oftime to listen to them.  But Servitude!  That must bematter offact.  Any one may serve:  I have served here eight years;now all Iwant is to serve elsewhere.  Can I not get so much of myown will? Is not the thing feasible?  Yes--yes--the end is not sodifficult;if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out themeans ofattaining it."

I sat upin bed by way of arousing this said brain:  it was a chillynight; Icovered my shoulders with a shawland then I proceeded TOTHINKagain with all my might.

"Whatdo I want?  A new placein a new houseamongst new facesunder newcircumstances:  I want this because it is of no usewantinganything better.  How do people do to get a new place? Theyapply tofriendsI suppose:  I have no friends.  There are manyothers whohave no friendswho must look about for themselves andbe theirown helpers; and what is their resource?"

I couldnot tell:  nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain tofind aresponseand quickly.  It worked and worked faster:  Ifeltthe pulsesthrob in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour itworked inchaos; and no result came of its efforts.  Feverish withvainlabourI got up and took a turn in the room; undrew thecurtainnoted a star or twoshivered with coldand again crept tobed.

A kindfairyin my absencehad surely dropped the requiredsuggestionon my pillow; for as I lay downit came quietly andnaturallyto my mind.--"Those who want situations advertise; youmustadvertise in the -shire Herald."

"How? I know nothing about advertising."

Repliesrose smooth and prompt now:-

"Youmust enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for itunder acover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put itthe firstopportunity you haveinto the post at Lowton; answersmust beaddressed to J.E.at the post-office there; you can go andinquire inabout a week after you send your letterif any are comeand actaccordingly."

Thisscheme I went over twicethrice; it was then digested in mymind; Ihad it in a clear practical form:  I felt satisfiedandfellasleep.

Withearliest dayI was up:  I had my advertisement writtenenclosedand directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; itran thus:-

"Ayoung lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher twoyears?)"is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private familywhere thechildren are under fourteen (I thought that as I wasbarelyeighteenit would not do to undertake the guidance of pupilsnearer myown age).  She is qualified to teach the usual branches ofa goodEnglish educationtogether with FrenchDrawingand Music"(in thosedaysreaderthis now narrow catalogue ofaccomplishmentswould have been held tolerably comprehensive)."AddressJ.E.Post-officeLowton-shire."

Thisdocument remained locked in my drawer all day:  after teaIaskedleave of the new superintendent to go to Lowtonin order toperformsome small commissions for myself and one or two of myfellow-teachers;permission was readily granted; I went.  It was awalk oftwo milesand the evening was wetbut the days were stilllong; Ivisited a shop or twoslipped the letter into the post-officeand came back through heavy rainwith streaming garmentsbut with arelieved heart.

Thesucceeding week seemed long:  it came to an end at lasthoweverlike all sublunary thingsand once moretowards the closeof apleasant autumn dayI found myself afoot on the road toLowton. A picturesque track it wasby the way; lying along theside ofthe beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale:  butthat day Ithought more of the lettersthat might or might not beawaitingme at the little burgh whither I was boundthan of thecharms oflea and water.

Myostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pairof shoes;so I discharged that business firstand when it was doneI steppedacross the clean and quiet little street from theshoemaker'sto the post-office:  it was kept by an old damewhowore hornspectacles on her noseand black mittens on her hands.

"Arethere any letters for J.E.?" I asked.

She peeredat me over her spectaclesand then she opened a drawerandfumbled among its contents for a long timeso long that myhopesbegan to falter.  At lasthaving held a document before herglassesfor nearly five minutesshe presented it across thecounteraccompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustfulglance--itwas for J.E.

"Isthere only one?" I demanded.

"Thereare no more" said she; and I put it in my pocket and turnedmy facehomeward:  I could not open it then; rules obliged me to beback byeightand it was already half-past seven.

Variousduties awaited me on my arrival.  I had to sit with thegirlsduring their hour of study; then it was my turn to readprayers;to see them to bed:  afterwards I supped with the otherteachers. Even when we finally retired for the nighttheinevitableMiss Gryce was still my companion:  we had only a shortend ofcandle in our candlestickand I dreaded lest she should talktill itwas all burnt out; fortunatelyhoweverthe heavy suppershe hadeaten produced a soporific effect:  she was already snoringbefore Ihad finished undressing.  There still remained an inch ofcandle: I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; Ibroke it;the contents were brief.

"IfJ.E.who advertised in the -shire Herald of last Thursdaypossessesthe acquirements mentionedand if she is in a position togivesatisfactory references as to character and competencyasituationcan be offered her where there is but one pupila littlegirlunder ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty poundsperannum.  J.E. is requested to send referencesnameaddressandallparticulars to the direction:-

"Mrs.FairfaxThornfieldnear Millcote-shire."

I examinedthe document long:  the writing was old-fashioned andratheruncertainlike that of in elderly lady.  This circumstancewassatisfactory:  a private fear had haunted methat in thusacting formyselfand by my own guidanceI ran the risk of gettinginto somescrape; andabove all thingsI wished the result of myendeavoursto be respectableproperen regle.  I now felt that anelderlylady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.Mrs.Fairfax!  I saw her in a black gown and widow's cap; frigidperhapsbut not uncivil:  a model of elderly Englishrespectability. Thornfield! thatdoubtlesswas the name of herhouse: a neat orderly spotI was sure; though I failed in myefforts toconceive a correct plan of the premises.  Millcote-shire; Ibrushed up my recollections of the map of EnglandyesIsaw it;both the shire and the town.  -shire was seventy milesnearerLondon than the remote county where I now resided:  that wasarecommendation to me.  I longed to go where there was life andmovement: Millcote was a large manufacturing town on the banks ofthe A-; abusy place enoughdoubtless:  so much the better; itwould be acomplete change at least.  Not that my fancy was muchcaptivatedby the idea of long chimneys and clouds of smoke--"but"I argued"Thornfield willprobablybe a good way from the town."

Here thesocket of the candle droppedand the wick went out.

Next daynew steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer beconfinedto my own breast; I must impart them in order to achievetheirsuccess.  Having sought and obtained an audience of thesuperintendentduring the noontide recreationI told her I had aprospectof getting a new situation where the salary would be doublewhat I nowreceived (for at Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum);andrequested she would break the matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurstor some ofthe committeeand ascertain whether they would permit meto mentionthem as references.  She obligingly consented to act asmediatrixin the matter.  The next day she laid the affair beforeMr.Brocklehurstwho said that Mrs. Reed must be written toas shewas mynatural guardian.  A note was accordingly addressed to thatladywhoreturned for answerthat "I might do as I pleased:  shehad longrelinquished all interference in my affairs."  This notewent theround of the committeeand at lastafter what appeared tome mosttedious delayformal leave was given me to better myconditionif I could; and an assurance addedthat as I had alwaysconductedmyself wellboth as teacher and pupilat Lowoodatestimonialof character and capacitysigned by the inspectors ofthatinstitutionshould forthwith be furnished me.

Thistestimonial I accordingly received in about a monthforwardeda copy ofit to Mrs. Fairfaxand got that lady's replystatingthat shewas satisfiedand fixing that day fortnight as the periodfor myassuming the post of governess in her house.

I nowbusied myself in preparations:  the fortnight passed rapidly.I had nota very large wardrobethough it was adequate to my wants;and thelast day sufficed to pack my trunk--the same I had broughtwith meeight years ago from Gateshead.

The boxwas cordedthe card nailed on.  In half-an-hour the carrierwas tocall for it to take it to Lowtonwhether I myself was torepair atan early hour the next morning to meet the coach.  I hadbrushed myblack stuff travelling-dressprepared my bonnetglovesand muff;sought in all my drawers to see that no article was leftbehind;and now having nothing more to doI sat down and tried torest. I could not; though I had been on foot all dayI could notnow reposean instant; I was too much excited.  A phase of my lifewasclosing to-nighta new one opening to-morrow:  impossible toslumber inthe interval; I must watch feverishly while the changewas beingaccomplished.

"Miss"said a servant who met me in the lobbywhere I waswanderinglike a troubled spirit"a person below wishes to seeyou."

"Thecarrierno doubt" I thoughtand ran downstairs withoutinquiry. I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-roomthe doorof which was half opento go to the kitchenwhen some oneran out -

"It'sherI am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried theindividualwho stopped my progress and took my hand.

I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servantmatronlyyet still young; very good-lookingwith black hair andeyesandlively complexion.

"Wellwho is it?" she askedin a voice and with a smile I halfrecognised;"you've not quite forgotten meI thinkMiss Jane?"

In anothersecond I was embracing and kissing her rapturously:"Bessie! Bessie!  Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she halflaughedhalf criedand we both went into the parlour.  By the firestood alittle fellow of three years oldin plaid frock andtrousers.

"Thatis my little boy" said Bessie directly.

"Thenyou are marriedBessie?"

"Yes;nearly five years since to Robert Leaventhe coachman; andI've alittle girl besides Bobby therethat I've christened Jane."

"Andyou don't live at Gateshead?"

"Ilive at the lodge:  the old porter has left."

"Welland how do they all get on?  Tell me everything about themBessie: but sit down first; andBobbycome and sit on my kneewill you?"but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.

"You'renot grown so very tallMiss Janenor so very stout"continuedMrs. Leaven.  "I dare say they've not kept you too well atschool: Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are;and MissGeorgiana would make two of you in breadth."

"Georgianais handsomeI supposeBessie?"

"Very. She went up to London last winter with her mamaand thereeverybodyadmired herand a young lord fell in love with her:  buthisrelations were against the match; and--what do you think?--heand MissGeorgiana made it up to run away; but they were found outandstopped.  It was Miss Reed that found them out:  I believeshewasenvious; and now she and her sister lead a cat and dog lifetogether;they are always quarrelling--"

"Welland what of John Reed?"

"Ohhe is not doing so well as his mama could wish.  He went tocollegeand he got--pluckedI think they call it:  and then hisuncleswanted him to be a barristerand study the law:  but he issuch adissipated young manthey will never make much of himIthink."

"Whatdoes he look like?"

"Heis very tall:  some people call him a fine-looking young man;but he hassuch thick lips."

"AndMrs. Reed?"

"Missislooks stout and well enough in the facebut I think she'snot quiteeasy in her mind:  Mr. John's conduct does not please her--he spendsa deal of money."

"Didshe send you hereBessie?"

"Noindeed:  but I have long wanted to see youand when I heardthat therehad been a letter from youand that you were going toanotherpart of the countryI thought I'd just set ofand get alook atyou before you were quite out of my reach."

"I amafraid you are disappointed in meBessie."  I said thislaughing: I perceived that Bessie's glancethough it expressedregarddid in no shape denote admiration.

"NoMiss Janenot exactly:  you are genteel enough; you look likea ladyand it is as much as ever I expected of you:  you were nobeauty asa child."

I smiledat Bessie's frank answer:  I felt that it was correctbutI confessI was not quite indifferent to its import:  at eighteenmostpeople wish to pleaseand the conviction that they have not anexteriorlikely to second that desire brings anything butgratification.

"Idare say you are cleverthough" continued Bessieby way ofsolace. "What can you do?  Can you play on the piano?"

"Alittle."

There wasone in the room; Bessie went and opened itand then askedme to sitdown and give her a tune:  I played a waltz or twoandshe wascharmed.

"TheMiss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly. "Ialwayssaid you would surpass them in learning:  and can you draw?"

"Thatis one of my paintings over the chimney-piece."  It was alandscapein water coloursof which I had made a present to thesuperintendentin acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with thecommitteeon my behalfand which she had framed and glazed.

"Wellthat is beautifulMiss Jane!  It is as fine a picture as anyMissReed's drawing-master could paintlet alone the young ladiesthemselveswho could not come near it:  and have you learntFrench?"

"YesBessieI can both read it and speak it."

"Andyou can work on muslin and canvas?"

"Ican."

"Ohyou are quite a ladyMiss Jane!  I knew you would be:  youwill geton whether your relations notice you or not.  There wassomethingI wanted to ask you.  Have you ever heard anything fromyourfather's kinsfolkthe Eyres?"

"Neverin my life."

"Wellyou know Missis always said they were poor and quitedespicable: and they may be poor; but I believe they are as muchgentry asthe Reeds are; for one daynearly seven years agoa Mr.Eyre cameto Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you wereit schoolfifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointedfor hecould notstay:  he was going on a voyage to a foreign countryandthe shipwas to sail from London in a day or two.  He looked quite agentlemanand I believe he was your father's brother."

"Whatforeign country was he going toBessie?"

"Anisland thousands of miles offwhere they make wine--the butlerdid tellme--"

"Madeira?"I suggested.

"Yesthat is it--that is the very word."

"Sohe went?"

"Yes;he did not stay many minutes in the house:  Missis was veryhigh withhim; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.'  MyRobertbelieves he was a wine-merchant."

"Verylikely" I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a wine-merchant."

Bessie andI conversed about old times an hour longerand then shewasobliged to leave me:  I saw her again for a few minutes the nextmorning atLowtonwhile I was waiting for the coach.  We partedfinally atthe door of the Brocklehurst Arms there:  each went herseparateway; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet theconveyancewhich was to take her back to GatesheadI mounted thevehiclewhich was to bear me to new duties and a new life in theunknownenvirons of Millcote.

 

CHAPTER XI

 

A newchapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play;and when Idraw up the curtain this timereaderyou must fancy yousee a roomin the George Inn at Millcotewith such large figuredpaperingon the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpetsuchfurnituresuch ornaments on the mantelpiecesuch printsincludinga portraitof George the Thirdand another of the Prince of Walesand arepresentation of the death of Wolfe.  All this is visible toyou by thelight of an oil lamp hanging from the ceilingand bythat of anexcellent firenear which I sit in my cloak and bonnet;my muffand umbrella lie on the tableand I am warming away thenumbnessand chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure to therawness ofan October day:  I left Lowton at four o'clock a.m.andtheMillcote town clock is now just striking eight.

Readerthough I look comfortably accommodatedI am not verytranquilin my mind.  I thought when the coach stopped here therewould besome one to meet me; I looked anxiously round as Idescendedthe wooden steps the "boots" placed for my convenienceexpectingto hear my name pronouncedand to see some description ofcarriagewaiting to convey me to Thornfield.  Nothing of the sortwasvisible; and when I asked a waiter if any one had been toinquireafter a Miss EyreI was answered in the negative:  so I hadnoresource but to request to be shown into a private room:  andhere I amwaitingwhile all sorts of doubts and fears are troublingmythoughts.

It is avery strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itselfquitealone in the worldcut adrift from every connectionuncertainwhether the port to which it is bound can be reachedandpreventedby many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.The charmof adventure sweetens that sensationthe glow of pridewarms it;but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with mebecamepredominant when half-an-hour elapsed and still I was alone.Ibethought myself to ring the bell.

"Isthere a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?" I askedof thewaiter who answered the summons.

"Thornfield? I don't knowma'am; I'll inquire at the bar."  Hevanishedbut reappeared instantly -

"Isyour name EyreMiss?"

"Yes."

"Personhere waiting for you."

I jumpeduptook my muff and umbrellaand hastened into the inn-passage: a man was standing by the open doorand in the lamp-litstreet Idimly saw a one-horse conveyance.

"Thiswill be your luggageI suppose?" said the man rather abruptlywhen hesaw mepointing to my trunk in the passage.

"Yes." He hoisted it on to the vehiclewhich was a sort of carand then Igot in; before he shut me upI asked him how far it wastoThornfield.

"Amatter of six miles."

"Howlong shall we be before we get there?"

"Happenan hour and a half."

Hefastened the car doorclimbed to his own seat outsideand weset off. Our progress was leisurelyand gave me ample time toreflect; Iwas content to be at length so near the end of myjourney;and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegantconveyanceI meditated much at my ease.

"Isuppose" thought I"judging from the plainness of theservantandcarriageMrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person:  so muchthebetter; I never lived amongst fine people but onceand I wasverymiserable with them.  I wonder if she lives alone except thislittlegirl; if soand if she is in any degree amiableI shallsurely beable to get on with her; I will do my best; it is a pitythat doingone's best does not always answer.  At LowoodindeedItook thatresolutionkept itand succeeded in pleasing; but withMrs. ReedI remember my best was always spurned with scorn.  I prayGod Mrs.Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed; but if shedoesI amnot bound to stay with her! let the worst come to theworstIcan advertise again.  How far are we on our road nowIwonder?"

I let downthe window and looked out; Millcote was behind us;judging bythe number of its lightsit seemed a place ofconsiderablemagnitudemuch larger than Lowton.  We were nowasfar as Icould seeon a sort of common; but there were housesscatteredall over the district; I felt we were in a differentregion toLowoodmore populousless picturesque; more stirringlessromantic.

The roadswere heavythe night misty; my conductor let his horsewalk allthe wayand the hour and a half extendedI verifybelieveto two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said -

"You'renoan so far fro' Thornfield now."

Again Ilooked out:  we were passing a church; I saw its low broadtoweragainst the skyand its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw anarrowgalaxy of lights tooon a hillsidemarking a village orhamlet. About ten minutes afterthe driver got down and opened apair ofgates:  we passed throughand they clashed to behind us.We nowslowly ascended a driveand came upon the long front of ahouse: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all therest weredark.  The car stopped at the front door; it was opened byamaid-servant; I alighted and went in.

"Willyou walk this wayma'am?" said the girl; and I followed heracross asquare hall with high doors all round:  she ushered me intoa roomwhose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzledmecontrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes hadbeen fortwo hours inured; when I could seehowevera cosy andagreeablepicture presented itself to my view.

A snugsmall room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chairhigh-backedand old-fashionedwherein sat the neatest imaginablelittleelderly ladyin widow's capblack silk gownand snowymuslinapron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfaxonlylessstately and milder looking.  She was occupied in knitting; alarge catsat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting tocompletethe beau-ideal of domestic comfort.  A more reassuringintroductionfor a new governess could scarcely be conceived; therewas nograndeur to overwhelmno stateliness to embarrass; and thenas Ienteredthe old lady got up and promptly and kindly cameforward tomeet me.

"Howdo you domy dear?  I am afraid you have had a tedious ride;Johndrives so slowly; you must be coldcome to the fire."

"Mrs.FairfaxI suppose?" said I.

"Yesyou are right:  do sit down."

Sheconducted me to her own chairand then began to remove my shawland untiemy bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself somuchtrouble.

"Ohit is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbedwithcold.  Leahmake a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two:here arethe keys of the storeroom."

And sheproduced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keysanddelivered them to the servant.

"Nowthendraw nearer to the fire" she continued.  "You'vebroughtyour luggage with youhaven't youmy dear?"

"Yesma'am."

"I'llsee it carried into your room" she saidand bustled out.

"Shetreats me like a visitor" thought I.  "I littleexpected suchareception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness:  this isnotlike whatI have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I mustnot exulttoo soon."

Shereturned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus anda book ortwo from the tableto make room for the tray which Leahnowbroughtand then herself handed me the refreshments.  I feltratherconfused at being the object of more attention than I hadeverbefore receivedandthat tooshown by my employer andsuperior;but as she did not herself seem to consider she was doinganythingout of her placeI thought it better to take hercivilitiesquietly.

"ShallI have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?" Iaskedwhen I had partaken of what she offered me.

"Whatdid you saymy dear?  I am a little deaf" returned thegoodladyapproaching her ear to my mouth.

I repeatedthe question more distinctly.

"MissFairfax?  Ohyou mean Miss Varens!  Varens is the name ofyourfuture pupil."

"Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?"

"No--Ihave no family."

I shouldhave followed up my first inquiryby asking in what wayMissVarens was connected with her; but I recollected it was notpolite toask too many questions:  besidesI was sure to hear intime.

"I amso glad" she continuedas she sat down opposite to meandtook thecat on her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will bequitepleasant living here now with a companion.  To be sure it ispleasantat any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hallratherneglectedof late years perhapsbut still it is a respectableplace; yetyou know in winter-time one feels dreary quite alone inthe bestquarters.  I say alone--Leah is a nice girl to be sureandJohn andhis wife are very decent people; but then you see they areonlyservantsand one can't converse with them on terms ofequality: one must keep them at due distancefor fear of losingone'sauthority.  I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe oneifyourecollectand when it did not snowit rained and blew)not acreaturebut the butcher and postman came to the housefromNovembertill February; and I really got quite melancholy withsittingnight after night alone; I had Leah in to read to mesometimes;but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much:  shefelt itconfining.  In spring and summer one got on better:sunshineand long days make such a difference; and thenjust at thecommencementof this autumnlittle Adela Varens came and her nurse:a childmakes a house alive all at once; and now you are here Ishall bequite gay."

My heartreally warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and Idrew mychair a little nearer to herand expressed my sincere wishthat shemight find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.

"ButI'll not keep you sitting up late to-night" said she; "itison thestroke of twelve nowand you have been travelling all day:you mustfeel tired.  If you have got your feet well warmedI'llshow youyour bedroom.  I've had the room next to mine prepared foryou; it isonly a small apartmentbut I thought you would like itbetterthan one of the large front chambers:  to be sure they havefinerfurniturebut they are so dreary and solitaryI never sleepin themmyself."

I thankedher for her considerate choiceand as I really feltfatiguedwith my long journeyexpressed my readiness to retire.She tookher candleand I followed her from the room.  First shewent tosee if the hall-door was fastened; having taken the key fromthe lockshe led the way upstairs.  The steps and banisters were ofoak; thestaircase window was high and latticed; both it and thelonggallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if theybelongedto a church rather than a house.  A very chill and vault-like airpervaded the stairs and gallerysuggesting cheerless ideasof spaceand solitude; and I was gladwhen finally ushered into mychamberto find it of small dimensionsand furnished in ordinarymodernstyle.

When Mrs.Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-nightand I hadfastenedmy doorgazed leisurely roundand in some measure effacedthe eerieimpression made by that wide hallthat dark and spaciousstaircaseand that longcold galleryby the livelier aspect of mylittleroomI remembered thatafter a day of bodily fatigue andmentalanxietyI was now at last in safe haven.  The impulse ofgratitudeswelled my heartand I knelt down at the bedsideandoffered upthanks where thanks were due; not forgettingere I roseto imploreaid on my further pathand the power of meriting thekindnesswhich seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned.My couchhad no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears.At onceweary and contentI slept soon and soundly:  when I awokeit wasbroad day.

Thechamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shonein betweenthe gay blue chintz window curtainsshowing paperedwalls anda carpeted floorso unlike the bare planks and stainedplaster ofLowoodthat my spirits rose at the view.  Externals havea greateffect on the young:  I thought that a fairer era of lifewasbeginning for meone that was to have its flowers andpleasuresas well as its thorns and toils.  My facultiesroused bythe changeof scenethe new field offered to hopeseemed allastir. I cannot precisely define what they expectedbut it wassomethingpleasant:  not perhaps that day or that monthbut at anindefinitefuture period.

I rose; Idressed myself with care:  obliged to be plain--for I hadno articleof attire that was not made with extreme simplicity--Iwas stillby nature solicitous to be neat.  It was not my habit tobedisregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I made:on thecontraryI ever wished to look as well as I couldand toplease asmuch as my want of beauty would permit.  I sometimesregrettedthat I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosycheeksastraight noseand small cherry mouth; I desired to betallstatelyand finely developed in figure; I felt it amisfortunethat I was so littleso paleand had features soirregularand so marked.  And why had I these aspirations and theseregrets? It would be difficult to say:  I could not then distinctlysay it tomyself; yet I had a reasonand a logicalnatural reasontoo. Howeverwhen I had brushed my hair very smoothand put on myblackfrock--whichQuakerlike as it wasat least had the merit offitting toa nicety--and adjusted my clean white tuckerI thought Ishould dorespectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfaxand thatmy newpupil would not at least recoil from me with antipathy.Havingopened my chamber windowand seen that I left all thingsstraightand neat on the toilet tableI ventured forth.

Traversingthe long and matted galleryI descended the slipperysteps ofoak; then I gained the hall:  I halted there a minute; Ilooked atsome pictures on the walls (oneI rememberrepresented agrim manin a cuirassand one a lady with powdered hair and a pearlnecklace)at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceilingat a greatclockwhose case was of oak curiously carvedand ebon black withtime andrubbing.  Everything appeared very stately and imposing tome; butthen I was so little accustomed to grandeur.  The hall-doorwhich washalf of glassstood open; I stepped over the threshold.It was afine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely onembrownedgroves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawnIlooked upand surveyed the front of the mansion.  It was threestoreyshighof proportions not vastthough considerable:  agentleman'smanor-housenot a nobleman's seat:  battlements roundthe topgave it a picturesque look.  Its grey front stood out wellfrom thebackground of a rookerywhose cawing tenants were now onthe wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a greatmeadowfrom which these were separated by a sunk fenceand wherean arrayof mighty old thorn treesstrongknottyand broad asoaksatonce explained the etymology of the mansion's designation.Fartheroff were hills:  not so lofty as those round Lowoodnor socraggynor so like barriers of separation from the living world;but yetquiet and lonely hills enoughand seeming to embraceThornfieldwith a seclusion I had not expected to find existent sonear thestirring locality of Millcote.  A little hamletwhoseroofs wereblent with treesstraggled up the side of one of thesehills; thechurch of the district stood nearer Thornfield:  its oldtower-toplooked over a knoll between the house and gates.

I was yetenjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh airyetlisteningwith delight to the cawing of the rooksyet surveying thewidehoary front of the halland thinking what a great place itwas forone lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabitwhenthat ladyappeared at the door.

"What!out already?" said she.  "I see you are an earlyriser."  Iwent up toherand was received with an affable kiss and shake ofthe hand.

"Howdo you like Thornfield?" she asked.  I told her I liked itverymuch.

"Yes"she said"it is a pretty place; but I fear it will begettingout of orderunless Mr. Rochester should take it into hishead tocome and reside here permanently; orat leastvisit itratheroftener:  great houses and fine grounds require the presenceof theproprietor."

"Mr.Rochester!" I exclaimed.  "Who is he?"

"Theowner of Thornfield" she responded quietly.  "Did younot knowhe wascalled Rochester?"

Of courseI did not--I had never heard of him before; but the oldladyseemed to regard his existence as a universally understoodfactwithwhich everybody must be acquainted by instinct.

"Ithought" I continued"Thornfield belonged to you."

"Tome?  Bless youchild; what an idea!  To me!  I amonly thehousekeeper--themanager.  To be sure I am distantly related to theRochestersby the mother's sideor at least my husband was; he wasaclergymanincumbent of Hay--that little village yonder on thehill--andthat church near the gates was his.  The present Mr.Rochester'smother was a Fairfaxand second cousin to my husband:but Inever presume on the connection--in factit is nothing to me;I considermyself quite in the light of an ordinary housekeeper:  myemployeris always civiland I expect nothing more."

"Andthe little girl--my pupil!"

"Sheis Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governessfor her. He intended to have her brought up in -shireI believe.Here shecomeswith her 'bonne' as she calls her nurse."  Theenigmathen was explained:  this affable and kind little widow wasno greatdame; but a dependant like myself.  I did not like her theworse forthat; on the contraryI felt better pleased than ever.Theequality between her and me was real; not the mere result ofcondescensionon her part:  so much the better--my position was allthe freer.

As I wasmeditating on this discoverya little girlfollowed byherattendantcame running up the lawn.  I looked at my pupilwhodid not atfirst appear to notice me:  she was quite a childperhapsseven or eight years oldslightly builtwith a palesmall-featuredfaceand a redundancy of hair falling in curls toher waist.

"GoodmorningMiss Adela" said Mrs. Fairfax.  "Come andspeak tothe ladywho is to teach youand to make you a clever woman someday." She approached.

"C'estle ma gouverante!" said shepointing to meand addressingher nurse;who answered -

"Maisouicertainement."

"Arethey foreigners?" I inquiredamazed at hearing the Frenchlanguage.

"Thenurse is a foreignerand Adela was born on the Continent; andI believenever left it till within six months ago.  When she firstcame hereshe could speak no English; now she can make shift to talkit alittle:  I don't understand hershe mixes it so with French;but youwill make out her meaning very wellI dare say."

FortunatelyI had had the advantage of being taught French by aFrenchlady; and as I had always made a point of conversing withMadamePierrot as often as I couldand had besidesduring the lastsevenyearslearnt a portion of French by heart daily--applyingmyself totake pains with my accentand imitating as closely aspossiblethe pronunciation of my teacherI had acquired a certaindegree ofreadiness and correctness in the languageand was notlikely tobe much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela.  She came andshook handwith me when she heard that I was her governess; and as Iled her into breakfastI addressed some phrases to her in her owntongue: she replied briefly at firstbut after we were seated atthe tableand she had examined me some ten minutes with her largehazeleyesshe suddenly commenced chattering fluently.

"Ah!"cried shein French"you speak my language as well as Mr.Rochesterdoes:  I can talk to you as I can to himand so canSophie. She will be glad:  nobody here understands her:  MadameFairfax isall English.  Sophie is my nurse; she came with me overthe sea ina great ship with a chimney that smoked--how it didsmoke!--andI was sickand so was Sophieand so was Mr. Rochester.Mr.Rochester lay down on a sofa in a pretty room called the salonand Sophieand I had little beds in another place.  I nearly fellout ofmine; it was like a shelf.  And Mademoiselle--what is yourname?"

"Eyre--JaneEyre."

"Aire? Bah!  I cannot say it.  Wellour ship stopped in themorningbefore it was quite daylightat a great city--a huge citywith verydark houses and all smoky; not at all like the prettyclean townI came from; and Mr. Rochester carried me in his armsover aplank to the landand Sophie came afterand we all got intoa coachwhich took us to a beautiful large houselarger than thisand finercalled an hotel.  We stayed there nearly a week:  I andSophieused to walk every day in a great green place full of treescalled thePark; and there were many children there besides meanda pondwith beautiful birds in itthat I fed with crumbs."

"Canyou understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs.Fairfax.

Iunderstood her very wellfor I had been accustomed to the fluenttongue ofMadame Pierrot.

"Iwish" continued the good lady"you would ask her aquestion ortwo abouther parents:  I wonder if she remembers them?"

"Adele"I inquired"with whom did you live when you were in thatprettyclean town you spoke of?"

"Ilived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin.Mama usedto teach me to dance and singand to say verses.  A greatmanygentlemen and ladies came to see mamaand I used to dancebeforethemor to sit on their knees and sing to them:  I liked it.Shall Ilet you hear me sing now?"

She hadfinished her breakfastso I permitted her to give aspecimenof her accomplishments.  Descending from her chairshecame andplaced herself on my knee; thenfolding her little handsdemurelybefore hershaking back her curls and lifting her eyes totheceilingshe commenced singing a song from some opera.  It wasthe strainof a forsaken ladywhoafter bewailing the perfidy ofher lovercalls pride to her aid; desires her attendant to deck herin herbrightest jewels and richest robesand resolves to meet thefalse onethat night at a balland prove to himby the gaiety ofherdemeanourhow little his desertion has affected her.

Thesubject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but Isupposethe point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of loveandjealousy warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very badtaste thatpoint was:  at least I thought so.

Adele sangthe canzonette tunefully enoughand with the naivete ofher age. This achievedshe jumped from my knee and said"NowMademoiselleI will repeat you some poetry."

Assumingan attitudeshe began"La Ligue des Rats:  fable de LaFontaine." She then declaimed the little piece with an attention topunctuationand emphasisa flexibility of voice and anappropriatenessof gesturevery unusual indeed at her ageandwhichproved she had been carefully trained.

"Wasit your mama who taught you that piece?" I asked.

"Yesand she just used to say it in this way:  'Qu' avez vous donc?lui dit unde ces rats; parlez!'  She made me lift my hand--so--toremind meto raise my voice at the question.  Now shall I dance foryou?"

"Nothat will do:  but after your mama went to the Holy Virginasyou saywith whom did you live then?"

"WithMadame Frederic and her husband:  she took care of mebut sheis nothingrelated to me.  I think she is poorfor she had not sofine ahouse as mama.  I was not long there.  Mr. Rochester askedmeif I wouldlike to go and live with him in Englandand I said yes;for I knewMr. Rochester before I knew Madame Fredericand he wasalwayskind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys:  but you seehe has notkept his wordfor he has brought me to Englandand nowhe is goneback again himselfand I never see him."

AfterbreakfastAdele and I withdrew to the librarywhich roomitappearsMr. Rochester had directed should be used as theschoolroom. Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors;but therewas one bookcase left open containing everything thatcould beneeded in the way of elementary worksand several volumesof lightliteraturepoetrybiographytravelsa few romances&c.I supposehe had considered that these were all the governess wouldrequirefor her private perusal; andindeedthey contented meamply forthe present; compared with the scanty pickings I had nowand thenbeen able to glean at Lowoodthey seemed to offer anabundantharvest of entertainment and information.  In this roomtootherewas a cabinet pianoquite new and of superior tone; alsoan easelfor painting and a pair of globes.

I found mypupil sufficiently docilethough disinclined to apply:she hadnot been used to regular occupation of any kind.  I felt itwould beinjudicious to confine her too much at first; sowhen Ihad talkedto her a great dealand got her to learn a littleandwhen themorning had advanced to noonI allowed her to return tohernurse.  I then proposed to occupy myself till dinner-time indrawingsome little sketches for her use.

As I wasgoing upstairs to fetch my portfolio and pencilsMrs.Fairfaxcalled to me:  "Your morning school-hours are over nowIsuppose"said she.  She was in a room the folding-doors of whichstoodopen:  I went in when she addressed me.  It was a largestatelyapartmentwith purple chairs and curtainsa Turkey carpetwalnut-panelledwallsone vast window rich in slanted glassand aloftyceilingnobly moulded.  Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some vasesof finepurple sparwhich stood on a sideboard.

"Whata beautiful room!" I exclaimedas I looked round; for I hadneverbefore seen any half so imposing.

"Yes;this is the dining-room.  I have just opened the windowtolet in alittle air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp inapartmentsthat are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feelslike avault."

Shepointed to a wide arch corresponding to the windowand hunglike itwith a Tyrian-dyed curtainnow looped up.  Mounting to itby twobroad stepsand looking throughI thought I caught aglimpse ofa fairy placeso bright to my novice-eyes appeared theviewbeyond.  Yet it was merely a very pretty drawing-roomandwithin ita boudoirboth spread with white carpetson which seemedlaidbrilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled with snowy mouldingsof whitegrapes and vine-leavesbeneath which glowed in richcontrastcrimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on thepalePariain mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian glassruby red;andbetween the windows large mirrors repeated the general blendingof snowand fire.

"Inwhat order you keep these roomsMrs. Fairfax!" said I. "Nodustnocanvas coverings:  except that the air feels chillyonewouldthink they were inhabited daily."

"WhyMiss Eyrethough Mr. Rochester's visits here are raretheyare alwayssudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put himout tofind everything swathed upand to have a bustle ofarrangementon his arrivalI thought it best to keep the rooms inreadiness."

"IsMr. Rochester an exactingfastidious sort of man?"

"Notparticularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habitsand heexpects to have things managed in conformity to them."

"Doyou like him?  Is he generally liked?"

"Ohyes; the family have always been respected here.  Almost allthe landin this neighbourhoodas far as you can seehas belongedto theRochesters time out of mind."

"Wellbutleaving his land out of the questiondo you like him?Is heliked for himself?"

"Ihave no cause to do otherwise than like him; and I believe he isconsidereda just and liberal landlord by his tenants:  but he hasneverlived much amongst them."

"Buthas he no peculiarities?  Whatin shortis his character?"

"Oh!his character is unimpeachableI suppose.  He is ratherpeculiarperhaps:  he has travelled a great dealand seen a greatdeal ofthe worldI should think.  I dare say he is cleverbut Inever hadmuch conversation with him."

"Inwhat way is he peculiar?"

"Idon't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing strikingbut youfeel itwhen he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether heis in jestor earnestwhether he is pleased or the contrary; youdon'tthoroughly understand himin short--at leastI don't:  butit is ofno consequencehe is a very good master."

This wasall the account I got from Mrs. Fairfax of her employer andmine. There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching acharacteror observing and describing salient pointseither inpersons orthings:  the good lady evidently belonged to this class;my queriespuzzledbut did not draw her out.  Mr. Rochester was Mr.Rochesterin her eyes; a gentlemana landed proprietor--nothingmore: she inquired and searched no furtherand evidently wonderedat my wishto gain a more definite notion of his identity.

When weleft the dining-roomshe proposed to show me over the restof thehouse; and I followed her upstairs and downstairsadmiringas I went;for all was well arranged and handsome.  The large frontchambers Ithought especially grand:  and some of the third-storeyroomsthough dark and lowwere interesting from their air ofantiquity. The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartmentshad fromtime to time been removed hereas fashions changed:  andtheimperfect light entering by their narrow casement showedbedsteadsof a hundred years old; chests in oak or walnutlookingwith theirstrange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' headslike typesof the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairshigh-backedandnarrow; stools still more antiquatedon whose cushioned topswere yetapparent traces of half-effaced embroiderieswrought byfingersthat for two generations had been coffin-dust.  All theserelicsgave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of ahome ofthe past:  a shrine of memory.  I liked the hushthegloomthequaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no meanscoveted anight's repose on one of those wide and heavy beds:  shutinsomeof themwith doors of oak; shadedotherswith wroughtoldEnglish hangings crusted with thick workportraying effigies ofstrangeflowersand stranger birdsand strangest human beings--all whichwould have looked strangeindeedby the pallid gleam ofmoonlight.

"Dothe servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.

"No;they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no oneeversleeps here:  one would almost say thatif there were a ghostatThornfield Hallthis would be its haunt."

"So Ithink:  you have no ghostthen?"

"Nonethat I ever heard of" returned Mrs. Fairfaxsmiling.

"Norany traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?"

"Ibelieve not.  And yet it is said the Rochesters have been rathera violentthan a quiet race in their time:  perhapsthoughthat isthe reasonthey rest tranquilly in their graves now."

"Yes--'afterlife's fitful fever they sleep well'" I muttered."Whereare you going nowMrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.

"Onto the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?" Ifollowedstillup a very narrow staircase to the atticsand thenceby aladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall.  I wasnow on alevel with the crow colonyand could see into their nests.Leaningover the battlements and looking far downI surveyed thegroundslaid out like a map:  the bright and velvet lawn closelygirdlingthe grey base of the mansion; the fieldwide as a parkdottedwith its ancient timber; the wooddun and seredivided by apathvisibly overgrowngreener with moss than the trees were withfoliage;the church at the gatesthe roadthe tranquil hillsallreposingin the autumn day's sun; the horizon bounded by apropitiousskyazuremarbled with pearly white.  No feature in thescene wasextraordinarybut all was pleasing.  When I turned fromit andrepassed the trap-doorI could scarcely see my way down theladder;the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that arch ofblue airto which I had been looking upand to that sunlit scene ofgrovepastureand green hillof which the hall was the centreand overwhich I had been gazing with delight.

Mrs.Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; Ibydrift ofgropingfound the outlet from the atticand proceeded todescendthe narrow garret staircase.  I lingered in the long passageto whichthis ledseparating the front and back rooms of the thirdstorey: narrowlowand dimwith only one little window at thefar endand lookingwith its two rows of small black doors allshutlikea corridor in some Bluebeard's castle.

While Ipaced softly onthe last sound I expected to hear in sostill aregiona laughstruck my ear.  It was a curious laugh;distinctformalmirthless.  I stopped:  the sound ceasedonly foraninstant; it began againlouder:  for at firstthough distinctit wasvery low.  It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed towake anecho in every lonely chamber; though it originated but inoneand Icould have pointed out the door whence the accentsissued.

"Mrs.Fairfax!" I called out:  for I now heard her descending thegreatstairs.  "Did you hear that loud laugh?  Who is it?"

"Someof the servantsvery likely" she answered:  "perhapsGracePoole."

"Didyou hear it?" I again inquired.

"Yesplainly:  I often hear her:  she sews in one of theserooms.SometimesLeah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."

The laughwas repeated in its lowsyllabic toneand terminated inan oddmurmur.

"Grace!"exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.

I reallydid not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was astragicaspreternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; andbut thatit washigh noonand that no circumstance of ghostlinessaccompaniedthe curious cachinnation; but that neither scene norseasonfavoured fearI should have been superstitiously afraid.Howeverthe event showed me I was a fool for entertaining a senseeven ofsurprise.

The doornearest me openedand a servant came out--a woman ofbetweenthirty and forty; a setsquare-made figurered-hairedandwith ahardplain face:  any apparition less romantic or lessghostlycould scarcely be conceived.

"Toomuch noiseGrace" said Mrs. Fairfax.  "Rememberdirections!"Gracecurtseyed silently and went in.

"Sheis a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid'swork"continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in somepointsbut she does well enough.  By-the-byehow have you got onwith yournew pupil this morning?"

Theconversationthus turned on Adelecontinued till we reachedthe lightand cheerful region below.  Adele came running to meet usin thehallexclaiming -

"Mesdamesvous etes servies!" adding"J'ai bien faimmoi!"

We founddinner readyand waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.

 

CHAPTERXII

 

Thepromise of a smooth careerwhich my first calm introduction toThornfieldHall seemed to pledgewas not belied on a longeracquaintancewith the place and its inmates.  Mrs. Fairfax turnedout to bewhat she appeareda placid-temperedkind-natured womanofcompetent education and average intelligence.  My pupil was alivelychildwho had been spoilt and indulgedand therefore wassometimeswayward; but as she was committed entirely to my careandnoinjudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my plansfor herimprovementshe soon forgot her little freaksand becameobedientand teachable.  She had no great talentsno marked traitsofcharacterno peculiar development of feeling or taste whichraised herone inch above the ordinary level of childhood; butneitherhad she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it.  Shemadereasonable progressentertained for me a vivaciousthoughperhapsnot very profoundaffection; and by her simplicitygayprattleand efforts to pleaseinspired mein returnwith adegree ofattachment sufficient to make us both content in eachother'ssociety.

Thisparparenthesewill be thought cool language by persons whoentertainsolemn doctrines about the angelic nature of childrenandthe dutyof those charged with their education to conceive for themanidolatrous devotion:  but I am not writing to flatter parentalegotismto echo cantor prop up humbug; I am merely telling thetruth. I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's welfare andprogressand a quiet liking for her little self:  just as Icherishedtowards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindnessanda pleasurein her society proportionate to the tranquil regard shehad formeand the moderation of her mind and character.

Anybodymay blame me who likeswhen I add furtherthatnow andthenwhenI took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went downto thegates and looked through them along the road; or whenwhileAdeleplayed with her nurseand Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in thestoreroomI climbed the three staircasesraised the trap-door ofthe atticand having reached the leadslooked out afar oversequesteredfield and hilland along dim sky-line--that then Ilonged fora power of vision which might overpass that limit; whichmightreach the busy worldtownsregions full of life I had heardof butnever seen--that then I desired more of practical experiencethan Ipossessed; more of intercourse with my kindof acquaintancewithvariety of characterthan was here within my reach.  I valuedwhat wasgood in Mrs. Fairfaxand what was good in Adele; but Ibelievedin the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodnessand what Ibelieved in I wished to behold.

Who blamesme?  Manyno doubt; and I shall be called discontented.I couldnot help it:  the restlessness was in my nature; it agitatedme to painsometimes.  Then my sole relief was to walk along thecorridorof the third storeybackwards and forwardssafe in thesilenceand solitude of the spotand allow my mind's eye to dwellonwhatever bright visions rose before it--andcertainlythey weremany andglowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultantmovementwhichwhile it swelled it in troubleexpanded it withlife; andbest of allto open my inward ear to a tale that wasneverended--a tale my imagination createdand narratedcontinuously;quickened with all of incidentlifefirefeelingthat Idesired and had not in my actual existence.

It is invain to say human beings ought to be satisfied withtranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if theycannotfind it.  Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mineandmillions are in silent revolt against their lot.  Nobody knowshow manyrebellions besides political rebellions ferment in themasses oflife which people earth.  Women are supposed to be verycalmgenerally:  but women feel just as men feel; they need exercisefor theirfacultiesand a field for their effortsas much as theirbrothersdo; they suffer from too rigid a restrainttoo absolute astagnationprecisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-mindedin theirmore privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought toconfinethemselves to making puddings and knitting stockingstoplaying onthe piano and embroidering bags.  It is thoughtless tocondemnthemor laugh at themif they seek to do more or learnmore thancustom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

When thusaloneI not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh:  thesame pealthe same lowslow ha! ha! whichwhen first heardhadthrilledme:  I heardtooher eccentric murmurs; stranger than herlaugh. There were days when she was quite silent; but there wereotherswhen I could not account for the sounds she made.  SometimesI sawher:  she would come out of her room with a basinor a plateor a trayin her handgo down to the kitchen and shortly returngenerally(ohromantic readerforgive me for telling the plaintruth!)bearing a pot of porter.  Her appearance always acted as adamper tothe curiosity raised by her oral oddities:  hard-featuredand staidshe had no point to which interest could attach.  I madesomeattempts to draw her into conversationbut she seemed a personof fewwords:  a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effortof thatsort.

The othermembers of the householdviz.John and his wifeLeahthehousemaidand Sophie the French nursewere decent people; butin norespect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk FrenchandsometimesI asked her questions about her native country; but shewas not ofa descriptive or narrative turnand generally gave suchvapid andconfused answers as were calculated rather to check thanencourageinquiry.

OctoberNovemberDecember passed away.  One afternoon in JanuaryMrs.Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adelebecause she had a cold;andasAdele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded mehowprecious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhoodI accordeditdeeming that I did well in showing pliability on thepoint. It was a finecalm daythough very cold; I was tired ofsittingstill in the library through a whole long morning:  Mrs.Fairfaxhad just written a letter which was waiting to be postedsoI put onmy bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; thedistancetwo mileswould be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.Havingseen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs.Fairfax'sparlour firesideand given her her best wax doll (which Iusuallykept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play withand astory-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her"Revenezbientotma bonne amiema chere Mdlle. Jeannette" with akiss I setout.

The groundwas hardthe air was stillmy road was lonely; I walkedfast tillI got warmand then I walked slowly to enjoy and analysethespecies of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and situation.It wasthree o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under thebelfry: the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimnessinthelow-gliding and pale-beaming sun.  I was a mile from Thornfieldin a lanenoted for wild roses in summerfor nuts and blackberriesin autumnand even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips andhawsbutwhose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude andleaflessrepose.  If a breath of air stirredit made no sound here;for therewas not a hollynot an evergreen to rustleand thestrippedhawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as the whitewornstoneswhich causewayed the middle of the path.  Far and wideoneach sidethere were only fieldswhere no cattle now browsed; andthe littlebrown birdswhich stirred occasionally in the hedgelookedlike single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.

This laneinclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached themiddleIsat down on a stile which led thence into a field.Gatheringmy mantle about meand sheltering my hands in my muffIdid notfeel the coldthough it froze keenly; as was attested by asheet ofice covering the causewaywhere a little brookletnowcongealedhad overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since.  Frommy seat Icould look down on Thornfield:  the grey and battlementedhall wasthe principal object in the vale below me; its woods anddarkrookery rose against the west.  I lingered till the sun wentdownamongst the treesand sank crimson and clear behind them.  Ithenturned eastward.

On thehill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloudbutbrightening momentarilyshe looked over Haywhichhalf lostin treessent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys:  it was yet amiledistantbut in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thinmurmurs oflife.  My eartoofelt the flow of currents; in whatdales anddepths I could not tell:  but there were many hills beyondHayanddoubtless many becks threading their passes.  That eveningcalmbetrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streamsthe sough ofthe mostremote.

A rudenoise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperingsat onceso faraway and so clear:  a positive tramptrampa metallicclatterwhich effaced the soft wave-wanderings; asin a picturethe solidmass of a cragor the rough boles of a great oakdrawnin darkand strong on the foregroundefface the aerial distance ofazurehillsunny horizonand blended clouds where tint melts intotint.

The dinwas on the causeway:  a horse was coming; the windings ofthe laneyet hid itbut it approached.  I was just leaving thestile;yetas the path was narrowI sat still to let it go by.  Inthose daysI was youngand all sorts of fancies bright and darktenantedmy mind:  the memories of nursery stories were thereamongstother rubbish; and when they recurredmaturing youth addedto them avigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give.  Asthis horseapproachedand as I watched for it to appear through theduskIremembered certain of Bessie's taleswherein figured aNorth-of-Englandspirit called a "Gytrash" whichin the form ofhorsemuleor large doghaunted solitary waysand sometimes cameuponbelated travellersas this horse was now coming upon me.

It wasvery nearbut not yet in sight; whenin addition to thetramptrampI heard a rush under the hedgeand close down by thehazelstems glided a great dogwhose black and white colour madehim adistinct object against the trees.  It was exactly one form ofBessie'sGytrash--a lion-like creature with long hair and a hugehead: it passed mehoweverquietly enough; not staying to lookupwithstrange pretercanine eyesin my faceas I half expectedit would. The horse followed--a tall steedand on its back arider. The manthe human beingbroke the spell at once.  Nothingever rodethe Gytrash:  it was always alone; and goblinsto mynotionsthough they might tenant the dumb carcasses of beastscouldscarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form.  NoGytrashwas this--only a traveller taking the short cut toMillcote. He passedand I went on; a few stepsand I turned:  aslidingsound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"and aclattering tumblearrested my attention.  Man and horse weredown; theyhad slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed thecauseway. The dog came bounding backand seeing his master in apredicamentand hearing the horse groanbarked till the eveninghillsechoed the soundwhich was deep in proportion to hismagnitude. He snuffed round the prostrate groupand then he ran upto me; itwas all he could do--there was no other help at hand tosummon. I obeyed himand walked down to the travellerby thistimestruggling himself free of his steed.  His efforts were sovigorousI thought he could not be much hurt; but I asked him thequestion -

"Areyou injuredsir?"

I think hewas swearingbut am not certain; howeverhe waspronouncingsome formula which prevented him from replying to medirectly.

"CanI do anything?" I asked again.

"Youmust just stand on one side" he answered as he rosefirst tohis kneesand then to his feet.  I did; whereupon began a heavingstampingclattering processaccompanied by a barking and bayingwhichremoved me effectually some yards' distance; but I would notbe drivenquite away till I saw the event.  This was finallyfortunate;the horse was re-establishedand the dog was silencedwith a"DownPilot!"  The traveller nowstoopingfelt hisfootand legas if trying whether they were sound; apparently somethingailedthemfor he halted to the stile whence I had just risenandsat down.

I was inthe mood for being usefulor at least officiousI thinkfor I nowdrew near him again.

"Ifyou are hurtand want helpsirI can fetch some one eitherfromThornfield Hall or from Hay."

"Thankyou:  I shall do:  I have no broken bones--only a sprain;"and againhe stood up and tried his footbut the result extorted aninvoluntary"Ugh!"

Somethingof daylight still lingeredand the moon was waxingbright: I could see him plainly.  His figure was enveloped in aridingcloakfur collared and steel clasped; its details were notapparentbut I traced the general points of middle height andconsiderablebreadth of chest.  He had a dark facewith sternfeaturesand a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows lookedireful andthwarted just now; he was past youthbut had not reachedmiddle-age;perhaps he might be thirty-five.  I felt no fear of himand butlittle shyness.  Had he been a handsomeheroic-lookingyounggentlemanI should not have dared to stand thus questioninghimagainst his willand offering my services unasked.  I hadhardlyever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.I had atheoretical reverence and homage for beautyelegancegallantryfascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate inmasculineshapeI should have known instinctively that they neitherhad norcould have sympathy with anything in meand should haveshunnedthem as one would firelightningor anything else that isbright butantipathetic.

If eventhis stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when Iaddressedhim; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily andwiththanksI should have gone on my way and not felt any vocationto renewinquiries:  but the frownthe roughness of the travellerset me atmy ease:  I retained my station when he waved to me to goandannounced -

"Icannot think of leaving yousirat so late an hourin thissolitarylanetill I see you are fit to mount your horse."

He lookedat me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes inmydirection before.

"Ishould think you ought to be at home yourself" said he"ifyouhave ahome in this neighbourhood:  where do you come from?"

"Fromjust below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late whenit ismoonlight:  I will run over to Hay for you with pleasureifyou wishit:  indeedI am going there to post a letter."

"Youlive just below--do you mean at that house with thebattlements?"pointing to Thornfield Hallon which the moon cast ahoarygleambringing it out distinct and pale from the woods thatbycontrast with the western skynow seemed one mass of shadow.

"Yessir."

"Whosehouse is it?"

"Mr.Rochester's."

"Doyou know Mr. Rochester?"

"NoI have never seen him."

"Heis not residentthen?"

"No."

"Canyou tell me where he is?"

"Icannot."

"Youare not a servant at the hallof course.  You are--" Hestoppedran his eye over my dresswhichas usualwas quitesimple: a black merino cloaka black beaver bonnet; neither ofthem halffine enough for a lady's-maid.  He seemed puzzled todecidewhat I was; I helped him.

"I amthe governess."

"Ahthe governess!" he repeated; "deuce take meif I had notforgotten! The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.In twominutes he rose from the stile:  his face expressed pain whenhe triedto move.

"Icannot commission you to fetch help" he said; "but you mayhelpme alittle yourselfif you will be so kind."

"Yessir."

"Youhave not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"

"No."

"Tryto get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me:  you arenotafraid?"

I shouldhave been afraid to touch a horse when alonebut when toldto do itI was disposed to obey.  I put down my muff on the stileand wentup to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the bridlebut it wasa spirited thingand would not let me come near itshead; Imade effort on effortthough in vain:  meantimeI wasmortallyafraid of its trampling fore-feet.  The traveller waitedandwatched for some timeand at last he laughed.

"Isee" he said"the mountain will never be brought toMahometsoall youcan do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must begof you tocome here."

I came. "Excuse me" he continued:  "necessity compels meto makeyouuseful."  He laid a heavy hand on my shoulderand leaningon mewith somestresslimped to his horse.  Having once caught thebridlehemastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacinggrimly ashe made the effortfor it wrenched his sprain.

"Now"said hereleasing his under lip from a hard bite"just handme mywhip; it lies there under the hedge."

I soughtit and found it.

"Thankyou; now make haste with the letter to Hayand return asfast asyou can."

A touch ofa spurred heel made his horse first start and rearandthen boundaway; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished

 

"Likeheath thatin the wildernessThe wildwind whirls away."

 

I took upmy muff and walked on.  The incident had occurred and wasgone forme:  it WAS an incident of no momentno romancenointerestin a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of amonotonouslife.  My help had been needed and claimed; I had givenit: I was pleased to have done something; trivialtransitorythough thedeed wasit was yet an active thingand I was weary ofanexistence all passive.  The new facetoowas like a newpictureintroducedto the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to allthe othershanging there:  firstlybecause it was masculine; andsecondlybecause it was darkstrongand stern.  I had it stillbefore mewhen I entered Hayand slipped the letter into the post-office; Isaw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way home.  WhenI came tothe stileI stopped a minutelooked round and listenedwith anidea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the causeway againand that arider in a cloakand a Gytrash-like Newfoundland dogmight beagain apparent:  I saw only the hedge and a pollard willowbefore merising up still and straight to meet the moonbeams; Iheard onlythe faintest waft of wind roaming fitful among the treesroundThornfielda mile distant; and when I glanced down in thedirectionof the murmurmy eyetraversing the hall-frontcaught alightkindling in a window:  it reminded me that I was lateand Ihurriedon.

I did notlike re-entering Thornfield.  To pass its threshold was toreturn tostagnation; to cross the silent hallto ascend thedarksomestaircaseto seek my own lonely little roomand then tomeettranquil Mrs. Fairfaxand spend the long winter evening withherandher onlywas to quell wholly the faint excitement wakenedby mywalk--to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters ofan uniformand too still existence; of an existence whose veryprivilegesof security and ease I was becoming incapable ofappreciating. What good it would have done me at that time to havebeentossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling lifeand tohave beentaught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calmamidstwhich I now repined!  Yesjust as much good as it would do aman tiredof sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take a longwalk: and just as natural was the wish to stirunder mycircumstancesas it would be under his.

I lingeredat the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwardsandforwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door wereclosed; Icould not see into the interior; and both my eyes andspiritseemed drawn from the gloomy house--from the grey-hollowfilledwith rayless cellsas it appeared to me--to that skyexpandedbefore me--a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; themoonascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as sheleft thehill-topsfrom behind which she had comefar and fartherbelow herand aspired to the zenithmidnight dark in itsfathomlessdepth and measureless distance; and for those tremblingstars thatfollowed her course; they made my heart tremblemy veinsglow whenI viewed them.  Little things recall us to earth; theclockstruck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon andstarsopened a side-doorand went in.

The hallwas not darknor yet was it litonly by the high-hungbronzelamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of theoakstaircase.  This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-roomwhosetwo-leaved door stood openand showed a genial fire in thegrateglancing on marble hearth and brass fire-ironsand revealingpurpledraperies and polished furniturein the most pleasantradiance. It revealedtooa group near the mantelpiece:  I hadscarcelycaught itand scarcely become aware of a cheerful minglingof voicesamongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adelewhen thedoor closed.

I hastenedto Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there toobutno candleand no Mrs. Fairfax.  Insteadall alonesitting uprighton therugand gazing with gravity at the blazeI beheld a greatblack andwhite long-haired dogjust like the Gytrash of the lane.It was solike it that I went forward and said--"Pilot" and thething gotup and came to me and snuffed me.  I caressed himand hewagged hisgreat tail; but he looked an eerie creature to be alonewithandI could not tell whence he had come.  I rang the bellforI wanted acandle; and I wantedtooto get an account of thisvisitant. Leah entered.

"Whatdog is this?"

"Hecame with master."

"Withwhom?"

"Withmaster--Mr. Rochester--he is just arrived."

"Indeed!and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"

"Yesand Miss Adele; they are in the dining-roomand John is gonefor asurgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell andhis ankleis sprained."

"Didthe horse fall in Hay Lane?"

"Yescoming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."

"Ah! Bring me a candle will you Leah?"

Leahbrought it; she enteredfollowed by Mrs. Fairfaxwho repeatedthe news;adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was comeand was nowwith Mr.Rochester:  then she hurried out to give orders about teaand I wentupstairs to take off my things.

 

CHAPTERXIII

 

Mr.Rochesterit seemsby the surgeon's orderswent to bed earlythatnight; nor did he rise soon next morning.  When he did comedownitwas to attend to business:  his agent and some of histenantswere arrivedand waiting to speak with him.

Adele andI had now to vacate the library:  it would be in dailyrequisitionas a reception-room for callers.  A fire was lit in anapartmentupstairsand there I carried our booksand arranged itfor thefuture schoolroom.  I discerned in the course of the morningthatThornfield Hall was a changed place:  no longer silent as achurchitechoed every hour or two to a knock at the dooror aclang ofthe bell; stepstoooften traversed the halland newvoicesspoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer worldwasflowing through it; it had a master:  for my partI liked itbetter.

Adele wasnot easy to teach that day; she could not apply:  she keptrunning tothe door and looking over the banisters to see if shecould geta glimpse of Mr. Rochester; then she coined pretexts to godownstairsin orderas I shrewdly suspectedto visit the librarywhere Iknew she was not wanted; thenwhen I got a little angryand madeher sit stillshe continued to talk incessantly of her"amiMonsieur Edouard Fairfax DE Rochester" as she dubbed him (Ihad notbefore heard his prenomens)and to conjecture what presentshe hadbrought her:  for it appears he had intimated the nightbeforethat when his luggage came from Millcotethere would befoundamongst it a little box in whose contents she had an interest.

"Etcela doit signifier" said she"qu'il y aura le dedans uncadeaupour moiet peut-etre pour vous aussimademoiselle.Monsieur aparle de vous:  il m'a demande le nom de ma gouvernanteet si ellen'etait pas une petite personneassez mince et un peupale. J'ai dit qu'oui:  car c'est vrain'est-ce pasmademoiselle?"

I and mypupil dined as usual in Mrs. Fairfax's parlour; theafternoonwas wild and snowyand we passed it in the schoolroom.At dark Iallowed Adele to put away books and workand to rundownstairs;forfrom the comparative silence belowand from thecessationof appeals to the door-bellI conjectured that Mr.Rochesterwas now at liberty.  Left aloneI walked to the window;butnothing was to be seen thence:  twilight and snowflakes togetherthickenedthe airand hid the very shrubs on the lawn.  I let downthecurtain and went back to the fireside.

In theclear embers I was tracing a viewnot unlike a picture Irememberedto have seen of the castle of Heidelbergon the Rhinewhen Mrs.Fairfax came inbreaking up by her entrance the fierymosaic Ihad been piercing togetherand scattering too some heavyunwelcomethoughts that were beginning to throng on my solitude.

"Mr.Rochester would be glad if you and your pupil would take teawith himin the drawing-room this evening" said she:  "he hasbeenso muchengaged all day that he could not ask to see you before."

"Whenis his tea-time?" I inquired.

"Ohat six o'clock:  he keeps early hours in the country.  Youhadbetterchange your frock now; I will go with you and fasten it.Here is acandle."

"Isit necessary to change my frock?"

"Yesyou had better:  I always dress for the evening when Mr.Rochesteris here."

Thisadditional ceremony seemed somewhat stately; howeverIrepairedto my roomandwith Mrs. Fairfax's aidreplaced my blackstuffdress by one of black silk; the best and the only additionalone I hadexcept one of light greywhichin my Lowood notions ofthetoiletteI thought too fine to be wornexcept on first-rateoccasions.

"Youwant a brooch" said Mrs. Fairfax.  I had a single littlepearlornamentwhich Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake:  I put itonandthen we went downstairs.  Unused as I was to strangersitwas rathera trial to appear thus formally summoned in Mr.Rochester'spresence.  I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into thedining-roomand kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment;andpassing the archwhose curtain was now droppedentered theelegantrecess beyond.

Two waxcandles stood lighted on the tableand two on themantelpiece;basking in the light and heat of a superb firelayPilot--Adeleknelt near him.  Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr.Rochesterhis foot supported by the cushion; he was looking atAdele andthe dog:  the fire shone full on his face.  I knew mytravellerwith his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square foreheadmadesquarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair.  Irecognisedhis decisive nosemore remarkable for character thanbeauty;his full nostrilsdenotingI thoughtcholer; his grimmouthchinand jaw--yesall three were very grimand no mistake.His shapenow divested of cloakI perceived harmonised insquarenesswith his physiognomy:  I suppose it was a good figure intheathletic sense of the term--broad chested and thin flankedthoughneither tall nor graceful.

Mr.Rochester must have been aware of the entrance of Mrs. Fairfaxandmyself; but it appeared he was not in the mood to notice usforhe neverlifted his head as we approached.

"Hereis Miss Eyresir" said Mrs. Fairfaxin her quiet way. Hebowedstill not taking his eyes from the group of the dog andchild.

"LetMiss Eyre be seated" said he:  and there was something intheforcedstiff bowin the impatient yet formal tonewhich seemedfurther toexpress"What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre bethere ornot?  At this moment I am not disposed to accost her."

I sat downquite disembarrassed.  A reception of finished politenesswouldprobably have confused me:  I could not have returned orrepaid itby answering grace and elegance on my part; but harshcapricelaid me under no obligation; on the contrarya decentquiescenceunder the freak of mannergave me the advantage.Besidesthe eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant:  I feltinterestedto see how he would go on.

He went onas a statue wouldthat ishe neither spoke nor moved.Mrs.Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should beamiableand she began to talk.  Kindlyas usual--andas usualrathertrite--she condoled with him on the pressure of business hehad hadall day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with thatpainfulsprain:  then she commended his patience and perseverance ingoingthrough with it.

"MadamI should like some tea" was the sole rejoinder she got.Shehastened to ring the bell; and when the tray cameshe proceededto arrangethe cupsspoons&c.with assiduous celerity.  I andAdele wentto the table; but the master did not leave his couch.

"Willyou hand Mr. Rochester's cup?" said Mrs. Fairfax to me; "Adelemightperhaps spill it."

I did asrequested.  As he took the cup from my handAdelethinkingthe moment propitious for making a request in my favourcried out-

"N'est-cepasmonsieurqu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyredans votrepetit coffre?"

"Whotalks of cadeaux?" said he gruffly.  "Did you expect apresentMissEyre?  Are you fond of presents?" and he searched my facewitheyes thatI saw were darkirateand piercing.

"Ihardly knowsir; I have little experience of them:  they aregenerallythought pleasant things."

"Generallythought?  But what do YOU think?"

"Ishould be obliged to take timesirbefore I could give you ananswerworthy of your acceptance:  a present has many faces to ithas itnot? and one should consider allbefore pronouncing anopinion asto its nature."

"MissEyreyou are not so unsophisticated as Adele:  she demands a'cadeau'clamorouslythe moment she sees me:  you beat about thebush."

"BecauseI have less confidence in my deserts than Adele has:  shecan preferthe claim of old acquaintanceand the right too ofcustom;for she says you have always been in the habit of giving herplaythings;but if I had to make out a case I should be puzzledsince I ama strangerand have done nothing to entitle me to anacknowledgment."

"Ohdon't fall back on over-modesty!  I have examined Adeleandfind youhave taken great pains with her:  she is not brightshehas notalents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement."

"Siryou have now given me my 'cadeau;' I am obliged to you:  it isthe meedteachers most covet--praise of their pupils' progress."

"Humph!"said Mr. Rochesterand he took his tea in silence.

"Cometo the fire" said the masterwhen the tray was taken awayand Mrs.Fairfax had settled into a corner with her knitting; whileAdele wasleading me by the hand round the roomshowing me thebeautifulbooks and ornaments on the consoles and chiffonnieres.  Weobeyedasin duty bound; Adele wanted to take a seat on my kneebut shewas ordered to amuse herself with Pilot.

"Youhave been resident in my house three months?"

"Yessir."

"Andyou came from--?"

"FromLowood schoolin -shire."

"Ah!a charitable concern.  How long were you there?"

"Eightyears."

"Eightyears! you must be tenacious of life.  I thought half thetime insuch a place would have done up any constitution!  No wonderyou haverather the look of another world.  I marvelled where youhad gotthat sort of face.  When you came on me in Hay Lane lastnightIthought unaccountably of fairy talesand had half a mindto demandwhether you had bewitched my horse:  I am not sure yet.Who areyour parents?"

"Ihave none."

"Norever hadI suppose:  do you remember them?"

"No."

"Ithought not.  And so you were waiting for your people when yousat onthat stile?"

"Forwhomsir?"

"Forthe men in green:  it was a proper moonlight evening for them.Did Ibreak through one of your ringsthat you spread that damnedice on thecauseway?"

I shook myhead.  "The men in green all forsook England a hundredyearsago" said Ispeaking as seriously as he had done.  "Andnoteven inHay Laneor the fields about itcould you find a trace ofthem. I don't think either summer or harvestor winter moonwillever shineon their revels more."

Mrs.Fairfax had dropped her knittingandwith raised eyebrowsseemedwondering what sort of talk this was.

"Well"resumed Mr. Rochester"if you disown parentsyou must havesome sortof kinsfolk:  uncles and aunts?"

"No;none that I ever saw."

"Andyour home?"

"Ihave none."

"Wheredo your brothers and sisters live?"

"Ihave no brothers or sisters."

"Whorecommended you to come here?"

"Iadvertisedand Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement."

"Yes"said the good ladywho now knew what ground we were upon"andI am daily thankful for the choice Providence led me to make.Miss Eyrehas been an invaluable companion to meand a kind andcarefulteacher to Adele."

"Don'ttrouble yourself to give her a character" returned Mr.Rochester: "eulogiums will not bias me; I shall judge for myself.She beganby felling my horse."

"Sir?"said Mrs. Fairfax.

"Ihave to thank her for this sprain."

The widowlooked bewildered.

"MissEyrehave you ever lived in a town?"

"Nosir."

"Haveyou seen much society?"

"Nonebut the pupils and teachers of Lowoodand now the inmates ofThornfield."

"Haveyou read much?"

"Onlysuch books as came in my way; and they have not been numerousor verylearned."

"Youhave lived the life of a nun:  no doubt you are well drilled inreligiousforms;--Brocklehurstwho I understand directs Lowoodisa parsonis he not?"

"Yessir."

"Andyou girls probably worshipped himas a convent full ofreligieuseswould worship their director."

"Ohno."

"Youare very cool!  No!  What! a novice not worship her priest!Thatsounds blasphemous."

"Idisliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling.He is aharsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off ourhair; andfor economy's sake bought us bad needles and threadwithwhich wecould hardly sew."

"Thatwas very false economy" remarked Mrs. Fairfaxwho now againcaught thedrift of the dialogue.

"Andwas that the head and front of his offending?" demanded Mr.Rochester.

"Hestarved us when he had the sole superintendence of the provisiondepartmentbefore the committee was appointed; and he bored us withlonglectures once a weekand with evening readings from books ofhis owninditingabout sudden deaths and judgmentswhich made usafraid togo to bed."

"Whatage were you when you went to Lowood?"

"Aboutten."

"Andyou stayed there eight years:  you are nowtheneighteen?"

Iassented.

"Arithmeticyou seeis useful; without its aidI should hardlyhave beenable to guess your age.  It is a point difficult to fixwhere thefeatures and countenance are so much at variance as inyourcase.  And now what did you learn at Lowood?  Can youplay?"

"Alittle."

"Ofcourse:  that is the established answer.  Go into thelibrary--Imeanifyou please.--(Excuse my tone of command; I am used to say'Do this'and it is done:  I cannot alter my customary habits forone newinmate.)--Gotheninto the library; take a candle withyou; leavethe door open; sit down to the pianoand play a tune."

Idepartedobeying his directions.

"Enough!"he called out in a few minutes.  "You play A LITTLEIsee; likeany other English school-girl; perhaps rather better thansomebutnot well."

I closedthe piano and returned.  Mr. Rochester continued--"Adeleshowed mesome sketches this morningwhich she said were yours.  Idon't knowwhether they were entirely of your doing; probably amasteraided you?"

"Noindeed!" I interjected.

"Ah!that pricks pride.  Wellfetch me your portfolioif you canvouch forits contents being original; but don't pass your wordunless youare certain:  I can recognise patchwork."

"ThenI will say nothingand you shall judge for yourselfsir."

I broughtthe portfolio from the library.

"Approachthe table" said he; and I wheeled it to his couch.  Adeleand Mrs.Fairfax drew near to see the pictures.

"Nocrowding" said Mr. Rochester:  "take the drawingsfrom my handas Ifinish with them; but don't push your faces up to mine."

Hedeliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting.  Three helaidaside; theotherswhen he had examined themhe swept from him.

"Takethem off to the other tableMrs. Fairfax" said heand lookat themwith Adele;--you" (glancing at me) "resume your seatandanswer myquestions.  I perceive those pictures were done by onehand: was that hand yours?"

"Yes."

"Andwhen did you find time to do them?  They have taken much timeand somethought."

"Idid them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowoodwhen I hadno otheroccupation."

"Wheredid you get your copies?"

"Outof my head."

"Thathead I see now on your shoulders?"

"Yessir."

"Hasit other furniture of the same kind within?"

"Ishould think it may have:  I should hope--better."

He spreadthe pictures before himand again surveyed themalternately.

While heis so occupiedI will tell youreaderwhat they are:and firstI must premise that they are nothing wonderful.  Thesubjectshadindeedrisen vividly on my mind.  As I saw them withthespiritual eyebefore I attempted to embody themthey werestriking;but my hand would not second my fancyand in each case ithadwrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.

Thesepictures were in water-colours.  The first represented cloudslow andlividrolling over a swollen sea:  all the distance was ineclipse;sotoowas the foreground; or ratherthe nearestbillowsfor there was no land.  One gleam of light lifted intorelief ahalf-submerged maston which sat a cormorantdark andlargewith wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold braceletset withgemsthat I had touched with as brilliant tints as mypalettecould yieldand as glittering distinctness as my pencilcouldimpart.  Sinking below the bird and masta drowned corpseglancedthrough the green water; a fair arm was the only limbclearlyvisiblewhence the bracelet had been washed or torn.

The secondpicture contained for foreground only the dim peak of ahillwithgrass and some leaves slanting as if by a breeze.  Beyondand abovespread an expanse of skydark blue as at twilight:risinginto the sky was a woman's shape to the bustportrayed intints asdusk and soft as I could combine.  The dim forehead wascrownedwith a star; the lineaments below were seen as through thesuffusionof vapour; the eyes shone dark and wild; the hair streamedshadowylike a beamless cloud torn by storm or by electric travail.On theneck lay a pale reflection like moonlight; the same faintlustretouched the train of thin clouds from which rose and bowedthisvision of the Evening Star.

The thirdshowed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar wintersky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lancescloseserriedalong the horizon.  Throwing these into distanceroseintheforegrounda head--a colossal headinclined towards theicebergand resting against it.  Two thin handsjoined under theforeheadand supporting itdrew up before the lower features asableveil  a brow quite bloodlesswhite as boneand an eyehollow andfixedblank of meaning but for the glassiness ofdespairalone were visible.  Above the templesamidst wreathedturbanfolds of black draperyvague in its character andconsistencyas cloudgleamed a ring of white flamegemmed withsparklesof a more lurid tinge.  This pale crescent was "thelikenessof a kingly crown;" what it diademed was "the shape whichshape hadnone."

"Wereyou happy when you painted these pictures?" asked Mr.Rochesterpresently.

"Iwas absorbedsir:  yesand I was happy.  To paint theminshortwasto enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known."

"Thatis not saying much.  Your pleasuresby your own accounthavebeen few;but I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist'sdreamlandwhile you blent and arranged these strange tints.  Did yousit atthem long each day?"

"Ihad nothing else to dobecause it was the vacationand I sat atthem frommorning till noonand from noon till night:  the lengthof themidsummer days favoured my inclination to apply."

"Andyou felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardentlabours?"

"Farfrom it.  I was tormented by the contrast between my idea andmyhandiwork:  in each case I had imagined something which I wasquitepowerless to realise."

"Notquite:  you have secured the shadow of your thought; but nomoreprobably.  You had not enough of the artist's skill andscience togive it full being:  yet the drawings arefor a school-girlpeculiar.  As to the thoughtsthey are elfish.  These eyesintheEvening Star you must have seen in a dream.  How could you makethem lookso clearand yet not at all brilliant? for the planetabovequells their rays.  And what meaning is that in their solemndepth? And who taught you to paint wind.  There is a high gale inthat skyand on this hill-top.  Where did you see Latmos?  For thatisLatmos.  There! put the drawings away!"

I hadscarce tied the strings of the portfoliowhenlooking at hiswatchhesaid abruptly -

"Itis nine o'clock:  what are you aboutMiss Eyreto let Adelesit up solong?  Take her to bed."

Adele wentto kiss him before quitting the room:  he endured thecaressbut scarcely seemed to relish it more than Pilot would havedonenorso much.

"Iwish you all good-nightnow" said hemaking a movement of thehandtowards the doorin token that he was tired of our companyand wishedto dismiss us.  Mrs. Fairfax folded up her knitting:  Itook myportfolio:  we curtseyed to himreceived a frigid bow inreturnand so withdrew.

"Yousaid Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiarMrs. Fairfax"Iobservedwhen I rejoined her in her roomafter putting Adele tobed.

"Wellis he?"

"Ithink so:  he is very changeful and abrupt."

"True: no doubt he may appear so to a strangerbut I am soaccustomedto his mannerI never think of it; and thenif he haspeculiaritiesof temperallowance should be made."

"Why?"

"Partlybecause it is his nature--and we can none of us help ournature;and partly because he has painful thoughtsno doubttoharasshimand make his spirits unequal."

"Whatabout?"

"Familytroublesfor one thing."

"Buthe has no family."

"Notnowbut he has had--orat leastrelatives.  He lost hiselderbrother a few years since."

"HisELDER brother?"

"Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long inpossessionof the property; only about nine years."

"Nineyears is a tolerable time.  Was he so very fond of his brotheras to bestill inconsolable for his loss?"

"Whyno--perhaps not.  I believe there were some misunderstandingsbetweenthem.  Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr.Edward;and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him.  The oldgentlemanwas fond of moneyand anxious to keep the family estatetogether. He did not like to diminish the property by divisionandyet he wasanxious that Mr. Edward should have wealthtooto keepup theconsequence of the name; andsoon after he was of agesomesteps weretaken that were not quite fairand made a great deal ofmischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr.Edwardinto what he considered a painful positionfor the sake ofmaking hisfortune:  what the precise nature of that position was Ineverclearly knewbut his spirit could not brook what he had tosuffer init.  He is not very forgiving:  he broke with his familyand nowfor many years he has led an unsettled kind of life.  Idon'tthink he has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnighttogethersince the death of his brother without a will left himmaster ofthe estate; andindeedno wonder he shuns the oldplace."

"Whyshould he shun it?"

"Perhapshe thinks it gloomy."

The answerwas evasive.  I should have liked something clearer; butMrs.Fairfax either could notor would notgive me more explicitinformationof the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester's trials.  Sheaverredthey were a mystery to herselfand that what she knew waschieflyfrom conjecture.  It was evidentindeedthat she wished meto dropthe subjectwhich I did accordingly.

 

CHAPTERXIV

 

Forseveral subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester.  In themorningshe seemed much engaged with businessandin theafternoongentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood calledandsometimesstayed to dine with him.  When his sprain was well enoughto admitof horse exercisehe rode out a good deal; probably toreturnthese visitsas he generally did not come back till late atnight.

Duringthis intervaleven Adele was seldom sent for to hispresenceand all my acquaintance with him was confined to anoccasionalrencontre in the hallon the stairsor in the gallerywhen hewould sometimes pass me haughtily and coldlyjustacknowledgingmy presence by a distant nod or a cool glanceandsometimesbow and smile with gentlemanlike affability.  His changesof mooddid not offend mebecause I saw that I had nothing to dowith theiralternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quitedisconnectedwith me.

One day hehad had company to dinnerand had sent for my portfolio;in orderdoubtlessto exhibit its contents:  the gentlemen wentawayearlyto attend a public meeting at Millcoteas Mrs. Fairfaxinformedme; but the night being wet and inclementMr. Rochesterdid notaccompany them.  Soon after they were gone he rang the bell:a messagecame that I and Adele were to go downstairs.  I brushedAdele'shair and made her neatand having ascertained that I wasmyself inmy usual Quaker trimwhere there was nothing to retouch--all beingtoo close and plainbraided locks includedto admit ofdisarrangement--wedescendedAdele wondering whether the petitcoffre wasat length come; forowing to some mistakeits arrivalhadhitherto been delayed.  She was gratified:  there it stoodalittlecartonon the table when we entered the dining-room.  Sheappearedto know it by instinct.

"Maboite! ma boite!" exclaimed sherunning towards it.

"Yesthere is your 'boite' at last:  take it into a corneryougenuinedaughter of Parisand amuse yourself with disembowellingit"said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr. Rochesterproceedingfrom the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside."Andmind" he continued"don't bother me with any details oftheanatomicalprocessor any notice of the condition of the entrails:let youroperation be conducted in silence:  tiens-toi tranquilleenfant;comprends-tu?"

Adeleseemed scarcely to need the warning--she had already retiredto a sofawith her treasureand was busy untying the cord whichsecuredthe lid.  Having removed this impedimentand lifted certainsilveryenvelopes of tissue papershe merely exclaimed -

"Ohciel!  Que c'est beau!" and then remained absorbed inecstaticcontemplation.

"IsMiss Eyre there?" now demanded the masterhalf rising from hisseat tolook round to the doornear which I still stood.

"Ah!wellcome forward; be seated here."  He drew a chair nearhisown. "I am not fond of the prattle of children" he continued;"forold bachelor as I amI have no pleasant associationsconnectedwith their lisp.  It would be intolerable to me to pass awholeevening tete-e-tete with a brat.  Don't draw that chairfartheroffMiss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it--if youpleasethat is.  Confound these civilities!  I continually forgetthem. Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies.  By-the-byeImust have mine in mind; it won't do to neglect her; sheis aFairfaxor wed to one; and blood is said to be thicker thanwater."

He rangand despatched an invitation to Mrs. Fairfaxwho soonarrivedknitting-basket in hand.

"Goodeveningmadam; I sent to you for a charitable purpose.  Ihaveforbidden Adele to talk to me about her presentsand she isburstingwith repletion:  have the goodness to serve her asauditressand interlocutrice; it will be one of the most benevolentacts youever performed."

Adeleindeedno sooner saw Mrs. Fairfaxthan she summoned her toher sofaand there quickly filled her lap with the porcelaintheivorythewaxen contents of her "boite;" pouring outmeantimeexplanationsand raptures in such broken English as she was mistressof.

"NowI have performed the part of a good host" pursued Mr.Rochester"put my guests into the way of amusing each otherIought tobe at liberty to attend to my own pleasure.  Miss Eyredraw yourchair still a little farther forward:  you are yet too farback; Icannot see you without disturbing my position in thiscomfortablechairwhich I have no mind to do."

I did as Iwas bidthough I would much rather have remainedsomewhatin the shade; but Mr. Rochester had such a direct way ofgivingordersit seemed a matter of course to obey him promptly.

We wereas I have saidin the dining-room:  the lustrewhich hadbeen litfor dinnerfilled the room with a festal breadth of light;the largefire was all red and clear; the purple curtains hung richand amplebefore the lofty window and loftier arch; everything wasstillsave the subdued chat of Adele (she dared not speak loud)andfilling up each pausethe beating of winter rain against thepanes.

Mr.Rochesteras he sat in his damask-covered chairlookeddifferentto what I had seen him look before; not quite so stern--much lessgloomy.  There was a smile on his lipsand his eyessparkledwhether with wine or notI am not sure; but I think itveryprobable.  He wasin shortin his after-dinner mood; moreexpandedand genialand also more self-indulgent than the frigidand rigidtemper of the morning; still he looked preciously grimcushioninghis massive head against the swelling back of his chairandreceiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn featuresand in hisgreatdark eyes; for he had greatdark eyesand veryfine eyestoo--not without a certain change in their depthssometimeswhichif it was not softnessreminded youat leastofthatfeeling.

He hadbeen looking two minutes at the fireand I had been lookingthe samelength of time at himwhenturning suddenlyhe caught mygazefastened on his physiognomy.

"Youexamine meMiss Eyre" said he:  "do you think mehandsome?"

I shouldif I had deliberatedhave replied to this question bysomethingconventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehowslippedfrom my tongue before I was aware--"Nosir."

"Ah! By my word! there is something singular about you" said he:"youhave the air of a little nonnette; quaintquietgraveandsimpleasyou sit with your hands before youand your eyesgenerallybent on the carpet (exceptby-the-byewhen they aredirectedpiercingly to my face; as just nowfor instance); and whenone asksyou a questionor makes a remark to which you are obligedto replyyou rap out a round rejoinderwhichif not bluntis atleastbrusque.  What do you mean by it?"

"SirI was too plain; I beg your pardon.  I ought to have repliedthat itwas not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question aboutappearances;that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of littleconsequenceor something of that sort."

"Youought to have replied no such thing.  Beauty of littleconsequenceindeed!  And sounder pretence of softening thepreviousoutrageof stroking and soothing me into placidityyoustick asly penknife under my ear!  Go on:  what fault do you findwith mepray?  I suppose I have all my limbs and all my featureslike anyother man?"

"Mr.Rochesterallow me to disown my first answer:  I intended nopointedrepartee:  it was only a blunder."

"Justso:  I think so:  and you shall be answerable for it.Criticiseme:  does my forehead not please you?"

He liftedup the sable waves of hair which lay horizontally over hisbrowandshowed a solid enough mass of intellectual organsbut anabruptdeficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should haverisen.

"Nowma'amam I a fool?"

"Farfrom itsir.  You wouldperhapsthink me rude if I inquiredin returnwhether you are a philanthropist?"

"Thereagain!  Another stick of the penknifewhen she pretended topat myhead:  and that is because I said I did not like the societyofchildren and old women (low be it spoken!).  Noyoung ladyIamnot ageneral philanthropist; but I bear a conscience;" and hepointed tothe prominences which are said to indicate that facultyand whichfortunately for himwere sufficiently conspicuous;givingindeeda marked breadth to the upper part of his head:"andbesidesI once had a kind of rude tenderness of heart.  WhenI was asold as youI was a feeling fellow enoughpartial to theunfledgedunfosteredand unlucky; but Fortune has knocked me aboutsince: she has even kneaded me with her knucklesand now I flattermyself Iam hard and tough as an India-rubber ball; perviousthoughthrough a chink or two stilland with one sentient point inthe middleof the lump.  Yes:  does that leave hope for me?"

"Hopeof whatsir?"

"Ofmy final re-transformation from India-rubber back to flesh?"

"Decidedlyhe has had too much wine" I thought; and I did not knowwhatanswer to make to his queer question:  how could I tell whetherhe wascapable of being re-transformed?

"Youlooked very much puzzledMiss Eyre; and though you are notpretty anymore than I am handsomeyet a puzzled air becomes you;besidesit is convenientfor it keeps those searching eyes ofyours awayfrom my physiognomyand busies them with the worstedflowers ofthe rug; so puzzle on.  Young ladyI am disposed to begregariousand communicative to-night."

With thisannouncement he rose from his chairand stoodleaninghis arm onthe marble mantelpiece:  in that attitude his shape wasseenplainly as well as his face; his unusual breadth of chestdisproportionatealmost to his length of limb.  I am sure mostpeoplewould have thought him an ugly man; yet there was so muchunconsciouspride in his port; so much ease in his demeanour; such alook ofcomplete indifference to his own external appearance; sohaughty areliance on the power of other qualitiesintrinsic oradventitiousto atone for the lack of mere personal attractivenessthatinlooking at himone inevitably shared the indifferenceandevenin a blindimperfect senseput faith in the confidence.

"I amdisposed to be gregarious and communicative to-night" herepeated"and that is why I sent for you:  the fire and thechandelierwere not sufficient company for me; nor would Pilot havebeenfornone of these can talk.  Adele is a degree betterbutstill farbelow the mark; Mrs. Fairfax ditto; youI am persuadedcan suitme if you will:  you puzzled me the first evening I invitedyou downhere.  I have almost forgotten you since:  other ideas havedrivenyours from my head; but to-night I am resolved to be at ease;to dismisswhat importunesand recall what pleases.  It wouldplease menow to draw you out--to learn more of you--thereforespeak."

Instead ofspeakingI smiled; and not a very complacent orsubmissivesmile either.

"Speak"he urged.

"Whataboutsir?"

"Whateveryou like.  I leave both the choice of subject and themanner oftreating it entirely to yourself."

AccordinglyI sat and said nothing:  "If he expects me to talk forthe meresake of talking and showing offhe will find he hasaddressedhimself to the wrong person" I thought.

"Youare dumbMiss Eyre."

I was dumbstill.  He bent his head a little towards meand with asinglehasty glance seemed to dive into my eyes.

"Stubborn?"he said"and annoyed.  Ah! it is consistent.  I putmyrequest inan absurdalmost insolent form.  Miss EyreI beg yourpardon. The fact isonce for allI don't wish to treat you likeaninferior:  that is" (correcting himself)"I claimonly suchsuperiorityas must result from twenty years' difference in age andacentury's advance in experience.  This is legitimateet j'ytiensasAdele would say; and it is by virtue of this superiorityand thisalonethat I desire you to have the goodness to talk to mea littlenowand divert my thoughtswhich are galled with dwellingon onepoint--cankering as a rusty nail."

He haddeigned an explanationalmost an apologyand I did not feelinsensibleto his condescensionand would not seem so.

"I amwilling to amuse youif I cansir--quite willing; but Icannotintroduce a topicbecause how do I know what will interestyou? Ask me questionsand I will do my best to answer them."

"Thenin the first placedo you agree with me that I have a rightto be alittle masterfulabruptperhaps exactingsometimesonthegrounds I statednamelythat I am old enough to be yourfatherand that I have battled through a varied experience withmany menof many nationsand roamed over half the globewhile youhave livedquietly with one set of people in one house?"

"Doas you pleasesir."

"Thatis no answer; or rather it is a very irritatingbecause averyevasive one.  Reply clearly."

"Idon't thinksiryou have a right to command memerely becauseyou areolder than Ior because you have seen more of the worldthan Ihave; your claim to superiority depends on the use you havemade ofyour time and experience."

"Humph! Promptly spoken.  But I won't allow thatseeing that itwouldnever suit my caseas I have made an indifferentnot to saya baduseof both advantages.  Leaving superiority out of thequestionthenyou must still agree to receive my orders now andthenwithout being piqued or hurt by the tone of command.  Willyou?"

I smiled: I thought to myself Mr. Rochester IS peculiar--he seemsto forgetthat he pays me 30 pounds per annum for receiving hisorders.

"Thesmile is very well" said hecatching instantly the passingexpression;"but speak too."

"Iwas thinkingsirthat very few masters would trouble themselvesto inquirewhether or not their paid subordinates were piqued andhurt bytheir orders."

"Paidsubordinates!  What! you are my paid subordinateare you? OhyesI hadforgotten the salary!  Well thenon that mercenarygroundwill you agree to let me hector a little?"

"Nosirnot on that ground; buton the ground that you did forgetitandthat you care whether or not a dependent is comfortable inhisdependencyI agree heartily."

"Andwill you consent to dispense with a great many conventionalforms andphraseswithout thinking that the omission arises frominsolence?"

"I amsuresirI should never mistake informality for insolence:one Irather likethe other nothing free-born would submit toevenfor asalary."

"Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for asalary;thereforekeep to yourselfand don't venture ongeneralitiesof which you are intensely ignorant.  HoweverImentallyshake hands with you for your answerdespite itsinaccuracy;and as much for the manner in which it was saidas forthesubstance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; onedoes notoften see such a manner:  noon the contraryaffectationorcoldnessor stupidcoarse-minded misapprehension of one'smeaningare the usual rewards of candour.  Not three in threethousandraw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as youhave justdone.  But I don't mean to flatter you:  if you are castin adifferent mould to the majorityit is no merit of yours:Nature didit.  And thenafter allI go too fast in myconclusions: for what I yet knowyou may be no better than therest; youmay have intolerable defects to counterbalance your fewgoodpoints."

"Andso may you" I thought.  My eye met his as the idea crossedmymind: he seemed to read the glanceanswering as if its import hadbeenspoken as well as imagined -

"Yesyesyou are right" said he; "I have plenty of faults ofmyown: I know itand I don't wish to palliate themI assure you.God wot Ineed not be too severe about others; I have a pastexistencea series of deedsa colour of life to contemplate withinmy ownbreastwhich might well call my sneers and censures from myneighboursto myself.  I startedor rather (for like otherdefaultersI like to lay half the blame on ill fortune and adversecircumstances)was thrust on to a wrong tack at the age of one-and-twentyand have never recovered the right course since:  but Imight havebeen very different; I might have been as good as you--wiser--almostas stainless.  I envy you your peace of mindyourcleanconscienceyour unpolluted memory.  Little girla memorywithoutblot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure--aninexhaustiblesource of pure refreshment:  is it not?"

"Howwas your memory when you were eighteensir?"

"Allright then; limpidsalubrious:  no gush of bilge water hadturned itto fetid puddle.  I was your equal at eighteen--quite yourequal. Nature meant me to beon the wholea good manMiss Eyre;one of thebetter kindand you see I am not so.  You would say youdon't seeit; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye(bewareby-the-byewhat you express with that organ; I am quick atinterpretingits language).  Then take my word for it--I am not avillain: you are not to suppose that--not to attribute to me anysuch bademinence; butowingI verily believerather tocircumstancesthan to my natural bentI am a trite commonplacesinnerhackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which therich andworthless try to put on life.  Do you wonder that I avowthis toyou?  Knowthat in the course of your future life you willoften findyourself elected the involuntary confidant of youracquaintances'secrets:  people will instinctively find outas Ihave donethat it is not your forte to tell of yourselfbut tolistenwhile others talk of themselves; they will feeltoothatyou listenwith no malevolent scorn of their indiscretionbut witha kind ofinnate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouragingbecause itis very unobtrusive in its manifestations."

"Howdo you know?--how can you guess all thissir?"

"Iknow it well; therefore I proceed almost as freely as if I werewriting mythoughts in a diary.  You would sayI should have beensuperiorto circumstances; so I should--so I should; but you see Iwas not. When fate wronged meI had not the wisdom to remain cool:I turneddesperate; then I degenerated.  Nowwhen any vicioussimpletonexcites my disgust by his paltry ribaldryI cannotflattermyself that I am better than he:  I am forced to confessthat heand I are on a level.  I wish I had stood firm--God knows Ido! Dread remorse when you are tempted to errMiss Eyre; remorseis thepoison of life."

"Repentanceis said to be its curesir."

"Itis not its cure.  Reformation may be its cure; and I couldreform--Ihave strength yet for that--if--but where is the use ofthinkingof ithamperedburdenedcursed as I am?  Besidessincehappinessis irrevocably denied meI have a right to get pleasureout oflife:  and I WILL get itcost what it may."

"Thenyou will degenerate still moresir."

"Possibly: yet why should Iif I can get sweetfresh pleasure?And I mayget it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the beegathers onthe moor."

"Itwill sting--it will taste bittersir."

"Howdo you know?--you never tried it.  How very serious--how verysolemn youlook:  and you are as ignorant of the matter as thiscameohead" (taking one from the mantelpiece).  "You have norightto preachto meyou neophytethat have not passed the porch oflifeandare absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries."

"Ionly remind you of your own wordssir:  you said error broughtremorseand you pronounced remorse the poison of existence."

"Andwho talks of error now?  I scarcely think the notion thatflitteredacross my brain was an error.  I believe it was aninspirationrather than a temptation:  it was very genialverysoothing--Iknow that.  Here it comes again!  It is no devilIassureyou; or if it beit has put on the robes of an angel oflight. I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entranceto myheart."

"Distrustitsir; it is not a true angel."

"Oncemorehow do you know?  By what instinct do you pretend todistinguishbetween a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messengerfrom theeternal throne--between a guide and a seducer?"

"Ijudged by your countenancesirwhich was troubled when you saidthesuggestion had returned upon you.  I feel sure it will work youmoremisery if you listen to it."

"Notat all--it bears the most gracious message in the world:  forthe restyou are not my conscience-keeperso don't make yourselfuneasy. Herecome inbonny wanderer!"

He saidthis as if he spoke to a visionviewless to any eye but hisown; thenfolding his armswhich he had half extendedon hischestheseemed to enclose in their embrace the invisible being.

"Now"he continuedagain addressing me"I have received thepilgrim--adisguised deityas I verify believe.  Already it hasdone megood:  my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be ashrine."

"Tospeak truthsirI don't understand you at all:  I cannot keepup theconversationbecause it has got out of my depth.  Only onethingIknow:  you said you were not as good as you should like tobeandthat you regretted your own imperfection;--one thing I cancomprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was aperpetualbane.  It seems to methat if you tried hardyou wouldin timefind it possible to become what you yourself would approve;and thatif from this day you began with resolution to correct yourthoughtsand actionsyou would in a few years have laid up a newandstainless store of recollectionsto which you might revert withpleasure."

"Justlythought; rightly saidMiss Eyre; andat this momentI ampavinghell with energy."

"Sir?"

"I amlaying down good intentionswhich I believe durable as flint.Certainlymy associates and pursuits shall be other than they havebeen."

"Andbetter?"

"Andbetter--so much better as pure ore is than foul dross.  Youseem todoubt me; I don't doubt myself:  I know what my aim iswhatmy motivesare; and at this moment I pass a lawunalterable as thatof theMedes and Persiansthat both are right."

"Theycannot besirif they require a new statute to legalisethem."

"TheyareMiss Eyrethough they absolutely require a new statute:unheard-ofcombinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules."

"Thatsounds a dangerous maximsir; because one can see at oncethat it isliable to abuse."

"Sententioussage! so it is:  but I swear by my household gods notto abuseit."

"Youare human and fallible."

"Iam:  so are you--what then?"

"Thehuman and fallible should not arrogate a power with which thedivine andperfect alone can be safely intrusted."

"Whatpower?"

"Thatof saying of any strangeunsanctioned line of action--'Letit beright.'"

"'Letit be right'--the very words:  you have pronounced them."

"MAYit be right then" I saidas I rosedeeming it useless tocontinue adiscourse which was all darkness to me; andbesidessensiblethat the character of my interlocutor was beyond mypenetration;at leastbeyond its present reach; and feeling theuncertaintythe vague sense of insecuritywhich accompanies aconvictionof ignorance.

"Whereare you going?"

"Toput Adele to bed:  it is past her bedtime."

"Youare afraid of mebecause I talk like a Sphynx."

"Yourlanguage is enigmaticalsir:  but though I am bewilderedIamcertainly not afraid."

"YouARE afraid--your self-love dreads a blunder."

"Inthat sense I do feel apprehensive--I have no wish to talknonsense."

"Ifyou didit would be in such a gravequiet mannerI shouldmistake itfor sense.  Do you never laughMiss Eyre?  Don't troubleyourselfto answer--I see you laugh rarely; but you can laugh verymerrily: believe meyou are not naturally austereany more than Iamnaturally vicious.  The Lowood constraint still clings to yousomewhat;controlling your featuresmuffling your voiceandrestrictingyour limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and abrother--orfatheror masteror what you will--to smile too gailyspeak toofreelyor move too quickly:  butin timeI think youwill learnto be natural with meas I find it impossible to beconventionalwith you; and then your looks and movements will havemorevivacity and variety than they dare offer now.  I see atintervalsthe glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-setbars of acage:  a vividrestlessresolute captive is there; wereit butfreeit would soar cloud-high.  You are still bent ongoing?"

"Ithas struck ninesir."

"Nevermind--wait a minute:  Adele is not ready to go to bed yet.MypositionMiss Eyrewith my back to the fireand my face to theroomfavours observation.  While talking to youI have alsooccasionallywatched Adele (I have my own reasons for thinking her acuriousstudy--reasons that I maynaythat I shallimpart to yousomeday).  She pulled out of her boxabout ten minutes agoalittlepink silk frock; rapture lit her face as she unfolded it;coquetryruns in her bloodblends with her brainsand seasons themarrow ofher bones.  'Il faut que je l'essaie!' cried she'et el'instantmeme!' and she rushed out of the room.  She is now withSophieundergoing a robing process:  in a few minutes she will re-enter; andI know what I shall see--a miniature of Celine Varensas sheused to appear on the boards at the rising of-- But nevermindthat.  Howevermy tenderest feelings are about to receive ashock: such is my presentiment; stay nowto see whether it will berealised."

Ere longAdele's little foot was heard tripping across the hall.Sheenteredtransformed as her guardian had predicted.  A dress ofrose-colouredsatinvery shortand as full in the skirt as itcould begatheredreplaced the brown frock she had previously worn;a wreathof rosebuds circled her forehead; her feet were dressed insilkstockings and small white satin sandals.

"Est-ceque ma robe va bien?" cried shebounding forwards; "et messouliers?et mes bas?  Tenezje crois que je vais danser!"

Andspreading out her dressshe chasseed across the room tillhavingreached Mr. Rochestershe wheeled lightly round before himontip-toethen dropped on one knee at his feetexclaiming -

"Monsieurje vous remercie mille fois de votre bonte;" then risingshe added"C'est comme cela que maman faisaitn'est-ce pasmonsieur?"

"Pre-cise-ly!"was the answer; "and'comme cela' she charmed myEnglishgold out of my British breeches' pocket.  I have been greentooMissEyre--aygrass green:  not a more vernal tint freshensyou nowthan once freshened me.  My Spring is gonehoweverbut ithas leftme that French floweret on my handswhichin some moodsI wouldfain be rid of.  Not valuing now the root whence it sprang;havingfound that it was of a sort which nothing but gold dust couldmanureIhave but half a liking to the blossomespecially when itlooks soartificial as just now.  I keep it and rear it rather onthe RomanCatholic principle of expiating numerous sinsgreat orsmallbyone good work.  I'll explain all this some day.  Good-night."

 

CHAPTER XV

 

Mr.Rochester didon a future occasionexplain it.  It was oneafternoonwhen he chanced to meet me and Adele in the grounds:  andwhile sheplayed with Pilot and her shuttlecockhe asked me to walkup anddown a long beech avenue within sight of her.

He thensaid that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancerCelineVarenstowards whom he had once cherished what he called a"grandepassion."  This passion Celine had professed to return withevensuperior ardour.  He thought himself her idolugly as he was:hebelievedas he saidthat she preferred his "taille d'athlete"to theelegance of the Apollo Belvidere.

"AndMiss Eyreso much was I flattered by this preference of theGallicsylph for her British gnomethat I installed her in anhotel;gave her a complete establishment of servantsa carriagecashmeresdiamondsdentelles&c.  In shortI began the processof ruiningmyself in the received stylelike any other spoony.  Ihad notit seemsthe originality to chalk out a new road to shameanddestructionbut trode the old track with stupid exactness notto deviatean inch from the beaten centre.  I had--as I deserved tohave--thefate of all other spoonies.  Happening to call one eveningwhenCeline did not expect meI found her out; but it was a warmnightandI was tired with strolling through Parisso I sat downin herboudoir; happy to breathe the air consecrated so lately byherpresence.  No--I exaggerate; I never thought there was anyconsecratingvirtue about her:  it was rather a sort of pastilleperfumeshe had left; a scent of musk and amberthan an odour ofsanctity. I was just beginning to stifle with the fumes ofconservatoryflowers and sprinkled essenceswhen I bethought myselfto openthe window and step out on to the balcony.  It was moonlightandgaslight besidesand very still and serene.  The balcony wasfurnishedwith a chair or two; I sat downand took out a cigar--Iwill takeone nowif you will excuse me."

Hereensued a pausefilled up by the producing and lighting of acigar;having placed it to his lips and breathed a trail of Havannahincense onthe freezing and sunless airhe went on -

"Iliked bonbons too in those daysMiss Eyreand I was croquant--(overlookthe barbarism)--croquant chocolate comfitsand smokingalternatelywatching meantime the equipages that rolled along thefashionablestreets towards the neighbouring opera-housewhen in anelegantclose carriage drawn by a beautiful pair of English horsesanddistinctly seen in the brilliant city-nightI recognised the'voiture'I had given Celine.  She was returning:  of course myheartthumped with impatience against the iron rails I leant upon.Thecarriage stoppedas I had expectedat the hotel door; my flame(that isthe very word for an opera inamorata) alighted:  thoughmuffed ina cloak--an unnecessary encumbranceby-the-byeon sowarm aJune evening--I knew her instantly by her little footseenpeepingfrom the skirt of her dressas she skipped from thecarriage-step. Bending over the balconyI was about to murmur 'Monange'--ina toneof coursewhich should be audible to the ear oflovealone--when a figure jumped from the carriage after her;cloakedalso; but that was a spurred heel which had rung on thepavementand that was a hatted head which now passed under thearchedporte cochere of the hotel.

"Younever felt jealousydid youMiss Eyre?  Of course not:  Ineed notask you; because you never felt love.  You have bothsentimentsyet to experience:  your soul sleeps; the shock is yet tobe givenwhich shall waken it.  You think all existence lapses in asquiet aflow as that in which your youth has hitherto slid away.Floatingon with closed eyes and muffled earsyou neither see therocksbristling not far off in the bed of the floodnor hear thebreakersboil at their base.  But I tell you--and you may mark mywords--youwill come some day to a craggy pass in the channelwherethe wholeof life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumultfoam andnoise:  either you will be dashed to atoms on crag pointsor liftedup and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current--as I amnow.

"Ilike this day; I like that sky of steel; I like the sternness andstillnessof the world under this frost.  I like Thornfielditsantiquityits retirementits old crow-trees and thorn-treesitsgreyfacadeand lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin:and yethow long have I abhorred the very thought of itshunned itlike agreat plague-house?  How I do still abhor -"

He groundhis teeth and was silent:  he arrested his step and struckhis bootagainst the hard ground.  Some hated thought seemed to havehim in itsgripand to hold him so tightly that he could notadvance.

We wereascending the avenue when he thus paused; the hall wasbeforeus.  Lifting his eye to its battlementshe cast over them aglare suchas I never saw before or since.  Painshameireimpatiencedisgustdetestationseemed momentarily to hold aquiveringconflict in the large pupil dilating under his eboneyebrow. Wild was the wrestle which should be paramount; butanotherfeeling rose and triumphed:  something hard and cynical:self-willedand resolute:  it settled his passion and petrified hiscountenance: he went on -

"Duringthe moment I was silentMiss EyreI was arranging a pointwith mydestiny.  She stood thereby that beech-trunk--a hag likeone ofthose who appeared to Macbeth on the heath of Forres.  'YoulikeThornfield?' she saidlifting her finger; and then she wrotein the aira mementowhich ran in lurid hieroglyphics all along thehouse-frontbetween the upper and lower row of windows'Like it ifyou can! Like it if you dare!'

"'Iwill like it' said I; 'I dare like it;' and" (he subjoinedmoodily)"I will keep my word; I will break obstacles to happinesstogoodness--yesgoodness.  I wish to be a better man than I havebeenthanI am; as Job's leviathan broke the spearthe dartandthehabergeonhindrances which others count as iron and brassIwillesteem but straw and rotten wood."

Adele hereran before him with her shuttlecock.  "Away!" he criedharshly;"keep at a distancechild; or go in to Sophie!"Continuingthen to pursue his walk in silenceI ventured to recallhim to thepoint whence he had abruptly diverged -

"Didyou leave the balconysir" I asked"when Mdlle. Varensentered?"

I almostexpected a rebuff for this hardly well-timed questionbuton thecontrarywaking out of his scowling abstractionhe turnedhis eyestowards meand the shade seemed to clear off his brow."OhI had forgotten Celine!  Wellto resume.  When I saw mycharmerthus come in accompanied by a cavalierI seemed to hear ahissandthe green snake of jealousyrising on undulating coilsfrom themoonlit balconyglided within my waistcoatand ate itsway in twominutes to my heart's core.  Strange!" he exclaimedsuddenlystarting again from the point.  "Strange that I shouldchoose youfor the confidant of all thisyoung lady; passingstrangethat you should listen to me quietlyas if it were the mostusualthing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of hisopera-mistressesto a quaintinexperienced girl like you!  But thelastsingularity explains the firstas I intimated once before:youwithyour gravityconsideratenessand caution were made to betherecipient of secrets.  BesidesI know what sort of a mind Ihaveplaced in communication with my own:  I know it is one notliable totake infection:  it is a peculiar mind:  it is a uniqueone. Happily I do not mean to harm it:  butif I didit would nottake harmfrom me.  The more you and I conversethe better; forwhile Icannot blight youyou may refresh me."  After thisdigressionhe proceeded -

"Iremained in the balcony.  'They will come to her boudoirnodoubt'thought I:  'let me prepare an ambush.'  So putting my handin throughthe open windowI drew the curtain over itleaving onlyan openingthrough which I could take observations; then I closedthecasementall but a chink just wide enough to furnish an outletto lovers'whispered vows:  then I stole back to my chair; and as Iresumed itthe pair came in.  My eye was quickly at the aperture.Celine'schamber-maid enteredlit a lampleft it on the tableandwithdrew. The couple were thus revealed to me clearly:  bothremovedtheir cloaksand there was 'the Varens' shining in satinandjewels--my gifts of course--and there was her companion in anofficer'suniform; and I knew him for a young roue of a vicomte--abrainlessand vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in societyandhad neverthought of hating because I despised him so absolutely.Onrecognising himthe fang of the snake Jealousy was instantlybroken;because at the same moment my love for Celine sank under anextinguisher. A woman who could betray me for such a rival was notworthcontending for; she deserved only scorn; lesshoweverthanIwho hadbeen her dupe.

"Theybegan to talk; their conversation eased me completely:frivolousmercenaryheartlessand senselessit was rathercalculatedto weary than enrage a listener.  A card of mine lay onthe table;this being perceivedbrought my name under discussion.Neither ofthem possessed energy or wit to belabour me soundlybuttheyinsulted me as coarsely as they could in their little way:especiallyCelinewho even waxed rather brilliant on my personaldefects--deformitiesshe termed them.  Now it had been her custom tolaunch outinto fervent admiration of what she called my 'beautemale:'wherein she differed diametrically from youwho told mepoint-blankat the second interviewthat you did not think mehandsome. The contrast struck me at the time and--"

Adele herecame running up again.

"MonsieurJohn has just been to say that your agent has called andwishes tosee you."

"Ah!in that case I must abridge.  Opening the windowI walked inupon them;liberated Celine from my protection; gave her notice tovacate herhotel; offered her a purse for immediate exigencies;disregardedscreamshystericsprayersprotestationsconvulsions;made anappointment with the vicomte for a meeting at the Bois deBoulogne. Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; lefta bulletin one of his poor etiolated armsfeeble as the wing of achicken inthe pipand then thought I had done with the whole crew.Butunluckily the Varenssix months beforehad given me thisfiletteAdelewhoshe affirmedwas my daughter; and perhaps shemay bethough I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in hercountenance: Pilot is more like me than she.  Some years after Ihad brokenwith the mothershe abandoned her childand ran away toItaly witha musician or singer.  I acknowledged no natural claim onAdele'spart to be supported by menor do I now acknowledge anyfor I amnot her father; but hearing that she was quite destituteIe'en tookthe poor thing out of the slime and mud of Parisandtransplantedit hereto grow up clean in the wholesome soil of anEnglishcountry garden.  Mrs. Fairfax found you to train it; but nowyou knowthat it is the illegitimate offspring of a French opera-girlyouwill perhaps think differently of your post and protegee:you willbe coming to me some day with notice that you have foundanotherplace--that you beg me to look out for a new governess&c.--Eh?"

"No: Adele is not answerable for either her mother's faults oryours: I have a regard for her; and now that I know she isin asenseparentless--forsaken by her mother and disowned by yousir--I shallcling closer to her than before.  How could I possiblyprefer thespoilt pet of a wealthy familywho would hate hergovernessas a nuisanceto a lonely little orphanwho leanstowardsher as a friend?"

"Ohthat is the light in which you view it!  WellI must go innow; andyou too:  it darkens."

But Istayed out a few minutes longer with Adele and Pilot--ran arace withherand played a game of battledore and shuttlecock.When wewent inand I had removed her bonnet and coatI took heron myknee; kept her there an hourallowing her to prattle as sheliked: not rebuking even some little freedoms and trivialities intowhich shewas apt to stray when much noticedand which betrayed inher asuperficiality of characterinherited probably from hermotherhardly congenial to an English mind.  Still she had hermerits;and I was disposed to appreciate all that was good in her totheutmost.  I sought in her countenance and features a likeness toMr.Rochesterbut found none:  no traitno turn of expressionannouncedrelationship.  It was a pity:  if she could but have beenproved toresemble himhe would have thought more of her.

It was nottill after I had withdrawn to my own chamber for thenightthat I steadily reviewed the tale Mr. Rochester had told me.As he hadsaidthere was probably nothing at all extraordinary inthesubstance of the narrative itself:  a wealthy Englishman'spassionfor a French dancerand her treachery to himwere every-daymatters enoughno doubtin society; but there was somethingdecidedlystrange in the paroxysm of emotion which had suddenlyseized himwhen he was in the act of expressing the presentcontentmentof his moodand his newly revived pleasure in the oldhall andits environs.  I meditated wonderingly on this incident;butgradually quitting itas I found it for the presentinexplicableI turned to the consideration of my master's manner tomyself. The confidence he had thought fit to repose in me seemed atribute tomy discretion:  I regarded and accepted it as such.  Hisdeportmenthad now for some weeks been more uniform towards me thanat thefirst.  I never seemed in his way; he did not take fits ofchillinghauteur:  when he met me unexpectedlythe encounter seemedwelcome;he had always a word and sometimes a smile for me:  whensummonedby formal invitation to his presenceI was honoured by acordialityof reception that made me feel I really possessed thepower toamuse himand that these evening conferences were soughtas muchfor his pleasure as for my benefit.

Iindeedtalked comparatively littlebut I heard him talk withrelish. It was his nature to be communicative; he liked to open toa mindunacquainted with the world glimpses of its scenes and ways(I do notmean its corrupt scenes and wicked waysbut such asderivedtheir interest from the great scale on which they wereactedthestrange novelty by which they were characterised); and Ihad a keendelight in receiving the new ideas he offeredinimaginingthe new pictures he portrayedand following him inthoughtthrough the new regions he disclosednever startled ortroubledby one noxious allusion.

The easeof his manner freed me from painful restraint:  thefriendlyfranknessas correct as cordialwith which he treated medrew me tohim.  I felt at times as if he were my relation ratherthan mymaster:  yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did notmind that;I saw it was his way.  So happyso gratified did Ibecomewith this new interest added to lifethat I ceased to pineafterkindred:  my thin crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; theblanks ofexistence were filled up; my bodily health improved; Igatheredflesh and strength.

And wasMr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes?  Noreader:  gratitudeand manyassociationsall pleasurable and genialmade his face theobject Ibest liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheeringthan thebrightest fire.  Yet I had not forgotten his faults;indeedIcould notfor he brought them frequently before me.  Hewas proudsardonicharsh to inferiority of every description:  inmy secretsoul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced byunjustseverity to many others.  He was moodytoo; unaccountablyso; I morethan oncewhen sent for to read to himfound himsitting inhis library alonewith his head bent on his folded arms;andwhenhe looked upa morosealmost a malignantscowlblackenedhis features.  But I believed that his moodinesshisharshnessand his former faults of morality (I say FORMERfor nowhe seemedcorrected of them) had their source in some cruel cross offate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencieshigherprinciplesand purer tastes than such as circumstances haddevelopededucation instilledor destiny encouraged.  I thoughtthere wereexcellent materials in him; though for the present theyhungtogether somewhat spoiled and tangled.  I cannot deny that Igrievedfor his griefwhatever that wasand would have given muchto assuageit.

Though Ihad now extinguished my candle and was laid down in bedIcould notsleep for thinking of his look when he paused in theavenueand told how his destiny had risen up before himand daredhim to behappy at Thornfield.

"Whynot?" I asked myself.  "What alienates him from thehouse?Will heleave it again soon?  Mrs. Fairfax said he seldom stayedherelonger than a fortnight at a time; and he has now been residenteightweeks.  If he does gothe change will be doleful.  Supposeheshould beabsent springsummerand autumn:  how joyless sunshineand finedays will seem!"

I hardlyknow whether I had slept or not after this musing; at anyrateIstarted wide awake on hearing a vague murmurpeculiar andlugubriouswhich soundedI thoughtjust above me.  I wished I hadkept mycandle burning:  the night was drearily dark; my spiritsweredepressed.  I rose and sat up in bedlistening.  The soundwashushed.

I triedagain to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously:  my inwardtranquillitywas broken.  The clockfar down in the hallstrucktwo. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingershad sweptthe panels in groping a way along the dark galleryoutside. I said"Who is there?"  Nothing answered.  I waschilledwith fear.

All atonce I remembered that it might be Pilotwhowhen thekitchen-doorchanced to be left opennot unfrequently found his wayup to thethreshold of Mr. Rochester's chamber:  I had seen himlyingthere myself in the mornings.  The idea calmed me somewhat: Ilay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush nowreignedagain through the whole houseI began to feel the return ofslumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night.  Adream hadscarcely approached my earwhen it fled affrightedscared bya marrow-freezing incident enough.

This was ademoniac laugh--lowsuppressedand deep--utteredas itseemedatthe very keyhole of my chamber door.  The head of my bedwas nearthe doorand I thought at first the goblin-laugher stoodat mybedside--or rathercrouched by my pillow:  but I roselookedroundandcould see nothing; whileas I still gazedthe unnaturalsound wasreiterated:  and I knew it came from behind the panels.My firstimpulse was to rise and fasten the bolt; my nextagain tocry out"Who is there?"

Somethinggurgled and moaned.  Ere longsteps retreated up thegallerytowards the third-storey staircase:  a door had lately beenmade toshut in that staircase; I heard it open and closeand allwas still.

"Wasthat Grace Poole? and is she possessed with a devil?" thoughtI. 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 andopened thedoor with a trembling hand.  There was a candle burningjustoutsideand on the matting in the gallery.  I was surprised atthiscircumstance:  but still more was I amazed to perceive the airquite dimas if filled with smoke; andwhile looking to the righthand andleftto find whence these blue wreaths issuedI becamefurtheraware of a strong smell of burning.

Somethingcreaked:  it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr.Rochester'sand the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence.  I thoughtno more ofMrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Pooleor thelaugh: in an instantI was within the chamber.  Tongues of flamedartedround the bed:  the curtains were on fire.  In the midst ofblaze andvapourMr. Rochester lay stretched motionlessin deepsleep.

"Wake!wake!" I cried.  I shook himbut he only murmured andturned: the smoke had stupefied him.  Not a moment could be lost:the verysheets were kindlingI rushed to his basin and ewer;fortunatelyone was wide and the other deepand both were filledwithwater.  I heaved them updeluged the bed and its occupantflew backto my own roombrought my own water-jugbaptized thecouchafreshandby God's aidsucceeded in extinguishing theflameswhich were devouring it.

The hissof the quenched elementthe breakage of a pitcher which Iflung frommy hand when I had emptied itandabove allthe splashof theshower-bath I had liberally bestowedroused Mr. Rochester atlast. Though it was now darkI knew he was awake; because I heardhimfulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a poolof water.

"Isthere a flood?" he cried.

"Nosir" I answered; "but there has been a fire:  get updo; youarequenched now; I will fetch you a candle."

"Inthe name of all the elves in Christendomis that Jane Eyre?" hedemanded. "What have you done with mewitchsorceress?  Who is inthe roombesides you?  Have you plotted to drown me?"

"Iwill fetch you a candlesir; andin Heaven's nameget up.Somebodyhas plotted something:  you cannot too soon find out whoand whatit is."

"There! I am up now; but at your peril you fetch a candle yet:wait twominutes till I get into some dry garmentsif any dry therebe--yeshere is my dressing-gown.  Now run!"

I did run;I brought the candle which still remained in the gallery.He took itfrom my handheld it upand surveyed the bedallblackenedand scorchedthe sheets drenchedthe carpet roundswimmingin water.

"Whatis it? and who did it?" he asked.  I briefly related to himwhat hadtranspired:  the strange laugh I had heard in the gallery:the stepascending to the third storey; the smoke--the smell offire whichhad conducted me to his room; in what state I had foundmattersthereand how I had deluged him with all the water I couldlay handson.

Helistened very gravely; his faceas I went onexpressed moreconcernthan astonishment; he did not immediately speak when I hadconcluded.

"ShallI call Mrs. Fairfax?" I asked.

"Mrs.Fairfax?  No; what the deuce would you call her for?  Whatcanshe do? Let her sleep unmolested."

"ThenI will fetch Leahand wake John and his wife."

"Notat all:  just be still.  You have a shawl on.  If youare notwarmenoughyou may take my cloak yonder; wrap it about youandsit downin the arm-chair:  there--I will put it on.  Now placeyour feeton the stoolto keep them out of the wet.  I am going toleave youa few minutes.  I shall take the candle.  Remain where youare till Ireturn; be as still as a mouse.  I must pay a visit tothe secondstorey.  Don't moverememberor call any one."

He went: I watched  the light withdraw.  He passed up the galleryverysoftlyunclosed the staircase door with as little noise aspossibleshut it after himand the last ray vanished.  I was leftin totaldarkness.  I listened for some noisebut heard nothing.  Avery longtime elapsed.  I grew weary:  it was coldin spite of thecloak; andthen I did not see the use of stayingas I was not torouse thehouse.  I was on the point of risking Mr. Rochester'sdispleasureby disobeying his orderswhen the light once moregleameddimly on the gallery walland I heard his unshod feet treadthematting.  "I hope it is he" thought I"and notsomethingworse."

Here-enteredpale and very gloomy.  "I have found it allout"said hesetting his candle down on the washstand; "it is as Ithought."

"Howsir?"

He made noreplybut stood with his arms foldedlooking on theground. At the end of a few minutes he inquired in rather apeculiartone -

"Iforget whether you said you saw anything when you opened yourchamberdoor."

"Nosironly the candlestick on the ground."

"Butyou heard an odd laugh?  You have heard that laugh beforeIshouldthinkor something like it?"

"Yessir:  there is a woman who sews herecalled Grace Poole--shelaughs inthat way.  She is a singular person."

"Justso.  Grace Poole--you have guessed it.  She isas you saysingular--very. WellI shall reflect on the subject.  MeantimeIam gladthat you are the only personbesides myselfacquaintedwith theprecise details of to-night's incident.  You are no talkingfool: say nothing about it.  I will account for this state ofaffairs"(pointing to the bed):  "and now return to your own room.I shall dovery well on the sofa in the library for the rest of thenight. It is near four:- in two hours the servants will be up."

"Good-nightthensir" said Ideparting.

He seemedsurprised--very inconsistently soas he had just told meto go.

"What!"he exclaimed"are you quitting me alreadyand in thatway?"

"Yousaid I might gosir."

"Butnot without taking leave; not without a word or two ofacknowledgmentand good-will:  notin short  in that briefdryfashion. Whyyou have saved my life!--snatched me from a horribleandexcruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutualstrangers! At least shake hands."

He heldout his hand; I gave him mine:  he took it first in onethem inboth his own.

"Youhave saved my life:  I have a pleasure in owing you so immensea debt. I cannot say more.  Nothing else that has being would havebeentolerable to me in the character of creditor for such anobligation: but you:  it is different;--I feel your benefits noburdenJane."

He paused;gazed at me:  words almost visible trembled on his lips--but hisvoice was checked.

"Good-nightagainsir.  There is no debtbenefitburdenobligationin the case."

"Iknew" he continued"you would do me good in some wayatsometime;--Isaw it in your eyes when I first beheld you:  theirexpressionand smile did not"--(again he stopped)--"did not" (heproceededhastily) "strike delight to my very inmost heart so fornothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of goodgenii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable.  Mycherishedpreservergoodnight!"

Strangeenergy was in his voicestrange fire in his look.

"I amglad I happened to be awake" I said:  and then I wasgoing.

"What!you WILL go?"

"I amcoldsir."

"Cold? Yes--and standing in a pool!  GothenJane; go!" But hestillretained my handand I could not free it.  I bethought myselfof anexpedient.

"Ithink I hear Mrs. Fairfax movesir" said I.

"Wellleave me:" he relaxed his fingersand I was gone.

I regainedmy couchbut never thought of sleep.  Till morningdawned Iwas tossed on a buoyant but unquiet seawhere billows oftroublerolled under surges of joy.  I thought sometimes I sawbeyond itswild waters a shoresweet as the hills of Beulah; andnow andthen a freshening galewakened by hopebore my spirittriumphantlytowards the bourne:  but I could not reach iteven infancy--acounteracting breeze blew off landand continually droveme back. Sense would resist delirium:  judgment would warn passion.Toofeverish to restI rose as soon as day dawned.

 

CHAPTERXVI

 

I bothwished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day whichfollowedthis sleepless night:  I wanted to hear his voice againyet fearedto meet his eye.  During the early part of the morningImomentarilyexpected his coming; he was not in the frequent habit ofenteringthe schoolroombut he did step in for a few minutessometimesand I had the impression that he was sure to visit itthat day.

But themorning passed just as usual:  nothing happened to interruptthe quietcourse of Adele's studies; only soon after breakfastIheard somebustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester's chamberMrs.Fairfax's voiceand Leah'sand the cook's--that isJohn'swife--andeven John's own gruff tones.  There were exclamations of"Whata mercy master was not burnt in his bed!"  "It isalwaysdangerousto keep a candle lit at night."  "How providentialthat hehadpresence of mind to think of the water-jug!"  "Iwonder he wakednobody!" "It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping onthelibrary sofa" &c.

To muchconfabulation succeeded a sound of scrubbing and setting torights;and when I passed the roomin going downstairs to dinnerIsawthrough the open door that all was again restored to completeorder;only the bed was stripped of its hangings.  Leah stood up inthewindow-seatrubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke.  Iwas aboutto address herfor I wished to know what account had beengiven ofthe affair:  buton advancingI saw a second person inthechamber--a woman sitting on a chair by the bedsideand sewingrings tonew curtains.  That woman was no other than Grace Poole.

There shesatstaid and taciturn-lookingas usualin her brownstuffgownher check apronwhite handkerchiefand cap.  She wasintent onher workin which her whole thoughts seemed absorbed:  onher hardforeheadand in her commonplace featureswas nothingeither ofthe paleness or desperation one would have expected to seemarkingthe countenance of a woman who had attempted murderandwhoseintended victim had followed her last night to her lairand(as Ibelieved)charged her with the crime she wished toperpetrate. I was amazed--confounded.  She looked upwhile I stillgazed ather:  no startno increase or failure of colour betrayedemotionconsciousness of guiltor fear of detection.  She said"GoodmorningMiss" in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; andtaking upanother ring and more tapewent on with her sewing.

"Iwill put her to some test" thought I:  "such absoluteimpenetrabilityis past comprehension."

"GoodmorningGrace" I said.  "Has anything happenedhere?  Ithought Iheard the servants all talking together a while ago."

"Onlymaster had been reading in his bed last night; he fell asleepwith hiscandle litand the curtains got on fire; butfortunatelyhe awokebefore the bed-clothes or the wood-work caughtandcontrivedto quench the flames with the water in the ewer.

"Astrange affair!" I saidin a low voice:  thenlooking atherfixedly--"DidMr. Rochester wake nobody?  Did no one hear him move?"

She againraised her eyes to meand this time there was somethingofconsciousness in their expression.  She seemed to examine mewarily;then she answered -

"Theservants sleep so far offyou knowMissthey would not belikely tohear.  Mrs. Fairfax's room and yours are the nearest tomaster's;but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing:  when people getelderlythey often sleep heavy."  She pausedand then addedwitha sort ofassumed indifferencebut still in a marked andsignificanttone--"But you are youngMiss; and I should say a lightsleeper: perhaps you may have heard a noise?"

"Idid" said Idropping my voiceso that Leahwho was stillpolishingthe panescould not hear me"and at first I thought itwasPilot:  but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard alaughanda strange one."

She took anew needleful of threadwaxed it carefullythreaded herneedlewith a steady handand then observedwith perfect composure-

"Itis hardly likely master would laughI should thinkMisswhenhe was insuch danger:  You must have been dreaming."

"Iwas not dreaming" I saidwith some warmthfor her brazencoolnessprovoked me.  Again she looked at me; and with the samescrutinisingand conscious eye.

"Haveyou told master that you heard a laugh?" she inquired.

"Ihave not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning."

"Youdid not think of opening your door and looking out into thegallery?"she further asked.

Sheappeared to be cross-questioning meattempting to draw from meinformationunawares.  The idea struck me that if she discovered Iknew orsuspected her guiltshe would be playing of some of hermalignantpranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.

"Onthe contrary" said I"I bolted my door."

"Thenyou are not in the habit of bolting your door every nightbefore youget into bed?"

"Fiend!she wants to know my habitsthat she may lay her plansaccordingly!" Indignation again prevailed over prudence:  I repliedsharply"Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt:  I didnot thinkit necessary.  I was not aware any danger or annoyance wasto bedreaded at Thornfield Hall:  but in future" (and I laidmarkedstress onthe words) "I shall take good care to make all securebefore Iventure to lie down."

"Itwill be wise so to do" was her answer:  "thisneighbourhood isas quietas any I knowand I never heard of the hall beingattemptedby robbers since it was a house; though there are hundredsof pounds'worth of plate in the plate-closetas is well known.And youseefor such a large housethere are very few servantsbecausemaster has never lived here much; and when he does comebeing abachelorhe needs little waiting on:  but I always think itbest toerr on the safe side; a door is soon fastenedand it is aswell tohave a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may beabout. A deal of peopleMissare for trusting all to Providence;but I sayProvidence will not dispense with the meansthough Heoftenblesses them when they are used discreetly."  And here sheclosed herharangue:  a long one for herand uttered with thedemurenessof a Quakeress.

I stillstood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me hermiraculousself-possession and most inscrutable hypocrisywhen thecookentered.

"Mrs.Poole" said sheaddressing Grace"the servants' dinnerwillsoon beready:  will you come down?"

"No;just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a trayandI'll carryit upstairs."

"You'llhave some meat?"

"Justa morseland a taste of cheesethat's all."

"Andthe sago?"

"Nevermind it at present:  I shall be coming down before teatime:I'll makeit myself."

The cookhere turned to mesaying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting forme: so I departed.

I hardlyheard Mrs. Fairfax's account of the curtain conflagrationduringdinnerso much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over theenigmaticalcharacter of Grace Pooleand still more in ponderingtheproblem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why shehad notbeen given into custody that morningorat the very leastdismissedfrom her master's service.  He had almost as much asdeclaredhis conviction of her criminality last night:  whatmysteriouscause withheld him from accusing her?  Why had heenjoinedmetooto secrecy?  It was strange:  a boldvindictiveandhaughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of themeanest ofhis dependants; so much in her powerthat even when shelifted herhand against his lifehe dared not openly charge herwith theattemptmuch less punish her for it.

Had Gracebeen young and handsomeI should have been tempted tothink thattenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr.Rochesterin her behalf; buthard-favoured and matronly as she wasthe ideacould not be admitted.  "Yet" I reflected"shehas beenyoungonce; her youth would be contemporary with her master's:  Mrs.Fairfaxtold me onceshe had lived here many years.  I don't thinkshe canever have been pretty; butfor aught I knowshe maypossessoriginality and strength of character to compensate for thewant ofpersonal advantages.  Mr. Rochester is an amateur of thedecidedand eccentric:  Grace is eccentric at least.  What if aformercaprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden andheadstrongas his) has delivered him into her powerand she nowexercisesover his actions a secret influencethe result of his ownindiscretionwhich he cannot shake offand dare not disregard?"Buthaving reached this point of conjectureMrs. Poole's squareflatfigureand uncomelydryeven coarse facerecurred sodistinctlyto my mind's eyethat I thought"No; impossible! mysuppositioncannot be correct.  Yet" suggested the secret voicewhichtalks to us in our own hearts"you are not beautiful eitherandperhaps Mr. Rochester approves you:  at any rateyou have oftenfelt as ifhe did; and last night--remember his words; remember hislook;remember his voice!"

I wellremembered all; languageglanceand tone seemed at themomentvividly renewed.  I was now in the schoolroom; Adele wasdrawing; Ibent over her and directed her pencil.  She looked upwith asort of start.

"Qu'avez-vousmademoiselle?" said she.  "Vos doigtstremblentcomme lafeuilleet vos joues sont rouges:  maisrouges comme descerises!"

"I amhotAdelewith stooping!"  She went on sketching; I wentonthinking.

I hastenedto drive from my mind the hateful notion I had beenconceivingrespecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me.  I comparedmyselfwith herand found we were different.  Bessie Leaven hadsaid I wasquite a lady; and she spoke truth--I was a lady.  And nowI lookedmuch better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had morecolour andmore fleshmore lifemore vivacitybecause I hadbrighterhopes and keener enjoyments.

"Eveningapproaches" said Ias I looked towards the window.  "Ihave neverheard Mr. Rochester's voice or step in the house to-day;but surelyI shall see him before night:  I feared the meeting inthemorning; now I desire itbecause expectation has been so longbaffledthat it is grown impatient."

When duskactually closedand when Adele left me to go and play inthenursery with SophieI did most keenly desire it.  I listenedfor thebell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with amessage; Ifancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester's own treadandI turnedto the doorexpecting it to open and admit him.  The doorremainedshut; darkness only came in through the window.  Still itwas notlate; he often sent for me at seven and eight o'clockandit was yetbut six.  Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-nightwhen I had so many things to say to him!  I wanted again tointroducethe subject of Grace Pooleand to hear what he wouldanswer; Iwanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was shewho hadmade last night's hideous attempt; and if sowhy he keptherwickedness a secret.  It little mattered whether my curiosityirritatedhim; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him byturns; itwas one I chiefly delighted inand a sure instinct alwayspreventedme from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation Ineverventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.Retainingevery minute form of respectevery propriety of mystationIcould still meet him in argument without fear or uneasyrestraint;this suited both him and me.

A treadcreaked on the stairs at last.  Leah made her appearance;but it wasonly to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax'sroom. Thither I repairedglad at least to go downstairs; for thatbroughtmeI imaginednearer to Mr. Rochester's presence.

"Youmust want your tea" said the good ladyas I joined her; "youate solittle at dinner.  I am afraid" she continued"youare notwellto-day:  you look flushed and feverish."

"Ohquite well!  I never felt better."

"Thenyou must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fillthe teapotwhile I knit off this needle?"  Having completed hertasksherose to draw down the blindwhich she had hitherto keptupbywayI supposeof making the most of daylightthough duskwas nowfast deepening into total obscurity.

"Itis fair to-night" said sheas she looked through the panes"thoughnot starlight; Mr. Rochester hason the wholehad afavourableday for his journey."

"Journey!--IsMr. Rochester gone anywhere?  I did not know he wasout."

"Ohhe set of the moment he had breakfasted!  He is gone to theLeasMr.Eshton's placeten miles on the other side Millcote.  Ibelievethere is quite a party assembled there; Lord IngramSirGeorgeLynnColonel Dentand others."

"Doyou expect him back to-night?"

"No--norto-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to staya week ormore:  when these finefashionable people get togetherthey areso surrounded by elegance and gaietyso well provided withall thatcan please and entertainthey are in no hurry to separate.Gentlemenespecially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr.Rochesteris so talented and so lively in societythat I believe heis ageneral favourite:  the ladies are very fond of him; though youwould notthink his appearance calculated to recommend himparticularlyin their eyes:  but I suppose his acquirements andabilitiesperhaps his wealth and good bloodmake amends for anylittlefault of look."

"Arethere ladies at the Leas?"

"Thereare Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters--very elegant youngladiesindeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingrammostbeautiful womenI suppose:  indeed I have seen Blanchesix orsevenyears sincewhen she was a girl of eighteen.  She came hereto aChristmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave.  You should haveseen thedining-room that day--how richly it was decoratedhowbrilliantlylit up!  I should think there were fifty ladies andgentlemenpresent--all of the first county families; and Miss Ingramwasconsidered the belle of the evening."

"Yousaw heryou sayMrs. Fairfax:  what was she like?"

"YesI saw her.  The dining-room doors were thrown open; andas itwasChristmas-timethe servants were allowed to assemble in thehalltohear some of the ladies sing and play.  Mr. Rochester wouldhave me tocome inand I sat down in a quiet corner and watchedthem. I never saw a more splendid scene:  the ladies weremagnificentlydressed; most of them--at least most of the youngerones--lookedhandsome; but Miss Ingram was certainly the queen."

"Andwhat was she like?"

"Tallfine bustsloping shoulders; longgraceful neck:  olivecomplexiondark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr.Rochester's: large and blackand as brilliant as her jewels.  Andthen shehad such a fine head of hair; raven-black and so becominglyarranged: a crown of thick plaits behindand in front the longesttheglossiest curls I ever saw.  She was dressed in pure white; anamber-colouredscarf was passed over her shoulder and across herbreasttied at the sideand descending in longfringed ends belowher knee. She wore an amber-coloured flowertooin her hair:  itcontrastedwell with the jetty mass of her curls."

"Shewas greatly admiredof course?"

"Yesindeed:  and not only for her beautybut for heraccomplishments. She was one of the ladies who sang:  a gentlemanaccompaniedher 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 voiceand an excellent taste for music."

"AndMiss Ingram:  what sort of a voice had she?"

"Avery rich and powerful one:  she sang delightfully; it was atreat tolisten to her;--and she played afterwards.  I am no judgeof musicbut Mr. Rochester is; and I heard him say her executionwasremarkably good."

"Andthis beautiful and accomplished ladyshe is not yet married?"

"Itappears not:  I fancy neither she nor her sister have very largefortunes. Old Lord Ingram's estates were chiefly entailedand theeldest soncame in for everything almost."

"ButI wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy toher: Mr. Rochesterfor instance.  He is richis he not?"

"Oh!yes.  But you see there is a considerable difference in age:Mr.Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five."

"Whatof that?  More unequal matches are made every day."

"True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain anidea ofthe sort.  But you eat nothing:  you have scarcely tastedsince youbegan tea."

"No: I am too thirsty to eat.  Will you let me have another cup?"

I wasabout again to revert to the probability of a union betweenMr.Rochester and the beautiful Blanche; but Adele came inand theconversationwas turned into another channel.

When oncemore aloneI reviewed the information I had got; lookedinto myheartexamined its thoughts and feelingsand endeavouredto bringback with a strict hand such as had been straying throughimagination'sboundless and trackless wasteinto the safe fold ofcommonsense.

Arraignedat my own barMemory having given her evidence of thehopeswishessentiments I had been cherishing since last night--ofthegeneral state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly afortnightpast; Reason having come forward and toldin her ownquiet waya plainunvarnished taleshowing how I had rejected therealandrabidly devoured the ideal;--I pronounced judgment to thiseffect:-

That agreater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath oflife; thata more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself onsweetliesand swallowed poison as if it were nectar.

"YOU"I said"a favourite with Mr. Rochester?  YOU gifted withthepower ofpleasing him?  YOU of importance to him in any way?  Go!your follysickens me.  And you have derived pleasure fromoccasionaltokens of preference--equivocal tokens shown by agentlemanof family and a man of the world to a dependent and anovice. How dared you?  Poor stupid dupe!--Could not even self-interestmake you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning thebriefscene of last night?--Cover your face and be ashamed!  He saidsomethingin praise of your eyesdid he?  Blind puppy!  Open theirblearedlids and look on your own accursed senselessness!  It doesgood to nowoman to be flattered by her superiorwho cannotpossiblyintend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to leta secretlove kindle within themwhichif unreturned and unknownmustdevour the life that feeds it; andif discovered and respondedtomustleadignis-fatus-likeinto miry wilds whence there is noextrication.

"ListenthenJane Eyreto your sentence:  tomorrowplace theglassbefore youand draw in chalk your own picturefaithfullywithoutsoftening one defect; omit no harsh linesmooth away nodispleasingirregularity; write under it'Portrait of a Governessdisconnectedpoorand plain.'

"Afterwardstake a piece of smooth ivory--you have one prepared inyourdrawing-box:  take your palettemix your freshestfinestclearesttints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils;delineatecarefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it inyoursoftest shades and sweetest linesaccording to the descriptiongiven byMrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the ravenringletsthe oriental eye;--What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as amodel! Order!  No snivel!--no sentiment!--no regret!  I willendureonly senseand resolution.  Recall the august yet harmoniouslineamentsthe Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzlingarm bevisibleand the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring norgoldbracelet; portray faithfully the attireaerial lace andglisteningsatingraceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blancheanaccomplished lady of rank.'

"Wheneverin futureyou should chance to fancy Mr. Rochesterthinkswell of youtake out these two pictures and compare them:say'Mr.Rochester might probably win that noble lady's loveif hechose tostrive for it; is it likely he would waste a seriousthought onthis indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"

"I'lldo it" I resolved:  and having framed this determinationIgrew calmand fell asleep.

I kept myword.  An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portraitincrayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivoryminiatureof an imaginary Blanche Ingram.  It looked a lovely faceenoughand when compared with the real head in chalkthe contrastwas asgreat as self-control could desire.  I derived benefit fromthe task: it had kept my head and hands employedand had givenforce andfixedness to the new impressions I wished to stampindeliblyon my heart.

Ere longI had reason to congratulate myself on the course ofwholesomediscipline to which I had thus forced my feelings tosubmit. Thanks to itI was able to meet subsequent occurrenceswith adecent calmwhichhad they found me unpreparedI shouldprobablyhave been unequal to maintaineven externally.

 

CHAPTERXVII

 

A weekpassedand no news arrived of Mr. Rochester:  ten daysandstill hedid not come.  Mrs. Fairfax said she should not besurprisedif he were to go straight from the Leas to Londonandthence tothe Continentand not show his face again at Thornfieldfor a yearto come; he had not unfrequently quitted it in a mannerquite asabrupt and unexpected.  When I heard thisI was beginningto feel astrange chill and failing at the heart.  I was actuallypermittingmyself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment;butrallying my witsand recollecting my principlesI at oncecalled mysensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got overthetemporary blunder--how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr.Rochester'smovements a matter in which I had any cause to take avitalinterest.  Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion ofinferiority: on the contraryI just said -

"Youhave nothing to do with the master of Thornfieldfurther thanto receivethe salary he gives you for teaching his protegeeand tobegrateful for such respectful and kind treatment asif you doyour dutyyou have a right to expect at his hands.  Be sure that isthe onlytie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don'tmake himthe object of your fine feelingsyour rapturesagoniesand soforth.  He is not of your order:  keep to your casteandbetooself-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heartsoulandstrengthwhere such a gift is not wanted and would be despised."

I went onwith my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vaguesuggestionskept wandering across my brain of reasons why I shouldquitThornfield; and I kept involuntarily framing advertisements andponderingconjectures about new situations:  these thoughts I didnot thinkcheck; they might germinate and bear fruit if they could.

Mr.Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnightwhen the postbroughtMrs. Fairfax a letter.

"Itis from the master" said sheas she looked at the direction."NowI suppose we shall know whether we are to expect his return ornot."

And whileshe broke the seal and perused the documentI went ontaking mycoffee (we were at breakfast):  it was hotand Iattributedto that circumstance a fiery glow which suddenly rose tomy face. Why my hand shookand why I involuntarily spilt half thecontentsof my cup into my saucerI did not choose to consider.

"WellI sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance ofbeing busyenough now:  for a little while at least" said Mrs.Fairfaxstill holding the note before her spectacles.

Ere Ipermitted myself to request an explanationI tied the stringof Adele'spinaforewhich happened to be loose:  having helped heralso toanother bun and refilled her mug with milkI saidnonchalantly-

"Mr.Rochester is not likely to return soonI suppose?"

"Indeedhe is--in three dayshe says:  that will be next Thursday;and notalone either.  I don't know how many of the fine people atthe Leasare coming with him:  he sends directions for all the bestbedroomsto be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms are to becleanedout; I am to get more kitchen hands from the George InnatMillcoteand from wherever else I can; and the ladies will bringtheirmaids and the gentlemen their valets:  so we shall have a fullhouse ofit."  And Mrs. Fairfax swallowed her breakfast and hastenedaway tocommence operations.

The threedays wereas she had foretoldbusy enough.  I hadthoughtall the rooms at Thornfield beautifully clean and wellarranged;but it appears I was mistaken.  Three women were got tohelp; andsuch scrubbingsuch brushingsuch washing of paint andbeating ofcarpetssuch taking down and putting up of picturessuchpolishing of mirrors and lustressuch lighting of fires inbedroomssuch airing of sheets and feather-beds on hearthsI neverbeheldeither before or since.  Adele ran quite wild in the midstof it: the preparations for company and the prospect of theirarrivalseemed to throw her into ecstasies.  She would have Sophieto lookover all her "toilettes" as she called frocks; to furbishup anythat were "passees" and to air and arrange the new. Forherselfshe did nothing but caper about in the front chambersjumpon and offthe bedsteadsand lie on the mattresses and piled-upbolstersand pillows before the enormous fires roaring in thechimneys. From school duties she was exonerated:  Mrs. Fairfax hadpressed meinto her serviceand I was all day in the storeroomhelping(or hindering) her and the cook; learning to make custardsandcheese-cakes and French pastryto truss game and garnishdesert-dishes.

The partywere expected to arrive on Thursday afternoonin time fordinner atsix.  During the intervening period I had no time to nursechimeras;and I believe I was as active and gay as anybody--Adeleexcepted. Stillnow and thenI received a damping check to mycheerfulness;and wasin spite of myselfthrown back on the regionof doubtsand portentsand dark conjectures.  This was when Ichanced tosee the third-storey staircase door (which of late hadalwaysbeen kept locked) open slowlyand give passage to the formof GracePoolein prim capwhite apronand handkerchief; when Iwatchedher glide along the galleryher quiet tread muffled in alistslipper; when I saw her look into the bustlingtopsy-turvybedrooms--justsay a wordperhapsto the charwoman about theproper wayto polish a grateor clean a marble mantelpieceor takestainsfrom papered wallsand then pass on.  She would thus descendto thekitchen once a dayeat her dinnersmoke a moderate pipe onthehearthand go backcarrying her pot of porter with herforherprivate solacein her own gloomyupper haunt.  Only one hourin thetwenty-four did she pass with her fellow-servants below; allthe restof her time was spent in some low-ceiledoaken chamber ofthe secondstorey:  there she sat and sewed--and probably laugheddrearilyto herself--as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.

Thestrangest thing of all wasthat not a soul in the houseexceptmenoticed her habitsor seemed to marvel at them:  no onediscussedher position or employment; no one pitied her solitude orisolation. I onceindeedoverheard part of a dialogue betweenLeah andone of the charwomenof which Grace formed the subject.Leah hadbeen saying something I had not caughtand the charwomanremarked -

"Shegets good wagesI guess?"

"Yes"said Leah; "I wish I had as good; not that mine are tocomplainof--there's no stinginess at Thornfield; but they're notone fifthof the sum Mrs. Poole receives.  And she is laying by:she goesevery quarter to the bank at Millcote.  I should not wonderbut shehas saved enough to keep her independent if she liked toleave; butI suppose she's got used to the place; and then she's notforty yetand strong and able for anything.  It is too soon for herto give upbusiness."

"Sheis a good handI daresay" said the charwoman.

"Ah!--sheunderstands what she has to do--nobody better" rejoinedLeahsignificantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes--not forall the money she gets."

"Thatit is not!" was the reply.  "I wonder whether themaster--"

Thecharwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived meand sheinstantly gave her companion a nudge.

"Doesn'tshe know?" I heard the woman whisper.

Leah shookher headand the conversation was of course dropped.All I hadgathered from it amounted to this--that there was amystery atThornfield; and that from participation in that mystery Iwaspurposely excluded.

Thursdaycame:  all work had been completed the previous evening;carpetswere laid downbed-hangings festoonedradiant whitecounterpanesspreadtoilet tables arrangedfurniture rubbedflowerspiled in vases:  both chambers and saloons looked as freshand brightas hands could make them.  The halltoowas scoured;and thegreat carved clockas well as the steps and banisters ofthestaircasewere polished to the brightness of glass; in thedining-roomthe sideboard flashed resplendent with plate; in thedrawing-roomand boudoirvases of exotics bloomed on all sides.

Afternoonarrived:  Mrs. Fairfax assumed her best black satin gownherglovesand her gold watch; for it was her part to receive thecompany--toconduct the ladies to their rooms&c.  Adeletoowould bedressed:  though I thought she had little chance of beingintroducedto the party that day at least.  Howeverto please herI allowedSophie to apparel her in one of her shortfull muslinfrocks. For myselfI had no need to make any change; I should notbe calledupon to quit my sanctum of the schoolroom; for a sanctumit was nowbecome to me--"a very pleasant refuge in time oftrouble."

It hadbeen a mildserene spring day--one of those days whichtowardsthe end of March or the beginning of Aprilrise shiningover theearth as heralds of summer.  It was drawing to an end now;but theevening was even warmand I sat at work in the schoolroomwith thewindow open.

"Itgets late" said Mrs. Fairfaxentering in rustling state. "Iam glad Iordered dinner an hour after the time Mr. Rochestermentioned;for it is past six now.  I have sent John down to thegates tosee if there is anything on the road:  one can see a longway fromthence in the direction of Millcote."  She went to thewindow. "Here he is!" said she.  "WellJohn"(leaning out)"anynews?"

"They'recomingma'am" was the answer.  "They'll be here intenminutes."

Adele flewto the window.  I followedtaking care to stand on onesidesothatscreened by the curtainI could see without beingseen.

The tenminutes John had given seemed very longbut at last wheelswereheard; four equestrians galloped up the driveand after themcame twoopen carriages.  Fluttering veils and waving plumes filledthevehicles; two of the cavaliers were youngdashing-lookinggentlemen;the third was Mr. Rochesteron his black horseMesrourPilotbounding before him; at his side rode a ladyand he and shewere thefirst of the party.  Her purple riding-habit almost sweptthegroundher veil streamed long on the breeze; mingling with itstransparentfoldsand gleaming through themshone rich ravenringlets.

"MissIngram!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfaxand away she hurried to herpostbelow.

Thecavalcadefollowing the sweep of the drivequickly turned theangle ofthe houseand I lost sight of it.  Adele now petitioned togo down;but I took her on my kneeand gave her to understand thatshe mustnot on any account think of venturing in sight of theladieseither now or at any other timeunless expressly sent for:that Mr.Rochester would be very angry&c.  "Some natural tearssheshed"on being told this; but as I began to look very gravesheconsentedat last to wipe them.

A joyousstir was now audible in the hall:  gentlemen's deep tonesandladies' silvery accents blent harmoniously togetheranddistinguishableabove allthough not loudwas the sonorous voiceof themaster of Thornfield Hallwelcoming his fair and gallantguestsunder its roof.  Then light steps ascended the stairs; andthere wasa tripping through the galleryand soft cheerful laughsandopening and closing doorsandfor a timea hush.

"Elleschangent de toilettes" said Adele; wholisteningattentivelyhad followed every movement; and she sighed.

"Chezmaman" said she"quand il y avait du mondeje le suivaispartoutau salon et e leurs chambres; souvent je regardais lesfemmes dechambre coiffer et habiller les dameset c'etait siamusant: comme cela on apprend."

"Don'tyou feel hungryAdele?"

"Maisouimademoiselle:  voile cinq ou six heures que nous n'avonspasmange."

"Wellnowwhile the ladies are in their roomsI will venture downand getyou something to eat."

Andissuing from my asylum with precautionI sought a back-stairswhichconducted directly to the kitchen.  All in that region wasfire andcommotion; the soup and fish were in the last stage ofprojectionand the cook hung over her crucibles in a frame of mindand bodythreatening spontaneous combustion.  In the servants' halltwocoachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat round thefire; theabigailsI supposewere upstairs with their mistresses;the newservantsthat had been hired from Millcotewere bustlingabouteverywhere.  Threading this chaosI at last reached thelarder;there I took possession of a cold chickena roll of breadsometartsa plate or two and a knife and fork:  with this booty Imade ahasty retreat.  I had regained the galleryand was justshuttingthe back-door behind mewhen an accelerated hum warned methat theladies were about to issue from their chambers.  I couldnotproceed to the schoolroom without passing some of their doorsandrunning the risk of being surprised with my cargo of victualage;so I stoodstill at this endwhichbeing windowlesswas dark:quite darknowfor the sun was set and twilight gathering.

Presentlythe chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another:each cameout gaily and airilywith dress that gleamed lustrousthroughthe dusk.  For a moment they stood grouped together at theotherextremity of the galleryconversing in a key of sweet subduedvivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselesslyas abright mist rolls down a hill.  Their collective appearance hadleft on mean impression of high-born elegancesuch as I had neverbeforereceived.

I foundAdele peeping through the schoolroom doorwhich she heldajar. "What beautiful ladies!" cried she in English.  "OhI wish Imight goto them!  Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us by-and-byeafter dinner?"

"NoindeedI don't; Mr. Rochester has something else to thinkabout. Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see themto-morrow: here is your dinner."

She wasreally hungryso the chicken and tarts served to divert herattentionfor a time.  It was well I secured this forageor bothsheIand Sophieto whom I conveyed a share of our repastwouldhave run achance of getting no dinner at all:  every one downstairswas toomuch engaged to think of us.  The dessert was not carriedout tillafter nine and at ten footmen were still running to and frowith traysand coffee-cups.  I allowed Adele to sit up much laterthanusual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleepwhile thedoors kept opening and shutting belowand people bustlingabout. Besidesshe addeda message might possibly come from Mr.Rochesterwhen she was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"

I told herstories as long as she would listen to them; and then fora change Itook her out into the gallery.  The hall lamp was nowlitandit amused her to look over the balustrade and watch theservantspassing backwards and forwards.  When the evening was faradvanceda sound of music issued from the drawing-roomwhither thepiano hadbeen removed; Adele and I sat down on the top step of thestairs tolisten.  Presently a voice blent with the rich tones oftheinstrument; it was a lady who sangand very sweet her noteswere. The solo overa duet followedand then a glee:  a joyousconversationalmurmur filled up the intervals.  I listened long:suddenly Idiscovered that my ear was wholly intent on analysing themingledsoundsand trying to discriminate amidst the confusion ofaccentsthose of Mr. Rochester; and when it caught themwhich itsoon didit found a further task in framing the tonesrendered bydistanceinarticulateinto words.

The clockstruck eleven.  I looked at Adelewhose head leantagainst myshoulder; her eyes were waxing heavyso I took her up inmy armsand carried her off to bed.  It was near one before thegentlemenand ladies sought their chambers.

The nextday was as fine as its predecessor:  it was devoted by theparty toan excursion to some site in the neighbourhood.  They setout earlyin the forenoonsome on horsebackthe rest in carriages;Iwitnessed both the departure and the return.  Miss Ingramasbeforewas the only lady equestrian; andas beforeMr. Rochestergallopedat her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest.  Ipointedout this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfaxwho was standing atthe windowwith me -

"Yousaid it was not likely they should think of being married"said I"but you see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any ofthe otherladies."

"YesI daresay:  no doubt he admires her."

"Andshe him" I added; "look how she leans her head towards himasif shewere conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face;I havenever had a glimpse of it yet."

"Youwill see her this evening" answered Mrs. Fairfax.  "Ihappenedto remarkto Mr. Rochester how much Adele wished to be introduced totheladiesand he said:  'Oh! let her come into the drawing-roomafterdinner; and request Miss Eyre to accompany her.'"

"Yes;he said that from mere politeness:  I need not goI am sure"Ianswered.

"WellI observed to him that as you were unused to companyI didnot thinkyou would like appearing before so gay a party--allstrangers;and he repliedin his quick way--'Nonsense!  If sheobjectstell her it is my particular wish; and if she resistssayI shallcome and fetch her in case of contumacy.'"

"Iwill not give him that trouble" I answered.  "I willgoif nobetter maybe; but I don't like it.  Shall you be thereMrs.Fairfax?"

"No;I pleaded offand he admitted my plea.  I'll tell you how tomanage soas to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal entrancewhich isthe most disagreeable part of the business.  You must gointo thedrawing-room while it is emptybefore the ladies leave thedinner-table;choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you neednot staylong after the gentlemen come inunless you please:  justlet Mr.Rochester see you are there and then slip away--nobody willnoticeyou."

"Willthese people remain longdo you think?"

"Perhapstwo or three weekscertainly not more.  After the EasterrecessSir George Lynnwho was lately elected member for Millcotewill haveto go up to town and take his seat; I daresay Mr.Rochesterwill accompany him:  it surprises me that he has alreadymade soprotracted a stay at Thornfield."

It waswith some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach whenI was torepair with my charge to the drawing-room.  Adele had beenin a stateof ecstasy all dayafter hearing she was to be presentedto theladies in the evening; and it was not till Sophie commencedtheoperation of dressing her that she sobered down.  Then theimportanceof the process quickly steadied herand by the time shehad hercurls arranged in well-smootheddrooping clustersher pinksatinfrock put onher long sash tiedand her lace mittensadjustedshe looked as grave as any judge.  No need to warn her nottodisarrange her attire:  when she was dressedshe sat demurelydown inher little chairtaking care previously to lift up thesatinskirt for fear she should crease itand assured me she wouldnot stirthence till I was ready.  This I quickly was:  my bestdress (thesilver-grey onepurchased for Miss Temple's weddingandnever wornsince) was soon put on; my hair was soon smoothed; mysoleornamentthe pearl broochsoon assumed.  We descended.

Fortunatelythere was another entrance to the drawing-room than thatthroughthe saloon where they were all seated at dinner.  We foundtheapartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marblehearthand wax candles shining in bright solitudeamid theexquisiteflowers with which the tables were adorned.  The crimsoncurtainhung before the arch:  slight as was the separation thisdraperyformed from the party in the adjoining saloonthey spoke inso low akey that nothing of their conversation could bedistinguishedbeyond a soothing murmur.

Adelewhoappeared to be still under the influence of a mostsolemnisingimpressionsat downwithout a wordon the footstool Ipointedout to her.  I retired to a window-seatand taking a bookfrom atable nearendeavoured to read.  Adele brought her stool tomy feet;ere long she touched my knee.

"Whatis itAdele?"

"Est-ceque je ne puis pas prendrie une seule de ces fleursmagnifiquesmademoiselle?  Seulement pour completer ma toilette."

"Youthink too much of your 'toilette' Adele:  but you may have aflower." And I took a rose from a vase and fastened it in her sash.She sigheda sigh of ineffable satisfactionas if her cup ofhappinesswere now full.  I turned my face away to conceal a smile Icould notsuppress:  there was something ludicrous as well aspainful inthe little Parisienne's earnest and innate devotion tomatters ofdress.

A softsound of rising now became audible; the curtain was sweptback fromthe arch; through it appeared the dining-roomwith itslit lustrepouring down light on the silver and glass of amagnificentdessert-service covering a long table; a band of ladiesstood inthe opening; they enteredand the curtain fell behindthem.

There werebut eight; yetsomehowas they flocked inthey gavetheimpression of a much larger number.  Some of them were verytall; manywere dressed in white; and all had a sweeping amplitudeof arraythat seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifiesthe moon. I rose and curtseyed to them:  one or two bent theirheads inreturnthe others only stared at me.

Theydispersed about the roomreminding meby the lightness andbuoyancyof their movementsof a flock of white plumy birds.  Someof themthrew themselves in half-reclining positions on the sofasandottomans:  some bent over the tables and examined the flowersandbooks:  the rest gathered in a group round the fire:  alltalkedin a lowbut clear tone which seemed habitual to them.  I knew theirnamesafterwardsand may as well mention them now.

Firstthere was Mrs. Eshton and two of her daughters.  She hadevidentlybeen a handsome womanand was well preserved still.  Ofherdaughtersthe eldestAmywas rather little:  naiveandchild-likein face and mannerand piquant in form; her white muslindress andblue sash became her well.  The secondLouisawas tallerand moreelegant in figure; with a very pretty faceof that orderthe Frenchterm minois chiffone:  both sisters were fair as lilies.

Lady Lynnwas a large and stout personage of about fortyveryerectvery haughty-lookingrichly dressed in a satin robe ofchangefulsheen:  her dark hair shone glossily under the shade of anazureplumeand within the circlet of a band of gems.

Mrs.Colonel Dent was less showy; butI thoughtmore lady-like.She had aslight figurea palegentle faceand fair hair.  Herblacksatin dressher scarf of rich foreign laceand her pearlornamentspleased me better than the rainbow radiance of the titleddame.

But thethree most distinguished--partlyperhapsbecause thetallestfigures of the band--were the Dowager Lady Ingram and herdaughtersBlanche and Mary.  They were all three of the loftieststature ofwomen.  The Dowager might be between forty and fifty:her shapewas still fine; her hair (by candle-light at least) stillblack; herteethtoowere still apparently perfect.  Most peoplewould havetermed her a splendid woman of her age:  and so she wasno doubtphysically speaking; but then there was an expression ofalmostinsupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance.She hadRoman features and a double chindisappearing into a throatlike apillar:  these features appeared to me not only inflated anddarkenedbut even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustainedby thesame principlein a position of almost preternaturalerectness. She hadlikewisea fierce and a hard eye:  it remindedme of Mrs.Reed's; she mouthed her words in speaking; her voice wasdeepitsinflections very pompousvery dogmatical--veryintolerablein short.  A crimson velvet robeand a shawl turban ofsomegold-wrought Indian fabricinvested her (I suppose shethought)with a truly imperial dignity.

Blancheand Mary were of equal stature--straight and tall aspoplars. Mary was too slim for her heightbut Blanche was mouldedlike aDian.  I regarded herof coursewith special interest.FirstIwished to see whether her appearance accorded with Mrs.Fairfax'sdescription; secondlywhether it at all resembled thefancyminiature I had painted of her; and thirdly--it will out!--whether itwere such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr.Rochester'staste.

As far asperson wentshe answered point for pointboth to mypictureand Mrs. Fairfax's description.  The noble bustthe slopingshouldersthe graceful neckthe dark eyes and black ringlets wereallthere;--but her face?  Her face was like her mother's; ayouthfulunfurrowed likeness:  the same low browthe same highfeaturesthe same pride.  It was nothoweverso saturnine apride! shelaughed continually; her laugh was satiricaland so wasthehabitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.

Genius issaid to be self-conscious.  I cannot tell whether MissIngram wasa geniusbut she was self-conscious--remarkably self-consciousindeed.  She entered into a discourse on botany with thegentleMrs. Dent.  It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science:thoughasshe saidshe liked flowers"especially wild ones;" MissIngramhadand she ran over its vocabulary with an air.  Ipresentlyperceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) TRAILINGMrs. Dent;that isplaying on her ignorance--her TRAIL might becleverbut it was decidedly not good-natured.  She played:  herexecutionwas brilliant; she sang:  her voice was fine; she talkedFrenchapart to her mamma; and she talked it wellwith fluency andwith agood accent.

Mary had amilder and more open countenance than Blanche; softerfeaturestooand a skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark asaSpaniard)--but Mary was deficient in life:  her face lackedexpressionher eye lustre; she had nothing to sayand having oncetaken herseatremained fixed like a statue in its niche.  Thesisterswere both attired in spotless white.

And did Inow think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester wouldbe likelyto make?  I could not tell--I did not know his taste infemalebeauty.  If he liked the majesticshe was the very type ofmajesty: then she was accomplishedsprightly.  Most gentlemenwouldadmire herI thought; and that he DID admire herI alreadyseemed tohave obtained proof:  to remove the last shade of doubtitremained but to see them together.

You arenot to supposereaderthat Adele has all this time beensittingmotionless on the stool at my feet:  no; when the ladiesenteredshe roseadvanced to meet themmade a stately reverenceand saidwith gravity -

"Bonjourmesdames."

And MissIngram had looked down at her with a mocking airandexclaimed"Ohwhat a little puppet!"

Lady Lynnhad remarked"It is Mr. Rochester's wardI suppose--thelittleFrench girl he was speaking of."

Mrs. Denthad kindly taken her handand given her a kiss.

Amy andLouisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously--"What a love ofa child!"

And thenthey had called her to a sofawhere she now satensconcedbetweenthemchattering alternately in French and broken English;absorbingnot only the young ladies' attentionbut that of Mrs.Eshton andLady Lynnand getting spoilt to her heart's content.

At lastcoffee is brought inand the gentlemen are summoned.  I sitin theshade--if any shade there be in this brilliantly-litapartment;the window-curtain half hides me.  Again the arch yawns;theycome.  The collective appearance of the gentlemenlike that oftheladiesis very imposing:  they are all costumed in black; mostof themare tallsome young.  Henry and Frederick Lynn are verydashingsparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly man.Mr.Eshtonthe magistrate of the districtis gentleman-like:  hishair isquite whitehis eyebrows and whiskers still darkwhichgives himsomething of the appearance of a "pere noble de theatre."LordIngramlike his sistersis very tall; like themalsohe ishandsome;but he shares Mary's apathetic and listless look:  heseems tohave more length of limb than vivacity of blood or vigourof brain.

And whereis Mr. Rochester?

He comesin last:  I am not looking at the archyet I see himenter. I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needleson themeshes of the purse I am forming--I wish to think only of thework Ihave in my handsto see only the silver beads and silkthreadsthat lie in my lap; whereasI distinctly behold his figureand Iinevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after Ihadrendered himwhat he deemedan essential serviceand heholding myhandand looking down on my facesurveyed me with eyesthatrevealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotionsI had apart.  How near had I approached him at that moment!  Whathadoccurred sincecalculated to change his and my relativepositions? Yet nowhow distanthow far estranged we were!  So farestrangedthat I did not expect him to come and speak to me.  I didnotwonderwhenwithout looking at mehe took a seat at the otherside ofthe roomand began conversing with some of the ladies.

No soonerdid I see that his attention was riveted on themand thatI mightgaze without being observedthan my eyes were drawninvoluntarilyto his face; I could not keep their lids undercontrol: they would riseand the irids would fix on him.  Ilookedand had an acute pleasure in looking--a precious yetpoignantpleasure; pure goldwith a steely point of agony:  apleasurelike what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows thewell towhich he has crept is poisonedyet stoops and drinks divinedraughtsnevertheless.

Most trueis it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer."  Mymaster'scolourlessolive facesquaremassive browbroad andjettyeyebrowsdeep eyesstrong featuresfirmgrim mouth--allenergydecisionwill--were not beautifulaccording to rule; butthey weremore than beautiful to me; they were full of an interestaninfluence that quite mastered me--that took my feelings from myown powerand fettered them in his.  I had not intended to love him;the readerknows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul thegerms oflove there detected; and nowat the first renewed view ofhimtheyspontaneously arrivedgreen and strong!  He made me lovehimwithout looking at me.

I comparedhim with his guests.  What was the gallant grace of theLynnsthelanguid elegance of Lord Ingram--even the militarydistinctionof Colonel Dentcontrasted with his look of native pithandgenuine power?  I had no sympathy in their appearancetheirexpression: yet I could imagine that most observers would call themattractivehandsomeimposing; while they would pronounce Mr.Rochesterat once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking.  I saw themsmilelaugh--it was nothing; the light of the candles had as muchsoul in itas their smile; the tinkle of the bell as muchsignificanceas their laugh.  I saw Mr. Rochester smile:- his sternfeaturessoftened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentleits raybothsearching and sweet.  He was talkingat the momentto Louisaand AmyEshton.  I wondered to see them receive with calm that lookwhichseemed to me so penetrating:  I expected their eyes to falltheircolour to rise under it; yet I was glad when I found they werein nosense moved.  "He is not to them what he is to me" Ithought:"heis not of their kind.  I believe he is of mine;--I am sure heis--I feelakin to him--I understand the language of his countenanceandmovements:  though rank and wealth sever us widelyI havesomethingin my brain and heartin my blood and nervesthatassimilatesme mentally to him.  Did I saya few days sincethat Ihadnothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands?Did Iforbid myself to think of him in any other light than as apaymaster? Blasphemy against nature!  Every goodtruevigorousfeeling Ihave gathers impulsively round him.  I know I must concealmysentiments:  I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannotcare muchfor me.  For when I say that I am of his kindI do notmean thatI have his force to influenceand his spell to attract; Imean onlythat I have certain tastes and feelings in common withhim. I mustthenrepeat continually that we are for eversundered:-and yetwhile I breathe and thinkI must love him."

Coffee ishanded.  The ladiessince the gentlemen enteredhavebecomelively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry.  ColonelDent andMr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen.  The twoprouddowagersLady Lynn and Lady Ingramconfabulate together.SirGeorge--whomby-the-byeI have forgotten to describe--a verybigandvery fresh-looking country gentlemanstands before theirsofacoffee-cup in handand occasionally puts in a word.  Mr.FrederickLynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingramand is showingher theengravings of a splendid volume:  she lookssmiles now andthenbutapparently says little.  The tall and phlegmatic LordIngramleans with folded arms on the chair-back of the little andlively AmyEshton; she glances up at himand chatters like a wren:she likeshim better than she does Mr. Rochester.  Henry Lynn hastakenpossession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa:  Adele sharesit withhim:  he is trying to talk French with herand Louisalaughs athis blunders.  With whom will Blanche Ingram pair?  She isstandingalone at the tablebending gracefully over an album.  Sheseemswaiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long:  sheherselfselects a mate.

Mr.Rochesterhaving quitted the Eshtonsstands on the hearth assolitaryas she stands by the table:  she confronts himtaking herstation onthe opposite side of the mantelpiece.

"Mr.RochesterI thought you were not fond of children?"

"Noram I."

"Thenwhat induced you to take charge of such a little doll asthat?"(pointing to Adele).  "Where did you pick her up?"

"Idid not pick her up; she was left on my hands."

"Youshould have sent her to school."

"Icould not afford it:  schools are so dear."

"WhyI suppose you have a governess for her:  I saw a person withher justnow--is she gone?  Ohno! there she is stillbehind thewindow-curtain. You pay herof course; I should think it quite asexpensive--moreso; for you have them both to keep in addition."

Ifeared--or should I sayhoped?--the allusion to me would make Mr.Rochesterglance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther into theshade: but he never turned his eyes.

"Ihave not considered the subject" said he indifferentlylookingstraightbefore him.

"Noyou men never do consider economy and common sense.  You shouldhear mamaon the chapter of governesses:  Mary and I have hadIshouldthinka dozen at least in our day; half of them detestableand therest ridiculousand all incubi--were they notmama?"

"Didyou speakmy own?"

The younglady thus claimed as the dowager's special propertyreiteratedher question with an explanation.

"Mydearestdon't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.I havesuffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice.  IthankHeaven I have now done with them!"

Mrs. Denthere bent over to the pious lady and whispered somethingin herear; I supposefrom the answer elicitedit was a reminderthat oneof the anathematised race was present.

"Tantpis!" said her Ladyship"I hope it may do her good!" Thenin a lowertonebut still loud enough for me to hear"I noticedher; I ama judge of physiognomyand in hers I see all the faultsof herclass."

"Whatare theymadam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.

"Iwill tell you in your private ear" replied shewagging herturbanthree times with portentous significancy.

"Butmy curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."

"AskBlanche; she is nearer you than I."

"Ohdon't refer him to memama!  I have just one word to say ofthe wholetribe; they are a nuisance.  Not that I ever suffered muchfrom them;I took care to turn the tables.  What tricks Theodore andI used toplay on our Miss Wilsonsand Mrs. Greysand MadameJouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with spirit.The bestfun was with Madame Joubert:  Miss Wilson was a poor sicklythinglachrymose and low-spiritednot worth the trouble ofvanquishingin short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and insensible; noblow tookeffect on her.  But poor Madame Joubert!  I see her yet inher ragingpassionswhen we had driven her to extremities--spiltour teacrumbled our bread and buttertossed our books up to theceilingand played a charivari with the ruler and deskthe fenderandfire-irons.  Theodoredo you remember those merry days?"

"Yaasto be sure I do" drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor oldstick usedto cry out 'Oh you villains childs!'--and then wesermonisedher on the presumption of attempting to teach such cleverblades aswe werewhen she was herself so ignorant."

"Wedid; andTedoyou knowI helped you in prosecuting (orpersecuting)your tutorwhey-faced Mr. Vining--the parson in thepipas weused to call him.  He and Miss Wilson took the liberty offalling inlove with each other--at least Tedo and I thought so; wesurprisedsundry tender glances and sighs which we interpreted astokens of'la belle passion' and I promise you the public soon hadthebenefit of our discovery; we employed it as a sort of lever tohoist ourdead-weights from the house.  Dear mamathereas soon asshe got aninkling of the businessfound out that it was of animmoraltendency.  Did you notmy lady-mother?"

"Certainlymy best.  And I was quite right:  depend on that: thereare athousand reasons why liaisons between governesses and tutorsshouldnever be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated house;firstly--"

"Ohgraciousmama!  Spare us the enumeration!  Au resteweallknowthem:  danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;distractionsand consequent neglect of duty on the part of theattached--mutualalliance and reliance; confidence thence resulting--insolenceaccompanying--mutiny and general blow-up.  Am I rightBaronessIngramof Ingram Park?"

"Mylily-floweryou are right nowas always."

"Thenno more need be said:  change the subject."

AmyEshtonnot hearing or not heeding this dictumjoined in withher softinfantine tone:  "Louisa and I used to quiz our governesstoo; butshe was such a good creatureshe would bear anything:nothingput her out.  She was never cross with us; was sheLouisa?"

"Nonever:  we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and herworkboxand turn her drawers inside out; and she was so good-naturedshe would give as anything we asked for."

"Isupposenow" said Miss Ingramcurling her lip sarcastically"weshall have an abstract of the memoirs of all the governessesextant: in order to avert such a visitationI again move theintroductionof a new topic.  Mr. Rochesterdo you second mymotion?"

"MadamI support you on this pointas on every other."

"Thenon me be the onus of bringing it forward.  Signior Eduardoare you invoice to-night?"

"DonnaBiancaif you command itI will be."

"ThensigniorI lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up yourlungs andother vocal organsas they will be wanted on my royalservice."

"Whowould not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"

"Afig for Rizzio!" cried shetossing her head with all its curlsas shemoved to the piano.  "It is my opinion the fiddler Davidmusthave beenan insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell better:to my minda man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him; andhistorymay say what it will of James Hepburnbut I have a notionhe wasjust the sort of wildfiercebandit hero whom I could haveconsentedto gift with my hand."

"Gentlemenyou hear!  Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?"cried Mr.Rochester.

"Ishould say the preference lies with you" responded ColonelDent.

"Onmy honourI am much obliged to you" was the reply.

MissIngramwho had now seated herself with proud grace at thepianospreading out her snowy robes in queenly amplitudecommencedabrilliant prelude; talking meantime.  She appeared to be on herhigh horseto-night; both her words and her air seemed intended toexcite notonly the admirationbut the amazement of her auditors:she wasevidently bent on striking them as something very dashingand daringindeed.

"OhI am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimedsherattling away at the instrument.  "Poorpuny thingsnotfitto stir astep beyond papa's park gates:  nor to go even so farwithoutmama's permission and guardianship!  Creatures so absorbedin careabout their pretty facesand their white handsand theirsmallfeet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty!  As iflovelinesswere not the special prerogative of woman--her legitimateappanageand heritage!  I grant an ugly WOMAN is a blot on the fairface ofcreation; but as to the GENTLEMENlet them be solicitous topossessonly strength and valour:  let their motto be:- Huntshootandfight:  the rest is not worth a fillip.  Such should be mydevicewere I a man."

"WheneverI marry" she continued after a pause which noneinterrupted"I am resolved my husband shall not be a rivalbut afoil tome.  I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shallexact anundivided homage:  his devotions shall not be sharedbetween meand the shape he sees in his mirror.  Mr. RochesternowsingandI will play for you."

"I amall obedience" was the response.

"Herethen is a Corsair-song.  Know that I doat on Corsairs; and forthatreasonsing it con spirito."

"Commandsfrom Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug ofmilk andwater."

"Takecarethen:  if you don't please meI will shame you byshowinghow such things SHOULD be done."

"Thatis offering a premium on incapacity:  I shall now endeavour tofail."

"Gardez-vousen bien!  If you err wilfullyI shall devise aproportionatepunishment."

"MissIngram ought to be clementfor she has it in her power toinflict achastisement beyond mortal endurance."

"Ha!explain!" commanded the lady.

"Pardonmemadam:  no need of explanation; your own fine sense mustinform youthat one of your frowns would be a sufficient substituteforcapital punishment."

"Sing!"said sheand again touching the pianoshe commenced anaccompanimentin spirited style.

"Nowis my time to slip away" thought I:  but the tones thatthenseveredthe air arrested me.  Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochesterpossesseda fine voice:  he did--a mellowpowerful bassinto whichhe threwhis own feelinghis own force; finding a way through theear to theheartand there waking sensation strangely.  I waitedtill thelast deep and full vibration had expired--till the tide oftalkchecked an instanthad resumed its flow; I then quitted myshelteredcorner and made my exit by the side-doorwhich wasfortunatelynear.  Thence a narrow passage led into the hall:  incrossingitI perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped to tie itkneelingdown for that purpose on the mat at the foot of thestaircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman cameout;rising hastilyI stood face to face with him:  it was Mr.Rochester.

"Howdo you do?" he asked.

"I amvery wellsir."

"Whydid you not come and speak to me in the room?"

I thoughtI might have retorted the question on him who put it:  butI wouldnot take that freedom.  I answered -

"Idid not wish to disturb youas you seemed engagedsir."

"Whathave you been doing during my absence?"

"Nothingparticular; teaching Adele as usual."

"Andgetting a good deal paler than you were--as I saw at firstsight. What is the matter?"

"Nothingat allsir."

"Didyou take any cold that night you half drowned me?"

"Notshe least."

"Returnto the drawing-room:  you are deserting too early."

"I amtiredsir."

He lookedat me for a minute.

"Anda little depressed" he said.  "What about?  Tellme."

"Nothing--nothingsir.  I am not depressed."

"ButI affirm that you are:  so much depressed that a few more wordswouldbring tears to your eyes--indeedthey are there nowshiningandswimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on tothe flag. If I had timeand was not in mortal dread of somepratingprig of a servant passingI would know what all this means.Wellto-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as myvisitorsstayI expect you to appear in the drawing-room everyevening;it is my wish; don't neglect it.  Now goand send SophieforAdele.  Good-nightmy--"  He stoppedbit his lipand abruptlyleft me.

 

CHAPTERXVIII

 

Merry dayswere these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too:  howdifferentfrom the first three months of stillnessmonotonyandsolitude Ihad passed beneath its roof!  All sad feelings seemed nowdrivenfrom the houseall gloomy associations forgotten:  there waslifeeverywheremovement all day long.  You could not now traversethegalleryonce so hushednor enter the front chambersonce sotenantlesswithout encountering a smart lady's-maid or a dandyvalet.

Thekitchenthe butler's pantrythe servants' hallthe entrancehallwereequally alive; and the saloons were only left void andstill whenthe blue sky and halcyon sunshine of the genial springweathercalled their occupants out into the grounds.  Even when thatweatherwas brokenand continuous rain set in for some daysnodampseemed cast over enjoyment:  indoor amusements only became morelively andvariedin consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.

I wonderedwhat they were going to do the first evening a change ofentertainmentwas proposed:  they spoke of "playing charades" butin myignorance I did not understand the term.  The servants werecalled inthe dining-room tables wheeled awaythe lights otherwisedisposedthe chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the arch.While Mr.Rochester and the other gentlemen directed thesealterationsthe ladies were running up and down stairs ringing fortheirmaids.  Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give informationrespectingthe resources of the house in shawlsdressesdraperiesof anykind; and certain wardrobes of the third storey wereransackedand their contentsin the shape of brocaded and hoopedpetticoatssatin sacquesblack modeslace lappets&c.werebroughtdown in armfuls by the abigails; then a selection was madeand suchthings as were chosen were carried to the boudoir withinthedrawing-room.

MeantimeMr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round himandwasselecting certain of their number to be of his party.  "MissIngram ismineof course" said he:  afterwards he named the twoMissesEshtonand Mrs. Dent.  He looked at me:  I happened to benear himas I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs. Dent's braceletwhich hadgot loose.

"Willyou play?" he asked.  I shook my head.  He did notinsistwhich Irather feared he would have done; he allowed me to returnquietly tomy usual seat.

He and hisaids now withdrew behind the curtain:  the other partywhich washeaded by Colonel Dentsat down on the crescent ofchairs. One of the gentlemenMr. Eshtonobserving meseemed toproposethat I should be asked to join them; but Lady Ingraminstantlynegatived the notion.

"No"I heard her say:  "she looks too stupid for any game of thesort."

Ere long abell tinkledand the curtain drew up.  Within the archthe bulkyfigure of Sir George Lynnwhom Mr. Rochester had likewisechosenwas seen enveloped in a white sheet:  before himon atablelayopen a large book; and at his side stood Amy Eshtondraped inMr. Rochester's cloakand holding a book in her hand.Somebodyunseenrang the bell merrily; then Adele (who hadinsistedon being one of her guardian's party)bounded forwardscatteringround her the contents of a basket of flowers she carriedon herarm.  Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingramclad inwhitea long veil on her headand a wreath of roses roundher brow;by her side walked Mr. Rochesterand together they drewnear thetable.  They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshtondressedalso in whitetook up their stations behind them.  Aceremonyfollowedin dumb showin which it was easy to recognisethepantomime of a marriage.  At its terminationColonel Dent andhis partyconsulted in whispers for two minutesthen the Colonelcalled out-

"Bride!"Mr. Rochester bowedand the curtain fell.

Aconsiderable interval elapsed before it again rose.  Its secondrisingdisplayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.Thedrawing-roomas I have before observedwas raised two stepsabove thedining-roomand on the top of the upper stepplaced ayard ortwo back within the roomappeared a large marble basin--which Irecognised as an ornament of the conservatory--where itusuallystoodsurrounded by exoticsand tenanted by gold fish--andwhence itmust have been transported with some troubleon accountof itssize and weight.

Seated onthe carpetby the side of this basinwas seen Mr.Rochestercostumed in shawlswith a turban on his head.  His darkeyes andswarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costumeexactly: he looked the very model of an Eastern emiran agent or avictim ofthe bowstring.  Presently advanced into view Miss Ingram.Shetoowas attired in oriental fashion:  a crimson scarf tiedsash-likeround the waist:  an embroidered handkerchief knottedabout hertemples; her beautifully-moulded arms bareone of themupraisedin the act of supporting a pitcherpoised gracefully onher head. Both her cast of form and featureher complexion and hergeneralairsuggested the idea of some Israelitish princess of thepatriarchaldays; and such was doubtless the character she intendedtorepresent.

Sheapproached the basinand bent over it as if to fill herpitcher;she again lifted it to her head.  The personage on thewell-brinknow seemed to accost her; to make some request:- "Shehastedlet down her pitcher on her handand gave him to drink."From thebosom of his robe he then produced a casketopened it andshowedmagnificent bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishmentandadmiration; kneelinghe laid the treasure at her feet;incredulityand delight were expressed by her looks and gestures;thestranger fastened the bracelets on her arms and the rings in herears. It was Eliezer and Rebecca:  the camels only were wanting.

Thedivining party again laid their heads together:  apparently theycould notagree about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.ColonelDenttheir spokesmandemanded "the tableau of the whole;"whereuponthe curtain again descended.

On itsthird rising only a portion of the drawing-room wasdisclosed;the rest being concealed by a screenhung with some sortof darkand coarse drapery.  The marble basin was removed; in itsplacestood a deal table and a kitchen chair:  these objects werevisible bya very dim light proceeding from a horn lanternthe waxcandlesbeing all extinguished.

Amidstthis sordid scenesat a man with his clenched hands restingon hiskneesand his eyes bent on the ground.  I knew Mr.Rochester;though the begrimed facethe disordered dress (his coathangingloose from one armas if it had been almost torn from hisback in ascuffle)the desperate and scowling countenancetheroughbristling hair might well have disguised him.  As he movedachainclanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.

"Bridewell!"exclaimed Colonel Dentand the charade was solved.

Asufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resumetheirordinary costumethey re-entered the dining-room.  Mr.Rochesterled in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on hisacting.

"Doyou know" said she"thatof the three charactersIliked youin thelast best?  Ohhad you but lived a few years earlierwhat agallantgentleman-highwayman you would have made!"

"Isall the soot washed from my face?" he askedturning it towardsher.

"Alas!yes:  the more's the pity!  Nothing could be more becomingtoyourcomplexion than that ruffian's rouge."

"Youwould like a hero of the road then?"

"AnEnglish hero of the road would be the next best thing to anItalianbandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantinepirate."

"Wellwhatever I amremember you are my wife; we were married anhoursincein the presence of all these witnesses."  Shegiggledand hercolour rose.

"NowDent" continued Mr. Rochester"it is your turn." And as theotherparty withdrewhe and his band took the vacated seats.  MissIngramplaced herself at her leader's right hand; the other divinersfilled thechairs on each side of him and her.  I did not now watchtheactors; I no longer waited with interest for the curtain torise; myattention was absorbed by the spectators; my eyeserewhilefixed onthe archwere now irresistibly attracted to the semicircleofchairs.  What charade Colonel Dent and his party playedwhatword theychosehow they acquitted themselvesI no longerremember;but I still see the consultation which followed eachscene: I see Mr. Rochester turn to Miss Ingramand Miss Ingram tohim; I seeher incline her head towards himtill the jetty curlsalmosttouch his shoulder and wave against his cheek; I hear theirmutualwhisperings; I recall their interchanged glances; andsomethingeven of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns inmemory atthis moment.

I havetold youreaderthat I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester:  Icould notunlove him nowmerely because I found that he had ceasedto noticeme--because I might pass hours in his presenceand hewouldnever once turn his eyes in my direction--because I saw allhisattentions appropriated by a great ladywho scorned to touch mewith thehem of her robes as she passed; whoif ever her dark andimperiouseye fell on me by chancewould withdraw it instantly asfrom anobject too mean to merit observation.  I could not unlovehimbecause I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady--becauseI readdaily in her a proud security in his intentions respectingher--becauseI witnessed hourly in him a style of courtship whichifcareless and choosing rather to be sought than to seekwas yetin itsvery carelessnesscaptivatingand in its very prideirresistible.

There wasnothing to cool or banish love in these circumstancesthoughmuch to create despair.  Much tooyou will thinkreadertoengenderjealousy:  if a womanin my positioncould presume to bejealous ofa woman in Miss Ingram's.  But I was not jealous:  orveryrarely;--the nature of the pain I suffered could not beexplainedby that word.  Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:she wastoo inferior to excite the feeling.  Pardon the seemingparadox; Imean what I say.  She was very showybut she was notgenuine: she had a fine personmany brilliant attainments; but hermind waspoorher heart barren by nature:  nothing bloomedspontaneouslyon that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted byitsfreshness.  She was not good; she was not original:  sheused torepeatsounding phrases from books:  she never offerednor hadanopinion ofher own.  She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but shedid notknow the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness andtruth werenot in her.  Too often she betrayed thisby the unduevent shegave to a spiteful antipathy she had conceived againstlittleAdele:  pushing her away with some contumelious epithet ifshehappened to approach her; sometimes ordering her from the roomand alwaystreating her with coldness and acrimony.  Other eyesbesidesmine watched these manifestations of character--watched themcloselykeenlyshrewdly.  Yes; the future bridegroomMr.Rochesterhimselfexercised over his intended a ceaselesssurveillance;and it was from this sagacity--this guardedness ofhis--thisperfectclear consciousness of his fair one's defects--thisobvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards herthatmyever-torturing pain arose.

I saw hewas going to marry herfor familyperhaps politicalreasonsbecause her rank and connections suited him; I felt he hadnot givenher his loveand that her qualifications were ill adaptedto winfrom him that treasure.  This was the point--this was wherethe nervewas touched and teased--this was where the fever wassustainedand fed:  SHE COULD NOT CHARM HIM.

If she hadmanaged the victory at onceand he had yielded andsincerelylaid his heart at her feetI should have covered my faceturned tothe walland (figuratively) have died to them.  If MissIngram hadbeen a good and noble womanendowed with forcefervourkindnesssenseI should have had one vital struggle with twotigers--jealousyand despair:  thenmy heart torn out and devouredI shouldhave admired her--acknowledged her excellenceand beenquiet forthe rest of my days:  and the more absolute hersuperioritythe deeper would have been my admiration--the moretrulytranquil my quiescence.  But as matters really stoodto watchMissIngram's efforts at fascinating Mr. Rochesterto witness theirrepeatedfailure--herself unconscious that they did fail; vainlyfancyingthat each shaft launched hit the markand infatuatedlyplumingherself on successwhen her pride and self-complacencyrepelledfurther and further what she wished to allure--to witnessTHISwasto be at once under ceaseless excitation and ruthlessrestraint.

Becausewhen she failedI saw how she might have succeeded.Arrowsthat continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast andfellharmless at his feetmightI knewif shot by a surer handhavequivered keen in his proud heart--have called love into hisstern eyeand softness into his sardonic face; orbetter stillwithoutweapons a silent conquest might have been won.

"Whycan she not influence him morewhen she is privileged to drawso near tohim?" I asked myself.  "Surely she cannot truly likehimor notlike him with true affection!  If she didshe need not coinher smilesso lavishlyflash her glances so unremittinglymanufactureairs so elaborategraces so multitudinous.  It seems tome thatshe mightby merely sitting quietly at his sidesayinglittle andlooking lessget nigher his heart.  I have seen in hisface a fardifferent expression from that which hardens it now whileshe is sovivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself:  itwas notelicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; andone hadbut to accept it--to answer what he asked withoutpretensionto address him when needful without grimace--and itincreasedand grew kinder and more genialand warmed one like afosteringsunbeam.  How will she manage to please him when they aremarried? I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might bemanaged;and his wife mightI verily believebe the very happiestwoman thesun shines on."

I have notyet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's projectofmarrying for interest and connections.  It surprised me when Ifirstdiscovered that such was his intention:  I had thought him amanunlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in hischoice ofa wife; but the longer I considered the positioneducation&c.of the partiesthe less I felt justified in judgingandblaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity toideas andprinciples instilled into themdoubtlessfrom theirchildhood. All their class held these principles:  I supposedthentheyhad reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom.It seemedto me thatwere I a gentleman like himI would take tomy bosomonly such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousnessof theadvantages to the husband's own happiness offered by thisplanconvinced me that there must be arguments against its generaladoptionof which I was quite ignorant:  otherwise I felt sure allthe worldwould act as I wished to act.

But inother pointsas well as thisI was growing very lenient tomymaster:  I was forgetting all his faultsfor which I had oncekept asharp look-out.  It had formerly been my endeavour to studyall sidesof his character:  to take the bad with the good; and fromthe justweighing of bothto form an equitable judgment.  Now I sawno bad. The sarcasm that had repelledthe harshness that hadstartledme oncewere only like keen condiments in a choice dish:theirpresence was pungentbut their absence would be felt ascomparativelyinsipid.  And as for the vague something--was it asinisteror a sorrowfula designing or a desponding expression?--thatopened upon a careful observernow and thenin his eyeandclosedagain before one could fathom the strange depth partiallydisclosed;that something which used to make me fear and shrinkasif I hadbeen wandering amongst volcanic-looking hillsand hadsuddenlyfelt the ground quiver and seen it gape:  that somethingIatintervalsbeheld still; and with throbbing heartbut notwithpalsied nerves.  Instead of wishing to shunI longed only todare--todivine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happybecause one dayshe mightlook into the abyss at her leisureexplore its secretsandanalyse their nature.

Meantimewhile I thought only of my master and his future bride--saw onlythemheard only their discourseand considered only theirmovementsof importance--the rest of the party were occupied withtheir ownseparate interests and pleasures.  The Ladies Lynn andIngramcontinued to consort in solemn conferenceswhere they noddedtheir twoturbans at each otherand held up their four hands inconfrontinggestures of surpriseor mysteryor horroraccordingto thetheme on which their gossip ranlike a pair of magnifiedpuppets. Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs. Eshton; andthe twosometimes bestowed a courteous word or smile on me.  SirGeorgeLynnColonel Dentand Mr. Eshton discussed politicsorcountyaffairsor justice business.  Lord Ingram flirted with AmyEshton;Louisa played and sang to and with one of the Messrs. Lynn;and MaryIngram listened languidly to the gallant speeches of theother. Sometimes allas with one consentsuspended their by-playto observeand listen to the principal actors:  forafter allMr.Rochesterand--because closely connected with him--Miss Ingram werethe lifeand soul of the party.  If he was absent from the room anhouraperceptible dulness seemed to steal over the spirits of hisguests;and his re-entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse to thevivacityof conversation.

The wantof his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly feltone daythat he had been summoned to Millcote on businessand wasnot likelyto return till late.  The afternoon was wet:  a walk theparty hadproposed to take to see a gipsy camplately pitched on acommonbeyond Haywas consequently deferred.  Some of the gentlemenwere goneto the stables:  the younger onestogether with theyoungerladieswere playing billiards in the billiard-room.  ThedowagersIngram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.BlancheIngramafter having repelledby supercilious taciturnitysomeefforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her intoconversationhad first murmured over some sentimental tunes andairs onthe pianoand thenhaving fetched a novel from thelibraryhad flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofaandpreparedto beguileby the spell of fictionthe tedious hours ofabsence. The room and the house were silent:  only now and then themerrimentof the billiard-players was heard from above.

It wasverging on duskand the clock had already given warning ofthe hourto dress for dinnerwhen little Adelewho knelt by me inthedrawing-room window-seatsuddenly exclaimed -

"VoileMonsieur Rochesterqui revient!"

I turnedand Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa:  theotherstoolooked up from their several occupations; for at thesame timea crunching of wheels and a splashing tramp of horse-hoofsbecameaudible on the wet gravel.  A post-chaise was approaching.

"Whatcan possess him to come home in that style?" said Miss Ingram."Herode Mesrour (the black horse)did he notwhen he went out?and Pilotwas with him:- what has he done with the animals?"

As shesaid thisshe approached her tall person and ample garmentsso nearthe windowthat I was obliged to bend back almost to thebreakingof my spine:  in her eagerness she did not observe me atfirstbutwhen she didshe curled her lip and moved to anothercasement. The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-belland agentleman alighted attired in travelling garb; but it was notMr.Rochester; it was a tallfashionable-looking mana stranger.

"Howprovoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram:  "you tiresomemonkey!"(apostrophisingAdele)"who perched you up in the window to givefalseintelligence?" and she cast on me an angry glanceas if Iwere infault.

Someparleying was audible in the halland soon the new-comerentered. He bowed to Lady Ingramas deeming her the eldest ladypresent.

"Itappears I come at an inopportune timemadam" said he"whenmyfriendMr. Rochesteris from home; but I arrive from a very longjourneyand I think I may presume so far on old and intimateacquaintanceas to instal myself here till he returns."

His mannerwas polite; his accentin speakingstruck me as beingsomewhatunusual--not precisely foreignbut still not altogetherEnglish: his age might be about Mr. Rochester's--between thirtyand forty;his complexion was singularly sallow:  otherwise he was afine-lookingmanat first sight especially.  On closer examinationyoudetected something in his face that displeasedor rather thatfailed toplease.  His features were regularbut too relaxed:  hiseye waslarge and well cutbut the life looking out of it was atamevacant life--at least so I thought.

The soundof the dressing-bell dispersed the party.  It was not tillafterdinner that I saw him again:  he then seemed quite at hisease. But I liked his physiognomy even less than before:  it struckme asbeing at the same time unsettled and inanimate.  His eyewanderedand had no meaning in its wandering:  this gave him an oddlooksuchas I never remembered to have seen.  For a handsome andnot anunamiable-looking manhe repelled me exceedingly:  there wasno powerin that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape:  nofirmnessin that aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there was nothought onthe loweven forehead; no command in that blankbrowneye.

As I satin my usual nookand looked at him with the light of thegirandoleson the mantelpiece beaming full over him--for he occupiedanarm-chair drawn close to the fireand kept shrinking stillnearerasif he were coldI compared him with Mr. Rochester.  Ithink(with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be muchgreaterbetween a sleek gander and a fierce falcon:  between a meeksheep andthe rough-coated keen-eyed dogits guardian.

He hadspoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend.  A curiousfriendshiptheirs must have been:  a pointed illustrationindeedof the oldadage that "extremes meet."

Two orthree of the gentlemen sat near himand I caught at timesscraps oftheir conversation across the room.  At first I could notmake muchsense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa Eshtonand MaryIngramwho sat nearer to meconfused the fragmentarysentencesthat reached me at intervals.  These last were discussingthestranger; they both called him "a beautiful man." Louisa saidhe was "alove of a creature" and she "adored him;" and Maryinstancedhis "pretty little mouthand nice nose" as her ideal ofthecharming.

"Andwhat a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa--"sosmooth--noneof those frowning irregularities I dislike so much; andsuch aplacid eye and smile!"

And thento my great reliefMr. Henry Lynn summoned them to theother sideof the roomto settle some point about the deferredexcursionto Hay Common.

I was nowable to concentrate my attention on the group by the fireand Ipresently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason;then Ilearned that he was but just arrived in Englandand that hecame fromsome hot country:  which was the reasondoubtlesshisface wasso sallowand that he sat so near the hearthand wore asurtout inthe house.  Presently the words JamaicaKingstonSpanishTownindicated the West Indies as his residence; and it waswith nolittle surprise I gatheredere longthat he had therefirst seenand become acquainted with Mr. Rochester.  He spoke ofhisfriend's dislike of the burning heatsthe hurricanesand rainyseasons ofthat region.  I knew Mr. Rochester had been a traveller:Mrs.Fairfax had said so; but I thought the continent of Europe hadboundedhis wanderings; till now I had never heard a hint given ofvisits tomore distant shores.

I waspondering these thingswhen an incidentand a somewhatunexpectedonebroke the thread of my musings.  Mr. Masonshiveringas some one chanced to open the doorasked for more coalto be puton the firewhich had burnt out its flamethough itsmass ofcinder still shone hot and red.  The footman who brought thecoalingoing outstopped near Mr. Eshton's chairand saidsomethingto him in a low voiceof which I heard only the words"oldwoman"--"quite troublesome."

"Tellher she shall be put in the stocks if she does not takeherselfoff" replied the magistrate.

"No--stop!"interrupted Colonel Dent.  "Don't send her awayEshton;we mightturn the thing to account; better consult the ladies."  Andspeakingaloudhe continued--"Ladiesyou talked of going to HayCommon tovisit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that one of the oldMotherBunches is in the servants' hall at this momentand insistsupon beingbrought in before 'the quality' to tell them theirfortunes. Would you like to see her?"

"Surelycolonel" cried Lady Ingram"you would not encourage sucha lowimpostor?  Dismiss herby all meansat once!"

"ButI cannot persuade her to go awaymy lady" said the footman;"norcan any of the servants:  Mrs. Fairfax is with her just nowentreatingher to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the chimney-comerandsays nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leaveto come inhere."

"Whatdoes she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.

"'Totell the gentry their fortunes' she saysma'am; and sheswears shemust and will do it."

"Whatis she like?" inquired the Misses Eshtonin a breath.

"Ashockingly ugly old creaturemiss; almost as black as a crock."

"Whyshe's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn.  "Letus haveher inofcourse."

"Tobe sure" rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousandpitiesto throwaway such a chance of fun."

"Mydear boyswhat are you thinking about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.

"Icannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding"chimed inthe Dowager Ingram.

"Indeedmamabut you can--and will" pronounced the haughty voiceofBlancheas she turned round on the piano-stool; where till nowshe hadsat silentapparently examining sundry sheets of music.  "Ihave acuriosity to hear my fortune told:  thereforeSamorder thebeldameforward."

"Mydarling Blanche! recollect--"

"Ido--I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will--quickSam!"

"Yes--yes--yes!"cried all the juvenilesboth ladies and gentlemen."Lether come--it will be excellent sport!"

Thefootman still lingered.  "She looks such a rough one"said he.

"Go!"ejaculated Miss Ingramand the man went.

Excitementinstantly seized the whole party:  a running fire ofrailleryand jests was proceeding when Sam returned.

"Shewon't come now" said he.  "She says it's not hermission toappearbefore the 'vulgar herd' (them's her words).  I must show herinto aroom by herselfand then those who wish to consult her mustgo to herone by one."

"Yousee nowmy queenly Blanche" began Lady Ingram"sheencroaches. Be advisedmy angel girl--and--"

"Showher into the libraryof course" cut in the "angel girl.""Itis not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herdeither: I mean to have her all to myself.  Is there a fire in thelibrary?"

"Yesma'am--but she looks such a tinkler."

"Ceasethat chatterblockhead! and do my bidding."

Again Samvanished; and mysteryanimationexpectation rose to fullflow oncemore.

"She'sready now" said the footmanas he reappeared.  "Shewishesto knowwho will be her first visitor."

"Ithink I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladiesgo"said Colonel Dent.

"TellherSama gentleman is coming."

Sam wentand returned.

"Shesayssirthat she'll have no gentlemen; they need not troublethemselvesto come near her; nor" he addedwith difficultysuppressinga titter"any ladies eitherexcept the youngandsingle."

"ByJoveshe has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.

MissIngram rose solemnly:  "I go first" she saidin atone whichmight havebefitted the leader of a forlorn hopemounting a breachin the vanof his men.

"Ohmy best! ohmy dearest! pause--reflect!" was her mama's cry;but sheswept past her in stately silencepassed through the doorwhichColonel Dent held openand we heard her enter the library.

Acomparative silence ensued.  Lady Ingram thought it "lecas" towring herhands:  which she did accordingly.  Miss Mary declared shefeltforher partshe never dared venture.  Amy and Louisa Eshtontitteredunder their breathand looked a little frightened.

Theminutes passed very slowly:  fifteen were counted before thelibrary-dooragain opened.  Miss Ingram returned to us through thearch.

Would shelaugh?  Would she take it as a joke?  All eyes met herwith aglance of eager curiosityand she met all eyes with one ofrebuff andcoldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry:  shewalkedstiffly to her seatand took it in silence.

"WellBlanche?" said Lord Ingram.

"Whatdid she saysister?" asked Mary.

"Whatdid you think?  How do you feel?--Is she a real fortune-teller?"demanded the Misses Eshton.

"Nownowgood people" returned Miss Ingram"don't press uponme.Reallyyour organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited:  youseembythe importance of you all--my good mama included--ascribeto thismatterabsolutely to believe we have a genuine witch in thehousewhois in close alliance with the old gentleman.  I have seena gipsyvagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the scienceofpalmistry and told me what such people usually tell.  My whim isgratified;and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag inthe stocksto-morrow morningas he threatened."

MissIngram took a bookleant back in her chairand so declinedfurtherconversation.  I watched her for nearly half-an-hour:during allthat time she never turned a pageand her face grewmomentlydarkermore dissatisfiedand more sourly expressive ofdisappointment. She had obviously not heard anything to heradvantage: and it seemed to mefrom her prolonged fit of gloom andtaciturnitythat she herselfnotwithstanding her professedindifferenceattached undue importance to whatever revelations hadbeen madeher.

MeantimeMary IngramAmy and Louisa Eshtondeclared they darednot goalone; and yet they all wished to go.  A negotiation wasopenedthrough the medium of the ambassadorSam; and after muchpacing toand frotillI thinkthe said Sam's calves must haveached withthe exercisepermission was at lastwith greatdifficultyextorted from the rigorous Sibylfor the three to waitupon herin a body.

Theirvisit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been:  we heardhystericalgiggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library;and at theend of about twenty minutes they burst the door openandcamerunning across the hallas if they were half-scared out oftheirwits.

"I amsure she is something not right!" they criedone and all."Shetold us such things!  She knows all about us!" and theysankbreathlessinto the various seats the gentlemen hastened to bringthem.

Pressedfor further explanationthey declared she had told them ofthingsthey had said and done when they were mere children;describedbooks and ornaments they had in their boudoirs at home:keepsakesthat different relations had presented to them.  Theyaffirmedthat she had even divined their thoughtsand had whisperedin the earof each the name of the person she liked best in theworldandinformed them of what they most wished for.

Here thegentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be furtherenlightenedon these two last-named points; but they got onlyblushesejaculationstremorsand tittersin return for theirimportunity. The matronsmeantimeoffered vinaigrettes andwieldedfans; and again and again reiterated the expression of theirconcernthat their warning had not been taken in time; and the eldergentlemenlaughedand the younger urged their services on theagitatedfair ones.

In themidst of the tumultand while my eyes and ears were fullyengaged inthe scene before meI heard a hem close at my elbow:  Iturnedand saw Sam.

"Ifyou pleasemissthe gipsy declares that there is another youngsinglelady in the room who has not been to her yetand she swearsshe willnot go till she has seen all.  I thought it must be you:there isno one else for it.  What shall I tell her?"

"OhI will go by all means" I answered:  and I was glad of theunexpectedopportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity.  Islippedout of the roomunobserved by any eye--for the company weregatheredin one mass about the trembling trio just returned--and Iclosed thedoor quietly behind me.

"Ifyou likemiss" said Sam"I'll wait in the hall for you;andif shefrightens youjust call and I'll come in."

"NoSamreturn to the kitchen:  I am not in the least afraid."Nor was I;but I was a good deal interested and excited.

 

CHAPTERXIX

 

Thelibrary looked tranquil enough as I entered itand the Sibyl--if Sibylshe were--was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at thechimney-corner. She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet:  orratherabroad-brimmed gipsy hattied down with a stripedhandkerchiefunder her chin.  An extinguished candle stood on thetable; shewas bending over the fireand seemed reading in a littleblackbooklike a prayer-bookby the light of the blaze:  shemutteredthe words to herselfas most old women dowhile she read;she didnot desist immediately on my entrance:  it appeared shewished tofinish a paragraph.

I stood onthe rug and warmed my handswhich were rather cold withsitting ata distance from the drawing-room fire.  I felt now ascomposedas ever I did in my life:  there was nothing indeed in thegipsy'sappearance to trouble one's calm.  She shut her book andslowlylooked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her faceyet Icould seeas she raised itthat it was a strange one.  It lookedall brownand black:  elf-locks bristled out from beneath a whiteband whichpassed under her chinand came half over her cheeksorratherjaws:  her eye confronted me at oncewith a bold and directgaze.

"Welland you want your fortune told?" she saidin a voice asdecided asher glanceas harsh as her features.

"Idon't care about itmother; you may please yourself:  but Iought towarn youI have no faith."

"It'slike your impudence to say so:  I expected it of you; I heardit in yourstep as you crossed the threshold."

"Didyou?  You've a quick ear."

"Ihave; and a quick eye and a quick brain."

"Youneed them all in your trade."

"Ido; especially when I've customers like you to deal with.  Whydon't youtremble?"

"I'mnot cold."

"Whydon't you turn pale?"

"I amnot sick."

"Whydon't you consult my art?"

"I'mnot silly."

The oldcrone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; shethen drewout a short black pipeand lighting it began to smoke.Havingindulged a while in this sedativeshe raised her bent bodytook thepipe from her lipsand while gazing steadily at the firesaid verydeliberately--"You are cold; you are sick; and you aresilly."

"Proveit" I rejoined.

"Iwillin few words.  You are coldbecause you are alone: nocontactstrikes the fire from you that is in you.  You are sick;becausethe best of feelingsthe highest and the sweetest given tomankeepsfar away from you.  You are sillybecausesuffer as youmayyouwill not beckon it to approachnor will you stir one stepto meet itwhere it waits you."

She againput her short black pipe to her lipsand renewed hersmokingwith vigour.

"Youmight say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as asolitarydependent in a great house."

"Imight say it to almost any one:  but would it be true of almostany one?"

"Inmy circumstances."

"Yes;just soin YOUR circumstances:  but find me another preciselyplaced asyou are."

"Itwould be easy to find you thousands."

"Youcould scarcely find me one.  If you knew ityou are peculiarlysituated: very near happiness; yeswithin reach of it.  Thematerialsare all prepared; there only wants a movement to combinethem. Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approachedand blissresults."

"Idon't understand enigmas.  I never could guess a riddle in mylife."

"Ifyou wish me to speak more plainlyshow me your palm."

"AndI must cross it with silverI suppose?"

"Tobe sure."

I gave hera shilling:  she put it into an old stocking-foot whichshe tookout of her pocketand having tied it round and returneditshetold me to hold out my hand.  I did.  She ached her face tothe palmand pored over it without touching it.

"Itis too fine" said she.  "I can make nothing of such ahand asthat;almost without lines:  besideswhat is in a palm?  Destinyisnotwritten there."

"Ibelieve you" said I.

"No"she continued"it is in the face:  on the foreheadabouttheeyesinthe lines of the mouth.  Kneeland lift up your head."

"Ah!now you are coming to reality" I saidas I obeyed her. "Ishallbegin to put some faith in you presently."

I kneltwithin half a yard of her.  She stirred the fireso that aripple oflight broke from the disturbed coal:  the glarehoweveras shesatonly threw her face into deeper shadow:  mineitillumined.

"Iwonder with what feelings you came to me to-night" she saidwhen shehad examined me a while.  "I wonder what thoughts are busyin yourheart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with thefinepeople flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:just aslittle sympathetic communion passing between you and them asif theywere really mere shadows of human formsand not the actualsubstance."

"Ifeel tired oftensleepy sometimesbut seldom sad."

"Thenyou have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you withwhispersof the future?"

"NotI.  The utmost I hope isto save money enough out of myearningsto set up a school some day in a little house rented bymyself."

"Amean nutriment for the spirit to exist on:  and sitting in thatwindow-seat(you see I know your habits )--"

"Youhave learned them from the servants."

"Ah!you think yourself sharp.  Wellperhaps I have:  to speaktruthIhave an acquaintance with one of themMrs. Poole--"

I startedto my feet when I heard the name.

"Youhave--have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in thebusinessafter allthen!"

"Don'tbe alarmed" continued the strange being; "she's a safehandis Mrs.Poole:  close and quiet; any one may repose confidence inher. Butas I was saying:  sitting in that window-seatdo youthink ofnothing but your future school?  Have you no presentinterestin any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairsbeforeyou?  Is there not one face you study? one figure whosemovementsyou follow with at least curiosity?"

"Ilike to observe all the faces and all the figures."

"Butdo you never single one from the rest--or it may betwo?"

"I dofrequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem tellinga tale: it amuses me to watch them."

"Whattale do you like best to hear?"

"OhI have not much choice!  They generally run on the same theme--courtship;and promise to end in the same catastrophe--marriage."

"Anddo you like that monotonous theme?"

"PositivelyI don't care about it:  it is nothing to me."

"Nothingto you?  When a ladyyoung and full of life and healthcharmingwith beauty and endowed with the gifts of rank and fortunesits andsmiles in the eyes of a gentleman you--"

"Iwhat?"

"Youknow--and perhaps think well of."

"Idon't know the gentlemen here.  I have scarcely interchanged asyllablewith one of them; and as to thinking well of themIconsidersome respectableand statelyand middle-agedand othersyoungdashinghandsomeand lively:  but certainly they are all atliberty tobe the recipients of whose smiles they pleasewithout myfeelingdisposed to consider the transaction of any moment to me."

"Youdon't know the gentlemen here?  You have not exchanged asyllablewith one of them?  Will you say that of the master of thehouse!"

"Heis not at home."

"Aprofound remark!  A most ingenious quibble!  He went toMillcotethismorningand will be back here to-night or to-morrow:  doesthatcircumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance--blot himas it wereout of existence?"

"No;but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with thetheme youhad introduced."

"Iwas talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and oflate somany smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes thattheyoverflow like two cups filled above the brim:  have you neverremarkedthat?"

"Mr.Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."

"Noquestion about his right:  but have you never observed thatofall thetales told here about matrimonyMr. Rochester has beenfavouredwith the most lively and the most continuous?"

"Theeagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator." Isaid thisrather to myself than to the gipsywhose strange talkvoicemannerhad by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream.  Oneunexpectedsentence came from her lips after anothertill I gotinvolvedin a web of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirithad beensitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings andtakingrecord of every pulse.

"Eagernessof a listener!" repeated she:  "yes; Mr. Rochester hassat by thehourhis ear inclined to the fascinating lips that tooksuchdelight in their task of communicating; and Mr. Rochester wasso willingto receive and looked so grateful for the pastime givenhim; youhave noticed this?"

"Grateful! I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."

"Detecting! You have analysedthen.  And what did you detectifnotgratitude?"

I saidnothing.

"Youhave seen love:  have you not?--andlooking forwardyou haveseen himmarriedand beheld his bride happy?"

"Humph! Not exactly.  Your witch's skill is rather at faultsometimes."

"Whatthe devil have you seenthen?"

"Nevermind:  I came here to inquirenot to confess.  Is it knownthat Mr.Rochester is to be married?"

"Yes;and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."

"Shortly?"

"Appearanceswould warrant that conclusion:  andno doubt (thoughwith anaudacity that wants chastising out of youyou seem toquestionit)they will be a superlatively happy pair.  He must lovesuch ahandsomenoblewittyaccomplished lady; and probably sheloves himorif not his personat least his purse.  I know sheconsidersthe Rochester estate eligible to the last degree; though(Godpardon me!) I told her something on that point about an hourago whichmade her look wondrous grave:  the corners of her mouthfell halfan inch.  I would advise her blackaviced suitor to lookout: if another comeswith a longer or clearer rent-roll--he'sdished--"

"ButmotherI did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune:  Icame tohear my own; and you have told me nothing of it."

"Yourfortune is yet doubtful:  when I examined your faceone traitcontradictedanother.  Chance has meted you a measure of happiness:that Iknow.  I knew it before I came here this evening.  She haslaid itcarefully on one side for you.  I saw her do it.  Itdependsonyourself to stretch out your handand take it up:  but whetheryou willdo sois the problem I study.  Kneel again on the rug."

"Don'tkeep me long; the fire scorches me."

I knelt. She did not stoop towards mebut only gazedleaning backin herchair.  She began muttering-

"Theflame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it lookssoft andfull of feeling; it smiles at my jargon:  it issusceptible;impression follows impression through its clear sphere;where itceases to smileit is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighson thelid:  that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness.It turnsfrom me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems todenyby amocking glancethe truth of the discoveries I havealreadymade--to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:its prideand reserve only confirm me in my opinion.  The eye isfavourable.

"Asto the mouthit delights at times in laughter; it is disposedto impartall that the brain conceives; though I daresay it would besilent onmuch the heart experiences.  Mobile and flexibleit wasneverintended to be compressed in the eternal silence of solitude:it is amouth which should speak much and smile oftenand havehumanaffection for its interlocutor.  That feature too ispropitious.

"Isee no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that browprofessesto say--'I can live aloneif self-respectandcircumstancesrequire me so to do.  I need not sell my soul to buybliss. I have an inward treasure born with mewhich can keep mealive ifall extraneous delights should be withheldor offered onlyat a priceI cannot afford to give.'  The forehead declares'Reasonsits firmand holds the reinsand she will not let the feelingsburst awayand hurry her to wild chasms.  The passions may ragefuriouslylike true heathensas they are; and the desires mayimagineall sorts of vain things:  but judgment shall still have thelast wordin every argumentand the casting vote in every decision.Strongwindearthquake-shockand fire may pass by:  but I shallfollow theguiding of that still small voice which interprets thedictatesof conscience.'

"Wellsaidforehead; your declaration shall be respected.  I haveformed myplans--right plans I deem them--and in them I haveattendedto the claims of consciencethe counsels of reason.  Iknow howsoon youth would fade and bloom perishifin the cup ofblissofferedbut one dreg of shameor one flavour of remorse weredetected;and I do not want sacrificesorrowdissolution--such isnot mytaste.  I wish to fosternot to blight--to earn gratitudenot towring tears of blood--nonor of brine:  my harvest must bein smilesin endearmentsin sweet-- That will do.  I think I ravein a kindof exquisite delirium.  I should wish now to protract thismoment adinfinitum; but I dare not.  So far I have governed myselfthoroughly. I have acted as I inwardly swore I would act; butfurthermight try me beyond my strength.  RiseMiss Eyre:  leaveme; theplay is played out'."

Where wasI?  Did I wake or sleep?  Had I been dreaming?  Did Idreamstill?  The old woman's voice had changed:  her accenthergestureand all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass--asthe speechof my own tongue.  I got upbut did not go.  I looked; Istirredthe fireand I looked again:  but she drew her bonnet andherbandage closer about her faceand again beckoned me to depart.The flameilluminated her hand stretched out:  roused nowand onthe alertfor discoveriesI at once noticed that hand.  It was nomore thewithered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supplememberwith smooth fingerssymmetrically turned; a broad ringflashed onthe little fingerand stooping forwardI looked at itand saw agem I had seen a hundred times before.  Again I looked atthe face;which was no longer turned from me--on the contrarythebonnet wasdoffedthe bandage displacedthe head advanced.

"WellJanedo you know me?" asked the familiar voice.

"Onlytake off the red cloaksirand then--"

"Butthe string is in a knot--help me."

"Breakitsir."

"Therethen--'Offye lendings!'"  And Mr. Rochester stepped outofhisdisguise.

"Nowsirwhat a strange idea!"

"Butwell carried outeh?  Don't you think so?"

"Withthe ladies you must have managed well."

"Butnot with you?"

"Youdid not act the character of a gipsy with me."

"Whatcharacter did I act?  My own?"

"No;some unaccountable one.  In shortI believe you have beentrying todraw me out--or in; you have been talking nonsense to makeme talknonsense.  It is scarcely fairsir."

"Doyou forgive meJane?"

"Icannot tell till I have thought it all over.  Ifon reflectionI find Ihave fallen into no great absurdityI shall try to forgiveyou; butit was not right."

"Ohyou have been very correct--very carefulvery sensible."

Ireflectedand thoughton the wholeI had.  It was a comfort;butindeedI had been on my guard almost from the beginning of theinterview. Something of masquerade I suspected.  I knew gipsies andfortune-tellersdid not express themselves as this seeming old womanhadexpressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voiceheranxiety toconceal her features.  But my mind had been running onGracePoole--that living enigmathat mystery of mysteriesas Iconsideredher.  I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.

"Well"said he"what are you musing about?  What does that gravesmilesignify?"

"Wonderand self-congratulationsir.  I have your permission toretirenowI suppose?"

"No;stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-roomyonder aredoing."

"Discussingthe gipsyI daresay."

"Sitdown!--Let me hear what they said about me."

"Ihad better not stay longsir; it must be near eleven o'clock.Ohareyou awareMr. Rochesterthat a stranger has arrived heresince youleft this morning?"

"Astranger!--no; who can it be?  I expected no one; is he gone?"

"No;he said he had known you longand that he could take theliberty ofinstalling himself here till you returned."

"Thedevil he did!  Did he give his name?"

"Hisname is Masonsir; and he comes from the West Indies; fromSpanishTownin JamaicaI think."

Mr.Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my handas if tolead me toa chair.  As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive grip;the smileon his lips froze:  apparently a spasm caught his breath.

"Mason!--theWest Indies!" he saidin the tone one might fancy aspeakingautomaton to enounce its single words; "Mason!--the WestIndies!"he reiterated; and he went over the syllables three timesgrowingin the intervals of speakingwhiter than ashes:  he hardlyseemed toknow what he was doing.

"Doyou feel illsir?" I inquired.

"JaneI've got a blow; I've got a blowJane!"  He staggered.

"Ohlean on mesir."

"Janeyou offered me your shoulder once before; let me have itnow."

"Yessiryes; and my arm."

He satdownand made me sit beside him.  Holding my hand in bothhis ownhe chafed it; gazing on meat the same timewith the mosttroubledand dreary look.

"Mylittle friend!" said he"I wish I were in a quiet islandwithonly you;and troubleand dangerand hideous recollections removedfrom me."

"CanI help yousir?--I'd give my life to serve you."

"Janeif aid is wantedI'll seek it at your hands; I promise youthat."

"Thankyousir.  Tell me what to do--I'll tryat leastto doit."

"Fetchme nowJanea glass of wine from the dining-room:  theywill be atsupper there; and tell me if Mason is with themand whathe isdoing."

I went. I found all the party in the dining-room at supperas Mr.Rochesterhad said; they were not seated at table--the supper wasarrangedon the sideboard; each had taken what he choseand theystoodabout here and there in groupstheir plates and glasses intheirhands.  Every one seemed in high glee; laughter andconversationwere general and animated.  Mr. Mason stood near thefiretalking to Colonel and Mrs. Dentand appeared as merry as anyof them. I filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch mefrowninglyas I did so:  she thought I was taking a libertyIdaresay)and I returned to the library.

Mr.Rochester's extreme pallor had disappearedand he looked oncemore firmand stern.  He took the glass from my hand.

"Hereis to your healthministrant spirit!" he said.  Heswallowedthecontents and returned it to me.  "What are they doingJane?"

"Laughingand talkingsir."

"Theydon't look grave and mysteriousas if they had heardsomethingstrange?"

"Notat all:  they are full of jests and gaiety."

"AndMason?"

"Hewas laughing too."

"Ifall these people came in a body and spat at mewhat would youdoJane?"

"Turnthem out of the roomsirif I could."

He halfsmiled.  "But if I were to go to themand they only lookedat mecoldlyand whispered sneeringly amongst each otherand thendroppedoff and left me one by onewhat then?  Would you go withthem?"

"Irather think notsir:  I should have more pleasure in stayingwith you."

"Tocomfort me?"

"Yessirto comfort youas well as I could."

"Andif they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"

"Iprobablyshould know nothing about their ban; and if I didIshouldcare nothing about it."

"Thenyou could dare censure for my sake?"

"Icould dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved myadherence;as youI am suredo."

"Goback now into the room; step quietly up to Masonand whisper inhis earthat Mr. Rochester is come and wishes to see him:  show himin hereand then leave me."

"Yessir."

I did hisbehest.  The company all stared at me as I passed straightamongthem.  I sought Mr. Masondelivered the messageand precededhim fromthe room:  I ushered him into the libraryand then I wentupstairs.

At a latehourafter I had been in bed some timeI heard thevisitorsrepair to their chambers:  I distinguished Mr. Rochester'svoiceandheard him say"This wayMason; this is your room."

He spokecheerfully:  the gay tones set my heart at ease.  I wassoonasleep.

 

CHAPTER XX

 

I hadforgotten to draw my curtainwhich I usually didand also tolet downmy window-blind.  The consequence wasthat when the moonwhich wasfull and bright (for the night was fine)came in hercourse tothat space in the sky opposite my casementand looked inat methrough the unveiled panesher glorious gaze roused me.Awaking inthe dead of nightI opened my eyes on her disk--silver-white andcrystal clear.  It was beautifulbut too solemn; I halfroseandstretched my arm to draw the curtain.

Good God! What a cry!

Thenight--its silence--its restwas rent in twain by a savageasharpashrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.

My pulsestopped:  my heart stood still; my stretched arm wasparalysed. The cry diedand was not renewed.  Indeedwhateverbeinguttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it:  not thewidest-wingedcondor on the Andes couldtwice in successionsendout such ayell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie.  The thingdeliveringsuch utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.

It cameout of the third storey; for it passed overhead.  Andoverhead--yesin the room just above my chamber-ceiling--I nowheard astruggle:  a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and ahalf-smotheredvoice shouted -

"Help!help! help!" three times rapidly.

"Willno one come?" it cried; and thenwhile the staggering andstampingwent on wildlyI distinguished through plank and plaster:-

"Rochester! Rochester! for God's sakecome!"

Achamber-door opened:  some one ranor rushedalong thegallery.Anotherstep stamped on the flooring above and something fell; andthere wassilence.

I had puton some clothesthough horror shook all my limbs; Iissuedfrom my apartment.  The sleepers were all aroused:ejaculationsterrified murmurs sounded in every room; door afterdoorunclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the galleryfilled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh!what isit?"--"Who is hurt?"--"What hashappened?"--"Fetch alight!"--"Isit fire?"--"Are there robbers?"--"Where shall werun?"wasdemanded confusedly on all hands.  But for the moonlight theywould havebeen in complete darkness.  They ran to and fro; theycrowdedtogether:  some sobbedsome stumbled:  the confusion wasinextricable.

"Wherethe devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent.  "Icannot findhim in hisbed."

"Here!here!" was shouted in return.  "Be composedall ofyou:  I'mcoming."

And thedoor at the end of the gallery openedand Mr. Rochesteradvancedwith a candle:  he had just descended from the upperstorey. One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm:it wasMiss Ingram.

"Whatawful event has taken place?" said she.  "Speak! letus knowthe worstat once!"

"Butdon't pull me down or strangle me" he replied:  for theMissesEshtonwere clinging about him now; and the two dowagersin vastwhitewrapperswere bearing down on him like ships in full sail.

"All'sright!--all's right!" he cried.  "It's a mererehearsal ofMuch Adoabout Nothing.  Ladieskeep offor I shall waxdangerous."

Anddangerous he looked:  his black eyes darted sparks. Calminghimself byan efforthe added -

"Aservant has had the nightmare; that is all.  She's an excitablenervousperson:  she construed her dream into an apparitionorsomethingof that sortno doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.NowthenI must see you all back into your rooms; fortill thehouse issettledshe cannot be looked after.  Gentlemenhave thegoodnessto set the ladies the example.  Miss IngramI am sure youwill notfail in evincing superiority to idle terrors.  Amy andLouisareturn to your nests like a pair of dovesas you are.Mesdames"(to the dowagers)"you will take cold to a deadcertaintyif you stay in this chill gallery any longer."

And sobydint of alternate coaxing and commandinghe contrived toget themall once more enclosed in their separate dormitories.  Idid notwait to be ordered back to minebut retreated unnoticedasunnoticedI had left it.

Nothoweverto go to bed:  on the contraryI began and dressedmyselfcarefully.  The sounds I had heard after the screamand thewords thathad been utteredhad probably been heard only by me; forthey hadproceeded from the room above mine:  but they assured methat itwas not a servant's dream which had thus struck horrorthroughthe house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had givenwas merelyan invention framed to pacify his guests.  I dressedthentobe ready for emergencies.  When dressedI sat a long timeby thewindow looking out over the silent grounds and silveredfields andwaiting for I knew not what.  It seemed to me that someevent mustfollow the strange crystruggleand call.

No: stillness returned:  each murmur and movement ceased graduallyand inabout an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as adesert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.Meantimethe moon declined:  she was about to set.  Not liking tosit in thecold and darknessI thought I would lie down on my beddressed asI was.  I left the windowand moved with little noiseacross thecarpet; as I stooped to take off my shoesa cautioushandtapped low at the door.

"Am Iwanted?" I asked.

"Areyou up?" asked the voice I expected to hearviz.my master's.

"Yessir."

"Anddressed?"

"Yes."

"Comeoutthenquietly."

I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.

"Iwant you" he said:  "come this way:  take yourtimeand make nonoise."

Myslippers were thin:  I could walk the matted floor as softly asacat. He glided up the gallery and up the stairsand stopped in thedarklowcorridor of the fateful third storey:  I had followed andstood athis side.

"Haveyou a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.

"Yessir."

"Haveyou any salts--volatile salts?  Yes."

"Goback and fetch both."

Ireturnedsought the sponge on the washstandthe salts in mydrawerand once more retraced my steps.  He still waited; he held akey in hishand:  approaching one of the smallblack doorshe putit in thelock; he pausedand addressed me again.

"Youdon't turn sick at the sight of blood?"

"Ithink I shall not:  I have never been tried yet."

I felt athrill while I answered him; but no coldnessand nofaintness.

"Justgive me your hand" he said:  "it will not do to riskafaintingfit."

I put myfingers into his.  "Warm and steady" was his remark: heturned thekey and opened the door.

I saw aroom I remembered to have seen beforethe day Mrs. Fairfaxshowed meover the house:  it was hung with tapestry; but thetapestrywas now looped up in one partand there was a doorapparentwhich had then been concealed.  This door was open; alightshone out of the room within:  I heard thence a snarlingsnatchingsoundalmost like a dog quarrelling.  Mr. Rochesterputtingdown his candlesaid to me"Wait a minute" and he wentforward tothe inner apartment.  A shout of laughter greeted hisentrance;noisy at firstand terminating in Grace Poole's owngoblin ha!ha!  SHE then was there.  He made some sort ofarrangementwithout speakingthough I heard a low voice addresshim: he came out and closed the door behind him.

"HereJane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of alarge bedwhich with its drawn curtains concealed a considerableportion ofthe chamber.  An easy-chair was near the bed-head:  a mansat in itdressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; hishead leantback; his eyes were closed.  Mr. Rochester held thecandleover him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifelessface--thestrangerMason:  I saw too that his linen on one sideand onearmwas almost soaked in blood.

"Holdthe candle" said Mr. Rochesterand I took it:  he fetchedabasin ofwater from the washstand:  "Hold that" said he. I obeyed.He tookthe spongedipped it inand moistened the corpse-likeface; heasked for my smelling-bottleand applied it to thenostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned.  Mr.Rochesteropened the shirt of the wounded manwhose arm andshoulderwere bandaged:  he sponged away bloodtrickling fast down.

"Isthere immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.

"Pooh! No--a mere scratch.  Don't be so overcomeman:  bear up!I'll fetcha surgeon for you nowmyself:  you'll be able to beremoved bymorningI hope.  Jane" he continued.

"Sir?"

"Ishall have to leave you in this room with this gentlemanfor anhourorperhaps two hours:  you will sponge the blood as I do whenitreturns:  if he feels faintyou will put the glass of water onthat standto his lipsand your salts to his nose.  You will notspeak tohim on any pretext--and--Richardit will be at the perilof yourlife if you speak to her:  open your lips--agitate yourself--and I'llnot answer for the consequences."

Again thepoor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; feareither ofdeath or of something elseappeared almost to paralysehim. Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my handand Iproceededto use it as he had done.  He watched me a secondthensaying"Remember!--No conversation" he left the room.  Iexperienceda strange feeling as the key grated in the lockand thesound ofhis retreating step ceased to be heard.

Here thenI was in the third storeyfastened into one of its mysticcells;night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyesand hands;a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:yes--thatwas appalling--the rest I could bear; but I shuddered atthethought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.

I mustkeep to my posthowever.  I must watch this ghastlycountenance--thesebluestill lips forbidden to unclose--these eyesnow shutnow openingnow wandering through the roomnow fixing onmeandever glazed with the dulness of horror.  I must dip my handagain andagain in the basin of blood and waterand wipe away thetricklinggore.  I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle waneon myemployment; the shadows darken on the wroughtantiquetapestryround meand grow black under the hangings of the vast oldbedandquiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinetopposite--whosefrontdivided into twelve panelsborein grimdesignthe heads of the twelve apostleseach enclosed in itsseparatepanel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose aneboncrucifix and a dying Christ.

Accordingas the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hoveredhere orglanced thereit was now the bearded physicianLukethatbent hisbrow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon thedevilishface of Judasthat grew out of the paneland seemedgatheringlife and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor--ofSatanhimself--in his subordinate's form.

Amidst allthisI had to listen as well as watch:  to listen forthemovements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.But sinceMr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound:  all the nightI heardbut three sounds at three long intervals--a step creakamomentaryrenewal of the snarlingcanine noiseand a deep humangroan.

Then myown thoughts worried me.  What crime was this that livedincarnatein this sequestered mansionand could neither be expellednorsubdued by the owner?--what mysterythat broke out now in fireand now inbloodat the deadest hours of night?  What creature wasitthatmasked in an ordinary woman's face and shapeuttered thevoicenowof a mocking demonand anon of a carrion-seeking bird ofprey?

And thisman I bent over--this commonplacequiet stranger--how hadhe becomeinvolved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flownat him? What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimelyseasonwhen he should have been asleep in bed?  I had heard Mr.Rochesterassign him an apartment below--what brought him here!  Andwhynowwas he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?Why did heso quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochesterenforced? Why DID Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment?  Hisguest hadbeen outragedhis own life on a former occasion had beenhideouslyplotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecyand sankin oblivion!  LastlyI saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr.Rochester;that the impetuous will of the latter held complete swayover theinertness of the former:  the few words which had passedbetweenthem assured me of this.  It was evident that in theirformerintercoursethe passive disposition of the one had beenhabituallyinfluenced by the active energy of the other:  whencethen hadarisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason'sarrival? Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual--whomhis wordnow sufficed to control like a child--fallen on hima fewhourssinceas a thunderbolt might fall on an oak?

Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:"JaneI have got a blow--I have got a blowJane."  I could notforget howthe arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder:  andit was nolight matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit andthrill thevigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.

"Whenwill he come?  When will he come?" I cried inwardlyas thenightlingered and lingered--as my bleeding patient droopedmoanedsickened: and neither day nor aid arrived.  I hadagain and againheld thewater to Mason's white lips; again and again offered himthestimulating salts:  my efforts seemed ineffectual:  eitherbodily ormental sufferingor loss of bloodor all three combinedwere fastprostrating his strength.  He moaned soand looked soweakwildand lostI feared he was dying; ant I might not evenspeak tohim.

Thecandlewasted at lastwent out; as it expiredI perceivedstreaks ofgrey light edging the window curtains:  dawn was thenapproaching. Presently I heard Pilot bark far belowout of hisdistantkennel in the courtyard:  hope revived.  Nor was itunwarranted: in five minutes more the grating keythe yieldinglockwarned me my watch was relieved.  It could not have lastedmore thantwo hours:  many a week has seemed shorter.

Mr.Rochester enteredand with him the surgeon he had been tofetch.

"NowCarterbe on the alert" he said to this last:  "Igive youbuthalf-an-hour for dressing the woundfastening the bandagesgettingthe patient downstairs and all."

"Butis he fit to movesir?"

"Nodoubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervoushis spiritsmust bekept up.  Comeset to work."

Mr.Rochester drew back the thick curtaindrew up the hollandblindletin all the daylight he could; and I was surprised andcheered tosee how far dawn was advanced:  what rosy streaks werebeginningto brighten the east.  Then he approached Masonwhom thesurgeonwas already handling.

"Nowmy good fellowhow are you?" he asked.

"She'sdone for meI fear" was the faint reply.

"Nota whit!--courage!  This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pinthe worseof it:  you've lost a little blood; that's all Carterassure himthere's no danger."

"Ican do that conscientiously" said Carterwho had now undonethebandages;"only I wish I could have got here sooner:  he would nothave bledso much--but how is this?  The flesh on the shoulder istorn aswell as cut.  This wound was not done with a knife:  therehave beenteeth here!"

"Shebit me" he murmured.  "She worried me like a tigresswhenRochestergot the knife from her."

"Youshould not have yielded:  you should have grappled with her atonce"said Mr. Rochester.

"Butunder such circumstanceswhat could one do?" returned Mason."Ohit was frightful!" he addedshuddering.  "And I didnot expectit: she looked so quiet at first."

"Iwarned you" was his friend's answer; "I said--be on yourguardwhen yougo near her.  Besidesyou might have waited till to-morrowand had me with you:  it was mere folly to attempt theinterviewto-nightand alone."

"Ithought I could have done some good."

"Youthought! you thought!  Yesit makes me impatient to hear you:buthoweveryou have sufferedand are likely to suffer enough fornot takingmy advice; so I'll say no more.  Carter--hurry!--hurry!The sunwill soon riseand I must have him off."

"Directlysir; the shoulder is just bandaged.  I must look to thisotherwound in the arm:  she has had her teeth here tooI think."

"Shesucked the blood:  she said she'd drain my heart" saidMason.

I saw Mr.Rochester shudder:  a singularly marked expression ofdisgusthorrorhatredwarped his countenance almost todistortion;but he only said -

"Comebe silentRichardand never mind her gibberish:  don'trepeatit."

"Iwish I could forget it" was the answer.

"Youwill when you are out of the country:  when you get back toSpanishTownyou may think of her as dead and buried--or ratheryou neednot think of her at all."

"Impossibleto forget this night!"

"Itis not impossible:  have some energyman.  You thought youwereas dead asa herring two hours sinceand you are all alive andtalkingnow.  There!--Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'llmake youdecent in a trice.  Jane" (he turned to me for the firsttime sincehis re-entrance)"take this key:  go down into mybedroomand walk straight forward into my dressing-room:  open thetop drawerof the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neck-handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble."

I went;sought the repository he had mentionedfound the articlesnamedandreturned with them.

"Now"said he"go to the other side of the bed while I order histoilet;but don't leave the room:  you may be wanted again."

I retiredas directed.

"Wasanybody stirring below when you went downJane?" inquired Mr.Rochesterpresently.

"Nosir; all was very still."

"Weshall get you off cannilyDick:  and it will be betterbothfor yoursakeand for that of the poor creature in yonder.  I havestrivenlong to avoid exposureand I should not like it to come atlast. HereCarterhelp him on with his waist-coat.  Where did youleave yourfurred cloak?  You can't travel a mile without thatIknowinthis damned cold climate.  In your room?--Janerun down toMr.Mason's room--the one next mine--and fetch a cloak you willseethere."

Again Iranand again returnedbearing an immense mantle lined andedged withfur.

"NowI've another errand for you" said my untiring master; "youmust awayto my room again.  What a mercy you are shod with velvetJane!--aclod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.You mustopen the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out alittlephial and a little glass you will find there--quick!"

I flewthither and backbringing the desired vessels.

"That'swell!  NowdoctorI shall take the liberty ofadministeringa dose myselfon my own responsibility.  I got thiscordial atRomeof an Italian charlatan--a fellow you would havekickedCarter.  It is not a thing to be used indiscriminatelybutit is goodupon occasion:  as nowfor instance.  Janea littlewater."

He heldout the tiny glassand I half filled it from the water-bottle onthe washstand.

"Thatwill do;--now wet the lip of the phial."

I did so;he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquidandpresentedit to Mason.

"DrinkRichard:  it will give you the heart you lackfor an houror so."

"Butwill it hurt me?--is it inflammatory?"

"Drink!drink! drink!"

Mr. Masonobeyedbecause it was evidently useless to resist.  Hewasdressed now:  he still looked palebut he was no longer goryandsullied.  Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he hadswallowedthe liquid; he then took his arm -

"NowI am sure you can get on your feet" he said--"try."

Thepatient rose.

"Cartertake him under the other shoulder.  Be of good cheerRichard;step out--that's it!"

"I dofeel better" remarked Mr. Mason.

"I amsure you do.  NowJanetrip on before us away to thebackstairs;unbolt the side-passage doorand tell the driver of thepost-chaiseyou will see in the yard--or just outsidefor I toldhim not todrive his rattling wheels over the pavement--to be ready;we arecoming:  andJaneif any one is aboutcome to the foot ofthe stairsand hem."

It was bythis time half-past fiveand the sun was on the point ofrising;but I found the kitchen still dark and silent.  The side-passagedoor was fastened; I opened it with as little noise aspossible: all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide openand therewas a post-chaisewith horses ready harnessedand driverseated onthe boxstationed outside.  I approached himand saidthegentlemen were coming; he nodded:  then I looked carefully roundandlistened.  The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;thecurtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;littlebirds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchardtreeswhose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wallenclosingone side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped fromtime totime in their closed stables:  all else was still.

Thegentlemen now appeared.  Masonsupported by Mr. Rochester andthesurgeonseemed to walk with tolerable ease:  they assisted himinto thechaise; Carter followed.

"Takecare of him" said Mr. Rochester to the latter"and keephimat yourhouse till he is quite well:  I shall ride over in a day ortwo to seehow he gets on.  Richardhow is it with you?"

"Thefresh air revives meFairfax."

"Leavethe window open on his sideCarter; there is no wind--good-byeDick."

"Fairfax--"

"Wellwhat is it?"

"Lether be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be:let her--"he stopped and burst into tears.

"I domy best; and have done itand will do it" was the answer:he shut upthe chaise doorand the vehicle drove away.

"Yetwould to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr.Rochesteras he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.

This donehe moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a doorin thewall bordering the orchard.  Isupposing he had done withmeprepared to return to the house; againhoweverI heard himcall"Jane!"  He had opened feel portal and stood at itwaiting forme.

"Comewhere there is some freshnessfor a few moments" he said;"thathouse is a mere dungeon:  don't you feel it so?"

"Itseems to me a splendid mansionsir."

"Theglamour of inexperience is over your eyes" he answered; "andyou see itthrough a charmed medium:  you cannot discern that thegilding isslime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble issordidslateand the polished woods mere refuse chips and scalybark. Now HERE" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)"allis realsweetand pure."

He strayeddown a walk edged with boxwith apple treespear treesand cherrytrees on one sideand a border on the other full of allsorts ofold-fashioned flowersstockssweet-williamsprimrosespansiesmingled with southernwoodsweet-briarand variousfragrantherbs.  They were fresh now as a succession of Aprilshowersand gleamsfollowed by a lovely spring morningcould makethem: the sun was just entering the dappled eastand his lightilluminedthe wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down thequietwalks under them.

"Janewill you have a flower?"

Hegathered a half-blown rosethe first on the bushand offered itto me.

"Thankyousir."

"Doyou like this sunriseJane?  That sky with its high and lightcloudswhich are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm--thisplacid andbalmly atmosphere?"

"Idovery much."

"Youhave passed a strange nightJane."

"Yessir."

"Andit has made you look pale--were you afraid when I left youalone withMason?"

"Iwas afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."

"ButI had fastened the door--I had the key in my pocket:  I shouldhave beena careless shepherd if I had left a lamb--my pet lamb--sonear awolf's denunguarded:  you were safe."

"WillGrace Poole live here stillsir?"

"Ohyes! don't trouble your head about her--put the thing out ofyourthoughts."

"Yetit seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."

"Neverfear--I will take care of myself."

"Isthe danger you apprehended last night gone by nowsir?"

"Icannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England:  nor eventhen. To livefor meJaneis to stand on a crater-crust whichmay crackand spue fire any day."

"ButMr. Mason seems a man easily led.  Your influencesirisevidentlypotent with him:  he will never set you at defiance orwilfullyinjure you."

"Ohno!  Mason will not defy me; norknowing itwill he hurt me--butunintentionallyhe might in a momentby one careless worddeprivemeif not of lifeyet for ever of happiness."

"Tellhim to be cautioussir:  let him know what you fearand showhim how toavert the danger."

He laughedsardonicallyhastily took my handand as hastily threwit fromhim.

"If Icould do thatsimpletonwhere would the danger be?Annihilatedin a moment.  Ever since I have known MasonI have onlyhad to sayto him 'Do that' and the thing has been done.  But Icannotgive him orders in this case:  I cannot say 'Beware ofharmingmeRichard;' for it is imperative that I should keep himignorantthat harm to me is possible.  Now you look puzzled; and Iwillpuzzle you further.  You are my little friendare you not?"

"Ilike to serve yousirand to obey you in all that is right."

"Precisely: I see you do.  I see genuine contentment in your gaitand mienyour eye and facewhen you are helping me and pleasingme--workingfor meand with meinas you characteristically say'ALL THATIS RIGHT:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrongtherewould be no light-footed runningno neat-handed alacritynolivelyglance and animated complexion.  My friend would then turn tomequietand paleand would say'Nosir; that is impossible:  Icannot doitbecause it is wrong;' and would become immutable as afixedstar.  Wellyou too have power over meand may injure me:yet I darenot show you where I am vulnerablelestfaithful andfriendlyas you areyou should transfix me at once."

"Ifyou have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from mesiryouare very safe."

"Godgrant it may be so!  HereJaneis an arbour; sit down."

The arbourwas an arch in the walllined with ivy; it contained arusticseat.  Mr. Rochester took itleaving roomhoweverfor me:but Istood before him.

"Sit"he said; "the bench is long enough for two.  You don'thesitateto take a place at my sidedo you?  Is that wrongJane?"

I answeredhim by assuming it:  to refuse wouldI felthave beenunwise.

"Nowmy little friendwhile the sun drinks the dew--while all theflowers inthis old garden awake and expandand the birds fetchtheiryoung ones' breakfast out of the Thornfieldand the earlybees dotheir first spell of work--I'll put a case to youwhich youmustendeavour to suppose your own:  but firstlook at meand tellme you areat easeand not fearing that I err in detaining youorthat youerr in staying."

"Nosir; I am content."

"WellthenJanecall to aid your fancy:- suppose you were nolonger agirl well reared and disciplinedbut a wild boy indulgedfromchildhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;conceivethat you there commit a capital errorno matter of whatnature orfrom what motivesbut one whose consequences must followyouthrough life and taint all your existence.  MindI don't say aCRIME; Iam not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guiltyactwhichmight make the perpetrator amenable to the law:  my wordis ERROR. The results of what you have done become in time to youutterlyinsupportable; you take measures to obtain relief:  unusualmeasuresbut neither unlawful nor culpable.  Still you aremiserable;for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:your sunat noon darkens in an eclipsewhich you feel will notleave ittill the time of setting.  Bitter and base associationshavebecome the sole food of your memory:  you wander here andthereseeking rest in exile:  happiness in pleasure--I mean inheartlesssensual pleasure--such as dulls intellect and blightsfeeling. Heart-weary and soul-witheredyou come home after yearsofvoluntary banishment:  you make a new acquaintance--how or wherenomatter:  you find in this stranger much of the good and brightqualitieswhich you have sought for twenty yearsand never beforeencountered;and they are all freshhealthywithout soil andwithouttaint.  Such society revivesregenerates:  you feel betterdays comeback--higher wishespurer feelings; you desire torecommenceyour lifeand to spend what remains to you of days in away moreworthy of an immortal being.  To attain this endare youjustifiedin overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere conventionalimpedimentwhich neither your conscience sanctifies nor yourjudgmentapproves?"

He pausedfor an answer:  and what was I to say?  Ohfor some goodspirit tosuggest a judicious and satisfactory response!  Vainaspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but nogentleAriel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech:  the birdssang inthe tree-tops; but their songhowever sweetwasinarticulate.

Again Mr.Rochester propounded his query:

"Isthe wandering and sinfulbut now rest-seeking and repentantmanjustified in daring the world's opinionin order to attach tohim forever this gentlegraciousgenial strangertherebysecuringhis own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"

"Sir"I answered"a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformationshouldnever depend on a fellow-creature.  Men and women die;philosophersfalter in wisdomand Christians in goodness:  if anyone youknow has suffered and erredlet him look higher than hisequals forstrength to amend and solace to heal."

"Butthe instrument--the instrument!  Godwho does the workordainsthe instrument.  I have myself--I tell it you withoutparable--beena worldlydissipatedrestless man; and I believe Ihave foundthe instrument for my cure in--"

Hepaused:  the birds went on carollingthe leaves lightlyrustling. I almost wondered they did not check their songs andwhispersto catch the suspended revelation; but they would have hadto waitmany minutes--so long was the silence protracted.  At last Ilooked upat the tardy speaker:  he was looking eagerly at me.

"Littlefriend" said hein quite a changed tone--while his facechangedtoolosing all its softness and gravityand becoming harshandsarcastic--"you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:don't youthink if I married her she would regenerate me with avengeance?"

He got upinstantlywent quite to the other end of the walkandwhen hecame back he was humming a tune.

"JaneJane" said hestopping before me"you are quite palewithyourvigils:  don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"

"Curseyou?  Nosir."

"Shakehands in confirmation of the word.  What cold fingers! Theywerewarmer last night when I touched them at the door of themysteriouschamber.  Janewhen will you watch with me again?"

"WheneverI can be usefulsir."

"Forinstancethe night before I am married!  I am sure I shall notbe able tosleep.  Will you promise to sit up with me to bear mecompany? To you I can talk of my lovely one:  for now you have seenher andknow her."

"Yessir."

"She'sa rare oneis she notJane?"

"Yessir."

"Astrapper--a real strapperJane:  bigbrownand buxom; withhair justsuch as the ladies of Carthage must have had.  Bless me!there'sDent and Lynn in the stables!  Go in by the shrubberythroughthat wicket."

As I wentone wayhe went anotherand I heard him in the yardsayingcheerfully -

"Masongot the start of you all this morning; he was gone beforesunrise: I rose at four to see him off."

 

CHAPTERXXI

 

Presentimentsare strange things! and so are sympathies; and so aresigns; andthe three combined make one mystery to which humanity hasnot yetfound the key.  I never laughed at presentiments in my lifebecause Ihave had strange ones of my own.  SympathiesI believeexist (forinstancebetween far-distantlong-absentwhollyestrangedrelatives assertingnotwithstanding their alienationtheunity ofthe source to which each traces his origin) whose workingsbafflemortal comprehension.  And signsfor aught we knowmay bebut thesympathies of Nature with man.

When I wasa little girlonly six years oldI one night heardBessieLeaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about alittlechild; and that to dream of children was a sure sign oftroubleeither to one's self or one's kin.  The saying might haveworn outof my memoryhad not a circumstance immediately followedwhichserved indelibly to fix it there.  The next day Bessie wassent forhome to the deathbed of her little sister.

Of late Ihad often recalled this saying and this incident; forduring thepast week scarcely a night had gone over my couch thathad notbrought with it a dream of an infantwhich I sometimeshushed inmy armssometimes dandled on my kneesometimes watchedplayingwith daisies on a lawnor againdabbling its hands inrunningwater.  It was a wailing child this nightand a laughingone thenext:  now it nestled close to meand now it ran from me;butwhatever mood the apparition evincedwhatever aspect it woreit failednot for seven successive nights to meet me the moment Ienteredthe land of slumber.

I did notlike this iteration of one idea--this strange recurrenceof oneimageand I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hourof thevision drew near.  It was from companionship with this baby-phantom Ihad been roused on that moonlight night when I heard thecry; andit was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoneddownstairsby a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax'sroom. On repairing thitherI found a man waiting for mehavingtheappearance of a gentleman's servant:  he was dressed in deepmourningand the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with acrapeband.

"Idaresay you hardly remember meMiss" he saidrising as Ientered;"but my name is Leaven:  I lived coachman with Mrs. Reedwhen youwere at Gatesheadeight or nine years sinceand I livetherestill."

"OhRobert! how do you do?  I remember you very well:  you usedtogive me aride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony.  And how isBessie? You are married to Bessie?"

"YesMiss:  my wife is very heartythank you; she brought meanotherlittle one about two months since--we have three now--andbothmother and child are thriving."

"Andare the family well at the houseRobert?"

"I amsorry I can't give you better news of themMiss:  they arevery badlyat present--in great trouble."

"Ihope no one is dead" I saidglancing at his black dress. Hetoo lookeddown at the crape round his hat and replied -

"Mr.John died yesterday was a weekat his chambers in London."

"Mr.John?"

"Yes."

"Andhow does his mother bear it?"

"Whyyou seeMiss Eyreit is not a common mishap:  his life hasbeen verywild:  these last three years he gave himself up tostrangewaysand his death was shocking."

"Iheard from Bessie he was not doing well."

"Doingwell!  He could not do worse:  he ruined his health and hisestateamongst the worst men and the worst women.  He got into debtand intojail:  his mother helped him out twicebut as soon as hewas freehe returned to his old companions and habits.  His head wasnotstrong:  the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anythingI everheard.  He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago andwantedmissis to give up all to him.  Missis refused:  her meanshave longbeen much reduced by his extravagance; so he went backagainandthe next news was that he was dead.  How he diedGodknows!--theysay he killed himself."

I wassilent:  the things were frightful.  Robert Leaven resumed-

"Missishad been out of health herself for some time:  she had gotverystoutbut was not strong with it; and the loss of money andfear ofpoverty were quite breaking her down.  The information aboutMr. John'sdeath and the manner of it came too suddenly:  it broughton astroke.  She was three days without speaking; but last Tuesdayshe seemedrather better:  she appeared as if she wanted to saysomethingand kept making signs to my wife and mumbling.  It wasonlyyesterday morninghoweverthat Bessie understood she waspronouncingyour name; and at last she made out the words'BringJane--fetchJane Eyre:  I want to speak to her.'  Bessie is not surewhethershe is in her right mindor means anything by the words;but shetold Miss Reed and Miss Georgianaand advised them to sendfor you. The young ladies put it off at first; but their mothergrew sorestlessand said'JaneJane' so many timesthat atlast theyconsented.  I left Gateshead yesterday:  and if you canget readyMissI should like to take you back with me early to-morrowmorning."

"YesRobertI shall be ready:  it seems to me that I ought to go."

"Ithink so tooMiss.  Bessie said she was sure you would notrefuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can getoff?"

"Yes;and I will do it now;" and having directed him to theservants'halland recommended him to the care of John's wifeandtheattentions of John himselfI went in search of Mr. Rochester.

He was notin any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yardthestablesor the grounds.  I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him;--yes: she believed he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram.  Tothebilliard-room I hastened:  the click of balls and the hum ofvoicesresounded thence; Mr. RochesterMiss Ingramthe two MissesEshtonand their admirerswere all busied in the game.  Itrequiredsome courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errandhoweverwas one I could not deferso I approached the master wherehe stoodat Miss Ingram's side.  She turned as I drew nearandlooked atme haughtily:  her eyes seemed to demand"What can thecreepingcreature want now?" and when I saidin a low voice"Mr.Rochester"she made a movement as if tempted to order me away.  Irememberher appearance at the moment--it was very graceful and verystriking: she wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy azurescarf wastwisted in her hair.  She had been all animation with thegameandirritated pride did not lower the expression of herhaughtylineaments.

"Doesthat person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and Mr.Rochesterturned to see who the "person" was.  He made a curiousgrimace--oneof his strange and equivocal demonstrations--threw downhis cueand followed me from the room.

"WellJane?" he saidas he rested his back against the schoolroomdoorwhich he had shut.

"Ifyou pleasesirI want leave of absence for a week or two."

"Whatto do?--where to go?"

"Tosee a sick lady who has sent for me."

"Whatsick lady?--where does she live?"

"AtGateshead; in -shire."

"-shire? That is a hundred miles off!  Who may she be that sendsfor peopleto see her that distance?"

"Hername is Reedsir--Mrs. Reed."

"Reedof Gateshead?  There was a Reed of Gatesheada magistrate."

"Itis his widowsir."

"Andwhat have you to do with her?  How do you know her?"

"Mr.Reed was my uncle--my mother's brother."

"Thedeuce he was!  You never told me that before:  you alwayssaidyou had norelations."

"Nonethat would own mesir.  Mr. Reed is deadand his wife castme off."

"Why?"

"BecauseI was poorand burdensomeand she disliked me."

"ButReed left children?--you must have cousins?  Sir George Lynnwastalking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterdaywhohe saidwas oneof theveriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning aGeorgianaReed of the same placewho was much admired for herbeauty aseason or two ago in London."

"JohnReed is deadtoosir:  he ruined himself and half-ruined hisfamilyand is supposed to have committed suicide.  The news soshockedhis mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."

"Andwhat good can you do her?  NonsenseJane!  I would neverthinkof runninga hundred miles to see an old lady who willperhapsbedeadbefore you reach her:  besidesyou say she cast you off."

"Yessirbut that is long ago; and when her circumstances wereverydifferent:  I could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."

"Howlong will you stay?"

"Asshort a time as possiblesir."

"Promiseme only to stay a week--"

"Ihad better not pass my word:  I might be obliged to break it."

"Atall events you WILL come back:  you will not be induced underanypretext to take up a permanent residence with her?"

"Ohno!  I shall certainly return if all be well."

"Andwho goes with you?  You don't travel a hundred miles alone."

"Nosirshe has sent her coachman."

"Aperson to be trusted?"

"Yessirhe has lived ten years in the family."

Mr.Rochester meditated.  "When do you wish to go?"

"Earlyto-morrow morningsir."

"Wellyou must have some money; you can't travel without moneyandI daresayyou have not much:  I have given you no salary yet.  Howmuch haveyou in the worldJane?" he askedsmiling.

I drew outmy purse; a meagre thing it was.  "Five shillingssir."He tookthe pursepoured the hoard into his palmand chuckled overit as ifits scantiness amused him.  Soon he produced his pocket-book: "Here" said heoffering me a note; it was fifty poundsandhe owed mebut fifteen.  I told him I had no change.

"Idon't want change; you know that.  Take your wages."

I declinedaccepting more than was my due.  He scowled at first;thenasif recollecting somethinghe said -

"Rightright!  Better not give you all now:  you wouldperhapsstay awaythree months if you had fifty pounds.  There are ten; isit notplenty?"

"Yessirbut now you owe me five."

"Comeback for itthen; I am your banker for forty pounds."

"Mr.RochesterI may as well mention another matter of business toyou whileI have the opportunity."

"Matterof business?  I am curious to hear it."

"Youhave as good as informed mesirthat you are going shortly tobemarried?"

"Yes;what then?"

"Inthat casesirAdele ought to go to school:  I am sure you willperceivethe necessity of it."

"Toget her out of my bride's waywho might otherwise walk over herrather tooemphatically?  There's sense in the suggestion; not adoubt ofit.  Adeleas you saymust go to school; and youofcoursemust march straight to--the devil?"

"Ihope notsir; but I must seek another situation somewhere."

"Incourse!" he exclaimedwith a twang of voice and a distortion offeaturesequally fantastic and ludicrous.  He looked at me someminutes.

"Andold Madam Reedor the Missesher daughterswill be solicitedby you toseek a placeI suppose?"

"Nosir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justifyme inasking favours of them--but I shall advertise."

"Youshall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled.  "Atyourperil youadvertise!  I wish I had only offered you a sovereigninstead often pounds.  Give me back nine poundsJane; I've a usefor it."

"Andso have Isir" I returnedputting my hands and my pursebehindme.  "I could not spare the money on any account."

"Littleniggard!" said he"refusing me a pecuniary request! Giveme fivepoundsJane."

"Notfive shillingssir; nor five pence."

"Justlet me look at the cash."

"Nosir; you are not to be trusted."

"Jane!"

"Sir?"

"Promiseme one thing."

"I'llpromise you anythingsirthat I think I am likely toperform."

"Notto advertise:  and to trust this quest of a situation to me.I'll findyou one in time."

"Ishall be glad so to dosirif youin your turnwill promisethat I andAdele shall be both safe out of the house before yourbrideenters it."

"Verywell! very well!  I'll pledge my word on it.  You go to-morrowthen?"

"Yessir; early."

"Shallyou come down to the drawing-room after dinner?"

"NosirI must prepare for the journey."

"Thenyou and I must bid good-bye for a little while?"

"Isuppose sosir."

"Andhow do people perform that ceremony of partingJane?  Teachme; I'mnot quite up to it."

"TheysayFarewellor any other form they prefer."

"Thensay it."

"FarewellMr. Rochesterfor the present."

"Whatmust I say?"

"Thesameif you likesir."

"FarewellMiss Eyrefor the present; is that all?"

"Yes?"

"Itseems stingyto my notionsand dryand unfriendly.  I shouldlikesomething else:  a little addition to the rite.  If oneshookhandsforinstance; but no--that would not content me either.  Soyou'll dono more than say FarewellJane?"

"Itis enoughsir:  as much good-will may be conveyed in one heartyword as inmany."

"Verylikely; but it is blank and cool--'Farewell.'"

"Howlong is he going to stand with his back against that door?" Iaskedmyself; "I want to commence my packing."  Thedinner-bellrangandsuddenly away he boltedwithout another syllable:  I sawhim nomore during the dayand was off before he had risen in themorning.

I reachedthe lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoonof thefirst of May:  I stepped in there before going up to thehall. It was very clean and neat:  the ornamental windows were hungwithlittle white curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate andfire-ironswere burnished brightand the fire burnt clear.  Bessiesat on thehearthnursing her last-bornand Robert and his sisterplayedquietly in a corner.

"Blessyou!--I knew you would come!" exclaimed Mrs. Leavenas Ientered.

"YesBessie" said Iafter I had kissed her; "and I trust I amnottoo late. How is Mrs. Reed?--Alive stillI hope."

"Yesshe is alive; and more sensible and collected than she was.The doctorsays she may linger a week or two yet; but he hardlythinks shewill finally recover."

"Hasshe mentioned me lately?"

"Shewas talking of you only this morningand wishing you wouldcomebutshe is sleeping nowor was ten minutes agowhen I was upat thehouse.  She generally lies in a kind of lethargy all theafternoonand wakes up about six or seven.  Will you rest yourselfhere anhourMissand then I will go up with you?"

Roberthere enteredand Bessie laid her sleeping child in thecradle andwent to welcome him:  afterwards she insisted on mytaking offmy bonnet and having some tea; for she said I looked paleandtired.  I was glad to accept her hospitality; and I submitted toberelieved of my travelling garb just as passively as I used to letherundress me when a child.

Old timescrowded fast back on me as I watched her bustling about--settingout the tea-tray with her best chinacutting bread andbuttertoasting a tea-cakeandbetween whilesgiving littleRobert orJane an occasional tap or pushjust as she used to giveme informer days.  Bessie had retained her quick temper as well asher lightfoot and good looks.

Tea readyI was going to approach the table; but she desired me tosit stillquite in her old peremptory tones.  I must be served atthefiresideshe said; and she placed before me a little roundstand withmy cup and a plate of toastabsolutely as she used toaccommodateme with some privately purloined dainty on a nurserychair: and I smiled and obeyed her as in bygone days.

She wantedto know if I was happy at Thornfield Halland what sortof aperson the mistress was; and when I told her there was only amasterwhether he was a nice gentlemanand if I liked him.  I toldher herather an ugly manbut quite a gentleman; and that hetreated mekindlyand I was content.  Then I went on to describe toher thegay company that had lately been staying at the house; andto thesedetails Bessie listened with interest:  they were preciselyof thekind she relished.

In suchconversation an hour was soon gone:  Bessie restored to memy bonnet&c.andaccompanied by herI quitted the lodge for thehall. It was also accompanied by her that I hadnearly nine yearsagowalked down the path I was now ascending.  On a darkmistyrawmorning in JanuaryI had left a hostile roof with a desperateandembittered heart--a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation--to seekthe chilly harbourage of Lowood:  that bourne so far awayandunexplored.  The same hostile roof now again rose before me: myprospectswere doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart.  I stillfelt as awanderer on the face of the earth; but I experiencedfirmertrust in myself and my own powersand less withering dreadofoppression.  The gaping wound of my wrongstoowas now quitehealed;and the flame of resentment extinguished.

"Youshall go into the breakfast-room first" said Bessieas sheprecededme through the hall; "the young ladies will be there."

In anothermoment I was within that apartment.  There was everyarticle offurniture looking just as it did on the morning I wasfirstintroduced to Mr. Brocklehurst:  the very rug he had stoodupon stillcovered the hearth.  Glancing at the bookcasesI thoughtI coulddistinguish the two volumes of Bewick's British Birdsoccupyingtheir old place on the third shelfand Gulliver's Travelsand theArabian Nights ranged just above.  The inanimate objectswere notchanged; but the living things had altered pastrecognition.

Two youngladies appeared before me; one very tallalmost as tallas MissIngram--very thin toowith a sallow face and severe mien.There wassomething ascetic in her lookwhich was augmented by theextremeplainness of a straight-skirtedblackstuff dressastarchedlinen collarhair combed away from the templesand thenun-likeornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix.  This Ifelt surewas Elizathough I could trace little resemblance to herformerself in that elongated and colourless visage.

The otherwas as certainly Georgiana:  but not the Georgiana Iremembered--theslim and fairy-like girl of eleven.  This was afull-blownvery plump damselfair as waxworkwith handsome andregularfeatureslanguishing blue eyesand ringleted yellow hair.The hue ofher dress was black too; but its fashion was so differentfrom hersister's--so much more flowing and becoming--it looked asstylish asthe other's looked puritanical.

In each ofthe sisters there was one trait of the mother--and onlyone; thethin and pallid elder daughter had her parent's Cairngormeye: the blooming and luxuriant younger girl had her contour of jawandchin--perhaps a little softenedbut still imparting anindescribablehardness to the countenance otherwise so voluptuousand buxom.

Bothladiesas I advancedrose to welcome meand both addressedme by thename of "Miss Eyre."  Eliza's greeting was deliveredin ashortabrupt voicewithout a smile; and then she sat down againfixed hereyes on the fireand seemed to forget me.  Georgianaadded toher "How d'ye do?" several commonplaces about my journeytheweatherand so onuttered in rather a drawling tone:  andaccompaniedby sundry side-glances that measured me from head tofoot--nowtraversing the folds of my drab merino pelisseand nowlingeringon the plain trimming of my cottage bonnet.  Young ladieshave aremarkable way of letting you know that they think you a"quiz"without actually saying the words.  A certainsuperciliousnessof lookcoolness of mannernonchalance of toneexpressfully their sentiments on the pointwithout committing themby anypositive rudeness in word or deed.

A sneerhoweverwhether covert or openhad now no longer thatpower overme it once possessed:  as I sat between my cousinsI wassurprisedto find how easy I felt under the total neglect of the oneand thesemi-sarcastic attentions of the other--Eliza did notmortifynor Georgiana ruffle me.  The fact wasI had other thingsto thinkabout; within the last few months feelings had been stirredin me somuch more potent than any they could raise--pains andpleasuresso much more acute and exquisite had been excited than anyit was intheir power to inflict or bestow--that their airs gave meno concerneither for good or bad.

"Howis Mrs. Reed?" I asked soonlooking calmly at Georgianawhothoughtfit to bridle at the direct addressas if it were anunexpectedliberty.

"Mrs.Reed?  Ah! mamayou mean; she is extremely poorly:  Idoubtif you cansee her to-night."

"If"said I"you would just step upstairs and tell her I am comeI shouldbe much obliged to you."

Georgianaalmost startedand she opened her blue eyes wild andwide. "I know she had a particular wish to see me" I added"andIwould notdefer attending to her desire longer than is absolutelynecessary."

"Mamadislikes being disturbed in an evening" remarked Eliza.  Isoon rosequietly took off my bonnet and glovesuninvitedandsaid Iwould just step out to Bessie--who wasI dared sayin thekitchen--andask her to ascertain whether Mrs. Reed was disposed toreceive meor not to-night.  I wentand having found Bessie anddespatchedher on my errandI proceeded to take further measures.It hadheretofore been my habit always to shrink from arrogance:receivedas I had been to-dayI shoulda year agohave resolvedto quitGateshead the very next morning; nowit was disclosed to meall atonce that that would be a foolish plan.  I had taken ajourney ofa hundred miles to see my auntand I must stay with hertill shewas better--or dead:  as to her daughters' pride or follyI must putit on one sidemake myself independent of it.  So Iaddressedthe housekeeper; asked her to show me a roomtold her Ishouldprobably be a visitor here for a week or twohad my trunkconveyedto my chamberand followed it thither myself:  I metBessie onthe landing.

"Missisis awake" said she; "I have told her you are here: comeand let ussee if she will know you."

I did notneed to be guided to the well-known roomto which I hadso oftenbeen summoned for chastisement or reprimand in former days.I hastenedbefore Bessie; I softly opened the door:  a shaded lightstood onthe tablefor it was now getting dark.  There was thegreatfour-post bed with amber hangings as of old; there the toilet-tablethearmchairand the footstoolat which I had a hundredtimes beensentenced to kneelto ask pardon for offences by meuncommitted. I looked into a certain corner nearhalf-expecting tosee theslim outline of a once dreaded switch which used to lurktherewaiting to leap out imp-like and lace my quivering palm orshrinkingneck.  I approached the bed; I opened the curtains andleant overthe high-piled pillows.

Well did Iremember Mrs. Reed's faceand I eagerly sought thefamiliarimage.  It is a happy thing that time quells the longingsofvengeance and hushes the promptings of rage and aversion.  I hadleft thiswoman in bitterness and hateand I came back to her nowwith noother emotion than a sort of ruth for her great sufferingsand astrong yearning to forget and forgive all injuries--to bereconciledand clasp hands in amity.

Thewell-known face was there:  sternrelentless as ever--there wasthatpeculiar eye which nothing could meltand the somewhat raisedimperiousdespotic eyebrow.  How often had it lowered on me menaceand hate!and how the recollection of childhood's terrors andsorrowsrevived as I traced its harsh line now!  And yet I stoopeddown andkissed her:  she looked at me.

"Isthis Jane Eyre?" she said.

"YesAunt Reed.  How are youdear aunt?"

I had oncevowed that I would never call her aunt again:  I thoughtit no sinto forget and break that vow now.  My fingers had fastenedon herhand which lay outside the sheet:  had she pressed minekindlyIshould at that moment have experienced true pleasure.  Butunimpressionablenatures are not so soon softenednor are naturalantipathiesso readily eradicated.  Mrs. Reed took her hand awayandturning her face rather from meshe remarked that the nightwas warm. Again she regarded me so icilyI felt at once that heropinion ofme--her feeling towards me--was unchanged andunchangeable. I knew by her stony eye--opaque to tendernessindissolubleto tears--that she was resolved to consider me bad tothe last;because to believe me good would give her no generouspleasure: only a sense of mortification.

I feltpainand then I felt ire; and then I felt a determination tosubdueher--to be her mistress in spite both of her nature and herwill. My tears had risenjust as in childhood:  I ordered themback totheir source.  I brought a chair to the bed-head:  I satdown andleaned over the pillow.

"Yousent for me" I said"and I am here; and it is myintention tostay tillI see how you get on."

"Ohof course!  You have seen my daughters?"

"Yes."

"Wellyou may tell them I wish you to stay till I can talk somethingsover with you I have on my mind:  to-night it is too lateand I havea difficulty in recalling them.  But there was somethingI wishedto say--let me see--"

Thewandering look and changed utterance told what wreck had takenplace inher once vigorous frame.  Turning restlesslyshe drew thebedclothesround her; my elbowresting on a corner of the quiltfixed itdown:  she was at once irritated.

"Situp!" said she; "don't annoy me with holding the clothesfast.Are youJane Eyre?"

"I amJane Eyre."

"Ihave had more trouble with that child than any one would believe.Such aburden to be left on my hands--and so much annoyance as shecaused medaily and hourlywith her incomprehensible dispositionand hersudden starts of temperand her continualunnaturalwatchingsof one's movements!  I declare she talked to me once likesomethingmador like a fiend--no child ever spoke or looked as shedid; I wasglad to get her away from the house.  What did they dowith herat Lowood?  The fever broke out thereand many of thepupilsdied.  Shehoweverdid not die:  but I said she did--Iwishshe haddied!"

"Astrange wishMrs. Reed; why do you hate her so?"

"Ihad a dislike to her mother always; for she was my husband's onlysisterand a great favourite with him:  he opposed the family'sdisowningher when she made her low marriage; and when news came ofher deathhe wept like a simpleton.  He would send for the baby;though Ientreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for itsmaintenance. I hated it the first time I set my eyes on it--asicklywhiningpining thing!  It would wail in its cradle allnightlong--not screaming heartily like any other childbutwhimperingand moaning.  Reed pitied it; and he used to nurse it andnotice itas if it had been his own:  moreindeedthan he evernoticedhis own at that age.  He would try to make my childrenfriendlyto the little beggar:  the darlings could not bear itandhe wasangry with them when they showed their dislike.  In his lastillnesshe had it brought continually to his bedside; and but anhourbefore he diedhe bound me by vow to keep the creature.  Iwould assoon have been charged with a pauper brat out of aworkhouse: but he was weaknaturally weak.  John does not at allresemblehis fatherand I am glad of it:  John is like me and likemybrothers--he is quite a Gibson.  OhI wish he would ceasetormentingme with letters for money?  I have no more money to givehim: we are getting poor.  I must send away half the servants andshut uppart of the house; or let it off.  I can never submit to dothat--yethow are we to get on?  Two-thirds of my income goes inpaying theinterest of mortgages.  John gambles dreadfullyandalwaysloses--poor boy!  He is beset by sharpers:  John is sunkanddegraded--hislook is frightful--I feel ashamed for him when I seehim."

She wasgetting much excited.  "I think I had better leave hernow"said I toBessiewho stood on the other side of the bed.

"Perhapsyou hadMiss:  but she often talks in this way towardsnight--inthe morning she is calmer."

I rose. "Stop!" exclaimed Mrs. Reed"there is another thing Iwished tosay.  He threatens me--he continually threatens me withhis owndeathor mine:  and I dream sometimes that I see him laidout with agreat wound in his throator with a swollen andblackenedface.  I am come to a strange pass:  I have heavytroubles. What is to be done?  How is the money to be had?"

Bessie nowendeavoured to persuade her to take a sedative draught:shesucceeded with difficulty.  Soon afterMrs. Reed grew morecomposedand sank into a dozing state.  I then left her.

More thanten days elapsed before I had again any conversation withher. She continued either delirious or lethargic; and the doctorforbadeeverything which could painfully excite her.  MeantimeIgot on aswell as I could with Georgiana and Eliza.  They were verycoldindeedat first.  Eliza would sit half the day sewingreadingor writingand scarcely utter a word either to me or hersister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by thehourandtake no notice of me.  But I was determined not to seem ata loss foroccupation or amusement:  I had brought my drawingmaterialswith meand they served me for both.

Providedwith a case of pencilsand some sheets of paperI used totake aseat apart from themnear the windowand busy myself insketchingfancy vignettesrepresenting any scene that happenedmomentarilyto shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope ofimagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moonand a shipcrossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flagsanda naiad'sheadcrowned with lotus-flowersrising out of them; anelfsitting in a hedge-sparrow's nestunder a wreath of hawthorn-bloom

Onemorning I fell to sketching a face:  what sort of a face it wasto beIdid not care or know.  I took a soft black pencilgave ita broadpointand worked away.  Soon I had traced on the paper abroad andprominent forehead and a square lower outline of visage:thatcontour gave me pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to fillit withfeatures.  Strongly-marked horizontal eyebrows must betracedunder that brow; then followednaturallya well-definednosewitha straight ridge and full nostrils; then a flexible-lookingmouthby no means narrow; then a firm chinwith a decidedcleft downthe middle of it:  of coursesome black whiskers werewantedand some jetty hairtufted on the templesand waved abovetheforehead.  Now for the eyes:  I had left them to the lastbecausethey required the most careful working.  I drew them large;I shapedthem well:  the eyelashes I traced long and sombre; theiridslustrous and large.  "Good! but not quite the thing"Ithoughtas I surveyed the effect:  "they want more force andspirit;"and I wrought the shades blackerthat the lights mightflash morebrilliantly--a happy touch or two secured success.ThereIhad a friend's face under my gaze; and what did it signifythat thoseyoung ladies turned their backs on me?  I looked at it; Ismiled atthe speaking likeness:  I was absorbed and content.

"Isthat a portrait of some one you know?" asked Elizawho hadapproachedme unnoticed.  I responded that it was merely a fancyheadandhurried it beneath the other sheets.  Of courseI lied:it wasinfacta very faithful representation of Mr. Rochester.But whatwas that to heror to any one but myself?  Georgiana alsoadvancedto look.  The other drawings pleased her muchbut shecalledthat "an ugly man." They both seemed surprised at my skill.I offeredto sketch their portraits; and eachin turnsat for apenciloutline.  Then Georgiana produced her album.  I promised tocontributea water-colour drawing:  this put her at once into goodhumour. She proposed a walk in the grounds.  Before we had been outtwo hourswe were deep in a confidential conversation:  she hadfavouredme with a description of the brilliant winter she had spentin Londontwo seasons ago--of the admiration she had there excited--theattention she had received; and I even got hints of the titledconquestshe had made.  In the course of the afternoon and eveningthesehints were enlarged on:  various soft conversations werereportedand sentimental scenes represented; andin shortavolume ofa novel of fashionable life was that day improvised by herfor mybenefit.  The communications were renewed from day to day:theyalways ran on the same theme--herselfher lovesand woes.  Itwasstrange she never once adverted either to her mother's illnessor herbrother's deathor the present gloomy state of the familyprospects. Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences ofpastgaietyand aspirations after dissipations to come.  She passedabout fiveminutes each day in her mother's sick-roomand no more.

Elizastill spoke little:  she had evidently no time to talk.  Inever sawa busier person than she seemed to be; yet it wasdifficultto say what she did:  or ratherto discover any result ofherdiligence.  She had an alarm to call her up early.  I knownothow sheoccupied herself before breakfastbut after that meal shedividedher time into regular portionsand each hour had itsallottedtask.  Three times a day she studied a little bookwhich Ifoundoninspectionwas a Common Prayer Book.  I asked her oncewhat wasthe great attraction of that volumeand she said"theRubric." Three hours she gave to stitchingwith gold threadtheborder ofa square crimson clothalmost large enough for a carpet.In answerto my inquiries after the use of this articlesheinformedme it was a covering for the altar of a new church latelyerectednear Gateshead.  Two hours she devoted to her diary; two toworking byherself in the kitchen-garden; and one to the regulationof heraccounts.  She seemed to want no company; no conversation. Ibelieveshe was happy in her way:  this routine sufficed for her;andnothing annoyed her so much as the occurrence of any incidentwhichforced her to vary its clockwork regularity.

She toldme one eveningwhen more disposed to be communicative thanusualthat John's conductand the threatened ruin of the familyhad been asource of profound affliction to her:  but she had nowshe saidsettled her mindand formed her resolution.  Her ownfortuneshe had taken care to secure; and when her mother died--andit waswholly improbableshe tranquilly remarkedthat she shouldeitherrecover or linger long--she would execute a long-cherishedproject: seek a retirement where punctual habits would bepermanentlysecured from disturbanceand place safe barriersbetweenherself and a frivolous world.  I asked if Georgiana wouldaccompanyher.

"Ofcourse not.  Georgiana and she had nothing in common:  theynever hadhad.  She would not be burdened with her society for anyconsideration. Georgiana should take her own course; and sheElizawould take hers."

Georgianawhen not unburdening her heart to mespent most of hertime inlying on the sofafretting about the dulness of the houseandwishing over and over again that her aunt Gibson would send heraninvitation up to town.  "It would be so much better"she said"ifshe could only get out of the way for a month or twotill allwasover."  I did not ask what she meant by "all beingover" but Isupposeshe referred to the expected decease of her mother and thegloomysequel of funeral rites.  Eliza generally took no more noticeof hersister's indolence and complaints than if no such murmuringloungingobject had been before her.  One dayhoweveras she putaway heraccount-book and unfolded her embroideryshe suddenly tookher upthus -

"Georgianaa more vain and absurd animal than you was certainlyneverallowed to cumber the earth.  You had no right to be bornforyou makeno use of life.  Instead of living forinand withyourselfas a reasonable being oughtyou seek only to fasten yourfeeblenesson some other person's strength:  if no one can be foundwilling toburden her or himself with such a fatweakpuffyuselessthingyou cry out that you are ill-treatedneglectedmiserable. Thentooexistence for you must be a scene ofcontinualchange and excitementor else the world is a dungeon:you mustbe admiredyou must be courtedyou must be flattered--youmust havemusicdancingand society--or you languishyou dieaway. Have you no sense to devise a system which will make youindependentof all effortsand all willsbut your own?  Take oneday; shareit into sections; to each section apportion its task:leave nostray unemployed quarters of an hourten minutesfiveminutes--includeall; do each piece of business in its turn withmethodwith rigid regularity.  The day will close almost before youare awareit has begun; and you are indebted to no one for helpingyou to getrid of one vacant moment:  you have had to seek no one'scompanyconversationsympathyforbearance; you have livedinshortasan independent being ought to do.  Take this advice:  thefirst andlast I shall offer you; then you will not want me or anyone elsehappen what may.  Neglect it--go on as heretoforecravingwhiningand idling--and suffer the results of your idiocyhoweverbad and insuperable they may be.  I tell you this plainly;andlisten:  for though I shall no more repeat what I am now aboutto sayIshall steadily act on it.  After my mother's deathI washmy handsof you:  from the day her coffin is carried to the vault inGatesheadChurchyou and I will be as separate as if we had neverknown eachother.  You need not think that because we chanced to beborn ofthe same parentsI shall suffer you to fasten me down byeven thefeeblest claim:  I can tell you this--if the whole humanraceourselves exceptedwere swept awayand we two stood alone onthe earthI would leave you in the old worldand betake myself tothe new."

She closedher lips.

"Youmight have spared yourself the trouble of delivering thattirade"answered Georgiana.  "Everybody knows you are the mostselfishheartless creature in existence:  and I know your spitefulhatredtowards me:  I have had a specimen of it before in the trickyou playedme about Lord Edwin Vere:  you could not bear me to beraisedabove youto have a titleto be received into circles whereyou darenot show your faceand so you acted the spy and informerand ruinedmy prospects for ever."  Georgiana took out herhandkerchiefand blew her nose for an hour afterwards; Eliza satcoldimpassableand assiduously industrious.

Truegenerous feeling is made small account of by somebut herewere twonatures renderedthe one intolerably acridthe otherdespicablysavourless for the want of it.  Feeling without judgmentis a washydraught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is toobitter andhusky a morsel for human deglutition.

It was awet and windy afternoon:  Georgiana had fallen asleep onthe sofaover the perusal of a novel; Eliza was gone to attend asaint's-dayservice at the new church--for in matters of religionshe was arigid formalist:  no weather ever prevented the punctualdischargeof what she considered her devotional duties; fair orfoulshewent to church thrice every Sundayand as often on week-days asthere were prayers.

Ibethought myself to go upstairs and see how the dying woman spedwho laythere almost unheeded:  the very servants paid her but aremittentattention:  the hired nursebeing little looked afterwould slipout of the room whenever she could.  Bessie was faithful;but shehad her own family to mindand could only come occasionallyto thehall.  I found the sick-room unwatchedas I had expected:no nursewas there; the patient lay stilland seemingly lethargic;her lividface sunk in the pillows:  the fire was dying in thegrate. I renewed the fuelre-arranged the bedclothesgazed awhileon her whocould not now gaze on meand then I moved away to thewindow.

The rainbeat strongly against the panesthe wind blewtempestuously: "One lies there" I thought"who will soon bebeyond thewar of earthly elements.  Whither will that spirit--nowstrugglingto quit its material tenement--flit when at lengthreleased?"

Inpondering the great mysteryI thought of Helen Burnsrecalledher dyingwords--her faith--her doctrine of the equality ofdisembodiedsouls.  I was still listening in thought to her well-rememberedtones--still picturing her pale and spiritual aspectherwastedface and sublime gazeas she lay on her placid deathbedandwhisperedher longing to be restored to her divine Father's bosom--when afeeble voice murmured from the couch behind:  "Who isthat?"

I knewMrs. Reed had not spoken for days:  was she reviving?  Iwentup to her.

"Itis IAunt Reed."

"Who--I?"was her answer.  "Who are you?" looking at me withsurpriseand a sort of alarmbut still not wildly.  "You are quitea strangerto me--where is Bessie?"

"Sheis at the lodgeaunt."

"Aunt"she repeated.  "Who calls me aunt?  You are not one oftheGibsons;and yet I know you--that faceand the eyes and foreheadare quietfamiliar to me:  you are like--whyyou are like JaneEyre!"

I saidnothing:  I was afraid of occasioning some shock by declaringmyidentity.

"Yet"said she"I am afraid it is a mistake:  my thoughtsdeceiveme. I wished to see Jane Eyreand I fancy a likeness where noneexists: besidesin eight years she must be so changed."  I nowgentlyassured her that I was the person she supposed and desired meto be: and seeing that I was understoodand that her senses werequitecollectedI explained how Bessie had sent her husband tofetch mefrom Thornfield.

"I amvery illI know" she said ere long.  "I was tryingto turnmyself afew minutes sinceand find I cannot move a limb.  It is aswell Ishould ease my mind before I die:  what we think little of inhealthburdens us at such an hour as the present is to me.  Is thenursehere? or is there no one in the room but you?"

I assuredher we were alone.

"WellI have twice done you a wrong which I regret now.  One was inbreakingthe promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as myown child;the other--" she stopped.  "After allit is of nogreatimportanceperhaps" she murmured to herself:  "and then I maygetbetter;and to humble myself so to her is painful."

She madean effort to alter her positionbut failed:  her facechanged;she seemed to experience some inward sensation--theprecursorperhapsof the last pang.

"WellI must get it over.  Eternity is before me:  I had bettertellher.--Go to my dressing-caseopen itand take out a letteryou willsee there."

I obeyedher directions.  "Read the letter" she said.

It wasshortand thus conceived:-

 

"Madam--Willyou have the goodness to send me the address of mynieceJane Eyreand to tell me how she is?  It is my intention towriteshortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira.  Providencehasblessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I amunmarriedand childlessI wish to adopt her during my lifeandbequeathher at my death whatever I may have to leave.--I amMadam&c.&c.

"JOHNEYREMadeira."

 

It wasdated three years back.

"Whydid I never hear of this?" I asked.

"BecauseI disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend ahand inlifting you to prosperity.  I could not forget your conductto meJane--the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone inwhich youdeclared you abhorred me the worst of anybody in theworld; theunchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed thatthe verythought of me made you sickand asserted that I hadtreatedyou with miserable cruelty.  I could not forget my ownsensationswhen you thus started up and poured out the venom of yourmind: I felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed hadlooked upat me with human eyes and cursed me in a man's voice.--Bring mesome water!  Ohmake haste!"

"DearMrs. Reed" said Ias I offered her the draught she required"thinkno more of all thislet it pass away from your mind.Forgive mefor my passionate language:  I was a child then; eightnine yearshave passed since that day."

She heedednothing of what I said; but when she had tasted the waterand drawnbreathshe went on thus -

"Itell you I could not forget it; and I took my revenge:  for youto beadopted by your uncleand placed in a state of ease andcomfortwas what I could not endure.  I wrote to him; I said I wassorry forhis disappointmentbut Jane Eyre was dead:  she had diedof typhusfever at Lowood.  Now act as you please:  write andcontradictmy assertion--expose my falsehood as soon as you like.You werebornI thinkto be my torment:  my last hour is racked bytherecollection of a deed whichbut for youI should never havebeentempted to commit."

"Ifyou could but be persuaded to think no more of itauntand toregard mewith kindness and forgiveness"

"Youhave a very bad disposition" said she"and one to thisday Ifeel itimpossible to understand:  how for nine years you could bepatientand quiescent under any treatmentand in the tenth breakout allfire and violenceI can never comprehend."

"Mydisposition is not so bad as you think:  I am passionatebutnotvindictive.  Many a timeas a little childI should have beenglad tolove you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly tobereconciled to you now:  kiss meaunt."

Iapproached my cheek to her lips:  she would not touch it. Shesaid Ioppressed her by leaning over the bedand again demandedwater. As I laid her down--for I raised her and supported her on myarm whileshe drank--I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand withmine: the feeble fingers shrank from my touch--the glazing eyesshunned mygaze.

"Lovemethenor hate meas you will" I said at last"youhavemy fulland free forgiveness:  ask now for God'sand be at peace."

Poorsuffering woman! it was too late for her to make now theeffort tochange her habitual frame of mind:  livingshe had everhatedme--dyingshe must hate me still.

The nursenow enteredand Bessie followed.  I yet lingered half-an-hourlongerhoping to see some sign of amity:  but she gave none.She wasfast relapsing into stupor; nor did her mind again rally:at twelveo'clock that night she died.  I was not present to closeher eyesnor were either of her daughters.  They came to tell usthe nextmorning that all was over.  She was by that time laid out.Eliza andI went to look at her:  Georgianawho had burst out intoloudweepingsaid she dared not go.  There was stretched SarahReed'sonce robust and active framerigid and still:  her eye offlint wascovered with its cold lid; her brow and strong traits woreyet theimpress of her inexorable soul.  A strange and solemn objectwas thatcorpse to me.  I gazed on it with gloom and pain:  nothingsoftnothing sweetnothing pityingor hopefulor subduing did itinspire;only a grating anguish for HER woes--not MY loss--and asombretearless dismay at the fearfulness of death in such a form.

Elizasurveyed her parent calmly.  After a silence of some minutessheobserved -

"Withher constitution she should have lived to a good old age:  herlife wasshortened by trouble."  And then a spasm constricted hermouth foran instant:  as it passed away she turned and left theroomandso did I.  Neither of us had dropt a tear.

 

CHAPTERXXII

 

Mr.Rochester had given me but one week's leave of absence:  yet amonthelapsed before I quitted Gateshead.  I wished to leaveimmediatelyafter the funeralbut Georgiana entreated me to staytill shecould get off to Londonwhither she was now at lastinvited byher uncleMr. Gibsonwho had come down to direct hissister'sinterment and settle the family affairs.  Georgiana saidshedreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neithersympathyin her dejectionsupport in her fearsnor aid in herpreparations;so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfishlamentationsas well as I couldand did my best in sewing for herandpacking her dresses.  It is truethat while I workedshe wouldidle; andI thought to myself"If you and I were destined to livealwaystogethercousinwe would commence matters on a differentfooting. I should not settle tamely down into being the forbearingparty; Ishould assign you your share of labourand compel you toaccomplishitor else it should be left undone:  I should insistalsoonyour keeping some of those drawlinghalf-insincerecomplaintshushed in your own breast.  It is only because ourconnectionhappens to be very transitoryand comes at a peculiarlymournfulseasonthat I consent thus to render it so patient andcomplianton my part."

At last Isaw Georgiana off; but now it was Eliza's turn to requestme to stayanother week.  Her plans required all her time andattentionshe said; she was about to depart for some unknownbourne;and all day long she stayed in her own roomher door boltedwithinfilling trunksemptying drawersburning papersandholding nocommunication with any one.  She wished me to look afterthe houseto see callersand answer notes of condolence.

Onemorning she told me I was at liberty.  "And" sheadded"I amobliged toyou for your valuable services and discreet conduct!There issome difference between living with such an one as you andwithGeorgiana:  you perform your own part in life and burden noone. To-morrow" she continued"I set out for the Continent. Ishall takeup my abode in a religious house near Lisle--a nunneryyou wouldcall it; there I shall be quiet and unmolested.  I shalldevotemyself for a time to the examination of the Roman Catholicdogmasand to a careful study of the workings of their system:  ifI find itto beas I half suspect it isthe one best calculated toensure thedoing of all things decently and in orderI shallembracethe tenets of Rome and probably take the veil."

I neitherexpressed surprise at this resolution nor attempted todissuadeher from it.  "The vocation will fit you to a hair" Ithought: "much good may it do you!"

When wepartedshe said:  "Good-byecousin Jane Eyre; I wish youwell: you have some sense."

I thenreturned:  "You are not without sensecousin Eliza; butwhatyou haveI supposein another year will be walled up alive in aFrenchconvent.  Howeverit is not my businessand so it suitsyouIdon't much care."

"Youare in the right" said she; and with these words we each wentourseparate way.  As I shall not have occasion to refer either toher or hersister againI may as well mention herethat Georgianamade anadvantageous match with a wealthy worn-out man of fashionand thatEliza actually took the veiland is at this day superiorof theconvent where she passed the period of her novitiateandwhich sheendowed with her fortune.

How peoplefeel when they are returning home from an absencelongor shortI did not know:  I had never experienced the sensation.  Ihad knownwhat it was to come back to Gateshead when a child after along walkto be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and laterwhatit was tocome back from church to Lowoodto long for a plenteousmeal and agood fireand to be unable to get either.  Neither ofthesereturnings was very pleasant or desirable:  no magnet drew meto a givenpointincreasing in its strength of attraction thenearer Icame.  The return to Thornfield was yet to be tried.

My journeyseemed tedious--very tedious:  fifty miles one dayanightspent at an inn; fifty miles the next day.  During the firsttwelvehours I thought of Mrs. Reed in her last moments; I saw herdisfiguredand discoloured faceand heard her strangely alteredvoice. I mused on the funeral daythe coffinthe hearsetheblacktrain of tenants and servants--few was the number ofrelatives--thegaping vaultthe silent churchthe solemn service.Then Ithought of Eliza and Georgiana; I beheld one the cynosure ofaball-roomthe other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt onandanalysed their separate peculiarities of person and character.Theevening arrival at the great town of--scattered these thoughts;night gavethem quite another turn:  laid down on my traveller'sbedIleft reminiscence for anticipation.

I wasgoing 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 theinterim ofmy absence:  the party at the hall was dispersed; Mr.Rochesterhad left for London three weeks agobut he was thenexpectedto return in a fortnight.  Mrs. Fairfax surmised that hewas goneto make arrangements for his weddingas he had talked ofpurchasinga new carriage:  she said the idea of his marrying MissIngramstill seemed strange to her; but from what everybody saidand fromwhat she had herself seenshe could no longer doubt thatthe eventwould shortly take place.  "You would be strangelyincredulousif you did doubt it" was my mental comment.  "I don'tdoubt it."

Thequestion followed"Where was I to go?"  I dreamt ofMiss Ingramall thenight:  in a vivid morning dream I saw her closing the gatesofThornfield against me and pointing me out another road; and Mr.Rochesterlooked on with his arms folded--smiling sardonicallyasit seemedat both her and me.

I had notnotified to Mrs. Fairfax the exact day of my return; for Idid notwish either car or carriage to meet me at Millcote.  Iproposedto walk the distance quietly by myself; and very quietlyafterleaving my box in the ostler's caredid I slip away from theGeorgeInnabout six o'clock of a June eveningand take the oldroad toThornfield:  a road which lay chiefly through fieldsandwas nowlittle frequented.

It was nota bright or splendid summer eveningthough fair andsoft: the haymakers were at work all along the road; and the skythough farfrom cloudlesswas such as promised well for the future:itsblue--where blue was visible--was mild and settledand itscloudstrata high and thin.  The westtoowas warm:  no waterygleamchilled it--it seemed as if there was a fire litan altarburningbehind its screen of marbled vapourand out of aperturesshone agolden redness.

I feltglad as the road shortened before me:  so glad that I stoppedonce toask myself what that joy meant:  and to remind reason thatit was notto my home I was goingor to a permanent resting-placeor to aplace where fond friends looked out for me and waited myarrival. "Mrs. Fairfax will smile you a calm welcometo be sure"said I;"and little Adele will clap her hands and jump to see you:but youknow very well you are thinking of another than theyandthat he isnot thinking of you."

But whatis so headstrong as youth?  What so blind as inexperience?Theseaffirmed that it was pleasure enough to have the privilege ofagainlooking on Mr. Rochesterwhether he looked on me or not; andtheyadded--"Hasten! hasten! be with him while you may:  but afewmore daysor weeksat mostand you are parted from him for ever!"And then Istrangled a new-born agony--a deformed thing which Icould notpersuade myself to own and rear--and ran on.

They aremaking haytooin Thornfield meadows:  or ratherthelabourersare just quitting their workand returning home withtheirrakes on their shouldersnowat the hour I arrive.  I havebut afield or two to traverseand then I shall cross the road andreach thegates.  How full the hedges are of roses!  But I have notime togather any; I want to be at the house.  I passed a tallbriarshooting leafy and flowery branches across the path; I seethe narrowstile with stone steps; and I see--Mr. Rochester sittingthereabook and a pencil in his hand; he is writing.

Wellheis not a ghost; yet every nerve I have is unstrung:  for amoment Iam beyond my own mastery.  What does it mean?  I did notthink Ishould tremble in this way when I saw himor lose my voiceor thepower of motion in his presence.  I will go back as soon as Ican stir: I need not make an absolute fool of myself.  I knowanotherway to the house.  It does not signify if I knew twentyways; forhe has seen me.

"Hillo!"he cries; and he puts up his book and his pencil.  "Thereyou are! Come onif you please."

I supposeI do come on; though in what fashion I know not; beingscarcelycognisant of my movementsand solicitous only to appearcalm; andabove allto control the working muscles of my face--which Ifeel rebel insolently against my willand struggle toexpresswhat I had resolved to conceal.  But I have a veil--it isdown: I may make shift yet to behave with decent composure.

"Andthis is Jane Eyre?  Are you coming from Millcoteand on foot?Yes--justone of your tricks:  not to send for a carriageand comeclatteringover street and road like a common mortalbut to stealinto thevicinage of your home along with twilightjust as if youwere adream or a shade.  What the deuce have you done with yourselfthis lastmonth?"

"Ihave been with my auntsirwho is dead."

"Atrue Janian reply!  Good angels be my guard!  She comesfrom theotherworld--from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me sowhen shemeets me alone here in the gloaming!  If I daredI'd touchyoutosee if you are substance or shadowyou elf!--but I'd assoon offerto take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh.Truant!truant!" he addedwhen he had paused an instant.  "Absentfrom me awhole monthand forgetting me quiteI'll be sworn!"

I knewthere would be pleasure in meeting my master againeventhoughbroken by the fear that he was so soon to cease to be mymasterand by the knowledge that I was nothing to him:  but therewas everin Mr. Rochester (so at least I thought) such a wealth ofthe powerof communicating happinessthat to taste but of thecrumbs hescattered to stray and stranger birds like mewas tofeastgenially.  His last words were balm:  they seemed to implythat itimported something to him whether I forgot him or not.  Andhe hadspoken of Thornfield as my home--would that it were my home!

He did notleave the stileand I hardly liked to ask to go by.  Iinquiredsoon if he had not been to London.

"Yes;I suppose you found that out by second-sight."

"Mrs.Fairfax told me in a letter."

"Anddid she inform you what I went to do?"

"Ohyessir!  Everybody knew your errand."

"Youmust see the carriageJaneand tell me if you don't think itwill suitMrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won't look likeQueenBoadicealeaning back against those purple cushions.  I wishJaneIwere a trifle better adapted to match with her externally.Tell menowfairy as you are--can't you give me a charmor aphilteror something of that sortto make me a handsome man?"

"Itwould be past the power of magicsir;" andin thoughtIadded"Aloving eye is all the charm needed:  to such you arehandsomeenough; or rather your sternness has a power beyondbeauty."

Mr.Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumento meincomprehensible:  in the present instance he took no noticeof myabrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certainsmile hehad of his ownand which he used but on rare occasions.He seemedto think it too good for common purposes:  it was the realsunshineof feeling--he shed it over me now.

"PassJanet" said hemaking room for me to cross the stile: "goup homeand stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend'sthreshold."

All I hadnow to do was to obey him in silence:  no need for me tocolloquisefurther.  I got over the stile without a wordand meantto leavehim calmly.  An impulse held me fast--a force turned meround. I said--or something in me said for meand in spite of me -

"ThankyouMr. Rochesterfor your great kindness.  I am strangelyglad toget back again to you:  and wherever you are is my home--myonlyhome."

I walkedon so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me hadhe tried. Little Adele was half wild with delight when she saw me.Mrs.Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness.  Leahsmiledand even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee.  This wasverypleasant;there is no happiness like that of being loved by yourfellow-creaturesand feeling that your presence is an addition totheircomfort.

I thatevening shut my eyes resolutely against the future:  Istopped mycars against the voice that kept warning me of nearseparationand coming grief.  When tea was over and Mrs. Fairfax hadtaken herknittingand I had assumed a low seat near herandAdelekneeling on the carpethad nestled close up to meand asense ofmutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring ofgoldenpeaceI uttered a silent prayer that we might not be partedfar orsoon; but whenas we thus satMr. Rochester enteredunannouncedand looking at usseemed to take pleasure in thespectacleof a group so amicable--when he said he supposed the oldlady wasall right now that she had got her adopted daughter backagainandadded that he saw Adele was "prete e croquer sa petitemamanAnglaise"--I half ventured to hope that he wouldeven afterhismarriagekeep us together somewhere under the shelter of hisprotectionand not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.

Afortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield Hall.Nothingwas said of the master's marriageand I saw no preparationgoing onfor such an event.  Almost every day I asked Mrs. Fairfaxif she hadyet heard anything decided:  her answer was always in thenegative. Once she said she had actually put the question to Mr.Rochesteras to when he was going to bring his bride home; but hehadanswered her only by a joke and one of his queer looksand shecould nottell what to make of him.

One thingspecially surprised meand that wasthere were nojourneyingsbackward and forwardno visits to Ingram Park:  to besure itwas twenty miles offon the borders of another county; butwhat wasthat distance to an ardent lover?  To so practised andindefatigablea horseman as Mr. Rochesterit would be but amorning'sride.  I began to cherish hopes I had no right toconceive: that the match was broken off; that rumour had beenmistaken;that one or both parties had changed their minds.  I usedto look atmy master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but Icould notremember the time when it had been so uniformly clear ofclouds orevil feelings.  Ifin the moments I and my pupil spentwith himI lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejectionhebecameeven gay.  Never had he called me more frequently to hispresence;never been kinder to me when there--andalas! never had Iloved himso well.

 

CHAPTERXXIII

 

A splendidMidsummer shone over England:  skies so puresuns soradiant aswere then seen in long successionseldom favour evensinglyour wave-girt land.  It was as if a band of Italian days hadcome fromthe Southlike a flock of glorious passenger birdsandlighted torest them on the cliffs of Albion.  The hay was all gotin; thefields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roadswhite andbaked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and woodfull-leavedand deeply tintedcontrasted well with the sunny hue ofthecleared meadows between.

OnMidsummer-eveAdeleweary with gathering wild strawberries inHay Lanehalf the dayhad gone to bed with the sun.  I watched herdropasleepand when I left herI sought the garden.

It was nowthe sweetest hour of the twenty-four:- "Day its fervidfires hadwasted" and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorchedsummit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state--pure of thepomp ofclouds--spread a solemn purpleburning with the light ofred jeweland furnace flame at one pointon one hill-peakandextendinghigh and widesoft and still softerover half heaven.The easthad its own charm or fine deep blueand its own modestgemacasino and solitary star:  soon it would boast the moon; butshe wasyet beneath the horizon.

I walked awhile on the pavement; but a subtlewell-known scent--that of acigar--stole from some window; I saw the library casementopen ahandbreadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I wentapart intothe orchard.  No nook in the grounds more sheltered andmoreEden-like; it was full of treesit bloomed with flowers:  avery highwall shut it out from the courton one side; on theotherabeech avenue screened it from the lawn.  At the bottom wasa sunkfence; its sole separation from lonely fields:  a windingwalkbordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnutcircled at the base by a seatled down to the fence.Here onecould wander unseen.  While such honey-dew fellsuchsilencereignedsuch gloaming gatheredI felt as if I could hauntsuch shadefor ever; but in threading the flower and fruit parterresat theupper part of the enclosureenticed there by the light thenow risingmoon cast on this more open quartermy step is stayed--not bysoundnot by sightbut once more by a warning fragrance.

Sweet-briarand southernwoodjasminepinkand rose have long beenyieldingtheir evening sacrifice of incense:  this new scent isneither ofshrub nor flower; it is--I know it well--it is Mr.Rochester'scigar.  I look round and I listen.  I see trees ladenwithripening fruit.  I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half amile off;no moving form is visibleno coming step audible; butthatperfume increases:  I must flee.  I make for the wicketleadingto theshrubberyand I see Mr. Rochester entering.  I step asideinto theivy recess; he will not stay long:  he will soon returnwhence hecameand if I sit still he will never see me.

Butno--eventide is as pleasant to him as to meand this antiquegarden asattractive; and he strolls onnow lifting the gooseberry-treebranches to look at the fruitlarge as plumswith which theyare laden;now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stoopingtowards aknot of flowerseither to inhale their fragrance or toadmire thedew-beads on their petals.  A great moth goes humming byme; italights on a plant at Mr. Rochester's foot:  he sees itandbends toexamine it.

"Nowhe has his back towards me" thought I"and he is occupiedtoo;perhapsif I walk softlyI can slip away unnoticed."

I trode onan edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravelmight notbetray me:  he was standing among the beds at a yard ortwodistant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engagedhim. "I shall get by very well" I meditated.  As I crossedhisshadowthrown long over the garden by the moonnot yet risen highhe saidquietlywithout turning -

"Janecome and look at this fellow."

I had madeno noise:  he had not eyes behind--could his shadow feel?I startedat firstand then I approached him.

"Lookat his wings" said he"he reminds me rather of a WestIndianinsect;one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover inEngland;there! he is flown."

The mothroamed away.  I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr.Rochesterfollowed meand when we reached the wickethe said -

"Turnback:  on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house;and surelyno one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus atmeetingwith moonrise."

It is oneof my faultsthat though my tongue is sometimes promptenough atan answerthere are times when it sadly fails me inframing anexcuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisiswhena facileword or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me outof painfulembarrassment.  I did not like to walk at this hour alonewith Mr.Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find areason toallege for leaving him.  I followed with lagging stepandthoughtsbusily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but hehimselflooked so composed and so grave alsoI became ashamed offeelingany confusion:  the evil--if evil existent or prospectivetherewas--seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious andquiet.

"Jane"he recommencedas we entered the laurel walkand slowlystrayeddown in the direction of the sunk fence and the horse-chestnut"Thornfield is a pleasant place in summeris it not?"

"Yessir."

"Youmust have become in some degree attached to the house--youwho havean eye for natural beautiesand a good deal of the organofAdhesiveness?"

"I amattached to itindeed."

"Andthough I don't comprehend how it isI perceive you haveacquired adegree of regard for that foolish little child Adeletoo; andeven for simple dame Fairfax?"

"Yessir; in different waysI have an affection for both."

"Andwould be sorry to part with them?"

"Yes."

"Pity!"he saidand sighed and paused.  "It is always the way ofevents inthis life" he continued presently:  "no sooner haveyougotsettled in a pleasant resting-placethan a voice calls out toyou torise and move onfor the hour of repose is expired."

"MustI move onsir?" I asked.  "Must I leave Thornfield?"

"Ibelieve you mustJane.  I am sorryJanetbut I believe indeedyou must."

This was ablow:  but I did not let it prostrate me.

"WellsirI shall be ready when the order to march comes."

"Itis come now--I must give it to-night."

"Thenyou ARE going to be marriedsir?"

"Ex-act-ly--pre-cise-ly: with your usual acutenessyou have hitthe nailstraight on the head."

"Soonsir?"

"Verysoonmy--that isMiss Eyre:  and you'll rememberJanethefirst timeIor Rumourplainly intimated to you that it was myintentionto put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noosetoenter intothe holy estate of matrimony--to take Miss Ingram to mybosominshort (she's an extensive armful:  but that's not to thepoint--onecan't have too much of such a very excellent thing as mybeautifulBlanche):  wellas I was saying--listen to meJane!You're notturning your head to look after more mothsare you?That wasonly a lady-clockchild'flying away home.'  I wish toremind youthat it was you who first said to mewith thatdiscretionI respect in you--with that foresightprudenceandhumilitywhich befit your responsible and dependent position--thatin case Imarried Miss Ingramboth you and little Adele had bettertrotforthwith.  I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in thissuggestionon the character of my beloved; indeedwhen you are farawayJanetI'll try to forget it:  I shall notice only its wisdom;which issuch that I have made it my law of action.  Adele must goto school;and youMiss Eyremust get a new situation."

"YessirI will advertise immediately:  and meantimeI suppose--"I wasgoing to say"I suppose I may stay heretill I find anothershelter tobetake myself to:" but I stoppedfeeling it would not doto risk along sentencefor my voice was not quite under command.

"Inabout a month I hope to be a bridegroom" continued Mr.Rochester;"and in the interimI shall myself look out foremploymentand an asylum for you."

"Thankyousir; I am sorry to give--"

"Ohno need to apologise!  I consider that when a dependent doesher dutyas well as you have done yoursshe has a sort of claimupon heremployer for any little assistance he can convenientlyrenderher; indeed I have alreadythrough my future mother-in-lawheard of aplace that I think will suit:  it is to undertake theeducationof the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall ofBitternuttLodgeConnaughtIreland.  You'll like IrelandI think:they'resuch warm-hearted people therethey say."

"Itis a long way offsir."

"Nomatter--a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage orthedistance."

"Notthe voyagebut the distance:  and then the sea is a barrier--"

"FromwhatJane?"

"FromEngland and from Thornfield:  and--"

"Well?"

"FromYOUsir."

I saidthis almost involuntarilyandwith as little sanction offree willmy tears gushed out.  I did not cry so as to be heardhowever; Iavoided sobbing.  The thought of Mrs. O'Gall andBitternuttLodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought ofall thebrine and foamdestinedas it seemedto rush between meand themaster at whose side I now walkedand coldest theremembranceof the wider ocean--wealthcastecustom intervenedbetween meand what I naturally and inevitably loved.

"Itis a long way" I again said.

"Itisto be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt LodgeConnaughtIrelandIshall never see you againJane:  that's morally certain.I never goover to Irelandnot having myself much of a fancy forthecountry.  We have been good friendsJane; have we not?"

"Yessir."

"Andwhen friends are on the eve of separationthey like to spendthe littletime that remains to them close to each other.  Come!we'll talkover the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour orsowhilethe stars enter into their shining life up in heavenyonder: here is the chestnut tree:  here is the bench at its oldroots. Comewe will sit there in peace to-nightthough we shouldnever morebe destined to sit there together."  He seated me andhimself.

"Itis a long way to IrelandJanetand I am sorry to send mylittlefriend on such weary travels:  but if I can't do betterhowis it tobe helped?  Are you anything akin to medo you thinkJane?"

I couldrisk no sort of answer by this time:  my heart was still.

"Because"he said"I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard toyou--especiallywhen you are near meas now:  it is as if I had astringsomewhere under my left ribstightly and inextricablyknotted toa similar string situated in the corresponding quarter ofyourlittle frame.  And if that boisterous Channeland two hundredmiles orso of land come broad between usI am afraid that cord ofcommunionwill be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I shouldtake tobleeding inwardly.  As for you--you'd forget me."

"ThatI NEVER shouldsir:  you know--"  Impossible toproceed.

"Janedo you hear that nightingale singing in the wood?  Listen!"

InlisteningI sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what Iendured nolonger; I was obliged to yieldand I was shaken fromhead tofoot with acute distress.  When I did speakit was only toexpress animpetuous wish that I had never been bornor never cometoThornfield.

"Becauseyou are sorry to leave it?"

Thevehemence of emotionstirred by grief and love within mewasclaimingmasteryand struggling for full swayand asserting aright topredominateto overcometo liveriseand reign at last:yes--andto speak.

"Igrieve to leave Thornfield:  I love Thornfield:- I love itbecause Ihave lived in it a full and delightful life--momentarilyat least. I have not been trampled on.  I have not been petrified.I have notbeen buried with inferior mindsand excluded from everyglimpse ofcommunion with what is bright and energetic and high.  Ihavetalkedface to facewith what I reverencewith what Idelightin--with an originala vigorousan expanded mind.  I haveknown youMr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguishto feel Iabsolutely must be torn from you for ever.  I see thenecessityof departure; and it is like looking on the necessity ofdeath."

"Wheredo you see the necessity?" he asked suddenly.

"Where? Yousirhave placed it before me."

"Inwhat shape?"

"Inthe shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman--yourbride."

"Mybride!  What bride?  I have no bride!"

"Butyou will have."

"Yes;--Iwill!--I will!"  He set his teeth.

"ThenI must go:- you have said it yourself."

"No: you must stay!  I swear it--and the oath shall be kept."

"Itell you I must go!" I retortedroused to something likepassion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do youthink I aman automaton?--a machine without feelings? and can bearto have mymorsel of bread snatched from my lipsand my drop oflivingwater dashed from my cup?  Do you thinkbecause I am poorobscureplainand littleI am soulless and heartless?  You thinkwrong!--Ihave as much soul as you--and full as much heart!  And ifGod hadgifted me with some beauty and much wealthI should havemade it ashard for you to leave meas it is now for me to leaveyou. I am not talking to you now through the medium of customconventionalitiesnor even of mortal flesh;--it is my spirit thataddressesyour spirit; just as if both had passed through the graveand westood at God's feetequal--as we are!"

"Aswe are!" repeated Mr. Rochester--"so" he addedenclosing me inhis arms. Gathering me to his breastpressing his lips on my lips:"soJane!"

"Yessosir" I rejoined:  "and yet not so; for you are amarriedman--or asgood as a married manand wed to one inferior to you--toone withwhom you have no sympathy--whom I do not believe you trulylove; forI have seen and heard you sneer at her.  I would scornsuch aunion:  therefore I am better than you--let me go!"

"WhereJane?  To Ireland?"

"Yes--toIreland.  I have spoken my mindand can go anywhere now."

"Janebe still; don't struggle solike a wild frantic bird that isrendingits own plumage in its desperation."

"I amno bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being withanindependent willwhich I now exert to leave you."

Anothereffort set me at libertyand I stood erect before him.

"Andyour will shall decide your destiny" he said:  "Ioffer you myhandmyheartand a share of all my possessions."

"Youplay a farcewhich I merely laugh at."

"Iask you to pass through life at my side--to be my second selfand bestearthly companion."

"Forthat fate you have already made your choiceand must abide byit."

"Janebe still a few moments:  you are over-excited:  I will bestilltoo."

A waft ofwind came sweeping down the laurel-walkand trembledthroughthe boughs of the chestnut:  it wandered away--away--to anindefinitedistance--it died.  The nightingale's song was then theonly voiceof the hour:  in listening to itI again wept.  Mr.Rochestersat quietlooking at me gently and seriously.  Some timepassedbefore he spoke; he at last said -

"Cometo my sideJaneand let us explain and understand oneanother."

"Iwill never again come to your side:  I am torn away nowandcannotreturn."

"ButJaneI summon you as my wife:  it is you only I intend tomarry."

I wassilent:  I thought he mocked me.

"ComeJane--come hither."

"Yourbride stands between us."

He roseand with a stride reached me.

"Mybride is here" he saidagain drawing me to him"becausemyequal ishereand my likeness.  Janewill you marry me?"

Still Idid not answerand still I writhed myself from his grasp:for I wasstill incredulous.

"Doyou doubt meJane?"

"Entirely."

"Youhave no faith in me?"

"Nota whit."

"Am Ia liar in your eyes?" he asked passionately.  "Littlescepticyou SHALLbe convinced.  What love have I for Miss Ingram?  None:and thatyou know.  What love has she for me?  None:  as I havetakenpains to prove:  I caused a rumour to reach her that myfortunewas not a third of what was supposedand after that Ipresentedmyself to see the result; it was coldness both from herand hermother.  I would not--I could not--marry Miss Ingram. You--youstrangeyou almost unearthly thing!--I love as my own flesh.You--poorand obscureand small and plain as you are--I entreat toaccept meas a husband."

"Whatme!" I ejaculatedbeginning in his earnestness--andespeciallyin his incivility--to credit his sincerity:  "me who havenot afriend in the world but you-  if you are my friend:  not ashillingbut what you have given me?"

"YouJaneI must have you for my own--entirely my own.  Will yoube mine? Say yesquickly."

"Mr.Rochesterlet me look at your face:  turn to the moonlight."

"Why?"

"BecauseI want to read your countenance--turn!"

"There!you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpledscratchedpage.  Read on:  only make hastefor I suffer."

His facewas very much agitated and very much flushedand therewerestrong workings in the featuresand strange gleams in the eyes

"OhJaneyou torture me!" he exclaimed.  "With thatsearching andyetfaithful and generous lookyou torture me!"

"Howcan I do that?  If you are trueand your offer realmy onlyfeelingsto you must be gratitude and devotion--they cannottorture."

"Gratitude!"he ejaculated; and added wildly--"Jane accept mequickly. SayEdward--give me my name--Edward--I will marry you."

"Areyou in earnest?  Do you truly love me?  Do you sincerelywishme to beyour wife?"

"Ido; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy youI swear it."

"ThensirI will marry you."

"Edward--mylittle wife!"

"DearEdward!"

"Cometo me--come to me entirely now" said he; and addedin hisdeepesttonespeaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine"Makemy happiness--I will make yours."

"Godpardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not withme:I haveherand will hold her."

"Thereis no one to meddlesir.  I have no kindred to interfere."

"No--thatis the best of it" he said.  And if I had loved him lessI shouldhave thought his accent and look of exultation savage; butsitting byhimroused from the nightmare of parting--called to theparadiseof union--I thought only of the bliss given me to drink insoabundant a flow.  Again and again he said"Are you happyJane?"And againand again I answered"Yes."  After which he murmured"Itwillatone--it will atone.  Have I not found her friendlessandcoldandcomfortless?  Will I not guardand cherishand solaceher? Is there not love in my heartand constancy in my resolves?It willexpiate at God's tribunal.  I know my Maker sanctions what Ido. For the world's judgment--I wash my hands thereof.  For man'sopinion--Idefy it."

But whathad befallen the night?  The moon was not yet setand wewere allin shadow:  I could scarcely see my master's facenear asI was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned;while windroared in the laurel walkand came sweeping over us.

"Wemust go in" said Mr. Rochester:  "the weatherchanges.  I couldhave satwith thee till morningJane."

"Andso" thought I"could I with you."  I shouldhave said soperhapsbut a lividvivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which Iwaslookingand there was a cracka crashand a close rattlingpeal; andI thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr.Rochester'sshoulder.

The rainrushed down.  He hurried me up the walkthrough thegroundsand into the house; but we were quite wet before we couldpass thethreshold.  He was taking off my shawl in the hallandshakingthe water out of my loosened hairwhen Mrs. Fairfax emergedfrom herroom.  I did not observe her at firstnor did Mr.Rochester. The lamp was lit.  The clock was on the stroke oftwelve.

"Hastento take off your wet things" said he; "and before you gogood-night--good-nightmy darling!"

He kissedme repeatedly.  When I looked upon leaving his armstherestood the widowpalegraveand amazed.  I only smiled atherandran upstairs.  "Explanation will do for another time"thoughtI.  Stillwhen I reached my chamberI felt a pang at theidea sheshould even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen.  Butjoy sooneffaced every other feeling; and loud as the wind blewnear anddeep as the thunder crashedfierce and frequent as thelightninggleamedcataract-like as the rain fell during a storm oftwo hours'durationI experienced no fear and little awe.  Mr.Rochestercame thrice to my door in the course of itto ask if Iwas safeand tranquil:  and that was comfortthat was strength foranything.

Before Ileft my bed in the morninglittle Adele came running in totell methat the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchardhad beenstruck by lightning in the nightand half of it splitaway.

 

CHAPTERXXIV

 

As I roseand dressedI thought over what had happenedandwonderedif it were a dream.  I could not be certain of the realitytill I hadseen Mr. Rochester againand heard him renew his wordsof loveand promise.

Whilearranging my hairI looked at my face in the glassand feltit was nolonger plain:  there was hope in its aspect and life initscolour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount offruitionand borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple.  I had oftenbeenunwilling to look at my masterbecause I feared he could notbe pleasedat my look; but I was sure I might lift my face to hisnowandnot cool his affection by its expression.  I took a plainbut cleanand light summer dress from my drawer and put it on:  itseemed noattire had ever so well become mebecause none had I everworn in soblissful a mood.

I was notsurprisedwhen I ran down into the hallto see that abrilliantJune morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night;and tofeelthrough the open glass doorthe breathing of a freshandfragrant breeze.  Nature must be gladsome when I was so happy.Abeggar-woman and her little boy--paleragged objects both--werecoming upthe walkand I ran down and gave them all the money Ihappenedto have in my purse--some three or four shillings:  good orbadtheymust partake of my jubilee.  The rooks cawedand blitherbirdssang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my ownrejoicingheart.

Mrs.Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sadcountenanceand saying gravely--"Miss Eyrewill you come tobreakfast?" During the meal she was quiet and cool:  but I couldnotundeceive her then.  I must wait for my master to giveexplanations;and so must she.  I ate what I couldand then Ihastenedupstairs.  I met Adele leaving the schoolroom.

"Whereare you going?  It is time for lessons."

"Mr.Rochester has sent me away to the nursery."

"Whereis he?"

"Inthere" pointing to the apartment she had left; and I went inand therehe stood.

"Comeand bid me good-morning" said he.  I gladly advanced; anditwas notmerely a cold word nowor even a shake of the hand that Ireceivedbut an embrace and a kiss.  It seemed natural:  it seemedgenial tobe so well lovedso caressed by him.

"Janeyou look bloomingand smilingand pretty" said he: "trulyprettythis morning.  Is this my palelittle elf?  Is this mymustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheekand rosylips; the satin-smooth hazel hairand the radiant hazeleyes?" (I had green eyesreader; but you must excuse the mistake:for himthey were new-dyedI suppose.)

"Itis Jane Eyresir."

"Soonto be Jane Rochester" he added:  "in four weeksJanet; not aday more. Do you hear that?"

I didandI could not quite comprehend it:  it made me giddy.  Thefeelingthe announcement sent through mewas something strongerthan wasconsistent with joy--something that smote and stunned.  ItwasIthink almost fear.

"Youblushedand now you are whiteJane:  what is that for?"

"Becauseyou gave me a new name--Jane Rochester; and it seems sostrange."

"YesMrs. Rochester" said he; "young Mrs. Rochester--FairfaxRochester'sgirl-bride."

"Itcan never besir; it does not sound likely.  Human beings neverenjoycomplete happiness in this world.  I was not born for adifferentdestiny to the rest of my species:  to imagine such a lotbefallingme is a fairy tale--a day-dream."

"WhichI can and will realise.  I shall begin to-day.  ThismorningI wrote tomy banker in London to send me certain jewels he has inhiskeeping--heirlooms for the ladies of Thornfield.  In a day ortwo I hopeto pour them into your lap:  for every privilegeeveryattentionshall be yours that I would accord a peer's daughterifabout tomarry her."

"Ohsir!--never rain jewels!  I don't like to hear them spoken of.Jewels forJane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange:  I would rathernot havethem."

"Iwill myself put the diamond chain round your neckand thecirclet onyour forehead--which it will become:  for natureatleasthasstamped her patent of nobility on this browJane; and Iwill claspthe bracelets on these fine wristsand load these fairy-likefingers with rings."

"Nonosir! think of other subjectsand speak of other thingsand inanother strain.  Don't address me as if I were a beauty; I amyourplainQuakerish governess."

"Youare a beauty in my eyesand a beauty just after the desire ofmyheart--delicate and aerial."

"Punyand insignificantyou mean.  You are dreamingsir--or youaresneering.  For God's sake don't be ironical!"

"Iwill make the world acknowledge you a beautytoo" he went onwhile Ireally became uneasy at the strain he had adoptedbecause Ifelt hewas either deluding himself or trying to delude me.  "Iwillattire myJane in satin and laceand she shall have roses in herhair; andI will cover the head I love best with a priceless veil."

"Andthen you won't know mesir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyreanylongerbut an ape in a harlequin's jacket--a jay in borrowedplumes. I would as soon see youMr. Rochestertricked out instage-trappingsas myself clad in a court-lady's robe; and I don'tcall youhandsomesirthough I love you most dearly:  far toodearly toflatter you.  Don't flatter me."

He pursuedhis themehoweverwithout noticing my deprecation."Thisvery day I shall take you in the carriage to Millcoteand youmustchoose some dresses for yourself.  I told you we shall bemarried infour weeks.  The wedding is to take place quietlyin thechurchdown below yonder; and then I shall waft you away at once totown. After a brief stay thereI shall bear my treasure to regionsnearer thesun:  to French vineyards and Italian plains; and sheshall seewhatever is famous in old story and in modern record:  sheshalltastetooof the life of cities; and she shall learn tovalueherself by just comparison with others."

"ShallI travel?--and with yousir?"

"Youshall sojourn at ParisRomeand Naples:  at FlorenceVeniceandVienna:  all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-troddenby you: wherever I stamped my hoofyour sylph's foot shall stepalso. Ten years sinceI flew through Europe half mad; withdisgusthateand rage as my companions:  now I shall revisit ithealed andcleansedwith a very angel as my comforter."

I laughedat him as he said this.  "I am not an angel" Iasserted;"andI will not be one till I die:  I will be myself.  Mr.Rochesteryou must neither expect nor exact anything celestial ofme--foryou will not get itany more than I shall get it of you:which I donot at all anticipate."

"Whatdo you anticipate of me?"

"Fora little while you will perhaps be as you are now--a verylittlewhile; and then you will turn cool; and then you will becapricious;and then you will be sternand I shall have much ado topleaseyou:  but when you get well used to meyou will perhaps likemeagain--LIKE meI saynot LOVE me.  I suppose your love willeffervescein six monthsor less.  I have observed in books writtenby menthat period assigned as the farthest to which a husband'sardourextends.  Yetafter allas a friend and companionI hopenever tobecome quite distasteful to my dear master."

"Distasteful!and like you again!  I think I shall like you againand yetagain:  and I will make you confess I do not only LIKEbutLOVEyou--with truthfervourconstancy."

"Yetare you not capricioussir?"

"Towomen who please me only by their facesI am the very devilwhen Ifind out they have neither souls nor hearts--when they opento me aperspective of flatnesstrivialityand perhaps imbecilitycoarsenessand ill-temper:  but to the clear eye and eloquenttonguetothe soul made of fireand the character that bends butdoes notbreak--at once supple and stabletractable and consistent--I am evertender and true."

"Hadyou ever experience of such a charactersir?  Did you everlove suchan one?"

"Ilove it now."

"Butbefore me:  if Iindeedin any respect come up to yourdifficultstandard?"

"Inever met your likeness.  Janeyou please meand you masterme--you seemto submitand I like the sense of pliancy you impart; andwhile I amtwining the softsilken skein round my fingerit sendsa thrillup my arm to my heart.  I am influenced--conquered; and theinfluenceis sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergohas awitchery beyond any triumph I can win.  Why do you smileJane? What does that inexplicablethat uncanny turn of countenancemean?"

"Iwas thinkingsir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary)I wasthinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers--"

"Youwereyou little elfish--"

"Hushsir!  You don't talk very wisely just now; any more thanthosegentlemen acted very wisely.  Howeverhad they been marriedthey wouldno doubt by their severity as husbands have made up fortheirsoftness as suitors; and so will youI fear.  I wonder howyou willanswer me a year henceshould I ask a favour it does notsuit yourconvenience or pleasure to grant."

"Askme something nowJane--the least thing:  I desire to beentreated--"

"IndeedI willsir; I have my petition all ready."

"Speak! But if you look up and smile with that countenanceI shallswearconcession before I know to whatand that will make a fool ofme."

"Notat allsir; I ask only this:  don't send for the jewelsanddon'tcrown me with roses:  you might as well put a border of goldlace roundthat plain pocket handkerchief you have there."

"Imight as well 'gild refined gold.'  I know it:  you requestisgrantedthen--for the time.  I will remand the order I despatched tomybanker.  But you have not yet asked for anything; you haveprayeda gift tobe withdrawn:  try again."

"Wellthensirhave the goodness to gratify my curiositywhich ismuchpiqued on one point."

He lookeddisturbed.  "What? what?" he said hastily. "Curiosity isadangerous petition:  it is well I have not taken a vow to accordeveryrequest--"

"Butthere can be no danger in complying with thissir."

"UtteritJane:  but I wish that instead of a mere inquiry intoperhapsasecretit was a wish for half my estate."

"NowKing Ahasuerus!  What do I want with half your estate?  Doyouthink I ama Jew-usurerseeking good investment in land?  I wouldmuchrather have all your confidence.  You will not exclude me fromyourconfidence if you admit me to your heart?"

"Youare welcome to all my confidence that is worth havingJane;but forGod's sakedon't desire a useless burden!  Don't long forpoison--don'tturn out a downright Eve on my hands!"

"Whynotsir?  You have just been telling me how much you liked tobeconqueredand how pleasant over-persuasion is to you.  Don'tyouthink Ihad better take advantage of the confessionand begin andcoax andentreat--even cry and be sulky if necessary--for the sakeof a mereessay of my power?"

"Idare you to any such experiment.  Encroachpresumeand thegameis up."

"Isitsir?  You soon give in.  How stern you look now! Youreyebrowshave become as thick as my fingerand your foreheadresembleswhatin some very astonishing poetryI once saw styled'ablue-piled thunderloft.'  That will be your married looksirIsuppose?"

"Ifthat will be YOUR married lookIas a Christianwill soongive upthe notion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander.But whathad you to askthing--out with it?"

"Thereyou are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a greatdealbetter than flattery.  I had rather be a THING than an angel.This iswhat I have to ask--Why did you take such pains to make mebelieveyou wished to marry Miss Ingram?"

"Isthat all?  Thank God it is no worse!"  And now heunknit hisblackbrows; looked downsmiling at meand stroked my hairas ifwellpleased at seeing a danger averted.  "I think I mayconfess"hecontinued"even although I should make you a little indignantJane--andI have seen what a fire-spirit you can be when you areindignant. You glowed in the cool moonlight last nightwhen youmutiniedagainst fateand claimed your rank as my equal.  Janetby-the-byeit was you who made me the offer."

"Ofcourse I did.  But to the point if you pleasesir--MissIngram?"

"WellI feigned courtship of Miss Ingrambecause I wished torender youas madly in love with me as I was with you; and I knewjealousywould be the best ally I could call in for the furtheranceof thatend."

"Excellent! Now you are small--not one whit bigger than the end ofmy littlefinger.  It was a burning shame and a scandalous disgraceto act inthat way.  Did you think nothing of Miss Ingram'sfeelingssir?"

"Herfeelings are concentrated in one--pride; and that needshumbling. Were you jealousJane?"

"NevermindMr. Rochester:  it is in no way interesting to you toknowthat.  Answer me truly once more.  Do you think Miss Ingramwill notsuffer from your dishonest coquetry?  Won't she feelforsakenand deserted?"

"Impossible!--whenI told you how sheon the contrarydeserted me:the ideaof my insolvency cooledor rather extinguishedher flamein amoment."

"Youhave a curiousdesigning mindMr. Rochester.  I am afraidyourprinciples on some points are eccentric."

"Myprinciples were never trainedJane:  they may have grown alittleawry for want of attention."

"Onceagainseriously; may I enjoy the great good that has beenvouchsafedto mewithout fearing that any one else is suffering thebitterpain I myself felt a while ago?"

"Thatyou maymy good little girl:  there is not another being inthe worldhas the same pure love for me as yourself--for I lay thatpleasantunction to my soulJanea belief in your affection."

I turnedmy lips to the hand that lay on my shoulder.  I loved himverymuch--more than I could trust myself to say--more than wordshad powerto express.

"Asksomething more" he said presently; "it is my delight to beentreatedand to yield."

I wasagain ready with my request.  "Communicate your intentionstoMrs.Fairfaxsir:  she saw me with you last night in the hallandshe wasshocked.  Give her some explanation before I see her again.It painsme to be misjudged by so good a woman."

"Goto your roomand put on your bonnet" he replied.  "Imean youtoaccompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare forthe driveI will enlighten the old lady's understanding.  Did shethinkJanetyou had given the world for loveand considered itwelllost?"

"Ibelieve she thought I had forgotten my stationand yourssir."

"Station!station!--your station is in my heartand on the necks ofthose whowould insult younow or hereafter.--Go."

I was soondressed; and when I heard Mr. Rochester quit Mrs.Fairfax'sparlourI hurried down to it.  The old ladyhad beenreadingher morning portion of Scripture--the Lesson for the day;her Biblelay open before herand her spectacles were upon it.  Heroccupationsuspended by Mr. Rochester's announcementseemed nowforgotten: her eyesfixed on the blank wall oppositeexpressedthesurprise of a quiet mind stirred by unwonted tidings.  Seeingmesheroused herself:  she made a sort of effort to smileandframed afew words of congratulation; but the smile expiredand thesentencewas abandoned unfinished.  She put up her spectaclesshutthe Bibleand pushed her chair back from the table.

"Ifeel so astonished" she began"I hardly know what to saytoyouMissEyre.  I have surely not been dreaminghave I?  SometimesI halffall asleep when I am sitting alone and fancy things thathave neverhappened.  It has seemed to me more than once when I havebeen in adozethat my dear husbandwho died fifteen years sincehas comein and sat down beside me; and that I have even heard himcall me bymy nameAliceas he used to do.  Nowcan you tell mewhether itis actually true that Mr. Rochester has asked you tomarryhim?  Don't laugh at me.  But I really thought he came inherefiveminutes agoand said that in a month you would be his wife."

"Hehas said the same thing to me" I replied.

"Hehas!  Do you believe him?  Have you accepted him?"

"Yes."

She lookedat me bewildered.  "I could never have thought it.  Heisa proudman:  all the Rochesters were proud:  and his fatheratleastliked money.  Hetoohas always been called careful.  Hemeans tomarry you?"

"Hetells me so."

Shesurveyed my whole person:  in her eyes I read that they hadtherefound no charm powerful enough to solve the enigma.

"Itpasses me!" she continued; "but no doubtit is true sinceyousay so. How it will answerI cannot tell:  I really don't know.Equalityof position and fortune is often advisable in such cases;and thereare twenty years of difference in your ages.  He mightalmost beyour father."

"NoindeedMrs. Fairfax!" exclaimed Inettled; "he is nothinglike myfather!  No onewho saw us togetherwould suppose it foraninstant.  Mr. Rochester looks as youngand is as youngas somemen atfive-and-twenty."

"Isit really for love he is going to marry you?" she asked.

I was sohurt by her coldness and scepticismthat the tears rose tomy eyes.

"I amsorry to grieve you" pursued the widow; "but you are soyoungandso little acquainted with menI wished to put you onyourguard.  It is an old saying that 'all is not gold thatglitters;'and in this case I do fear there will be something foundto bedifferent to what either you or I expect."

"Why?--amI a monster?" I said:  "is it impossible that Mr.Rochestershould have a sincere affection for me?"

"No: you are very well; and much improved of late; and Mr.RochesterI daresayis fond of you.  I have always noticed thatyou were asort of pet of his.  There are times whenfor your sakeI havebeen a little uneasy at his marked preferenceand havewished toput you on your guard:  but I did not like to suggest eventhepossibility of wrong.  I knew such an idea would shockperhapsoffendyou; and you were so discreetand so thoroughly modest andsensibleI hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself.  Lastnight Icannot tell you what I suffered when I sought all over thehouseandcould find you nowherenor the master either; and thenat twelveo'clocksaw you come in with him."

"Wellnever mind that now" I interrupted impatiently; "it isenoughthat all was right."

"Ihope all will be right in the end" she said:  "butbelieve meyou cannotbe too careful.  Try and keep Mr. Rochester at adistance: distrust yourself as well as him.  Gentlemen in hisstationare not accustomed to marry their governesses."

I wasgrowing truly irritated:  happilyAdele ran in.

"Letme go--let me go to Millcote too!" she cried.  "Mr.Rochesterwon't: though there is so much room in the new carriage.  Beg himto let mego mademoiselle."

"ThatI willAdele;" and I hastened away with herglad to quit mygloomymonitress.  The carriage was ready:  they were bringing itround tothe frontand my master was the pavementPilot followinghimbackwards and forwards.

"Adelemay accompany usmay she notsir?"

"Itold her no.  I'll have no brats!--I'll have only you."

"Dolet her goMr. Rochesterif you please:  it would be better."

"Notit:  she will be a restraint."

He wasquite peremptoryboth in look and voice.  The chill of Mrs.Fairfax'swarningsand the damp of her doubts were upon me:somethingof unsubstantiality and uncertainty had beset my hopes.  Ihalf lostthe sense of power over him.  I was about mechanically toobey himwithout further remonstrance; but as he helped me into thecarriagehe looked at my face.

"Whatis the matter?" he asked; "all the sunshine is gone. Do youreallywish the bairn to go?  Will it annoy you if she is leftbehind?"

"Iwould far rather she wentsir."

"Thenoff for your bonnetand back like a flash of lightning!"cried heto Adele.

She obeyedhim with what speed she might.

"Afteralla single morning's interruption will not matter much"said he"when I mean shortly to claim you--your thoughtsconversationand company--for life."

Adelewhen lifted incommenced kissing meby way of expressinghergratitude for my intercession:  she was instantly stowed awayinto acorner on the other side of him.  She then peeped round towhere Isat; so stern a neighbour was too restrictive to himin hispresentfractious moodshe dared whisper no observationsnor askof him anyinformation.

"Lether come to me" I entreated:  "she willperhapstrouble yousir: there is plenty of room on this side."

He handedher over as if she had been a lapdog.  "I'll send her toschoolyet" he saidbut now he was smiling.

Adeleheard himand asked if she was to go to school "sansmademoiselle?"

"Yes"he replied"absolutely sans mademoiselle; for I am to takemademoiselleto the moonand there I shall seek a cave in one ofthe whitevalleys among the volcano-topsand mademoiselle shalllive withme thereand only me."

"Shewill have nothing to eat:  you will starve her" observedAdele.

"Ishall gather manna for her morning and night:  the plains andhillsidesin the moon are bleached with mannaAdele."

"Shewill want to warm herself:  what will she do for a fire?"

"Firerises out of the lunar mountains:  when she is coldI'llcarry herup to a peakand lay her down on the edge of a crater."

"Ohqu' elle y sera mal--peu comfortable!  And her clothestheywill wearout:  how can she get new ones?"

Mr.Rochester professed to be puzzled.  "Hem!" said he. "What wouldyou doAdele?  Cudgel your brains for an expedient.  How would awhite or apink cloud answer for a gowndo you think?  And onecould cuta pretty enough scarf out of a rainbow."

"Sheis far better as she is" concluded Adeleafter musing sometime: "besidesshe would get tired of living with only you in themoon. If I were mademoiselleI would never consent to go withyou."

"Shehas consented:  she has pledged her word."

"Butyou can't get her there; there is no road to the moon:  it isall air;and neither you nor she can fly."

"Adelelook at that field."  We were now outside Thornfield gatesandbowling lightly along the smooth road to Millcotewhere thedust waswell laid by the thunderstormandwhere the low hedgesand loftytimber trees on each side glistened green and rain-refreshed.

"Inthat fieldAdeleI was walking late one evening about afortnightsince--the evening of the day you helped me to make hay intheorchard meadows; andas I was tired with raking swathsI satdown torest me on a stile; and there I took out a little book and apenciland began to write about a misfortune that befell me longagoand awish I had for happy days to come:  I was writing awayvery fastthough daylight was fading from the leafwhen somethingcame upthe path and stopped two yards off me.  I looked at it.  Itwas alittle thing with a veil of gossamer on its head.  I beckonedit to comenear me; it stood soon at my knee.  I never spoke to itand itnever spoke to mein words; but I read its eyesand it readmine; andour speechless colloquy was to this effect -

"Itwas a fairyand come from Elf-landit said; and its errand wasto make mehappy:  I must go with it out of the common world to alonelyplace--such as the moonfor instance--and it nodded its headtowardsher hornrising over Hay-hill:  it told me of the alabastercave andsilver vale where we might live.  I said I should like togo; butreminded itas you did methat I had no wings to fly.

"'Oh'returned the fairy'that does not signify!  Here is atalismanwill remove all difficulties;' and she held out a prettygoldring.  'Put it' she said'on the fourth finger of my lefthandandI am yoursand you are mine; and we shall leave earthand makeour own heaven yonder.'  She nodded again at the moon.  TheringAdeleis in my breeches-pocketunder the disguise of asovereign: but I mean soon to change it to a ring again."

"Butwhat has mademoiselle to do with it?  I don't care for thefairy: you said it was mademoiselle you would take to the moon?"

"Mademoiselleis a fairy" he saidwhispering mysteriously.WhereuponI told her not to mind his badinage; and sheon her partevinced afund of genuine French scepticism:  denominating Mr.Rochester"un vrai menteur" and assuring him that she made noaccountwhatever of his "contes de fee" and that "du resteil n'yavait pasde feeset quand meme il y en avait:" she was sure theywouldnever appear to himnor ever give him ringsor offer to livewith himin the moon.

The hourspent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me.  Mr.Rochesterobliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse:  there I wasordered tochoose half-a-dozen dresses.  I hated the businessIbeggedleave to defer it:  no--it should be gone through with now.By dint ofentreaties expressed in energetic whispersI reduced thehalf-dozento two:  these howeverhe vowed he would select himself.Withanxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores:  he fixedon a richsilk of the most brilliant amethyst dyeand a superb pinksatin. I told him in a new series of whispersthat he might aswell buyme a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once:  I shouldcertainlynever venture to wear his choice.  With infinitedifficultyfor he was stubborn as a stoneI persuaded him to makeanexchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk."Itmight pass for the present" he said; "but he would yet seemeglitteringlike a parterre."

Glad was Ito get him out of the silk warehouseand then out of ajewellersshop:  the more he bought methe more my cheek burnedwith asense of annoyance and degradation.  As we re-entered thecarriageand I sat back feverish and faggedI remembered whatinthe hurryof eventsdark and brightI had wholly forgotten--theletter ofmy uncleJohn Eyreto Mrs. Reed:  his intention to adoptme andmake me his legatee.  "It wouldindeedbe a relief"Ithought"if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bearbeingdressed like a doll by Mr. Rochesteror sitting like a secondDanae withthe golden shower falling daily round me.  I will writeto Madeirathe moment I get homeand tell my uncle John I am goingto bemarriedand to whom:  if I had but a prospect of one daybringingMr. Rochester an accession of fortuneI could betterendure tobe kept by him now."  And somewhat relieved by this idea(which Ifailed not to execute that day)I ventured once more tomeet mymaster's and lover's eyewhich most pertinaciously soughtminethough I averted both face and gaze.  He smiled; and I thoughthis smilewas such as a sultan mightin a blissful and fond momentbestow ona slave his gold and gems had enriched:  I crushed hishandwhich was ever hunting minevigorouslyand thrust it back tohim redwith the passionate pressure.

"Youneed not look in that way" I said; "if you doI'll wearnothingbut my old Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter.  I'll bemarried inthis lilac gingham:  you may make a dressing-gown foryourselfout of the pearl-grey silkand an infinite series ofwaistcoatsout of the black satin."

Hechuckled; he rubbed his hands.  "Ohit is rich to see andhearher?"he exclaimed.  "Is she original?  Is she piquant? I would notexchangethis one little English girl for the Grand Turk's wholeseragliogazelle-eyeshouri formsand all!"

TheEastern allusion bit me again.  "I'll not stand you an inchinthe steadof a seraglio" I said; "so don't consider me anequivalentfor one.  If you have a fancy for anything in that lineaway withyousirto the bazaars of Stamboul without delayandlay out inextensive slave-purchases some of that spare cash youseem at aloss to spend satisfactorily here."

"Andwhat will you doJanetwhile I am bargaining for so many tonsof fleshand such an assortment of black eyes?"

"I'llbe preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preachliberty tothem that are enslaved--your harem inmates amongst therest. I'll get admitted thereand I'll stir up mutiny; and youthree-tailedbashaw as you aresirshall in a trice find yourselffetteredamongst our hands:  nor will Ifor oneconsent to cutyour bondstill you have signed a charterthe most liberal thatdespotever yet conferred."

"Iwould consent to be at your mercyJane."

"Iwould have no mercyMr. Rochesterif you supplicated for itwith aneye like that.  While you looked soI should be certainthatwhatever charter you might grant under coercionyour firstactwhenreleasedwould be to violate its conditions."

"WhyJanewhat would you have?  I fear you will compel me to gothrough aprivate marriage ceremonybesides that performed at thealtar. You will stipulateI seefor peculiar terms--what willthey be?"

"Ionly want an easy mindsir; not crushed by crowded obligations.Do youremember what you said of Celine Varens?--of the diamondsthecashmeres you gave her?  I will not be your English CelineVarens. I shall continue to act as Adele's governess; by that Ishall earnmy board and lodgingand thirty pounds a year besides.I'llfurnish my own wardrobe out of that moneyand you shall giveme nothingbut--"

"Wellbut what?"

"Yourregard; and if I give you mine in returnthat debt will bequit."

"Wellfor cool native impudence and pure innate prideyou haven'tyourequal" said he.  We were now approaching Thornfield. "Will itplease youto dine with me to-day?" he askedas we re-entered thegates.

"Nothank yousir."

"Andwhat for'nothank you?' if one may inquire."

"Inever have dined with yousir:  and I see no reason why Ishouldnow: till--"

"Tillwhat?  You delight in half-phrases."

"TillI can't help it."

"Doyou suppose I eat like an ogre or a ghoulthat you dread beingthecompanion of my repast?"

"Ihave formed no supposition on the subjectsir; but I want to goon asusual for another month."

"Youwill give up your governessing slavery at once."

"Indeedbegging your pardonsirI shall not.  I shall just go onwith it asusual.  I shall keep out of your way all dayas I havebeenaccustomed to do:  you may send for me in the eveningwhen youfeeldisposed to see meand I'll come then; but at no other time."

"Iwant a smokeJaneor a pinch of snuffto comfort me under allthis'pour me donner une contenance' as Adele would say; andunfortunatelyI have neither my cigar-casenor my snuff-box.  Butlisten--whisper. It is your time nowlittle tyrantbut it will beminepresently; and when once I have fairly seized youto have andto holdI'll just--figuratively speaking--attach you to a chainlike this"(touching his watch-guard).  "Yesbonny wee thingI'llwear youin my bosomlest my jewel I should tyne."

He saidthis as he helped me to alight from the carriageand whileheafterwards lifted out AdeleI entered the houseand made goodmy retreatupstairs.

He dulysummoned me to his presence in the evening.  I had preparedanoccupation for him; for I was determined not to spend the wholetime in atete-e-tete conversation.  I remembered his fine voice; Iknew heliked to sing--good singers generally do.  I was no vocalistmyselfandin his fastidious judgmentno musicianeither; but Idelightedin listening when the performance was good.  No sooner hadtwilightthat hour of romancebegan to lower her blue and starrybannerover the latticethan I roseopened the pianoandentreatedhimfor the love of heavento give me a song.  He said Iwas acapricious witchand that he would rather sing another time;but Iaverred that no time was like the present.

"DidI like his voice?" he asked.

"Verymuch."  I was not fond of pampering that susceptible vanityofhis; butfor onceand from motives of expediencyI would e'ensoothe andstimulate it.

"ThenJaneyou must play the accompaniment."

"VerywellsirI will try."

I did trybut was presently swept off the stool and denominated "alittlebungler."  Being pushed unceremoniously to one side--whichwasprecisely what I wished--he usurped my placeand proceeded toaccompanyhimself:  for he could play as well as sing.  I hied me tothewindow-recess.  And while I sat there and looked out on thestilltrees and dim lawnto a sweet air was sung in mellow tonesthefollowing strain:-

 

"Thetruest love that ever heartFelt atits kindled coreDidthrough each veinin quickened startThetide of being pour. Hercoming was my hope each dayHerparting was my pain;Thechance that did her steps delayWas icein every vein. Idreamed it would be nameless blissAs Ilovedloved to be;And tothis object did I pressAsblind as eagerly. Butwide as pathless was the spaceThatlay our lives betweenAnddangerous as the foamy raceOfocean-surges green. Andhaunted as a robber-pathThroughwilderness or wood;ForMight and Rightand Woe and WrathBetweenour spirits stood. Idangers dared; I hindrance scorned;I omensdid defy:WhatevermenacedharassedwarnedIpassed impetuous by. On spedmy rainbowfast as light;I flewas in a dream;Forglorious rose upon my sightThatchild of Shower and Gleam. Stillbright on clouds of suffering dimShinesthat softsolemn joy;Norcare I nowhow dense and grimDisastersgather nigh. I carenot in this moment sweetThoughall I have rushed o'erShouldcome on pinionstrong and fleetProclaimingvengeance sore: Thoughhaughty Hate should strike me downRightbar approach to meAndgrinding Mightwith furious frownSwearendless enmity. My lovehas placed her little handWithnoble faith in mineAndvowed that wedlock's sacred bandOurnature shall entwine. My lovehas swornwith sealing kissWith meto live--to die;I haveat last my nameless bliss.As Ilove--loved am I!"

 

He roseand came towards meand I saw his face all kindledand hisfullfalcon-eye flashingand tenderness and passion in everylineament. I quailed momentarily--then I rallied.  Soft scenedaringdemonstrationI would not have; and I stood in peril ofboth: a weapon of defence must be prepared--I whetted my tongue:as hereached meI asked with asperity"whom he was going to marrynow?"

"Thatwas a strange question to be put by his darling Jane."

"Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one:  he hadtalked ofhis future wife dying with him.  What did he mean by sucha paganidea?  I had no intention of dying with him--he might dependon that."

"Ohall he longedall he prayed forwas that I might live withhim! Death was not for such as I."

"Indeedit was:  I had as good a right to die when my time came ashe had: but I should bide that timeand not be hurried away in asuttee."

"WouldI forgive him for the selfish ideaand prove my pardon by areconcilingkiss?"

"No: I would rather be excused."

Here Iheard myself apostrophised as a "hard little thing;" and itwas added"any other woman would have been melted to marrow athearingsuch stanzas crooned in her praise."

I assuredhim I was naturally hard--very flintyand that he wouldoften findme so; and thatmoreoverI was determined to show himdiversrugged points in my character before the ensuing four weekselapsed: he should know fully what sort of a bargain he had madewhilethere was yet time to rescind it.

"WouldI be quiet and talk rationally?"

"Iwould be quiet if he likedand as to talking rationallyIflatteredmyself I was doing that now."

Hefrettedpishedand pshawed.  "Very good" I thought;"you mayfume andfidget as you please:  but this is the best plan to pursuewith youI am certain.  I like you more than I can say; but I'llnot sinkinto a bathos of sentiment:  and with this needle ofreparteeI'll keep you from the edge of the gulf too; andmoreovermaintainby its pungent aid that distance between you and myselfmostconducive to our real mutual advantage."

From lessto moreI worked him up to considerable irritation; thenafter hehad retiredin dudgeonquite to the other end of theroomIgot upand saying"I wish you good-nightsir" in mynaturaland wonted respectful mannerI slipped out by the side-doorand gotaway.

The systemthus entered onI pursued during the whole season ofprobation;and with the best success.  He was keptto be surerathercross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he wasexcellentlyentertainedand that a lamb-like submission and turtle-dovesensibilitywhile fostering his despotism morewould havepleasedhis judgmentsatisfied his common-senseand even suitedhis tasteless.

In otherpeople's presence I wasas formerlydeferential andquiet; anyother line of conduct being uncalled for:  it was only intheevening conferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him.  Hecontinuedto send for me punctually the moment the clock struckseven;though when I appeared before him nowhe had no such honeyedterms as"love" and "darling" on his lips:  the bestwords at myservicewere "provoking puppet" "malicious elf""sprite""changeling"&c.  For caressestooI now got grimaces; for apressureof the handa pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheekaseveretweak of the ear.  It was all right:  at present Idecidedlypreferredthese fierce favours to anything more tender.  Mrs.FairfaxIsawapproved me:  her anxiety on my account vanished;thereforeI was certain I did well.  MeantimeMr. Rochesteraffirmed Iwas wearing him to skin and boneand threatened awfulvengeancefor my present conduct at some period fast coming.  Ilaughed inmy sleeve at his menaces.  "I can keep you in reasonablechecknow" I reflected; "and I don't doubt to be able to do ithereafter: if one expedient loses its virtueanother must bedevised."

Yet afterall my task was not an easy one; often I would rather havepleasedthan teased him.  My future husband was becoming to me mywholeworld; and more than the world:  almost my hope of heaven. Hestoodbetween me and every thought of religionas an eclipseintervenesbetween man and the broad sun.  I could notin thosedaysseeGod for His creature:  of whom I had made an idol.

 

CHAPTERXXV

 

The monthof courtship had wasted:  its very last hours were beingnumbered. There was no putting off the day that advanced--thebridalday; and all preparations for its arrival were complete.  Iat leasthad nothing more to do:  there were my trunkspackedlockedcordedranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber;to-morrowat this timethey would be far on their road to London:and soshould I (D.V.)--or rathernot Ibut one Jane Rochesterapersonwhom as yet I knew not.  The cards of address alone remainedto nailon:  they layfour little squaresin the drawer.  Mr.Rochesterhad himself written the direction"Mrs. Rochester--HotelLondon" on each:  I could not persuade myself to affixthemor to havethem affixed.  Mrs. Rochester!  She did not exist: shewould notbe born till to-morrowsome time after eight o'clocka.m.; andI would wait to be assured she had come into the worldalivebefore I assigned to her all that property.  It was enoughthat inyonder closetopposite my dressing-tablegarments said tobe hershad already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and strawbonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; thepearl-colouredrobethe vapoury veil pendent from the usurpedportmanteau. I shut the closet to conceal the strangewraith-likeapparel itcontained; whichat this evening hour--nine o'clock--gave outcertainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of myapartment. "I will leave you by yourselfwhite dream" I said. "Iamfeverish:  I hear the wind blowing:  I will go out of doorsandfeel it."

It was notonly the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; notonly theanticipation of the great change--the new life which was tocommenceto-morrow:  both these circumstances had their sharedoubtlessin producing that restlessexcited mood which hurried meforth atthis late hour into the darkening grounds:  but a thirdcauseinfluenced my mind more than they.

I had atheart a strange and anxious thought.  Something hadhappenedwhich I could not comprehend; no one knew of or had seenthe eventbut myself:  it had taken place the preceding night.  Mr.Rochesterthat night was absent from home; nor was he yet returned:businesshad called him to a small estate of two or three farms hepossessedthirty miles off--business it was requisite he shouldsettle inpersonprevious to his meditated departure from England.I waitednow his return; eager to disburthen my mindand to seek ofhim thesolution of the enigma that perplexed me.  Stay till hecomesreader; andwhen I disclose my secret to himyou shallshare theconfidence.

I soughtthe orcharddriven to its shelter by the windwhich allday hadblown strong and full from the southwithouthoweverbringing aspeck of rain.  Instead of subsiding as night drew onitseemed toaugment its rush and deepen its roar:  the trees blewsteadfastlyone waynever writhing roundand scarcely tossing backtheirboughs once in an hour; so continuous was the strain bendingtheirbranchy heads northward--the clouds drifted from pole to polefastfollowingmass on mass:  no glimpse of blue sky had beenvisiblethat July day.

It was notwithout a certain wild pleasure I ran before the winddeliveringmy trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrentthunderingthrough space.  Descending the laurel walkI faced thewreck ofthe chestnut-tree; it stood up black and riven:  the trunksplit downthe centregasped ghastly.  The cloven halves were notbrokenfrom each otherfor the firm base and strong roots kept themunsunderedbelow; though community of vitality was destroyed--thesap couldflow no more:  their great boughs on each side were deadand nextwinter's tempests would be sure to fell one or both toearth: as yethoweverthey might be said to form one tree--aruinbutan entire ruin.

"Youdid right to hold fast to each other" I said:  as if themonster-splinterswere living thingsand could hear me.  "I thinkscathed asyou lookand charred and scorchedthere must be alittlesense of life in you yetrising out of that adhesion at thefaithfulhonest roots:  you will never have green leaves more--never moresee birds making nests and singing idyls in your boughs;the timeof pleasure and love is over with you:  but you are notdesolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in hisdecay." As I looked up at themthe moon appeared momentarily inthat partof the sky which filled their fissure; her disk was blood-red andhalf overcast; she seemed to throw on me one bewildereddrearyglanceand buried herself again instantly in the deep driftof cloud. The wind fellfor a secondround Thornfield; but faraway overwood and waterpoured a wildmelancholy wail:  it wassad tolisten toand I ran off again.

Here andthere I strayed through the orchardgathered up the appleswith whichthe grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then Iemployedmyself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried theminto thehouse and put them away in the store-room.  Then I repairedto thelibrary to ascertain whether the fire was litforthoughsummerIknew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like tosee acheerful hearth when he came in:  yesthe fire had beenkindledsome timeand burnt well.  I placed his arm-chair by thechimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it:  I let down thecurtainand had the candles brought in ready for lighting.  Morerestlessthan everwhen I had completed these arrangements I couldnot sitstillnor even remain in the house:  a little time-piece inthe roomand the old clock in the hall simultaneously struck ten.

"Howlate it grows!" I said.  "I will run down to thegates:  it ismoonlightat intervals; I can see a good way on the road.  He may becomingnowand to meet him will save some minutes of suspense."

The windroared high in the great trees which embowered the gates;but theroad as far as I could seeto the right hand and the leftwas allstill and solitary:  save for the shadows of clouds crossingit atintervals as the moon looked outit was but a long pale lineunvariedby one moving speck.

A pueriletear dimmed my eye while I looked--a tear ofdisappointmentand impatience; ashamed of itI wiped it away.  Ilingered;the moon shut herself wholly within her chamberand drewclose hercurtain of dense cloud:  the night grew dark; rain camedrivingfast on the gale.

"Iwish he would come!  I wish he would come!" I exclaimedseizedwithhypochondriac foreboding.  I had expected his arrival beforetea; nowit was dark:  what could keep him?  Had an accidenthappened? The event of last night again recurred to me.  Iinterpretedit as a warning of disaster.  I feared my hopes were toobright tobe realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that Iimaginedmy fortune had passed its meridianand must now decline.

"WellI cannot return to the house" I thought; "I cannot sit bythefiresidewhile he is abroad in inclement weather:  better tiremy limbsthan strain my heart; I will go forward and meet him."

I set out;I walked fastbut not far:  ere I had measured a quarterof a mileI heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came onfullgallop; adog ran by his side.  Away with evil presentiment!  It washe: here he wasmounted on Mesrourfollowed by Pilot.  He saw me;for themoon had opened a blue field in the skyand rode in itwaterybright:  he took his hat offand waved it round his head. Inow ran tomeet him.

"There!"he exclaimedas he stretched out his hand and bent fromthesaddle:  "You can't do without methat is evident. Step on myboot-toe;give me both hands:  mount!"

I obeyed: joy made me agile:  I sprang up before him.  A heartykissing Igot for a welcomeand some boastful triumphwhich Iswallowedas well as I could.  He checked himself in his exultationto demand"But is there anything the matterJanetthat you cometo meet meat such an hour?  Is there anything wrong?"

"Nobut I thought you would never come.  I could not bear to waitin thehouse for youespecially with this rain and wind."

"Rainand windindeed!  Yesyou are dripping like a mermaid; pullmy cloakround you:  but I think you are feverishJane:  both yourcheek andhand are burning hot.  I ask againis there anything thematter?

"Nothingnow; I am neither afraid nor unhappy."

"Thenyou have been both?"

"Rather: but I'll tell you all about it by-and-byesir; and Idaresayyou will only laugh at me for my pains."

"I'lllaugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I darenot: my prize is not certain.  This is youwho have been asslipperyas an eel this last monthand as thorny as a briar-rose?I couldnot lay a finger anywhere but I was pricked; and now I seemto havegathered up a stray lamb in my arms.  You wandered out ofthe foldto seek your shepherddid youJane?"

"Iwanted you:  but don't boast.  Here we are at Thornfield: nowlet me getdown."

He landedme on the pavement.  As John took his horseand hefollowedme into the hallhe told me to make haste and putsomethingdry onand then return to him in the library; and hestoppedmeas I made for the staircaseto extort a promise that Iwould notbe long:  nor was I long; in five minutes I rejoined him.I foundhim at supper.

"Takea seat and bear me companyJane:  please Godit is the lastmeal butone you will eat at Thornfield Hall for a long time."

I sat downnear himbut told him I could not eat.  "Is it becauseyou havethe prospect of a journey before youJane?  Is it thethoughtsof going to London that takes away your appetite?"

"Icannot see my prospects clearly to-nightsir; and I hardly knowwhatthoughts I have in my head.  Everything in life seems unreal."

"Exceptme:  I am substantial enough--touch me."

"Yousirare the most phantom-like of all:  you are a mere dream."

He heldout his handlaughing.  "Is that a dream?" said heplacingit closeto my eyes.  He had a roundedmuscularand vigorous handas well asa longstrong arm.

"Yes;though I touch itit is a dream" said Ias I put it downfrombefore my face.  "Sirhave you finished supper?"

"YesJane."

I rang thebell and ordered away the tray.  When we were againaloneIstirred the fireand then took a low seat at my master'sknee.

"Itis near midnight" I said.

"Yes: but rememberJaneyou promised to wake with me the nightbefore mywedding."

"Idid; and I will keep my promisefor an hour or two at least:  Ihave nowish to go to bed."

"Areall your arrangements complete?"

"Allsir."

"Andon my part likewise" he returned"I have settledeverything;and weshall leave Thornfield to-morrowwithin half-an-hour afterour returnfrom church."

"Verywellsir."

"Withwhat an extraordinary smile you uttered that word--'verywell'Jane!  What a bright spot of colour you have on each cheek!and howstrangely your eyes glitter!  Are you well?"

"Ibelieve I am."

"Believe! What is the matter?  Tell me what you feel."

"Icould notsir:  no words could tell you what I feel.  Iwishthispresent hour would never end:  who knows with what fate thenext maycome charged?"

"Thisis hypochondriaJane.  You have been over-excitedor over-fatigued."

"Doyousirfeel calm and happy?"

"Calm?--no: but happy--to the heart's core."

I lookedup at him to read the signs of bliss in his face:  it wasardent andflushed.

"Giveme your confidenceJane" he said:  "relieve yourmind of anyweightthat oppresses itby imparting it to me.  What do you fear?--that Ishall not prove a good husband?"

"Itis the idea farthest from my thoughts."

"Areyou apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter?--ofthe newlife into which you are passing?"

"No."

"Youpuzzle meJane:  your look and tone of sorrowful audacityperplexand pain me.  I want an explanation."

"Thensirlisten.  You were from home last night?"

"Iwas:  I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something whichhadhappened in my absence:- nothingprobablyof consequence; butin shortit has disturbed you.  Let me hear it.  Mrs. Fairfax hassaidsomethingperhaps? or you have overheard the servants talk?--yoursensitive self-respect has been wounded?"

"Nosir."  It struck twelve--I waited till the time-piece hadconcludedits silver chimeand the clock its hoarsevibrittingstrokeand then I proceeded.

"Allday yesterday I was very busyand very happy in my ceaselessbustle;for I am notas you seem to thinktroubled by any hauntingfearsabout the new sphereet cetera:  I think it a glorious thingto havethe hope of living with youbecause I love you.  Nosirdon'tcaress me now--let me talk undisturbed.  Yesterday I trustedwell inProvidenceand believed that events were working togetherfor yourgood and mine:  it was a fine dayif you recollect--thecalmnessof the air and sky forbade apprehensions respecting yoursafety orcomfort on your journey.  I walked a little while on thepavementafter teathinking of you; and I beheld you in imaginationso nearmeI scarcely missed your actual presence.  I thought ofthe lifethat lay before me--YOUR lifesir--an existence moreexpansiveand stirring than my own:  as much more so as the depthsof the seato which the brook runs are than the shallows of its ownstraitchannel.  I wondered why moralists call this world a drearywilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose.  Just at sunsettheair turnedcold and the sky cloudy:  I went inSophie called meupstairsto look at my wedding-dresswhich they had just brought;and underit in the box I found your present--the veil whichinyourprincely extravaganceyou sent for from London:  resolvedIsupposesince I would not have jewelsto cheat me into acceptingsomethingas costly.  I smiled as I unfolded itand devised how Iwouldtease you about your aristocratic tastesand your efforts tomasqueyour plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress.  I thoughhow Iwould carry down to you the square of unembroidered blond Ihad myselfprepared as a covering for my low-born headand ask ifthat wasnot good enough for a woman who could bring her husbandneitherfortunebeautynor connections.  I saw plainly how youwouldlook; and heard your impetuous republican answersand yourhaughtydisavowal of any necessity on your part to augment yourwealthorelevate your standingby marrying either a purse or acoronet."

"Howwell you read meyou witch!" interposed Mr. Rochester: "butwhat didyou find in the veil besides its embroidery?  Did you findpoisonora daggerthat you look so mournful now?"

"Nonosir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabricIfoundnothing save Fairfax Rochester's pride; and that did not scaremebecause I am used to the sight of the demon.  Butsiras itgrew darkthe wind rose:  it blew yesterday eveningnot as itblowsnow--wild and high--but 'with a sullenmoaning sound' farmoreeerie.  I wished you were at home.  I came into this roomandthe sightof the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me.  Forsome timeafter I went to bedI could not sleep--a sense of anxiousexcitementdistressed me.  The gale still risingseemed to my earto mufflea mournful under-sound; whether in the house or abroad Icould notat first tellbut it recurreddoubtful yet doleful ateverylull; at last I made out it must be some dog howling at adistance. I was glad when it ceased.  On sleepingI continued indreams theidea of a dark and gusty night.  I continued also thewish to bewith youand experienced a strangeregretfulconsciousnessof some barrier dividing us.  During all my firstsleepIwas following the windings of an unknown road; totalobscurityenvironed me; rain pelted me; I was burdened with thecharge ofa little child:  a very small creaturetoo young andfeeble towalkand which shivered in my cold armsand wailedpiteouslyin my ear.  I thoughtsirthat you were on the road along waybefore me; and I strained every nerve to overtake youandmadeeffort on effort to utter your name and entreat you to stop--but mymovements were fetteredand my voice still died awayinarticulate;while youI feltwithdrew farther and farther everymoment."

"Andthese dreams weigh on your spirits nowJanewhen I am closeto you? Little nervous subject!  Forget visionary woeand thinkonly ofreal happiness!  You say you love meJanet:  yes--I willnot forgetthat; and you cannot deny it.  THOSE words did not dieinarticulateon your lips.  I heard them clear and soft:  a thoughttoo solemnperhapsbut sweet as music--'I think it is a gloriousthing tohave the hope of living with youEdwardbecause I loveyou.' Do you love meJane?--repeat it."

"Idosir--I dowith my whole heart."

"Well"he saidafter some minutes' silence"it is strange; butthatsentence has penetrated by breast painfully.  Why?  I thinkbecauseyou said it with such an earnestreligious energyandbecauseyour upward gaze at me now is the very sublime of faithtruthanddevotion:  it is too much as if some spirit were near me.LookwickedJane:  as you know well how to look:  coin one ofyourwildshyprovoking smiles; tell me you hate me--tease mevex me;doanything but move me:  I would rather be incensed thansaddened."

"Iwill tease you and vex you to your heart's contentwhen I havefinishedmy tale:  but hear me to the end."

"IthoughtJaneyou had told me all.  I thought I had found thesource ofyour melancholy in a dream."

I shook myhead.  "What! is there more?  But I will not believeitto beanything important.  I warn you of incredulity beforehand. Goon."

Thedisquietude of his airthe somewhat apprehensive impatience ofhismannersurprised me:  but I proceeded.

"Idreamt another dreamsir:  that Thornfield Hall was a drearyruintheretreat of bats and owls.  I thought that of all thestatelyfront nothing remained but a shell-like wallvery high andveryfragile-looking.  I wanderedon a moonlight nightthrough thegrass-grownenclosure within:  here I stumbled over a marble hearthand thereover a fallen fragment of cornice.  Wrapped up in a shawlI stillcarried the unknown little child:  I might not lay it downanywherehowever tired were my arms--however much its weightimpeded myprogressI must retain it.  I heard the gallop of ahorse at adistance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you weredepartingfor many years and for a distant country.  I climbed thethin wallwith frantic perilous hasteeager to catch one glimpse ofyou fromthe top:  the stones rolled from under my feetthe ivybranches Igrasped gave waythe child clung round my neck interrorand almost strangled me; at last I gained the summit.  I sawyou like aspeck on a white tracklessening every moment.  Theblast blewso strong I could not stand.  I sat down on the narrowledge; Ihushed the scared infant in my lap:  you turned an angle ofthe road: I bent forward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; Iwasshaken; the child rolled from my kneeI lost my balancefelland woke."

"NowJanethat is all."

"Allthe prefacesir; the tale is yet to come.  On wakinga gleamdazzled myeyes; I thought--Ohit is daylight!  But I was mistaken;it wasonly candlelight.  SophieI supposedhad come in.  Therewas alight in the dressing-tableand the door of the closetwherebefore going to bedI had hung my wedding-dress and veilstoodopen; I heard a rustling there.  I asked'Sophiewhat areyoudoing?'  No one answered; but a form emerged from the closet; ittook thelightheld it aloftand surveyed the garments pendentfrom theportmanteau.  'Sophie!  Sophie!'  I again cried: and stillit wassilent.  I had risen up in bedI bent forward:  firstsurprisethen bewildermentcame over me; and then my blood creptcoldthrough my veins.  Mr. Rochesterthis was not Sophieit wasnot Leahit was not Mrs. Fairfax:  it was not--noI was sure ofitand amstill--it was not even that strange womanGrace Poole."

"Itmust have been one of them" interrupted my master.

"NosirI solemnly assure you to the contrary.  The shape standingbefore mehad never crossed my eyes within the precincts ofThornfieldHall before; the heightthe contour were new to me."

"DescribeitJane."

"Itseemedsira womantall and largewith thick and dark hairhanginglong down her back.  I know not what dress she had on:  itwas whiteand straight; but whether gownsheetor shroudI cannottell."

"Didyou see her face?"

"Notat first.  But presently she took my veil from its place; sheheld itupgazed at it longand then she threw it over her ownheadandturned to the mirror.  At that moment I saw the reflectionof thevisage and features quite distinctly in the dark oblongglass."

"Andhow were they?"

"Fearfuland ghastly to me--ohsirI never saw a face like it!  Itwas adiscoloured face--it was a savage face.  I wish I could forgetthe rollof the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of thelineaments!"

"Ghostsare usually paleJane."

"Thissirwas purple:  the lips were swelled and dark; the browfurrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes.Shall Itell you of what it reminded me?"

"Youmay."

"Ofthe foul German spectre--the Vampyre."

"Ah!--whatdid it do?"

"Sirit removed my veil from its gaunt headrent it in two partsandflinging both on the floortrampled on them."

"Afterwards?"

"Itdrew aside the window-curtain and looked out; perhaps it sawdawnapproachingfortaking the candleit retreated to the door.Just at mybedsidethe figure stopped:  the fiery eyes glared uponme--shethrust up her candle close to my faceand extinguished itunder myeyes.  I was aware her lurid visage flamed over mineand Ilostconsciousness:  for the second time in my life--only the secondtime--Ibecame insensible from terror."

"Whowas with you when you revived?"

"Noonesirbut the broad day.  I rosebathed my head and face inwaterdrank a long draught; felt that though enfeebled I was notillanddetermined that to none but you would I impart this vision.Nowsirtell me who and what that woman was?"

"Thecreature of an over-stimulated brain; that is certain.  I mustbe carefulof youmy treasure:  nerves like yours were not made forroughhandling."

"Sirdepend on itmy nerves were not in fault; the thing was real:thetransaction actually took place."

"Andyour previous dreamswere they real too?  Is Thornfield Hall aruin? Am I severed from you by insuperable obstacles?  Am I leavingyouwithout a tear--without a kiss--without a word?"

"Notyet."

"Am Iabout to do it?  Whythe day is already commenced which is tobind usindissolubly; and when we are once unitedthere shall be norecurrenceof these mental terrors:  I guarantee that."

"Mentalterrorssir!  I wish I could believe them to be only such:I wish itmore now than ever; since even you cannot explain to methemystery of that awful visitant."

"Andsince I cannot do itJaneit must have been unreal."

"Butsirwhen I said so to myself on rising this morningand whenI lookedround the room to gather courage and comfort from thecheerfulaspect of each familiar object in full daylightthere--onthecarpet--I saw what gave the distinct lie to my hypothesis--theveiltornfrom top to bottom in two halves!"

I felt Mr.Rochester start and shudder; he hastily flung his armsround me. "Thank God!" he exclaimed"that if anything malignantdid comenear you last nightit was only the veil that was harmed.Ohtothink what might have happened!"

He drewhis breath shortand strained me so close to himI couldscarcelypant.  After some minutes' silencehe continuedcheerily-

"NowJanetI'll explain to you all about it.  It was half dreamhalfreality.  A woman didI doubt notenter your room:  andthatwomanwas--must have been--Grace Poole.  You call her a strangebeingyourself:  from all you knowyou have reason so to call her--what didshe do to me? what to Mason?  In a state between sleepingandwakingyou noticed her entrance and her actions; but feverishalmostdelirious as you wereyou ascribed to her a goblinappearancedifferent from her own:  the long dishevelled hairtheswelledblack facethe exaggerated staturewere figments ofimagination;results of nightmare:  the spiteful tearing of the veilwas real: and it is like her.  I see you would ask why I keep sucha woman inmy house:  when we have been married a year and a dayIwill tellyou; but not now.  Are you satisfiedJane?  Do you acceptmysolution of the mystery?"

Ireflectedand in truth it appeared to me the only possible one:satisfiedI was notbut to please him I endeavoured to appear so--relievedI certainly did feel; so I answered him with a contentedsmile. And nowas it was long past oneI prepared to leave him.

"Doesnot Sophie sleep with Adele in the nursery?" he askedas Ilit mycandle.

"Yessir."

"Andthere is room enough in Adele's little bed for you.  You mustshare itwith her to-nightJane:  it is no wonder that the incidentyou haverelated should make you nervousand I would rather you didnot sleepalone:  promise me to go to the nursery."

"Ishall be very glad to do sosir."

"Andfasten the door securely on the inside.  Wake Sophie when yougoupstairsunder pretence of requesting her to rouse you in goodtimeto-morrow; for you must be dressed and have finished breakfastbeforeeight.  And nowno more sombre thoughts:  chase dull careawayJanet.  Don't you hear to what soft whispers the wind hasfallen?and there is no more beating of rain against the window-panes: look here" (he lifted up the curtain)--"it is a lovelynight!"

It was. Half heaven was pure and stainless:  the cloudsnowtroopingbefore the windwhich had shifted to the westwere filingoffeastward in longsilvered columns.  The moon shone peacefully.

"Well"said Mr. Rochestergazing inquiringly into my eyes"how ismy Janetnow?"

"Thenight is serenesir; and so am I."

"Andyou will not dream of separation and sorrow to-night; but ofhappy loveand blissful union."

Thisprediction was but half fulfilled:  I did not indeed dream ofsorrowbut as little did I dream of joy; for I never slept at all.Withlittle Adele in my armsI watched the slumber of childhood--sotranquilso passionlessso innocent--and waited for the comingday: all my life was awake and astir in my frame:  and as soon asthe sunrose I rose too.  I remember Adele clung to me as I lefther: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from myneck; andI cried over her with strange emotionand quitted herbecause Ifeared my sobs would break her still sound repose.  Sheseemed theemblem of my past life; and he I was now to array myselfto meetthe dreadbut adoredtype of my unknown future day.

 

CHAPTERXXVI

 

Sophiecame at seven to dress me:  she was very long indeed inaccomplishingher task; so long that Mr. RochestergrownIsupposeimpatient of my delaysent up to ask why I did not come.She wasjust fastening my veil (the plain square of blond after all)to my hairwith a brooch; I hurried from under her hands as soon asI could.

"Stop!"she cried in French.  "Look at yourself in the mirror: youhave nottaken one peep."

So Iturned at the door:  I saw a robed and veiled figureso unlikemy usualself that it seemed almost the image of a stranger."Jane!"called a voiceand I hastened down.  I was received at thefoot ofthe stairs by Mr. Rochester.

"Lingerer!"he said"my brain is on fire with impatienceand youtarry solong!"

He took meinto the dining-roomsurveyed me keenly all overpronouncedme "fair as a lilyand not only the pride of his lifebut thedesire of his eyes" and then telling me he would give mebut tenminutes to eat some breakfasthe rang the bell.  One of hislatelyhired servantsa footmananswered it.

"IsJohn getting the carriage ready?"

"Yessir."

"Isthe luggage brought down?"

"Theyare bringing it downsir."

"Goyou to the church:  see if Mr. Wood (the clergyman) and theclerk arethere:  return and tell me."

Thechurchas the reader knowswas but just beyond the gates; thefootmansoon returned.

"Mr.Wood is in the vestrysirputting on his surplice."

"Andthe carriage?"

"Thehorses are harnessing."

"Weshall not want it to go to church; but it must be ready themoment wereturn:  all the boxes and luggage arranged and strappedonandthe coachman in his seat."

"Yessir."

"Janeare you ready?"

I rose. There were no groomsmenno bridesmaidsno relatives towait foror marshal:  none but Mr. Rochester and I.  Mrs. Fairfaxstood inthe hall as we passed.   I would fain have spoken to herbut myhand was held by a grasp of iron:  I was hurried along by astride Icould hardly follow; and to look at Mr. Rochester's facewas tofeel that not a second of delay would be tolerated for anypurpose. I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did--sobent up toa purposeso grimly resolute:  or whounder suchsteadfastbrowsever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.

I know notwhether the day was fair or foul; in descending thedriveIgazed neither on sky nor earth:  my heart was with my eyes;and bothseemed migrated into Mr. Rochester's frame.  I wanted tosee theinvisible thing on whichas we went alonghe appeared tofasten aglance fierce and fell.  I wanted to feel the thoughtswhoseforce he seemed breasting and resisting.

At thechurchyard wicket he stopped:  he discovered I was quite outofbreath.  "Am I cruel in my love?" he said. "Delay an instant:lean onmeJane."

And now Ican recall the picture of the grey old house of God risingcalmbefore meof a rook wheeling round the steepleof a ruddymorningsky beyond.  I remember somethingtooof the green grave-mounds;and I have not forgotteneithertwo figures of strangersstrayingamongst the low hillocks and reading the mementoes gravenon the fewmossy head-stones.  I noticed thembecauseas they sawustheypassed round to the back of the church; and I doubted notthey weregoing to enter by the side-aisle door and witness theceremony. By Mr. Rochester they were not observed; he was earnestlylooking atmy face from which the blood hadI daresaymomentarilyfled: for I felt my forehead dewyand my cheeks and lips cold.When Iralliedwhich I soon didhe walked gently with me up thepath tothe porch.

We enteredthe quiet and humble temple; the priest waited in hiswhitesurplice at the lowly altarthe clerk beside him.  All wasstill: two shadows only moved in a remote corner.  My conjecturehad beencorrect:  the strangers had slipped in before usand theynow stoodby the vault of the Rochesterstheir backs towards usviewingthrough the rails the old time-stained marble tombwhere akneelingangel guarded the remains of Damer de Rochesterslain atMarstonMoor in the time of the civil warsand of Elizabethhiswife.

Our placewas taken at the communion rails.  Hearing a cautious stepbehind meI glanced over my shoulder:  one of the strangers--agentlemanevidently--was advancing up the chancel.  The servicebegan. The explanation of the intent of matrimony was gone through;and thenthe clergyman came a step further forwardandbendingslightlytowards Mr. Rochesterwent on.

"Irequire and charge you both (as ye will answer at the dreadfulday ofjudgmentwhen the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed)that ifeither of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully bejoinedtogether in matrimonyye do now confess it; for be ye wellassuredthat so many as are coupled together otherwise than God'sWord dothalloware not joined together by Godneither is theirmatrimonylawful."

He pausedas the custom is.  When is the pause after that sentenceeverbroken by reply?  Notperhapsonce in a hundred years. Andtheclergymanwho had not lifted his eyes from his bookand hadheld hisbreath but for a momentwas proceeding:  his hand wasalreadystretched towards Mr. Rochesteras his lips unclosed toask"Wiltthou have this woman for thy wedded wife?"--when adistinctand near voice said -

"Themarriage cannot go on:  I declare the existence of animpediment."

Theclergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk didthe same;Mr. Rochester moved slightlyas if an earthquake hadrolledunder his feet:  taking a firmer footingand not turning hishead oreyeshe said"Proceed."

Profoundsilence fell when he had uttered that wordwith deep butlowintonation.  Presently Mr. Wood said -

"Icannot proceed without some investigation into what has beenassertedand evidence of its truth or falsehood."

"Theceremony is quite broken off" subjoined the voice behind us."I amin a condition to prove my allegation:  an insuperableimpedimentto this marriage exists."

Mr.Rochester heardbut heeded not:  he stood stubborn and rigidmaking nomovement but to possess himself of my hand.  What a hotand stronggrasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his palefirmmassive front at this moment!  How his eye shonestillwatchfuland yet wild beneath!

Mr. Woodseemed 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 insuperableand Ispeakadvisedly."

Thespeaker came forward and leaned on the rails.  He continuedutteringeach word distinctlycalmlysteadilybut not loudly -

"Itsimply consists in the existence of a previous marriage.  Mr.Rochesterhas a wife now living."

My nervesvibrated to those low-spoken words as they had nevervibratedto thunder--my blood felt their subtle violence as it hadnever feltfrost or fire; but I was collectedand in no danger ofswooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester:  I made him look at me.  Hiswhole facewas colourless rock:  his eye was both spark and flint.Hedisavowed nothing:  he seemed as if he would defy all things.Withoutspeakingwithout smilingwithout seeming to recognise inme a humanbeinghe only twined my waist with his arm and rivetedme to hisside.

"Whoare you?" he asked of the intruder.

"Myname is Briggsa solicitor of--StreetLondon."

"Andyou would thrust on me a wife?"

"Iwould remind you of your lady's existencesirwhich the lawrecognisesif you do not."

"Favourme with an account of her--with her nameher parentageherplace ofabode."

"Certainly." Mr. Briggs calmly took a paper from his pocketandread outin a sort of officialnasal voice:-

"'Iaffirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D.--(a dateof fifteenyears back)Edward Fairfax Rochesterof ThornfieldHallinthe county of -and of Ferndean Manorin -shireEnglandwasmarried to my sisterBertha Antoinetta Masondaughter of JonasMasonmerchantand of Antoinetta his wifea Creoleat--churchSpanishTownJamaica.  The record of the marriage will be found intheregister of that church--a copy of it is now in my possession.SignedRichard Mason.'"

"That--ifa genuine document--may prove I have been marriedbut itdoes notprove that the woman mentioned therein as my wife is stillliving."

"Shewas living three months ago" returned the lawyer.

"Howdo you know?"

"Ihave a witness to the factwhose testimony even yousirwillscarcelycontrovert."

"Producehim--or go to hell."

"Iwill produce him first--he is on the spot.  Mr. Masonhave thegoodnessto step forward."

Mr.Rochesteron hearing the nameset his teeth; he experiencedtooasort of strong convulsive quiver; near to him as I wasIfelt thespasmodic movement of fury or despair run through hisframe. The second strangerwho had hitherto lingered in thebackgroundnow drew near; a pale face looked over the solicitor'sshoulder--yesit was Mason himself.  Mr. Rochester turned andglared athim.  His eyeas I have often saidwas a black eye:  ithad now atawnynaya bloody light in its gloom; and his faceflushed--olivecheek and hueless forehead received a glow as fromspreadingascending heart-fire:  and he stirredlifted his strongarm--hecould have struck Masondashed him on the church-floorshocked byruthless blow the breath from his body--but Mason shrankawayandcried faintly"Good God!"  Contempt fell cool on Mr.Rochester--hispassion died as if a blight had shrivelled it up:  heonlyasked--"What have YOU to say?"

Aninaudible reply escaped Mason's white lips.

"Thedevil is in it if you cannot answer distinctly.  I againdemandwhat have you to say?"

"Sir--sir"interrupted the clergyman"do not forget you are in asacredplace."  Then addressing Masonhe inquired gently"Areyouawaresirwhether or not this gentleman's wife is still living?"

"Courage"urged the lawyer--"speak out."

"Sheis now living at Thornfield Hall" said Masonin morearticulatetones:  "I saw her there last April.  I am herbrother."

"AtThornfield Hall!" ejaculated the clergyman.  "Impossible! I aman oldresident in this neighbourhoodsirand I never heard of aMrs.Rochester at Thornfield Hall."

I saw agrim smile contort Mr. Rochester's lipsand he muttered -

"Noby God!  I took care that none should hear of it--or of herunder thatname."  He mused--for ten minutes he held counsel withhimself: he formed his resolveand announced it -

"Enough!all shall bolt out at oncelike the bullet from thebarrel. Woodclose your book and take off your surplice; JohnGreen (tothe clerk)leave the church:  there will be no weddingto-day." The man obeyed.

Mr.Rochester continuedhardily and recklessly:  "Bigamy is anuglyword!--Imeanthoweverto be a bigamist; but fate has out-manoeuvredmeor Providence has checked me--perhaps the last.  Iam littlebetter than a devil at this moment; andas my pastortherewould tell medeserve no doubt the sternest judgments of Godeven tothe quenchless fire and deathless worm.  Gentlemenmy planis brokenup:- what this lawyer and his client say is true:  I havebeenmarriedand the woman to whom I was married lives!  You sayyou neverheard of a Mrs. Rochester at the house up yonderWood;but Idaresay you have many a time inclined your ear to gossip aboutthemysterious lunatic kept there under watch and ward.  Some havewhisperedto you that she is my bastard half-sister:  somemy cast-offmistress.  I now inform you that she is my wifewhom I marriedfifteenyears ago--Bertha Mason by name; sister of this resolutepersonagewho is nowwith his quivering limbs and white cheeksshowingyou what a stout heart men may bear.  Cheer upDick!--neverfearme!--I'd almost as soon strike a woman as you.  Bertha Mason ismad; andshe came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through threegenerations? Her motherthe Creolewas both a madwoman and adrunkard!--asI found out after I had wed the daughter:  for theyweresilent on family secrets before.  Berthalike a dutiful childcopied herparent in both points.  I had a charming partner--purewisemodest:  you can fancy I was a happy man.  I went throughrichscenes! Oh! my experience has been heavenlyif you only knew it!But I oweyou no further explanation.  BriggsWoodMasonI inviteyou all tocome up to the house and visit Mrs. Poole's patientandMY WIFE! You shall see what sort of a being I was cheated intoespousingand judge whether or not I had a right to break thecompactand seek sympathy with something at least human.  Thisgirl"he continuedlooking at me"knew no more than youWoodofthedisgusting secret:  she thought all was fair and legal and neverdreamt shewas going to be entrapped into a feigned union with adefraudedwretchalready bound to a badmadand embruted partner!Come allof you--follow!"

Stillholding me fasthe left the church:  the three gentlemen cameafter. At the front door of the hall we found the carriage.

"Takeit back to the coach-houseJohn" said Mr. Rochester coolly;"itwill not be wanted to-day."

At ourentranceMrs. FairfaxAdeleSophieLeahadvanced to meetand greetus.

"Tothe right-about--every soul!" cried the master; "away withyourcongratulations! Who wants them?  Not I!--they are fifteen yearstoo late!"

He passedon and ascended the stairsstill holding my handandstillbeckoning the gentlemen to follow himwhich they did.  Wemountedthe first staircasepassed up the galleryproceeded to thethirdstorey:  the lowblack dooropened by Mr. Rochester'smaster-keyadmitted us to the tapestried roomwith its great bedand itspictorial cabinet.

"Youknow this placeMason" said our guide; "she bit andstabbedyou here."

He liftedthe hangings from the walluncovering the second door:thistoohe opened.  In a room without a windowthere burnt afireguarded by a high and strong fenderand a lamp suspended fromtheceiling by a chain.  Grace Poole bent over the fireapparentlycookingsomething in a saucepan.  In the deep shadeat the fartherend of therooma figure ran backwards and forwards.  What it waswhetherbeast or human beingone could notat first sighttell:itgrovelledseeminglyon all fours; it snatched and growled likesomestrange wild animal:  but it was covered with clothingand aquantityof darkgrizzled hairwild as a manehid its head andface.

"Good-morrowMrs. Poole!" said Mr. Rochester.  "How are you? andhow isyour charge to-day?"

"We'retolerablesirI thank you" replied Gracelifting theboilingmess carefully on to the hob:  "rather snappishbut not'rageous."

A fiercecry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report:  theclothedhyena rose upand stood tall on its hind-feet.

"Ah!sirshe sees you!" exclaimed Grace:  "you'd betternot stay."

"Onlya few momentsGrace:  you must allow me a few moments."

"Takecare thensir!--for God's saketake care!"

The maniacbellowed:  she parted her shaggy locks from her visageand gazedwildly at her visitors.  I recognised well that purpleface--thosebloated features.  Mrs. Poole advanced.

"Keepout of the way" said Mr. Rochesterthrusting her aside:"shehas no knife nowI supposeand I'm on my guard."

"Onenever knows what she hassir:  she is so cunning:  it isnotin mortaldiscretion to fathom her craft."

"Wehad better leave her" whispered Mason.

"Goto 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 grappledhis throatviciouslyand laid her teeth to his cheek:  theystruggled. She was a big womanin stature almost equalling herhusbandand corpulent besides:  she showed virile force in thecontest--morethan once she almost throttled himathletic as hewas. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow; but hewould notstrike:  he would only wrestle.  At last he mastered herarms;Grace Poole gave him a cordand he pinioned them behind her:with moreropewhich was at handhe bound her to a chair.  Theoperationwas performed amidst the fiercest yells and the mostconvulsiveplunges.  Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators:he lookedat them with a smile both acrid and desolate.

"Thatis MY WIFE" said he.  "Such is the sole conjugalembrace I amever toknow--such are the endearments which are to solace myleisurehours!  And THIS is what I wished to have" (laying his handon myshoulder):  "this young girlwho stands so grave and quietatthe mouthof helllooking collectedly at the gambols of a demonIwanted herjust as a change after that fierce ragout.  Wood andBriggslook at the difference!  Compare these clear eyes with thered ballsyonder--this face with that mask--this form with thatbulk; thenjudge mepriest of the gospel and man of the lawandrememberwith what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged!  Off withyou now. I must shut up my prize."

We allwithdrew.  Mr. Rochester stayed a moment behind usto givesomefurther order to Grace Poole.  The solicitor addressed me as hedescendedthe stair.

"Youmadam" said he"are cleared from all blame:  youruncle willbe glad tohear it--ifindeedhe should be still living--when Mr.Masonreturns to Madeira."

"Myuncle!  What of him?  Do you know him?"

"Mr.Mason does.  Mr. Eyre has been the Funchal correspondent of hishouse forsome years.  When your uncle received your letterintimatingthe contemplated union between yourself and Mr.RochesterMr. Masonwho was staying at Madeira to recruit hishealthonhis way back to Jamaicahappened to be with him.  Mr.Eyrementioned the intelligence; for he knew that my client here wasacquaintedwith a gentleman of the name of Rochester.  Mr. Masonastonishedand distressed as you may supposerevealed the realstate ofmatters.  Your uncleI am sorry to sayis now on a sickbed; fromwhichconsidering the nature of his disease--decline--andthe stageit has reachedit is unlikely he will ever rise.  Hecould notthen hasten to England himselfto extricate you from thesnare intowhich you had fallenbut he implored Mr. Mason to loseno time intaking steps to prevent the false marriage.  He referredhim to mefor assistance.  I used all despatchand am thankful Iwas nottoo late:  as youdoubtlessmust be also.  Were I notmorallycertain that your uncle will be dead ere you reach MadeiraI wouldadvise you to accompany Mr. Mason back; but as it isIthink youhad better remain in England till you can hear furthereitherfrom or of Mr. Eyre.  Have we anything else to stay for?"heinquiredof Mr. Mason.

"Nono--let us be gone" was the anxious reply; and without waitingto takeleave of Mr. Rochesterthey made their exit at the halldoor. The clergyman stayed to exchange a few sentenceseither ofadmonitionor reproofwith his haughty parishioner; this duty donehe toodeparted.

I heardhim go as I stood at the half-open door of my own roomtowhich Ihad now withdrawn.  The house clearedI shut myself infastenedthe bolt that none might intrudeand proceeded--not toweepnotto mournI was yet too calm for thatbut--mechanicallyto takeoff the wedding dressand replace it by the stuff gown Ihad wornyesterdayas I thoughtfor the last time.  I then satdown: I felt weak and tired.  I leaned my arms on a tableand myheaddropped on them.  And now I thought:  till now I had onlyheardseenmoved--followed up and down where I was led or dragged--watchedevent rush on eventdisclosure open beyond disclosure:but NOWITHOUGHT.

Themorning had been a quiet morning enough--all except the briefscene withthe lunatic:  the transaction in the church had not beennoisy;there was no explosion of passionno loud altercationnodisputeno defiance or challengeno tearsno sobs:  a few wordshad beenspokena calmly pronounced objection to the marriage made;somesternshort questions put by Mr. Rochester; answersexplanationsgivenevidence adduced; an open admission of the truthhad beenuttered by my master; then the living proof had been seen;theintruders were goneand all was over.

I was inmy own room as usual--just myselfwithout obvious change:nothinghad smitten meor scathed meor maimed me.  And yet wherewas theJane Eyre of yesterday?--where was her life?--where were herprospects?

Jane Eyrewho had been an ardentexpectant woman--almost a bridewas acoldsolitary girl again:  her life was pale; her prospectsweredesolate.  A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a whiteDecemberstorm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe applesdriftscrushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay afrozenshroud:  lanes which last night blushed full of flowersto-day werepathless with untrodden snow; and the woodswhich twelvehourssince waved leafy and flagrant as groves between the tropicsnowspreadwastewildand white as pine-forests in wintry Norway.My hopeswere all dead--struck with a subtle doomsuch asin onenightfell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt.  I looked onmycherished wishesyesterday so blooming and glowing; they laystarkchilllivid corpses that could never revive.  I looked at mylove: that feeling which was my master's--which he had created; itshiveredin my heartlike a suffering child in a cold cradle;sicknessand anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr.Rochester'sarms--it could not derive warmth from his breast.  Ohnever morecould it turn to him; for faith was blighted--confidencedestroyed! Mr. Rochester was not to me what he had been; for he wasnot what Ihad thought him.  I would not ascribe vice to him; Iwould notsay he had betrayed me; but the attribute of stainlesstruth wasgone from his ideaand from his presence I must go:  THATIperceived well.  When--how--whitherI could not yet discern;buthehimselfI doubted notwould hurry me from Thornfield.  Realaffectionit seemedhe could not have for me; it had been onlyfitfulpassion:  that was balked; he would want me no more.  Ishouldfear even to cross his path now:  my view must be hateful tohim. Ohhow blind had been my eyes!  How weak my conduct!

My eyeswere covered and closed:  eddying darkness seemed to swimround meand reflection came in as black and confused a flow.Self-abandonedrelaxedand effortlessI seemed to have laid medown inthe dried-up bed of a great river; I heard a flood loosenedin remotemountainsand felt the torrent come:  to rise I had nowilltoflee I had no strength.  I lay faintlonging to be dead.One ideaonly still throbbed life-like within me--a remembrance ofGod: it begot an unuttered prayer:  these words went wandering upand downin my rayless mindas something that should be whisperedbut noenergy was found to express them -

"Benot far from mefor trouble is near:  there is none to help."

It wasnear:  and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it--as I hadneither joined my handsnor bent my kneesnor moved mylips--itcame:  in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me.  Thewholeconsciousness of my life lornmy love lostmy hope quenchedmy faithdeath-struckswayed full and mighty above me in one sullenmass. That bitter hour cannot be described:  in truth"thewaterscame intomy soul; I sank in deep mire:  I felt no standing; I cameinto deepwaters; the floods overflowed me."

 

CHAPTERXXVII

 

Some timein the afternoon I raised my headand looking round andseeing thewestern sun gilding the sign of its decline on the wallI asked"What am I to do?"

But theanswer my mind gave--"Leave Thornfield at once"--was sopromptsodreadthat I stopped my ears.  I said I could not bearsuch wordsnow.  "That I am not Edward Rochester's bride is theleast partof my woe" I alleged:  "that I have wakened out ofmostgloriousdreamsand found them all void and vainis a horror Icould bearand master; but that I must leave him decidedlyinstantlyentirelyis intolerable.  I cannot do it."

Butthena voice within me averred that I could do it and foretoldthat Ishould do it.  I wrestled with my own resolution:  I wantedto be weakthat I might avoid the awful passage of further sufferingI saw laidout for me; and Conscienceturned tyrantheld Passionby thethroattold her tauntinglyshe had yet but dipped herdaintyfoot in the sloughand swore that with that arm of iron hewouldthrust her down to unsounded depths of agony.

"Letme be torn away" then I cried.  "Let another helpme!"

"No;you shall tear yourself awaynone shall help you:  you shallyourselfpluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand:your heartshall be the victimand you the priest to transfix it."

I rose upsuddenlyterror-struck at the solitude which so ruthlessa judgehaunted--at the silence which so awful a voice filled.  Myhead swamas I stood erect.  I perceived that I was sickening fromexcitementand inanition; neither meat nor drink had passed my lipsthat dayfor I had taken no breakfast.  Andwith a strange pangInowreflected thatlong as I had been shut up hereno message hadbeen sentto ask how I wasor to invite me to come down:  not evenlittleAdele had tapped at the door; not even Mrs. Fairfax hadsoughtme.  "Friends always forget those whom fortune forsakes"Imurmuredas I undrew the bolt and passed out.  I stumbled over anobstacle: my head was still dizzymy sight was dimand my limbswerefeeble.  I could not soon recover myself.  I fellbut notonto theground:  an outstretched arm caught me.  I looked up--I wassupportedby Mr. Rochesterwho sat in a chair across my chamberthreshold.

"Youcome out at last" he said.  "WellI have beenwaiting for youlongandlistening:  yet not one movement have I heardnor onesob: five minutes more of that death-like hushand I should haveforced thelock like a burglar.  So you shun me?--you shut yourselfup andgrieve alone!  I would rather you had come and upbraided mewithvehemence.  You are passionate.  I expected a scene of somekind. I was prepared for the hot rain of tears; only I wanted themto be shedon my breast:  now a senseless floor has received themor yourdrenched handkerchief.  But I err:  you have not wept atall! I see a white cheek and a faded eyebut no trace of tears.  Isupposethenyour heart has been weeping blood?"

"WellJane! not a word of reproach?  Nothing bitter--nothingpoignant? Nothing to cut a feeling or sting a passion?  You sitquietlywhere I have placed youand regard me with a wearypassivelook."

"JaneI never meant to wound you thus.  If the man who had but onelittle ewelamb that was dear to him as a daughterthat ate of hisbread anddrank of his cupand lay in his bosomhad by somemistakeslaughtered it at the shambleshe would not have rued hisbloodyblunder more than I now rue mine.  Will you ever forgive me?"

ReaderIforgave him at the moment and on the spot.  There was suchdeepremorse in his eyesuch true pity in his tonesuch manlyenergy inhis manner; and besidesthere was such unchanged love inhis wholelook and mien--I forgave him all:  yet not in wordsnotoutwardly;only at my heart's core.

"Youknow I am a scoundrelJane?" ere long he inquired wistfully--wonderingI supposeat my continued silence and tamenesstheresultrather of weakness than of will.

"Yessir."

"Thentell me so roundly and sharply--don't spare me."

"Icannot:  I am tired and sick.  I want some water." He heaved asort ofshuddering sighand taking me in his armscarried medownstairs. At first I did not know to what room he had borne me;all wascloudy to my glazed sight:  presently I felt the revivingwarmth ofa fire; forsummer as it wasI had become icy cold in mychamber. He put wine to my lips; I tasted it and revived; then Iatesomething he offered meand was soon myself.  I was in thelibrary--sittingin his chair--he was quite near.  "If I could goout oflife nowwithout too sharp a pangit would be well for me"I thought;"then I should not have to make the effort of cracking myheart-stringsin rending them from among Mr. Rochester's.  I mustleave himit appears.  I do not want to leave him--I cannot leavehim."

"Howare you nowJane?"

"Muchbettersir; I shall be well soon."

"Tastethe wine againJane."

I obeyedhim; then he put the glass on the tablestood before meand lookedat me attentively.  Suddenly he turned awaywith aninarticulateexclamationfull of passionate emotion of some kind;he walkedfast through the room and came back; he stooped towards meas if tokiss me; but I remembered caresses were now forbidden.  Iturned myface away and put his aside.

"What!--Howis this?" he exclaimed hastily.  "OhI know! youwon'tkiss thehusband of Bertha Mason?  You consider my arms filled andmyembraces appropriated?"

"Atany ratethere is neither room nor claim for mesir."

"WhyJane?  I will spare you the trouble of much talking; I willanswer foryou--Because I have a wife alreadyyou would reply.--Iguessrightly?"

"Yes."

"Ifyou think soyou must have a strange opinion of me; you mustregard meas a plotting profligate--a base and low rake who has beensimulatingdisinterested love in order to draw you into a snaredeliberatelylaidand strip you of honour and rob you of self-respect. What do you say to that?  I see you can say nothing in thefirstplaceyou are faint stilland have enough to do to draw yourbreath; inthe second placeyou cannot yet accustom yourself toaccuse andrevile meand besidesthe flood-gates of tears areopenedand they would rush out if you spoke much; and you have nodesire toexpostulateto upbraidto make a scene:  you arethinkinghow TO ACT--TALKING you consider is of no use.  I know you--I am onmy guard."

"SirI do not wish to act against you" I said; and my unsteadyvoicewarned me to curtail my sentence.

"Notin your sense of the wordbut in mine you are scheming todestroyme.  You have as good as said that I am a married man--as amarriedman you will shun mekeep out of my way:  just now you haverefused tokiss me.  You intend to make yourself a complete strangerto me: to live under this roof only as Adele's governess; if ever Isay afriendly word to youif ever a friendly feeling inclines youagain tomeyou will say--'That man had nearly made me hismistress: I must be ice and rock to him;' and ice and rock you willaccordinglybecome."

I clearedand steadied my voice to reply:  "All is changed about mesir; Imust change too--there is no doubt of that; and to avoidfluctuationsof feelingand continual combats with recollectionsandassociationsthere is only one way--Adele must have a newgovernesssir."

"OhAdele will go to school--I have settled that already; nor do Imean totorment you with the hideous associations and recollectionsofThornfield Hall--this accursed place--this tent of Achan--thisinsolentvaultoffering the ghastliness of living death to thelight ofthe open sky--this narrow stone hellwith its one realfiendworse than a legion of such as we imagine.  Janeyou shallnot stayherenor will I.  I was wrong ever to bring you toThornfieldHallknowing as I did how it was haunted.  I chargedthem toconceal from youbefore I ever saw youall knowledge ofthe curseof the place; merely because I feared Adele never wouldhave agoverness to stay if she knew with what inmate she washousedand my plans would not permit me to remove the maniacelsewhere--thoughI possess an old houseFerndean Manoreven moreretiredand hidden than thiswhere I could have lodged her safelyenoughhad not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situationin theheart of a woodmade my conscience recoil from thearrangement. Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me ofhercharge:  but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not atendencyto indirect assassinationeven of what I most hate.

"Concealingthe mad-woman's neighbourhood from youhoweverwassomethinglike covering a child with a cloak and laying it down nearaupas-tree:  that demon's vicinage is poisonedand always was.But I'llshut up Thornfield Hall:  I'll nail up the front door andboard thelower windows:  I'll give Mrs. Poole two hundred a year tolive herewith MY WIFEas you term that fearful hag:  Grace will domuch formoneyand she shall have her sonthe keeper at GrimsbyRetreatto bear her company and be at hand to give her aid in theparoxysmswhen MY WIFE is prompted by her familiar to burn peoplein theirbeds at nightto stab themto bite their flesh from theirbonesandso on--"

"Sir"I interrupted him"you are inexorable for that unfortunatelady: you speak of her with hate--with vindictive antipathy.  It iscruel--shecannot help being mad."

"Janemy little darling (so I will call youfor so you are)youdon't knowwhat you are talking about; you misjudge me again:  it isnotbecause she is mad I hate her.  If you were maddo you think Ishouldhate you?"

"I doindeedsir."

"Thenyou are mistakenand you know nothing about meand nothingabout thesort of love of which I am capable.  Every atom of yourflesh isas dear to me as my own:  in pain and sickness it wouldstill bedear.  Your mind is my treasureand if it were brokenitwould bemy treasure still:  if you ravedmy arms should confineyouandnot a strait waistcoat--your graspeven in furywouldhave acharm for me:  if you flew at me as wildly as that woman didthismorningI should receive you in an embraceat least as fondas itwould be restrictive.  I should not shrink from you withdisgust asI did from her:  in your quiet moments you should have nowatcherand no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiringtendernessthough you gave me no smile in return; and never wearyof gazinginto your eyesthough they had no longer a ray ofrecognitionfor me.--But why do I follow that train of ideas?  I wastalking ofremoving you from Thornfield.  Allyou knowis preparedfor promptdeparture:  to-morrow you shall go.  I only ask you toendure onemore night under this roofJane; and thenfarewell toitsmiseries and terrors for ever!  I have a place to repair towhich willbe a secure sanctuary from hateful reminiscencesfromunwelcomeintrusion--even from falsehood and slander."

"Andtake Adele with yousir" I interrupted; "she will be acompanionfor you."

"Whatdo you meanJane?  I told you I would send Adele to school;and whatdo I want with a child for a companionand not my ownchild--aFrench dancer's bastard?  Why do you importune me abouther! I saywhy do you assign Adele to me for a companion?"

"Youspoke of a retirementsir; and retirement and solitude aredull: too dull for you."

"Solitude!solitude!" he reiterated with irritation.  "I see Imustcome to anexplanation.  I don't know what sphynx-like expression isforming inyour countenance.  You are to share my solitude.  Do youunderstand?"

I shook myhead:  it required a degree of courageexcited as he wasbecomingeven to risk that mute sign of dissent.  He had beenwalkingfast about the roomand he stoppedas if suddenly rootedto onespot.  He looked at me long and hard:  I turned my eyesfromhimfixedthem on the fireand tried to assume and maintain aquietcollected aspect.

"Nowfor the hitch in Jane's character" he said at lastspeakingmorecalmly than from his look I had expected him to speak.  "Thereel ofsilk has run smoothly enough so far; but I always knew therewould comea knot and a puzzle:  here it is.  Now for vexationandexasperationand endless trouble!  By God!  I long to exert afractionof Samson's strengthand break the entanglement like tow!"

Herecommenced his walkbut soon again stoppedand this time justbefore me.

"Jane!will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips tomy ear);"becauseif you won'tI'll try violence."  His voicewashoarse;his look that of a man who is just about to burst aninsufferablebond and plunge headlong into wild license.  I saw thatin anothermomentand with one impetus of frenzy moreI should beable to donothing with him.  The present--the passing second oftime--wasall I had in which to control and restrain him--a movementofrepulsionflightfear would have sealed my doom--and his. ButI was notafraid:  not in the least.  I felt an inward power; asense ofinfluencewhich supported me.  The crisis was perilous;but notwithout its charm:  such as the Indianperhapsfeels whenhe slipsover the rapid in his canoe.  I took hold of his clenchedhandloosened the contorted fingersand said to himsoothingly -

"Sitdown; I'll talk to you as long as you likeand hear all youhave tosaywhether reasonable or unreasonable."

He satdown:  but he did not get leave to speak directly.  I hadbeenstruggling with tears for some time:  I had taken great painsto repressthembecause I knew he would not like to see me weep.NowhoweverI considered it well to let them flow as freely and aslong asthey liked.  If the flood annoyed himso much the better.So I gaveway and cried heartily.

Soon Iheard him earnestly entreating me to be composed.  I said Icould notwhile he was in such a passion.

"ButI am not angryJane:  I only love you too well; and you hadsteeledyour little pale face with such a resolutefrozen lookIcould notendure it.  Hushnowand wipe your eyes."

Hissoftened voice announced that he was subdued; so Iin my turnbecamecalm.  Now he made an effort to rest his head on my shoulderbut Iwould not permit it.  Then he would draw me to him:  no.

"Jane!Jane!" he saidin such an accent of bitter sadness itthrilledalong every nerve I had; "you don't love methen?  It wasonly mystationand the rank of my wifethat you valued?  Now thatyou thinkme disqualified to become your husbandyou recoil from mytouch asif I were some toad or ape."

Thesewords cut me:  yet what could I do or I say?  I oughtprobablyto havedone or said nothing; but I was so tortured by a sense ofremorse atthus hurting his feelingsI could not control the wishto dropbalm where I had wounded.

"I DOlove you" I said"more than ever:  but I must notshow orindulgethe feeling:  and this is the last time I must express it."

"Thelast timeJane!  What! do you think you can live with meandsee medailyand yetif you still love mebe always cold anddistant?"

"Nosir; that I am certain I could not; and therefore I see thereis but oneway:  but you will be furious if I mention it."

"Ohmention it!  If I stormyou have the art of weeping."

"Mr.RochesterI must leave you."

"Forhow longJane?  For a few minuteswhile you smooth your hair--which issomewhat dishevelled; and bathe your face--which looksfeverish?"

"Imust leave Adele and Thornfield.  I must part with you for mywholelife:  I must begin a new existence among strange faces andstrangescenes."

"Ofcourse:  I told you you should.  I pass over the madnessaboutpartingfrom me.  You mean you must become a part of me.  As to thenewexistenceit is all right:  you shall yet be my wife:  Iam notmarried. You shall be Mrs. Rochester--both virtually and nominally.I shallkeep only to you so long as you and I live.  You shall go toa place Ihave in the south of France:  a whitewashed villa on theshores ofthe Mediterranean.  There you shall live a happyandguardedand most innocent life.  Never fear that I wish to lure youintoerror--to make you my mistress.  Why did you shake your head?Janeyoumust be reasonableor in truth I shall again becomefrantic."

His voiceand hand quivered:  his large nostrils dilated; his eyeblazed: still I dared to speak.

"Siryour wife is living:  that is a fact acknowledged this morningbyyourself.  If I lived with you as you desireI should then beyourmistress:  to say otherwise is sophistical--is false."

"JaneI am not a gentle-tempered man--you forget that:  I am notlong-enduring;I am not cool and dispassionate.  Out of pity to meandyourselfput your finger on my pulsefeel how it throbsand--beware!"

He baredhis wristand offered it to me:  the blood was forsakinghis cheekand lipsthey were growing livid; I was distressed on allhands. To agitate him thus deeplyby a resistance he so abhorredwascruel:  to yield was out of the question.  I did what humanbeings doinstinctively when they are driven to utter extremity--looked foraid to one higher than man:  the words "God help me!"burstinvoluntarily from my lips.

"I ama fool!" cried Mr. Rochester suddenly.  "I keeptelling her Iam notmarriedand do not explain to her why.  I forget she knowsnothing ofthe character of that womanor of the circumstancesattendingmy infernal union with her.  OhI am certain Jane willagree withme in opinionwhen she knows all that I know!  Just putyour handin mineJanet--that I may have the evidence of touch aswell assightto prove you are near me--and I will in a few wordsshow youthe real state of the case.  Can you listen to me

"Yessir; for hours if you will."

"Iask only minutes.  Janedid you ever hear or know at I was notthe eldestson of my house:  that I had once a brother older thanI?"

"Iremember Mrs. Fairfax told me so once."

"Anddid you ever hear that my father was an avariciousgraspingman?"

"Ihave understood something to that effect."

"WellJanebeing soit was his resolution to keep the propertytogether;he could not bear the idea of dividing his estate andleaving mea fair portion:  allhe resolvedshould go to mybrotherRowland.  Yet as little could he endure that a son of hisshould bea poor man.  I must be provided for by a wealthy marriage.He soughtme a partner betimes.  Mr. Masona West India planter andmerchantwas his old acquaintance.  He was certain his possessionswere realand vast:  he made inquiries.  Mr. Masonhe foundhad ason anddaughter; and he learned from him that he could and wouldgive thelatter a fortune of thirty thousand pounds:  that sufficed.When Ileft collegeI was sent out to Jamaicato espouse a bridealreadycourted for me.  My father said nothing about her money; buthe told meMiss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty:and thiswas no lie.  I found her a fine womanin the style ofBlancheIngram:  talldarkand majestic.  Her family wished tosecure mebecause I was of a good race; and so did she.  They showedher to mein partiessplendidly dressed.  I seldom saw her aloneand hadvery little private conversation with her.  She flatteredmeandlavishly displayed for my pleasure her charms andaccomplishments. All the men in her circle seemed to admire her andenvy me. I was dazzledstimulated:  my senses were excited; andbeingignorantrawand inexperiencedI thought I loved her.There isno folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of societythepruriencethe rashnessthe blindness of youthwill not hurrya man toits commission.  Her relatives encouraged me; competitorspiqued me;she allured me:  a marriage was achieved almost before Iknew whereI was.  OhI have no respect for myself when I think ofthatact!--an agony of inward contempt masters me.  I never lovedIneveresteemedI did not even know her.  I was not sure of theexistenceof one virtue in her nature:  I had marked neithermodestynor benevolencenor candournor refinement in her mind ormanners--andI married her:- grossgrovellingmole-eyed blockheadthat Iwas!  With less sin I might have--But let me remember to whomI amspeaking."

"Mybride's mother I had never seen:  I understood she was dead.Thehoneymoon overI learned my mistake; she was only madand shutup in alunatic asylum.  There was a younger brothertoo--acompletedumb idiot.  The elder onewhom you have seen (and whom Icannothatewhilst I abhor all his kindredbecause he has somegrains ofaffection in his feeble mindshown in the continuedinteresthe takes in his wretched sisterand also in a dog-likeattachmenthe once bore me)will probably be in the same state oneday. My father and my brother Rowland knew all this; but theythoughtonly of the thirty thousand poundsand joined in the plotagainstme."

"Thesewere vile discoveries; but except for the treachery ofconcealmentI should have made them no subject of reproach to mywifeevenwhen I found her nature wholly alien to mineher tastesobnoxiousto meher cast of mind commonlownarrowandsingularlyincapable of being led to anything higherexpanded toanythinglarger--when I found that I could not pass a singleeveningnor even a single hour of the day with her in comfort; thatkindlyconversation could not be sustained between usbecausewhatevertopic I startedimmediately received from her a turn atoncecoarse and triteperverse and imbecile--when I perceived thatI shouldnever have a quiet or settled householdbecause no servantwould bearthe continued outbreaks of her violent and unreasonabletemperorthe vexations of her absurdcontradictoryexactingorders--eventhen I restrained myself:  I eschewed upbraidingIcurtailedremonstrance; I tried to devour my repentance and disgustin secret;I repressed the deep antipathy I felt.

"JaneI will not trouble you with abominable details:  some strongwordsshall express what I have to say.  I lived with that womanupstairsfour yearsand before that time she had tried me indeed:hercharacter ripened and developed with frightful rapidity; hervicessprang up fast and rank:  they were so strongonly crueltycouldcheck themand I would not use cruelty.  What a pigmyintellectshe hadand what giant propensities!  How fearful werethe cursesthose propensities entailed on me!  Bertha Masonthetruedaughter of an infamous motherdragged me through all thehideousand degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to awife atonce intemperate and unchaste.

"Mybrother in the interval was deadand at the end of the fouryears myfather died too.  I was rich enough now--yet poor tohideousindigence:  a nature the most grossimpuredepraved I eversawwasassociated with mineand called by the law and by societya part ofme.  And I could not rid myself of it by any legalproceedings: for the doctors now discovered that MY WIFE was mad--herexcesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity.  Janeyou don'tlike my narrative; you look almost sick--shall I defer therest toanother day?"

"Nosirfinish it now; I pity you--I do earnestly pity you."

"PityJanefrom some people is a noxious and insulting sort oftributewhich one is justified in hurling back in the teeth ofthose whooffer it; but that is the sort of pity native to callousselfishhearts; it is a hybridegotistical pain at hearing of woescrossedwith ignorant contempt for those who have endured them.  Butthat isnot your pityJane; it is not the feeling of which yourwhole faceis full at this moment--with which your eyes are nowalmostoverflowing--with which your heart is heaving--with whichyour handis trembling in mine.  Your pitymy darlingis thesufferingmother of love:  its anguish is the very natal pang of thedivinepassion.  I accept itJane; let the daughter have freeadvent--myarms wait to receive her."

"Nowsirproceed; what did you do when you found she was mad?"

"JaneI approached the verge of despair; a remnant of self-respectwas allthat intervened between me and the gulf.  In the eyes of theworldIwas doubtless covered with grimy dishonour; but I resolvedto beclean in my own sight--and to the last I repudiated thecontaminationof her crimesand wrenched myself from connectionwith hermental defects.  Stillsociety associated my name andpersonwith hers; I yet saw her and heard her daily:  something ofher breath(faugh!) mixed with the air I breathed; and besidesIrememberedI had once been her husband--that recollection was thenand isnowinexpressibly odious to me; moreoverI knew that whileshe livedI could never be the husband of another and better wife;andthough five years my senior (her family and her father had liedto me evenin the particular of her age)she was likely to live aslong as Ibeing as robust in frame as she was infirm in mind.Thusatthe age of twenty-sixI was hopeless.

"Onenight I had been awakened by her yells--(since the medical menhadpronounced her madshe hadof coursebeen shut up)--it was afiery WestIndian night; one of the description that frequentlyprecedethe hurricanes of those climates.  Being unable to sleep inbedI gotup and opened the window.  The air was like sulphur-steams--Icould find no refreshment anywhere.  Mosquitoes camebuzzing inand hummed sullenly round the room; the seawhich Icould hearfrom thencerumbled dull like an earthquake--blackcloudswere casting up over it; the moon was setting in the wavesbroad andredlike a hot cannon-ball--she threw her last bloodyglanceover a world quivering with the ferment of tempest.  I wasphysicallyinfluenced by the atmosphere and sceneand my ears werefilledwith the curses the maniac still shrieked out; wherein shemomentarilymingled my name with such a tone of demon-hatewithsuchlanguage!--no professed harlot ever had a fouler vocabularythan she: though two rooms offI heard every word--the thinpartitionsof the West India house opposing but slight obstructionto herwolfish cries.

"'Thislife' said I at last'is hell:  this is the air--those arethe soundsof the bottomless pit!  I have a right to deliver myselffrom it ifI can.  The sufferings of this mortal state will leave mewith theheavy flesh that now cumbers my soul.  Of the fanatic'sburningeternity I have no fear:  there is not a future state worsethan thispresent one--let me break awayand go home to God!'

"Isaid this whilst I knelt down atand unlocked a trunk whichcontaineda brace of loaded pistols:  I mean to shoot myself.  Ionlyentertained the intention for a moment; fornot being insanethe crisisof exquisite and unalloyed despairwhich had originatedthe wishand design of self-destructionwas past in a second.

"Awind fresh from Europe blew over the ocean and rushed through theopencasement:  the storm brokestreamedthunderedblazedandthe airgrew pure.  I then framed and fixed a resolution.  While Iwalkedunder the dripping orange-trees of my wet gardenand amongstitsdrenched pomegranates and pine-applesand while the refulgentdawn ofthe tropics kindled round me--I reasoned thusJane--and nowlisten;for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hourandshowed methe right path to follow.

"Thesweet wind from Europe was still whispering in the refreshedleavesand the Atlantic was thundering in glorious liberty; myheartdried up and scorched for a long timeswelled to the toneand filledwith living blood--my being longed for renewal--my soulthirstedfor a pure draught.  I saw hope revive--and feltregenerationpossible.  From a flowery arch at the bottom of mygarden Igazed over the sea--bluer than the sky:  the old world wasbeyond;clear prospects opened thus:-

"'Go'said Hope'and live again in Europe:  there it is not knownwhat asullied name you bearnor what a filthy burden is bound toyou. You may take the maniac with you to England; confine her withdueattendance and precautions at Thornfield:  then travel yourselfto whatclime you willand form what new tie you like.  That womanwho has soabused your long-sufferingso sullied your namesooutragedyour honourso blighted your youthis not your wifenorare youher husband.  See that she is cared for as her conditiondemandsand you have done all that God and humanity require of you.Let heridentityher connection with yourselfbe buried inoblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being.  Placeher insafety and comfort:  shelter her degradation with secrecyand leaveher.'

"Iacted precisely on this suggestion.  My father and brother hadnot mademy marriage known to their acquaintance; becausein thevery firstletter I wrote to apprise them of the union--havingalreadybegun to experience extreme disgust of its consequencesandfromthe family character and constitutionseeing a hideousfutureopening to me--I added an urgent charge to keep it secret:and verysoon the infamous conduct of the wife my father hadselectedfor me was such as to make him blush to own her as hisdaughter-in-law. Far from desiring to publish the connectionhebecame asanxious to conceal it as myself.

"ToEnglandthenI conveyed her; a fearful voyage I had with sucha monsterin the vessel.  Glad was I when I at last got her toThornfieldand saw her safely lodged in that third-storey roomofwhosesecret inner cabinet she has now for ten years made a wildbeast'sden--a goblin's cell.  I had some trouble in finding anattendantfor heras it was necessary to select one on whosefidelitydependence could be placed; for her ravings wouldinevitablybetray my secret:  besidesshe had lucid intervals ofdays--sometimesweeks--which she filled up with abuse of me.  Atlast Ihired Grace Poole from the Grimbsy Retreat.  She and thesurgeonCarter (who dressed Mason's wounds that night he wasstabbedand worried)are the only two I have ever admitted to myconfidence. Mrs. Fairfax may indeed have suspected somethingbutshe couldhave gained no precise knowledge as to facts.  Grace hason thewholeproved a good keeper; thoughowing partly to a faultof herownof which it appears nothing can cure herand which isincidentto her harassing professionher vigilance has been morethan oncelulled and baffled.  The lunatic is both cunning andmalignant;she has never failed to take advantage of her guardian'stemporarylapses; once to secrete the knife with which she stabbedherbrotherand twice to possess herself of the key of her celland issuetherefrom in the night-time.  On the first of theseoccasionsshe perpetrated the attempt to burn me in my bed; on thesecondshe paid that ghastly visit to you.  I thank Providencewhowatchedover youthat she then spent her fury on your weddingapparelwhich perhaps brought back vague reminiscences of her ownbridaldays:  but on what might have happenedI cannot endure toreflect. When I think of the thing which flew at my throat thismorninghanging its black and scarlet visage over the nest of mydovemyblood curdles

"Andwhatsir" I askedwhile he paused"did you do when youhadsettledher here?  Where did you go?"

"Whatdid I doJane?  I transformed myself into a will-o'-the-wisp.Where didI go?  I pursued wanderings as wild as those of the March-spirit. I sought the Continentand went devious through all itslands. My fixed desire was to seek and find a good and intelligentwomanwhom I could love:  a contrast to the fury I left atThornfield--"

"Butyou could not marrysir."

"Ihad determined and was convinced that I could and ought.  It wasnot myoriginal intention to deceiveas I have deceived you.  Imeant totell my tale plainlyand make my proposals openly:  and itappearedto me so absolutely rational that I should be consideredfree tolove and be lovedI never doubted some woman might be foundwillingand able to understand my case and accept mein spite ofthe cursewith which I was burdened."

"Wellsir?"

"Whenyou are inquisitiveJaneyou always make me smile.  You openyour eyeslike an eager birdand make every now and then a restlessmovementas if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for youand youwanted to read the tablet of one's heart.  But before I goontellme what you mean by your 'Wellsir?'  It is a small phraseveryfrequent with you; and which many a time has drawn me on and onthroughinterminable talk:  I don't very well know why."

"Imean--What next?  How did you proceed?  What came of suchanevent?"

"Precisely!and what do you wish to know now?"

"Whetheryou found any one you liked:  whether you asked her tomarry you;and what she said."

"Ican tell you whether I found any one I likedand whether I askedher tomarry me:  but what she said is yet to be recorded in thebook ofFate.  For ten long years I roved aboutliving first in onecapitalthen another:  sometimes in St. Petersburg; oftener inParis;occasionally in RomeNaplesand Florence.  Provided withplenty ofmoney and the passport of an old nameI could choose myownsociety:  no circles were closed against me.  I sought myidealof a womanamongst English ladiesFrench countessesItaliansignorasand German grafinnen.  I could not find her.  Sometimesfor afleeting momentI thought I caught a glanceheard a tonebeheld aformwhich announced the realisation of my dream:  but Iwaspresently undeserved.  You are not to suppose that I desiredperfectioneither of mind or person.  I longed only for what suitedme--forthe antipodes of the Creole:  and I longed vainly.  Amongstthem all Ifound not one whomhad I been ever so freeI--warned asI was ofthe risksthe horrorsthe loathings of incongruousunions--wouldhave asked to marry me.  Disappointment made mereckless. I tried dissipation--never debauchery:  that I hatedandhate. That was my Indian Messalina's attribute:  rooted disgust atit and herrestrained me mucheven in pleasure.  Any enjoyment thatborderedon riot seemed to approach me to her and her vicesand Ieschewedit.

"YetI could not live alone; so I tried the companionship ofmistresses. The first I chose was Celine Varens--another of thosestepswhich make a man spurn himself when he recalls them.  Youalreadyknow what she wasand how my liaison with her terminated.She hadtwo successors:  an ItalianGiacintaand a GermanClara;bothconsidered singularly handsome.  What was their beauty to me ina fewweeks?  Giacinta was unprincipled and violent:  I tired ofherin threemonths.  Clara was honest and quiet; but heavymindlessandunimpressible:  not one whit to my taste.  I was glad togiveher asufficient sum to set her up in a good line of businessandso getdecently rid of her.  ButJaneI see by your face you arenotforming a very favourable opinion of me just now.  You think meanunfeelingloose-principled rake:  don't you?"

"Idon't like you so well as I have done sometimesindeedsir.Did it notseem to you in the least wrong to live in that wayfirstwith onemistress and then another?  You talk of it as a mere matterofcourse."

"Itwas with me; and I did not like it.  It was a grovelling fashionofexistence:  I should never like to return to it.  Hiring amistressis the next worse thing to buying a slave:  both are oftenby natureand always by positioninferior:  and to live familiarlywithinferiors is degrading.  I now hate the recollection of thetime Ipassed with CelineGiacintaand Clara."

I felt thetruth of these words; and I drew from them the certaininferencethat if I were so far to forget myself and all theteachingthat had ever been instilled into meas--under anypretext--withany justification--through any temptation--to becomethesuccessor of these poor girlshe would one day regard me withthe samefeeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory.  Idid notgive utterance to this conviction:  it was enough to feelit. I impressed it on my heartthat it might remain there to serveme as aidin the time of trial.

"NowJanewhy don't you say 'Wellsir?'  I have not done.  Youarelooking grave.  You disapprove of me stillI see.  But letmecome tothe point.  Last Januaryrid of all mistresses--in a harshbitterframe of mindthe result of a uselessrovinglonely life--corrodedwith disappointmentsourly disposed against all menandespeciallyagainst all womankind (for I began to regard the notionof anintellectualfaithfulloving woman as a mere dream)recalledby businessI came back to England.

"On afrosty winter afternoonI rode in sight of Thornfield Hall.Abhorredspot!  I expected no peace--no pleasure there.  On a stilein HayLane I saw a quiet little figure sitting by itself.  I passedit asnegligently as I did the pollard willow opposite to it:  I hadnopresentiment of what it would be to me; no inward warning thatthearbitress of my life--my genius for good or evil--waited therein humbleguise.  I did not know iteven whenon the occasion ofMesrour'saccidentit came up and gravely offered me help.Childishand slender creature!  It seemed as if a linnet had hoppedto my footand proposed to bear me on its tiny wing.  I was surly;but thething would not go:  it stood by me with strangeperseveranceand looked and spoke with a sort of authority.  I mustbe aidedand by that hand:  and aided I was.

"Whenonce I had pressed the frail shouldersomething new--a freshsap andsense--stole into my frame.  It was well I had learnt thatthis elfmust return to me--that it belonged to my house down below--or Icould not have felt it pass away from under my handand seenit vanishbehind the dim hedgewithout singular regret.  I heardyou comehome that nightJanethough probably you were not awarethat Ithought of you or watched for you.  The next day I observedyou--myselfunseen--for half-an-hourwhile you played with Adele inthegallery.  It was a snowy dayI recollectand you could not goout ofdoors.  I was in my room; the door was ajar:  I could bothlisten andwatch.  Adele claimed your outward attention for a while;yet Ifancied your thoughts were elsewhere:  but you were verypatientwith hermy little Jane; you talked to her and amused her alongtime.  When at last she left youyou lapsed at once into deepreverie: you betook yourself slowly to pace the gallery.  Now andtheninpassing a casementyou glanced out at the thick-fallingsnow; youlistened to the sobbing windand again you paced gentlyon anddreamed.  I think those day visions were not dark:  therewasapleasurable illumination in your eye occasionallya softexcitementin your aspectwhich told of no bitter  bilioushypochondriacbrooding:  your look revealed rather the sweet musingsof youthwhen its spirit follows on willing wings the flight of Hopeup and onto an ideal heaven.  The voice of Mrs. Fairfaxspeakingto aservant in the hallwakened you:  and how curiously you smiledto and atyourselfJanet!  There was much sense in your smile:  itwas veryshrewdand seemed to make light of your own abstraction.It seemedto say--'My fine visions are all very wellbut I must notforgetthey are absolutely unreal.  I have a rosy sky and a greenfloweryEden in my brain; but withoutI am perfectly awarelies atmy feet arough tract to traveland around me gather black tempeststoencounter.'  You ran downstairs and demanded of Mrs. Fairfaxsomeoccupation: the weekly house accounts to make upor something ofthat sortI think it was.  I was vexed with you for getting out ofmy sight.

"ImpatientlyI waited for eveningwhen I might summon you to mypresence. An unusual--to me--a perfectly new character I suspectedwasyours:  I desired to search it deeper and know it better. Youenteredthe room with a look and air at once shy and independent:you werequaintly dressed--much as you are now.  I made you talk:ere long Ifound you full of strange contrasts.  Your garb andmannerwere restricted by rule; your air was often diffidentandaltogetherthat of one refined by naturebut absolutely unused tosocietyand a good deal afraid of making herself disadvantageouslyconspicuousby some solecism or blunder; yet when addressedyoulifted akeena daringand a glowing eye to your interlocutor'sface: there was penetration and power in each glance you gave; whenplied byclose questionsyou found ready and round answers.  Verysoon youseemed to get used to me:  I believe you felt the existenceofsympathy between you and your grim and cross masterJane; for itwasastonishing to see how quickly a certain pleasant easetranquillisedyour manner:  snarl as I wouldyou showed nosurprisefearannoyanceor displeasure at my moroseness; youwatchedmeand now and then smiled at me with a simple yetsagaciousgrace I cannot describe.  I was at once content andstimulatedwith what I saw:  I liked what I had seenand wished tosee more. Yetfor a long timeI treated you distantlyand soughtyourcompany rarely.  I was an intellectual epicureand wished toprolongthe gratification of making this novel and piquantacquaintance: besidesI was for a while troubled with a hauntingfear thatif I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade--thesweetcharm of freshness would leave it.  I did not then know thatit was notransitory blossombut rather the radiant resemblance ofonecutin an indestructible gem.  MoreoverI wished to seewhetheryou would seek me if I shunned you--but you did not; youkept inthe schoolroom as still as your own desk and easel; if bychance Imet youyou passed me as soonand with as little token ofrecognitionas was consistent with respect.  Your habitualexpressionin those daysJanewas a thoughtful look; notdespondentfor you were not sickly; but not buoyantfor you hadlittlehopeand no actual pleasure.  I wondered what you thought ofmeor ifyou ever thought of meand resolved to find this out.

"Iresumed my notice of you.  There was something glad in yourglanceand genial in your mannerwhen you conversed:  I saw youhad asocial heart; it was the silent schoolroom--it was the tediumof yourlife--that made you mournful.  I permitted myself thedelight ofbeing kind to you; kindness stirred emotion soon:  yourfacebecame soft in expressionyour tones gentle; I liked my namepronouncedby your lips in a grateful happy accent.  I used to enjoya chancemeeting with youJaneat this time:  there was a curioushesitationin your manner:  you glanced at me with a slight trouble--ahovering doubt:  you did not know what my caprice might be--whether Iwas going to play the master and be sternor the friendand bebenignant.  I was now too fond of you often to simulate thefirstwhim; andwhen I stretched my hand out cordiallysuch bloomand lightand bliss rose to your youngwistful featuresI had muchado oftento avoid straining you then and there to my heart."

"Don'ttalk any more of those dayssir" I interruptedfurtivelydashingaway some tears from my eyes; his language was torture tome; for Iknew what I must do--and do soon--and all thesereminiscencesand these revelations of his feelings only made mywork moredifficult.

"NoJane" he returned:  "what necessity is there to dwellon thePastwhenthe Present is so much surer--the Future so muchbrighter?"

Ishuddered to hear the infatuated assertion.

"Yousee now how the case stands--do you not?" he continued. "Aftera youthand manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half indrearysolitudeI have for the first time found what I can trulylove--Ihave found you.  You are my sympathy--my better self--mygoodangel.  I am bound to you with a strong attachment.  Ithinkyou goodgiftedlovely:  a ferventa solemn passion is conceivedin myheart; it leans to youdraws you to my centre and spring oflifewraps my existence about youandkindling in purepowerfulflamefuses you and me in one.

"Itwas because I felt and knew thisthat I resolved to marry you.To tell methat I had already a wife is empty mockery:  you know nowthat I hadbut a hideous demon.  I was wrong to attempt to deceiveyou; but Ifeared a stubbornness that exists in your character.  Ifearedearly instilled prejudice:  I wanted to have you safe beforehazardingconfidences.  This was cowardly:  I should have appealedto yournobleness and magnanimity at firstas I do now--opened toyouplainly my life of agony--described to you my hunger and thirstafter ahigher and worthier existence--shown to younot myRESOLUTION(that word is weak)but my resistless BENT to lovefaithfullyand wellwhere I am faithfully and well loved in return.Then Ishould have asked you to accept my pledge of fidelity and togive meyours.  Jane--give it me now."

A pause.

"Whyare you silentJane?"

I wasexperiencing an ordeal:  a hand of fiery iron grasped myvitals. Terrible moment:  full of struggleblacknessburning!Not ahuman being that ever lived could wish to be loved better thanI wasloved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped:  andI mustrenounce love and idol.  One drear word comprised myintolerableduty--"Depart!"

"Janeyou understand what I want of you?  Just this promise--'Iwill beyoursMr. Rochester.'"

"Mr.RochesterI will NOT be yours."

Anotherlong silence.

"Jane!"recommenced hewith a gentleness that broke me down withgriefandturned me stone-cold with ominous terror--for this stillvoice wasthe pant of a lion rising--"Janedo you mean to go oneway in theworldand to let me go another?"

"Ido."

"Jane"(bending towards and embracing me)"do you mean it now?"

"Ido."

"Andnow?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.

"Ido" extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.

"OhJanethis is bitter!  This--this is wicked.  It would notbewicked tolove me."

"Itwould to obey you."

A wildlook raised his brows--crossed his features:  he rose; but heforeboreyet.  I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support:  IshookIfeared--but I resolved.

"OneinstantJane.  Give one glance to my horrible life when youare gone. All happiness will be torn away with you.  What then isleft? For a wife I have but the maniac upstairs:  as well might yourefer meto some corpse in yonder churchyard.  What shall I doJane? Where turn for a companion and for some hope?"

"Doas I do:  trust in God and yourself.  Believe in heaven. Hopeto meetagain there."

"Thenyou will not yield?"

"No."

"Thenyou condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?"  Hisvoicerose.

"Iadvise you to live sinlessand I wish you to die tranquil."

"Thenyou snatch love and innocence from me?  You fling me back onlust for apassion--vice for an occupation?"

"Mr.RochesterI no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at itformyself.  We were born to strive and endure--you as well as I:do so. You will forget me before I forget you."

"Youmake me a liar by such language:  you sully my honour.  Ideclared Icould not change:  you tell me to my face I shall changesoon. And what a distortion in your judgmentwhat a perversity inyourideasis proved by your conduct!  Is it better to drive afellow-creatureto despair than to transgress a mere human lawnoman beinginjured by the breach? for you have neither relatives noracquaintanceswhom you need fear to offend by living with me?"

This wastrue:  and while he spoke my very conscience and reasonturnedtraitors against meand charged me with crime in resistinghim. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling:  and that clamouredwildly. "Ohcomply!" it said.  "Think of his misery;think of hisdanger--lookat his state when left alone; remember his headlongnature;consider the recklessness following on despair--soothe him;save him;love him; tell him you love him and will be his.  Who inthe worldcares for YOU? or who will be injured by what you do?"

Stillindomitable was the reply--"I care for myself.  The moresolitarythe more friendlessthe more unsustained I amthe more Iwillrespect myself.  I will keep the law given by God; sanctionedby man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I wassaneandnot mad--as I am now.  Laws and principles are not for thetimes whenthere is no temptation:  they are for such moments asthiswhenbody and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour;stringentare they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individualconvenienceI might break themwhat would be their worth?  Theyhave aworth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe itnowit isbecause I am insane--quite insane:  with my veins runningfireandmy heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.Preconceivedopinionsforegone determinationsare all I have atthis hourto stand by:  there I plant my foot."

I did. Mr. Rochesterreading my countenancesaw I had done so.His furywas wrought to the highest:  he must yield to it for amomentwhatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my armandgrasped my waist.  He seemed to devour me with his flamingglance: physicallyI feltat the momentpowerless as stubbleexposed tothe draught and glow of a furnace:  mentallyI stillpossessedmy souland with it the certainty of ultimate safety.The soulfortunatelyhas an interpreter--often an unconsciousbutstill atruthful interpreter--in the eye.  My eye rose to his; andwhile Ilooked in his fierce face I gave an involuntary sigh; hisgripe waspainfuland my over-taxed strength almost exhausted.

"Never"said heas he ground his teeth"never was anything atonce sofrail and so indomitable.  A mere reed she feels in myhand!" (And he shook me with the force of his hold.)  "I couldbendher withmy finger and thumb:  and what good would it do if I bentif Iuptoreif I crushed her?  Consider that eye:  consider theresolutewildfree thing looking out of itdefying mewith morethancourage--with a stern triumph.  Whatever I do with its cageIcannot getat it--the savagebeautiful creature!  If I tearif Irend theslight prisonmy outrage will only let the captive loose.ConquerorI might be of the house; but the inmate would escape toheavenbefore I could call myself possessor of its clay dwelling-place. And it is youspirit--with will and energyand virtue andpurity--thatI want:  not alone your brittle frame.  Of yourself youcould comewith soft flight and nestle against my heartif youwould: seized against your willyou will elude the grasp like anessence--youwill vanish ere I inhale your fragrance.  Oh! comeJanecome!"

As he saidthishe released me from his clutchand only looked atme. The look was far worse to resist than the frantic strain:  onlyan idiothoweverwould have succumbed now.  I had dared andbaffledhis fury; I must elude his sorrow:  I retired to the door.

"Youare goingJane?"

"I amgoingsir."

"Youare leaving me?"

"Yes."

"Youwill not come?  You will not be my comfortermy rescuer? Mydeep lovemy wild woemy frantic prayerare all nothing to you?"

Whatunutterable pathos was in his voice!  How hard it was toreiteratefirmly"I am going."

"Jane!"

"Mr.Rochester!"

"Withdrawthen--I consent; but rememberyou leave me here inanguish. Go up to your own room; think over all I have saidandJanecasta glance on my sufferings--think of me."

He turnedaway; he threw himself on his face on the sofa.  "OhJane! myhope--my love--my life!" broke in anguish from his lips.Then camea deepstrong sob.

I hadalready gained the door; butreaderI walked back--walkedback asdeterminedly as I had retreated.  I knelt down by him; Iturned hisface from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek; Ismoothedhis hair with my hand.

"Godbless youmy dear master!" I said.  "God keep youfrom harmandwrong--direct yousolace you--reward you well for your pastkindnessto me."

"LittleJane's love would have been my best reward" he answered;"withoutitmy heart is broken.  But Jane will give me her love:yes--noblygenerously."

Up theblood rushed to his face; forth flashed the fire from hiseyes;erect he sprang; he held his arms out; but I evaded theembraceand at once quitted the room.

"Farewell!"was the cry of my heart as I left him.  Despair added"Farewellfor ever!"

 

That nightI never thought to sleep; but a slumber fell on me assoon as Ilay down in bed.  I was transported in thought to thescenes ofchildhood:  I dreamt I lay in the red-room at Gateshead;that thenight was darkand my mind impressed with strange fears.The lightthat long ago had struck me into syncoperecalled in thisvisionseemed glidingly to mount the walland tremblingly to pausein thecentre of the obscured ceiling.  I lifted up my head to look:the roofresolved to cloudshigh and dim; the gleam was such as themoonimparts to vapours she is about to sever.  I watched her come--watchedwith the strangest anticipation; as though some word of doomwere to bewritten on her disk.  She broke forth as never moon yetburst fromcloud:  a hand first penetrated the sable folds and wavedthem away;thennot a moonbut a white human form shone in theazureinclining a glorious brow earthward.  It gazed and gazed onme. It spoke to my spirit:  immeasurably distant was the toneyetso nearit whispered in my heart -

"Mydaughterflee temptation."

"MotherI will."

So Ianswered after I had waked from the trance-like dream.  It wasyet nightbut July nights are short:  soon after midnightdawncomes. "It cannot be too early to commence the task I have tofulfil"thought I.  I rose:  I was dressed; for I had taken offnothingbut my shoes.  I knew where to find in my drawers somelinenalocketa ring.  In seeking these articlesI encounteredthe beadsof a pearl necklace Mr. Rochester had forced me to accepta few daysago.  I left that; it was not mine:  it was the visionarybride'swho had melted in air.  The other articles I made up in aparcel; mypursecontaining twenty shillings (it was all I had)Iput in mypocket:  I tied on my straw bonnetpinned my shawltookthe parceland my slipperswhich I would not put on yetand stolefrom myroom.

"Farewellkind Mrs. Fairfax!" I whisperedas I glided past herdoor. "Farewellmy darling Adele!" I saidas I glanced towardsthenursery.  No thought could be admitted of entering to embraceher. I had to deceive a fine ear:  for aught I knew it might now belistening.

I wouldhave got past Mr. Rochester's chamber without a pause; butmy heartmomentarily stopping its beat at that thresholdmy footwas forcedto stop also.  No sleep was there:  the inmate waswalkingrestlessly from wall to wall; and again and again he sighedwhile Ilistened.  There was a heaven--a temporary heaven--in thisroom formeif I chose:  I had but to go in and to say -

"Mr.RochesterI will love you and live with you through life tilldeath"and a fount of rapture would spring to my lips.  I thoughtof this.

That kindmasterwho could not sleep nowwas waiting withimpatiencefor day.  He would send for me in the morning; I shouldbe gone. He would have me sought for:  vainly.  He would feelhimselfforsaken; his love rejected:  he would suffer; perhaps growdesperate. I thought of this too.  My hand moved towards the lock:I caughtit backand glided on.

Drearily Iwound my way downstairs:  I knew what I had to doand Idid itmechanically.  I sought the key of the side-door in thekitchen; Isoughttooa phial of oil and a feather; I oiled thekey andthe lock.  I got some waterI got some bread:  for perhapsI shouldhave to walk far; and my strengthsorely shaken of latemust notbreak down.  All this I did without one sound.  I openedthe doorpassed outshut it softly.  Dim dawn glimmered in theyard. The great gates were closed and locked; but a wicket in oneof themwas only latched.  Through that I departed:  ittooIshut; andnow I was out of Thornfield.

A mileoffbeyond the fieldslay a road which stretched in thecontrarydirection to Millcote; a road I had never travelledbutoftennoticedand wondered where it led:  thither I bent my steps.Noreflection was to be allowed now:  not one glance was to be castback; noteven one forward.  Not one thought was to be given eitherto thepast or the future.  The first was a page so heavenly sweet--so deadlysad--that to read one line of it would dissolve my courageand breakdown my energy.  The last was an awful blank:  somethinglike theworld when the deluge was gone by.

I skirtedfieldsand hedgesand lanes till after sunrise.  Ibelieve itwas a lovely summer morning:  I know my shoeswhich Ihad put onwhen I left the housewere soon wet with dew.  But Ilookedneither to rising sunnor smiling skynor wakening nature.He who istaken out to pass through a fair scene to the scaffoldthinks notof the flowers that smile on his roadbut of the blockandaxe-edge; of the disseverment of bone and vein; of the gravegaping atthe end:  and I thought of drear flight and homelesswandering--andoh! with agony I thought of what I left.  I could nothelp it. I thought of him now--in his room--watching the sunrise;hoping Ishould soon come to say I would stay with him and be his.I longedto be his; I panted to return:  it was not too late; Icould yetspare him the bitter pang of bereavement.  As yet myflightIwas surewas undiscovered.  I could go back and be hiscomforter--hispride; his redeemer from miseryperhaps from ruin.Ohthatfear of his self-abandonment--far worse than myabandonment--howit goaded me!  It was a barbed arrow-head in mybreast; ittore me when I tried to extract it; it sickened me whenremembrancethrust it farther in.  Birds began singing in brake andcopse: birds were faithful to their mates; birds were emblems oflove. What was I?  In the midst of my pain of heart and franticeffort ofprincipleI abhorred myself.  I had no solace from self-approbation: none even from self-respect.  I had injured--wounded--left mymaster.  I was hateful in my own eyes.  Still I could notturnnorretrace one step.  God must have led me on.  As to my ownwill orconscienceimpassioned grief had trampled one and stifledtheother.  I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way:fastfastI went like one delirious.  A weaknessbeginninginwardlyextending to the limbsseized meand I fell:  I lay onthe groundsome minutespressing my face to the wet turf.  I hadsomefear--or hope--that here I should die:  but I was soon up;crawlingforwards on my hands and kneesand then again raised to myfeet--aseager and as determined as ever to reach the road.

When I gotthereI was forced to sit to rest me under the hedge;and whileI satI heard wheelsand saw a coach come on.  I stoodup andlifted my hand; it stopped.  I asked where it was going: thedrivernamed a place a long way offand where I was sure Mr.Rochesterhad no connections.  I asked for what sum he would take methere; hesaid thirty shillings; I answered I had but twenty; wellhe wouldtry to make it do.  He further gave me leave to get intotheinsideas the vehicle was empty:  I enteredwas shut inandit rolledon its way.

Gentlereadermay you never feel what I then felt!  May your eyesnever shedsuch stormyscaldingheart-wrung tears as poured frommine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and soagonisedas in that hour left my lips; for never may youlike medread tobe the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.

 

CHAPTERXXVIII

 

Two daysare passed.  It is a summer evening; the coachman has setme down ata place called Whitcross; he could take me no farther forthe sum Ihad givenand I was not possessed of another shilling intheworld.  The coach is a mile off by this time; I am alone. Atthismoment I discover that I forgot to take my parcel out of thepocket ofthe coachwhere I had placed it for safety; there itremainsthere it must remain; and nowI am absolutely destitute.

Whitcrossis no townnor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillarset upwhere four roads meet:  whitewashedI supposeto be moreobvious ata distance and in darkness.  Four arms spring from itssummit: the nearest town to which these point isaccording to theinscriptiondistant ten miles; the farthestabove twenty.  Fromthewell-known names of these towns I learn in what county I havelighted; anorth-midland shiredusk with moorlandridged withmountain: this I see.  There are great moors behind and on eachhand ofme; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valleyat myfeet.  The population here must be thinand I see nopassengerson these roads:  they stretch out eastwestnorthandsouth--whitebroadlonely; they are all cut in the moorand theheathergrows deep and wild to their very verge.  Yet a chancetravellermight pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now:  strangerswouldwonder what I am doinglingering here at the sign-postevidentlyobjectless and lost.  I might be questioned:  I could giveno answerbut what would sound incredible and excite suspicion.  Nota tieholds me to human society at this moment--not a charm or hopecalls mewhere my fellow-creatures are--none that saw me would havea kindthought or a good wish for me.  I have no relative but theuniversalmotherNature:  I will seek her breast and ask repose.

I struckstraight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeplyfurrowingthe brown moorside; I waded knee-deep in its dark growth;I turnedwith its turningsand finding a moss-blackened granitecrag in ahidden angleI sat down under it.  High banks of moorwere aboutme; the crag protected my head:  the sky was over that.

Some timepassed before I felt tranquil even here:  I had a vaguedread thatwild cattle might be nearor that some sportsman orpoachermight discover me.  If a gust of wind swept the wasteIlooked upfearing it was the rush of a bull; if a plover whistledI imaginedit a man.  Finding my apprehensions unfoundedhoweverand calmedby the deep silence that reigned as evening declined atnightfallI took confidence.  As yet I had not thought; I had onlylistenedwatcheddreaded; now I regained the faculty ofreflection.

What was Ito do?  Where to go?  Ohintolerable questionswhen Icould donothing and go nowhere!--when a long way must yet bemeasuredby my wearytrembling limbs before I could reach humanhabitation--whencold charity must be entreated before I could get alodging: reluctant sympathy importunedalmost certain repulseincurredbefore my tale could be listened toor one of my wantsrelieved!

I touchedthe heathit was dryand yet warm with the beat of thesummerday.  I looked at the sky; it was pure:  a kindly startwinkledjust above the chasm ridge.  The dew fellbut withpropitioussoftness; no breeze whispered.  Nature seemed to mebenign andgood; I thought she loved meoutcast as I was; and Iwho fromman could anticipate only mistrustrejectioninsultclung toher with filial fondness.  To-nightat leastI would beher guestas I was her child:  my mother would lodge me withoutmoney andwithout price.  I had one morsel of bread yet:  theremnant ofa roll I had bought in a town we passed through at noonwith astray penny--my last coin.  I saw ripe bilberries gleaminghere andtherelike jet beads in the heath:  I gathered a handfuland atethem with the bread.  My hungersharp beforewasif notsatisfiedappeased by this hermit's meal.  I said my eveningprayers atits conclusionand then chose my couch.

Beside thecrag the heath was very deep:  when I lay down my feetwereburied in it; rising high on each sideit left only a narrowspace forthe night-air to invade.  I folded my shawl doubleandspread itover me for a coverlet; a lowmossy swell was my pillow.ThuslodgedI was notat least--at the commencement of the nightcold.

My restmight have been blissful enoughonly a sad heart broke it.It plainedof its gaping woundsits inward bleedingits rivenchords. It trembled for Mr. Rochester and his doom; it bemoaned himwithbitter pity; it demanded him with ceaseless longing; andimpotentas a bird with both wings brokenit still quivered itsshatteredpinions in vain attempts to seek him.

Worn outwith this torture of thoughtI rose to my knees.  Nightwas comeand her planets were risen:  a safestill night:  tooserene forthe companionship of fear.  We know that God iseverywhere;but certainly we feel His presence most when His worksare on thegrandest scale spread before us; and it is in theuncloudednight-skywhere His worlds wheel their silent coursethat weread clearest His infinitudeHis omnipotenceHisomnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester.LookingupIwith tear-dimmed eyessaw the mighty Milky-way.Rememberingwhat it was--what countless systems there swept spacelike asoft trace of light--I felt the might and strength of God.Sure was Iof His efficiency to save what He had made:  convinced Igrew thatneither earth should perishnor one of the souls ittreasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving:  the Source of Lifewas alsothe Saviour of spirits.  Mr. Rochester was safe; he wasGod'sandby God would he be guarded.  I again nestled to thebreast ofthe hill; and ere long in sleep forgot sorrow.

But nextdayWant came to me pale and bare.  Long after the littlebirds hadleft their nests; long after bees had come in the sweetprime ofday to gather the heath honey before the dew was dried--when thelong morning shadows were curtailedand the sun filledearth andsky--I got upand I looked round me.

What astillhotperfect day!  What a golden desert this spreadingmoor! Everywhere sunshine.  I wished I could live in it and on it.I saw alizard run over the crag; I saw a bee busy among the sweetbilberries. I would fain at the moment have become bee or lizardthat Imight have found fitting nutrimentpermanent shelter here.But I wasa human beingand had a human being's wants:  I must notlingerwhere there was nothing to supply them.  I rose; I lookedback atthe bed I had left.  Hopeless of the futureI wished butthis--thatmy Maker had that night thought good to require my soulof mewhile I slept; and that this weary frameabsolved by deathfromfurther conflict with fatehad now but to decay quietlyandmingle inpeace with the soil of this wilderness.  Lifehoweverwas yet inmy possessionwith all its requirementsand painsandresponsibilities. The burden must be carried; the want providedfor; thesuffering endured; the responsibility fulfilled.  I setout.

WhitcrossregainedI followed a road which led from the sunnowferventand high.  By no other circumstance had I will to decide mychoice. I walked a long timeand when I thought I had nearly doneenoughand might conscientiously yield to the fatigue that almostoverpoweredme--might relax this forced actionandsitting down ona stone Isaw nearsubmit resistlessly to the apathy that cloggedheart andlimb--I heard a bell chime--a church bell.

I turnedin the direction of the soundand thereamongst theromantichillswhose changes and aspect I had ceased to note anhour agoI saw a hamlet and a spire.  All the valley at my righthand wasfull of pasture-fieldsand cornfieldsand wood; and aglitteringstream ran zig-zag through the varied shades of greenthemellowing grainthe sombre woodlandthe clear and sunny lea.Recalledby the rumbling of wheels to the road before meI saw aheavily-ladenwaggon labouring up the hilland not far beyond weretwo cowsand their drover.  Human life and human labour were near.I muststruggle on:  strive to live and bend to toil like the rest.

About twoo'clock p.m. I entered the village.  At the bottom of itsone streetthere was a little shop with some cakes of bread in thewindow. I coveted a cake of bread.  With that refreshment I couldperhapsregain a degree of energy:  without itit would bedifficultto proceed.  The wish to have some strength and somevigourreturned to me as soon as I was amongst my fellow-beings.  Ifelt itwould be degrading to faint with hunger on the causeway of ahamlet. Had I nothing about me I could offer in exchange for one oftheserolls?  I considered.  I had a small silk handkerchief tiedround mythroat; I had my gloves.  I could hardly tell how men andwomen inextremities of destitution proceeded.  I did not knowwhethereither of these articles would be accepted:  probably theywould not;but I must try.

I enteredthe shop:  a woman was there.  Seeing a respectably-dressedpersona lady as she supposedshe came forward withcivility. How could she serve me?  I was seized with shame:  mytonguewould not utter the request I had prepared.  I dared notoffer herthe half-worn glovesthe creased handkerchief:  besidesI felt itwould be absurd.  I only begged permission to sit down amomentasI was tired.  Disappointed in the expectation of acustomershe coolly acceded to my request.  She pointed to a seat;I sankinto it.  I felt sorely urged to weep; but conscious howunseasonablesuch a manifestation would beI restrained it.  Soon Iasked her"if there were any dressmaker or plain-workwoman in thevillage?"

"Yes;two or three.  Quite as many as there was employment for."

Ireflected.  I was driven to the point now.  I was broughtface toface withNecessity.  I stood in the position of one without aresourcewithout a friendwithout a coin.  I must do something.What? I must apply somewhere.  Where?

"Didshe know of any place in the neighbourhood where a servant waswanted?"

"Nay;she couldn't say."

"Whatwas the chief trade in this place?  What did most of thepeopledo?"

"Somewere farm labourers; a good deal worked at Mr. Oliver'sneedle-factoryand at the foundry."

"DidMr. Oliver employ women?"

"Nay;it was men's work."

"Andwhat do the women do?"

"Iknawn't" was the answer.  "Some does one thingandsomeanother. Poor folk mun get on as they can."

She seemedto be tired of my questions:  andindeedwhat claim hadI toimportune her?  A neighbour or two came in; my chair wasevidentlywanted.  I took leave.

I passedup the streetlooking as I went at all the houses to theright handand to the left; but I could discover no pretextnor seeaninducement to enter any.  I rambled round the hamletgoingsometimesto a little distance and returning againfor an hour ormore. Much exhaustedand suffering greatly now for want of foodIturnedaside into a lane and sat down under the hedge.  Ere manyminuteshad elapsedI was again on my feethoweverand againsearchingsomething--a resourceor at least an informant.  A prettylittlehouse stood at the top of the lanewith a garden before itexquisitelyneat and brilliantly blooming.  I stopped at it.  Whatbusinesshad I to approach the white door or touch the glitteringknocker? In what way could it possibly be the interest of theinhabitantsof that dwelling to serve me?  Yet I drew near andknocked. A mild-lookingcleanly-attired young woman opened thedoor. In such a voice as might be expected from a hopeless heartandfainting frame--a voice wretchedly low and faltering--I asked ifa servantwas wanted here?

"No"said she; "we do not keep a servant."

"Canyou tell me where I could get employment of any kind?" Icontinued. "I am a strangerwithout acquaintance in this place.  Iwant somework:  no matter what."

But it wasnot her business to think for meor to seek a place forme: besidesin her eyeshow doubtful must have appeared mycharacterpositiontale.  She shook her headshe "was sorry shecould giveme no information" and the white door closedquitegently andcivilly:  but it shut me out.  If she had held it open alittlelongerI believe I should have begged a piece of bread; forI was nowbrought low.

I couldnot bear to return to the sordid villagewherebesidesnoprospectof aid was visible.  I should have longed rather to deviateto a woodI saw not far offwhich appeared in its thick shade toofferinviting shelter; but I was so sickso weakso gnawed withnature'scravingsinstinct kept me roaming round abodes where therewas achance of food.  Solitude would be no solitude--rest no rest--while thevulturehungerthus sank beak and talons in my side.

I drewnear houses; I left themand came back againand again Iwanderedaway:  always repelled by the consciousness of having noclaim toask--no right to expect interest in my isolated lot.Meantimethe afternoon advancedwhile I thus wandered about like alost andstarving dog.  In crossing a fieldI saw the church spirebeforeme:  I hastened towards it.  Near the churchyardand inthemiddle ofa gardenstood a well-built though small housewhich Ihad nodoubt was the parsonage.  I remembered that strangers whoarrive ata place where they have no friendsand who wantemploymentsometimes apply to the clergyman for introduction andaid. It is the clergyman's function to help--at least with advice--those whowished to help themselves.  I seemed to have somethinglike aright to seek counsel here.  Renewing then my courageandgatheringmy feeble remains of strengthI pushed on.  I reached thehouseandknocked at the kitchen-door.  An old woman opened:  Iasked wasthis the parsonage?

"Yes."

"Wasthe clergyman in?"

"No."

"Wouldhe be in soon?"

"Nohe was gone from home."

"To adistance?"

"Notso far--happen three mile.  He had been called away by thesuddendeath of his father:  he was at Marsh End nowand would verylikelystay there a fortnight longer."

"Wasthere any lady of the house?"

"Naythere was naught but herand she was housekeeper;" and ofherreaderI could not bear to ask the relief for want of which Iwassinking; I could not yet beg; and again I crawled away.

Once moreI took off my handkerchief--once more I thought of thecakes ofbread in the little shop.  Ohfor but a crust! for but onemouthfulto allay the pang of famine!  Instinctively I turned myface againto the village; I found the shop againand I went in;and thoughothers were there besides the woman I ventured therequest--"Wouldshe give me a roll for this handkerchief?"

She lookedat me with evident suspicion:  "Nayshe never sold stuffi' thatway."

AlmostdesperateI asked for half a cake; she again refused.  "Howcould shetell where I had got the handkerchief?" she said.

"Wouldshe take my gloves?"

"No!what could she do with them?"

Readeritis not pleasant to dwell on these details.  Some saythere isenjoyment in looking back to painful experience past; butat thisday I can scarcely bear to review the times to which Iallude: the moral degradationblent with the physical sufferingform toodistressing a recollection ever to be willingly dwelt on.I blamednone of those who repulsed me.  I felt it was what was tobeexpectedand what could not be helped:  an ordinary beggar isfrequentlyan object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitablyso. To be surewhat I begged was employment; but whose businesswas it toprovide me with employment?  Notcertainlythat ofpersonswho saw me then for the first timeand who knew nothingabout mycharacter.  And as to the woman who would not take myhandkerchiefin exchange for her breadwhyshe was rightif theofferappeared to her sinister or the exchange unprofitable.  Let mecondensenow.  I am sick of the subject.

A littlebefore dark I passed a farm-houseat the open door ofwhich thefarmer was sittingeating his supper of bread and cheese.I stoppedand said -

"Willyou give me a piece of bread? for I am very hungry."  Hecaston me aglance of surprise; but without answeringhe cut a thickslice fromhis loafand gave it to me.  I imagine he did not thinkI was abeggarbut only an eccentric sort of ladywho had taken afancy tohis brown loaf.  As soon as I was out of sight of hishouseIsat down and ate it.

I couldnot hope to get a lodging under a roofand sought it in thewood Ihave before alluded to.  But my night was wretchedmy restbroken: the ground was dampthe air cold:  besidesintruderspassednear me more than onceand I had again and again to changemyquarters; no sense of safety or tranquillity befriended me.Towardsmorning it rained; the whole of the following day was wet.Do not askmereaderto give a minute account of that day; asbeforeIsought work; as beforeI was repulsed; as beforeIstarved;but once did food pass my lips.  At the door of a cottage Isaw alittle girl about to throw a mess of cold porridge into a pigtrough. "Will you give me that?" I asked.

She staredat me.  "Mother!" she exclaimed"there is awoman wantsme to giveher these porridge."

"Welllass" replied a voice within"give it her if she's abeggar.T pigdoesn't want it."

The girlemptied the stiffened mould into my handand I devoured itravenously.

As the wettwilight deepenedI stopped in a solitary bridle-pathwhich Ihad been pursuing an hour or more.

"Mystrength is quite failing me" I said in a soliloquy.  "Ifeel Icannot gomuch farther.  Shall I be an outcast again this night?While therain descends somust I lay my head on the colddrenchedground? I fear I cannot do otherwise:  for who will receive me?But itwill be very dreadfulwith this feeling of hungerfaintnesschilland this sense of desolation--this totalprostrationof hope.  In all likelihoodthoughI should die beforemorning. And why cannot I reconcile myself to the prospect ofdeath? Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life?  Because IknoworbelieveMr. Rochester is living:  and thento die of wantand coldis a fate to which nature cannot submit passively.  OhProvidence!sustain me a little longer!  Aid!--direct me!"

My glazedeye wandered over the dim and misty landscape.  I saw Ihadstrayed far from the village:  it was quite out of sight. Theverycultivation surrounding it had disappeared.  I hadby cross-ways andby-pathsonce more drawn near the tract of moorland; andnowonlya few fieldsalmost as wild and unproductive as the heathfrom whichthey were scarcely reclaimedlay between me and theduskyhill.

"WellI would rather die yonder than in a street or on a frequentedroad"I reflected.  "And far better that crows and ravens--if anyravensthere be in these regions--should pick my flesh from mybonesthan that they should be prisoned in a workhouse coffin andmoulder ina pauper's grave."

To thehillthenI turned.  I reached it.  It remained now onlytofind ahollow where I could lie downand feel at least hiddenifnotsecure.  But all the surface of the waste looked level.  Itshowed novariation but of tint:  greenwhere rush and mossovergrewthe marshes; blackwhere the dry soil bore only heath.Dark as itwas gettingI could still see these changesthough butas merealternations of light and shade; for colour had faded withthedaylight.

My eyestill roved over the sullen swell and along the moor-edgevanishingamidst the wildest scenerywhen at one dim pointfar inamong themarshes and the ridgesa light sprang up.  "That is anignisfatuus" was my first thought; and I expected it would soonvanish. It burnt onhoweverquite steadilyneither receding noradvancing. "Is itthena bonfire just kindled?" I questioned. Iwatched tosee whether it would spread:  but no; as it did notdiminishso it did not enlarge.  "It may be a candle in a house"Ithenconjectured; "but if soI can never reach it.  It is muchtoofar away: and were it within a yard of mewhat would it avail?  Ishould butknock at the door to have it shut in my face."

And I sankdown where I stoodand hid my face against the ground.I laystill a while:  the night-wind swept over the hill and overmeanddied moaning in the distance; the rain fell fastwetting meafresh tothe skin.  Could I but have stiffened to the still frost--thefriendly numbness of death--it might have pelted on; I shouldnot havefelt it; but my yet living flesh shuddered at its chillinginfluence. I rose ere long.

The lightwas yet thereshining dim but constant through the rain.I tried towalk again:  I dragged my exhausted limbs slowly towardsit. It led me aslant over the hillthrough a wide bogwhich wouldhave beenimpassable in winterand was splashy and shaking evennowinthe height of summer.  Here I fell twice; but as often Irose andrallied my faculties.  This light was my forlorn hope:  Imust gainit.

Havingcrossed the marshI saw a trace of white over the moor.  Iapproachedit; it was a road or a track:  it led straight up to thelightwhich now beamed from a sort of knollamidst a clump oftrees--firsapparentlyfrom what I could distinguish of thecharacterof their forms and foliage through the gloom.  My starvanishedas I drew near:  some obstacle had intervened between meand it. I put out my hand to feel the dark mass before me:  Idiscriminatedthe rough stones of a low wall--above itsomethinglikepalisadesand withina high and prickly hedge.  I groped on.Again awhitish object gleamed before me:  it was a gate--a wicket;it movedon its hinges as I touched it.  On each side stood a sablebush-hollyor yew.

Enteringthe gate and passing the shrubsthe silhouette of a houserose toviewblacklowand rather long; but the guiding lightshonenowhere.  All was obscurity.  Were the inmates retired torest? I feared it must be so.  In seeking the doorI turned anangle: there shot out the friendly gleam againfrom the lozengedpanes of avery small latticed windowwithin a foot of the groundmade stillsmaller by the growth of ivy or some other creepingplantwhose leaves clustered thick over the portion of the housewall inwhich it was set.  The aperture was so screened and narrowthatcurtain or shutter had been deemed unnecessary; and when Istoopeddown and put aside the spray of foliage shooting over itIcould seeall within.  I could see clearly a room with a sandedfloorclean scoured; a dresser of walnutwith pewter plates rangedin rowsreflecting the redness and radiance of a glowing peat-fire.I couldsee a clocka white deal tablesome chairs.  The candlewhose rayhad been my beaconburnt on the table; and by its lightan elderlywomansomewhat rough-lookingbut scrupulously cleanlike allabout herwas knitting a stocking.

I noticedthese objects cursorily only--in them there was nothingextraordinary. A group of more interest appeared near the hearthsittingstill amidst the rosy peace and warmth suffusing it.  Twoyounggraceful women--ladies in every point--satone in a lowrocking-chairthe other on a lower stool; both wore deep mourningof crapeand bombazeenwhich sombre garb singularly set off veryfair necksand faces:  a large old pointer dog rested its massivehead onthe knee of one girl--in the lap of the other was cushioneda blackcat.

A strangeplace was this humble kitchen for such occupants!  Whowerethey?  They could not be the daughters of the elderly person atthe table;for she looked like a rusticand they were all delicacyandcultivation.  I had nowhere seen such faces as theirs:  andyetas I gazedon themI seemed intimate with every lineament.  Icannotcall them handsome--they were too pale and grave for theword: as they each bent over a bookthey looked thoughtful almosttoseverity.  A stand between them supported a second candle andtwogreatvolumesto which they frequently referredcomparing themseeminglywith the smaller books they held in their handslikepeopleconsulting a dictionary to aid them in the task oftranslation. This scene was as silent as if all the figures hadbeenshadows and the firelit apartment a picture:  so hushed was itI couldhear the cinders fall from the gratethe clock tick in itsobscurecorner; and I even fancied I could distinguish the click-click ofthe woman's knitting-needles.  Whenthereforea voicebroke thestrange stillness at lastit was audible enough to me.

"ListenDiana" said one of the absorbed students; "Franz and oldDaniel aretogether in the night-timeand Franz is telling a dreamfrom whichhe has awakened in terror--listen!"  And in a low voiceshe readsomethingof which not one word was intelligible to me;for it wasin an unknown tongue--neither French nor Latin.  Whetherit wereGreek or German I could not tell.

"Thatis strong" she saidwhen she had finished:  "Irelish it."The othergirlwho had lifted her head to listen to her sisterrepeatedwhile she gazed at the firea line of what had been read.At a laterdayI knew the language and the book; thereforeI willhere quotethe line:  thoughwhen I first heard itit was onlylike astroke on sounding brass to me--conveying no meaning:-

"'Datrat hervor Eineranzusehen wie die Sternen Nacht.'  Good!good!"she exclaimedwhile her dark and deep eye sparkled.  "Thereyou have adim and mighty archangel fitly set before you!  The lineis worth ahundred pages of fustian.  'Ich wage die Gedanken in derSchalemeines Zornes und die Werke mit dem Gewichte meines Grimms.'I likeit!"

Both wereagain silent.

"Isthere ony country where they talk i' that way?" asked the oldwomanlooking up from her knitting.

"YesHannah--a far larger country than Englandwhere they talk inno otherway."

"Wellfor sure caseI knawn't how they can understand t' onet'other: and if either o' ye went thereye could tell what theysaidIguess?"

"Wecould probably tell something of what they saidbut not all--for we arenot as clever as you think usHannah.  We don't speakGermanand we cannot read it without a dictionary to help us."

"Andwhat good does it do you?"

"Wemean to teach it some time--or at least the elementsas theysay; andthen we shall get more money than we do now."

"Varrylike:  but give ower studying; ye've done enough for to-night."

"Ithink we have:  at least I'm tired.  Maryare you?"

"Mortally: after allit's tough work fagging away at a languagewith nomaster but a lexicon."

"Itisespecially such a language as this crabbed but gloriousDeutsch. I wonder when St. John will come home."

"Surelyhe will not be long now:  it is just ten (looking at alittlegold watch she drew from her girdle).  It rains fastHannah:will youhave the goodness to look at the fire in the parlour?"

The womanrose:  she opened a doorthrough which I dimly saw apassage: soon I heard her stir a fire in an inner room; shepresentlycame back.

"Ahchilder!" said she"it fair troubles me to go into yond'roomnow: it looks so lonesome wi' the chair empty and set back in acorner."

She wipedher eyes with her apron:  the two girlsgrave beforelooked sadnow.

"Buthe is in a better place" continued Hannah:  "weshouldn't wishhim hereagain.  And thennobody need to have a quieter death norhe had."

"Yousay he never mentioned us?" inquired one of the ladies.

"Hehadn't timebairn:  he was gone in a minutewas your father.He hadbeen a bit ailing like the day beforebut naught to signify;and whenMr. St. John asked if he would like either o' ye to be sentforhefair laughed at him.  He began again with a bit of aheavinessin his head the next day--that isa fortnight sin'--andhe went tosleep and niver wakened:  he wor a'most stark when yourbrotherwent into t' chamber and fand him.  Ahchilder! that's t'last o' t'old stock--for ye and Mr. St. John is like of differentsoart tothem 'at's gone; for all your mother wor mich i' your wayand a'mostas book-learned.  She wor the pictur' o' yeMary:  Dianais morelike your father."

I thoughtthem so similar I could not tell where the old servant(for suchI now concluded her to be) saw the difference.  Both werefaircomplexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full ofdistinctionand intelligence.  Oneto be surehad hair a shadedarkerthan the otherand there was a difference in their style ofwearingit; Mary's pale brown locks were parted and braided smooth:Diana'sduskier tresses covered her neck with thick curls.  Theclockstruck ten.

"Ye'llwant your supperI am sure" observed Hannah; "and so willMr. St.John when he comes in."

And sheproceeded to prepare the meal.  The ladies rose; they seemedabout towithdraw to the parlour.  Till this momentI had been sointent onwatching themtheir appearance and conversation hadexcited inme so keen an interestI had half-forgotten my ownwretchedposition:  now it recurred to me.  More desolatemoredesperatethan everit seemed from contrast.  And how impossibledid itappear to touch the inmates of this house with concern on mybehalf; tomake them believe in the truth of my wants and woes--toinducethem to vouchsafe a rest for my wanderings!  As I groped outthe doorand knocked at it hesitatinglyI felt that last idea tobe a merechimera.  Hannah opened.

"Whatdo you want?" she inquiredin a voice of surpriseas shesurveyedme by the light of the candle she held.

"MayI speak to your mistresses?" I said.

"Youhad better tell me what you have to say to them.  Where do youcomefrom?"

"I ama stranger."

"Whatis your business here at this hour?"

"Iwant a night's shelter in an out-house or anywhereand a morselof breadto eat."

Distrustthe very feeling I dreadedappeared in Hannah's face."I'llgive you a piece of bread" she saidafter a pause; "butwecan't takein a vagrant to lodge.  It isn't likely."

"Dolet me speak to your mistresses."

"Nonot I.  What can they do for you?  You should not be rovingabout now;it looks very ill."

"Butwhere shall I go if you drive me away?  What shall I do?"

"OhI'll warrant you know where to go and what to do.  Mind youdon't dowrongthat's all.  Here is a penny; now go--"

"Apenny cannot feed meand I have no strength to go farther.Don't shutthe door:- ohdon'tfor God's sake!"

"Imust; the rain is driving in--"

"Tellthe young ladies.  Let me see them- "

"IndeedI will not.  You are not what you ought to beor youwouldn'tmake such a noise.  Move off."

"ButI must die if I am turned away."

"Notyou.  I'm fear'd you have some ill plans agatethat bring youaboutfolk's houses at this time o' night.  If you've any followers--housebreakersor such like--anywhere nearyou may tell them we arenot byourselves in the house; we have a gentlemanand dogsandguns." Here the honest but inflexible servant clapped the door toand boltedit within.

This wasthe climax.  A pang of exquisite suffering--a throe of truedespair--rentand heaved my heart.  Worn outindeedI was; notanotherstep could I stir.  I sank on the wet doorstep:  Igroaned--I wrung myhands--I wept in utter anguish.  Ohthis spectre ofdeath! Ohthis last hourapproaching in such horror!  Alasthisisolation--thisbanishment from my kind!  Not only the anchor ofhopebutthe footing of fortitude was gone--at least for a moment;but thelast I soon endeavoured to regain.

"Ican but die" I said"and I believe in God.  Let metry to waitHis willin silence."

Thesewords I not only thoughtbut uttered; and thrusting back allmy miseryinto my heartI made an effort to compel it to remainthere--dumband still.

"Allmen must die" said a voice quite close at hand; "but allarenotcondemned to meet a lingering and premature doomsuch as yourswould beif you perished here of want."

"Whoor what speaks?" I askedterrified at the unexpected soundandincapable now of deriving from any occurrence a hope of aid.  Aform wasnear--what formthe pitch-dark night and my enfeebledvisionprevented me from distinguishing.  With a loud long knockthenew-comer appealed to the door.

"Isit youMr. St. John?" cried Hannah.

"Yes--yes;open quickly."

"Wellhow wet and cold you must besuch a wild night as it is!Comein--your sisters are quite uneasy about youand I believethere arebad folks about.  There has been a beggar-woman--I declareshe is notgone yet!--laid down there.  Get up! for shame!  MoveoffIsay!"

"HushHannah!  I have a word to say to the woman.  You have doneyour dutyin excludingnow let me do mine in admitting her.  I wasnearandlistened to both you and her.  I think this is a peculiarcase--Imust at least examine into it.  Young womanriseand passbefore meinto the house."

Withdifficulty I obeyed him.  Presently I stood within that cleanbrightkitchen--on the very hearth--tremblingsickening; consciousof anaspect in the last degree ghastlywildand weather-beaten.The twoladiestheir brotherMr. St. Johnthe old servantwereall gazingat me.

"St.Johnwho is it?" I heard one ask.

"Icannot tell:  I found her at the door" was the reply.

"Shedoes look white" said Hannah.

"Aswhite as clay or death" was responded.  "She willfall:  lether sit."

And indeedmy head swam:  I droppedbut a chair received me.  Istillpossessed my sensesthough just now I could not speak.

"Perhapsa little water would restore her.  Hannahfetch some.  Butshe isworn to nothing.  How very thinand how very bloodless!"

"Amere spectre!"

"Isshe illor only famished?"

"FamishedI think.  Hannahis that milk?  Give it meand a pieceof bread."

Diana (Iknew her by the long curls which I saw drooping between meand thefire as she bent over me) broke some breaddipped it inmilkandput it to my lips.  Her face was near mine:  I saw therewas pityin itand I felt sympathy in her hurried breathing.  Inher simplewordstoothe same balm-like emotion spoke:  "Try toeat."

"Yes--try"repeated Mary gently; and Mary's hand removed my soddenbonnet andlifted my head.  I tasted what they offered me:  feeblyat firsteagerly soon.

"Nottoo much at first--restrain her" said the brother; "shehashadenough."  And he withdrew the cup of milk and the plate ofbread.

"Alittle moreSt. John--look at the avidity in her eyes."

"Nomore at presentsister.  Try if she can speak now--ask her hername."

I felt Icould speakand I answered--"My name is Jane Elliott."Anxious asever to avoid discoveryI had before resolved to assumean ALIAS.

"Andwhere do you live?  Where are your friends?"

I wassilent.

"Canwe send for any one you know?"

I shook myhead.

"Whataccount can you give of yourself?"

Somehownow that I had once crossed the threshold of this houseand oncewas brought face to face with its ownersI felt no longeroutcastvagrantand disowned by the wide world.  I dared to putoff themendicant--to resume my natural manner and character.  Ibegan oncemore to know myself; and when Mr. St. John demanded anaccount--whichat present I was far too weak to render--I said aftera briefpause -

"SirI can give you no details to-night."

"Butwhatthen" said he"do you expect me to do for you?"

"Nothing"I replied.  My strength sufficed for but short answers.Diana tookthe word -

"Doyou mean" she asked"that we have now given you what aidyourequire?and that we may dismiss you to the moor and the rainynight?"

I lookedat her.  She hadI thoughta remarkable countenanceinstinctboth with power and goodness.  I took sudden courage.Answeringher compassionate gate with a smileI said--"I will trustyou. If I were a masterless and stray dogI know that you wouldnot turnme from your hearth to-night:  as it isI really have nofear. Do with me and for me as you like; but excuse me from muchdiscourse--mybreath is short--I feel a spasm when I speak."  Allthreesurveyed meand all three were silent.

"Hannah"said Mr. St. Johnat last"let her sit there at presentand askher no questions; in ten minutes moregive her theremainderof that milk and bread.  Mary and Dianalet us go intotheparlour and talk the matter over."

Theywithdrew.  Very soon one of the ladies returned--I could nottellwhich.  A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me as I satby thegenial fire.  In an undertone she gave some directions toHannah. Ere longwith the servant's aidI contrived to mount astaircase;my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warmdry bedreceivedme.  I thanked God--experienced amidst unutterableexhaustiona glow of grateful joy--and slept.

 

CHAPTERXXIX

 

Therecollection of about three days and nights succeeding this isvery dimin my mind.  I can recall some sensations felt in thatinterval;but few thoughts framedand no actions performed.  I knewI was in asmall room and in a narrow bed.  To that bed I seemed tohavegrown; I lay on it motionless as a stone; and to have torn mefrom itwould have been almost to kill me.  I took no note of thelapse oftime--of the change from morning to noonfrom noon toevening. I observed when any one entered or left the apartment:  Icould eventell who they were; I could understand what was said whenthespeaker stood near to me; but I could not answer; to open mylips ormove my limbs was equally impossible.  Hannahthe servantwas mymost frequent visitor.  Her coming disturbed me.  I had afeelingthat she wished me away:  that she did not understand me ormycircumstances; that she was prejudiced against me.  Diana andMaryappeared in the chamber once or twice a day.  They wouldwhispersentences of this sort at my bedside -

"Itis very well we took her in."

"Yes;she would certainly have been found dead at the door in themorninghad she been left out all night.  I wonder what she has gonethrough?"

"StrangehardshipsI imagine--pooremaciatedpallid wanderer?"

"Sheis not an uneducated personI should thinkby her manner ofspeaking;her accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took offthoughsplashed and wetwere little worn and fine."

"Shehas a peculiar face; fleshless and haggard as it isI ratherlike it;and when in good health and animatedI can fancy herphysiognomywould be agreeable."

Never oncein their dialogues did I hear a syllable of regret at thehospitalitythey had extended to meor of suspicion ofor aversiontomyself.  I was comforted.

Mr. St.John came but once:  he looked at meand said my state oflethargywas the result of reaction from excessive and protractedfatigue. He pronounced it needless to send for a doctor:  naturehe wassurewould manage bestleft to herself.  He said everynerve hadbeen overstrained in some wayand the whole system mustsleeptorpid a while.  There was no disease.  He imagined myrecoverywould be rapid enough when once commenced.  These opinionshedelivered in a few wordsin a quietlow voice; and addedaftera pausein the tone of a man little accustomed to expansivecomment"Rather an unusual physiognomy; certainlynot indicativeofvulgarity or degradation."

"Farotherwise" responded Diana.  "To speak truthSt.Johnmyheartrather warms to the poor little soul.  I wish we may be ableto benefither permanently."

"Thatis hardly likely" was the reply.  "You will find sheis someyoung ladywho has had a misunderstanding with her friendsand hasprobablyinjudiciously left them.  We mayperhapssucceed inrestoringher to themif she is not obstinate:  but I trace linesof forcein her face which make me sceptical of her tractability."He stoodconsidering me some minutes; then added"She lookssensiblebut not at all handsome."

"Sheis so illSt. John."

"Illor wellshe would always be plain.  The grace and harmony ofbeauty arequite wanting in those features."

On thethird day I was better; on the fourthI could speakmoverise inbedand turn.  Hannah had brought me some gruel and drytoastaboutas I supposedthe dinner-hour.  I had eaten withrelish: the food was good--void of the feverish flavour which hadhithertopoisoned what I had swallowed.  When she left meI feltcomparativelystrong and revived:  ere long satiety of repose anddesire foraction stirred me.  I wished to rise; but what could Iput on? Only my damp and bemired apparel; in which I had slept onthe groundand fallen in the marsh.  I felt ashamed to appear beforemybenefactors so clad.  I was spared the humiliation.

On a chairby the bedside were all my own thingsclean and dry.  Myblack silkfrock hung against the wall.  The traces of the bog wereremovedfrom it; the creases left by the wet smoothed out:  it wasquitedecent.  My very shoes and stockings were purified andrenderedpresentable.  There were the means of washing in the roomand a comband brush to smooth my hair.  After a weary processandrestingevery five minutesI succeeded in dressing myself.  Myclotheshung loose on me; for I was much wastedbut I covereddeficiencieswith a shawland once moreclean and respectablelooking--nospeck of the dirtno trace of the disorder I so hatedand whichseemed so to degrade meleft--I crept down a stonestaircasewith the aid of the banistersto a narrow low passageand foundmy way presently to the kitchen.

It wasfull of the fragrance of new bread and the warmth of agenerousfire.  Hannah was baking.  Prejudicesit is well knownare mostdifficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has neverbeenloosened or fertilised by education:  they grow therefirm asweedsamong stones.  Hannah had been cold and stiffindeedat thefirst: latterly she had begun to relent a little; and when she sawme come intidy and well-dressedshe even smiled.

"Whatyou have got up!" she said.  "You are betterthen. You maysit youdown in my chair on the hearthstoneif you will."

Shepointed to the rocking-chair:  I took it.  She bustledaboutexaminingme every now and then with the corner of her eye.  Turningto measshe took some loaves from the ovenshe asked bluntly -

"Didyou ever go a-begging afore you came here?"

I wasindignant for a moment; but remembering that anger was out ofthequestionand that I had indeed appeared as a beggar to herIansweredquietlybut still not without a certain marked firmness -

"Youare mistaken in supposing me a beggar.  I am no beggar; anymore thanyourself or your young ladies."

After apause she said"I dunnut understand that:  you've like nohousenorno brassI guess?"

"Thewant of house or brass (by which I suppose you mean money) doesnot make abeggar in your sense of the word."

"Areyou book-learned?" she inquired presently.

"Yesvery."

"Butyou've never been to a boarding-school?"

"Iwas at a boarding-school eight years."

She openedher eyes wide.  "Whatever cannot ye keep yourself forthen?"

"Ihave kept myself; andI trustshall keep myself again.  Whatare yougoing to do with these gooseberries?" I inquiredas shebroughtout a basket of the fruit.

"Mak''em into pies."

"Givethem to me and I'll pick them."

"Nay;I dunnut want ye to do nought."

"ButI must do something.  Let me have them."

Sheconsented; and she even brought me a clean towel to spread overmy dress"lest" as she said"I should mucky it."

"Ye'venot been used to sarvant's warkI see by your hands" sheremarked. "Happen ye've been a dressmaker?"

"Noyou are wrong.  And nownever mind what I have been: don'ttroubleyour head further about me; but tell me the name of thehousewhere we are."

"Somecalls it Marsh Endand some calls it Moor House."

"Andthe gentleman who lives here is called Mr. St. John?"

"Nay;he doesn't live here:  he is only staying a while.  When heisat homehe is in his own parish at Morton."

"Thatvillage a few miles off?

"Aye."

"Andwhat is he?"

"Heis a parson."

Iremembered the answer of the old housekeeper at the parsonagewhen I hadasked to see the clergyman.  "Thisthenwas hisfather'sresidence?"

"Aye;old Mr. Rivers lived hereand his fatherand grandfatherand gurt(great) grandfather afore him."

"Thenamethenof that gentlemanis Mr. St. John Rivers?"

"Aye;St. John is like his kirstened name."

"Andhis sisters are called Diana and Mary Rivers?"

"Yes."

"Theirfather is dead?"

"Deadthree weeks sin' of a stroke."

"Theyhave no mother?"

"Themistress has been dead this mony a year."

"Haveyou lived with the family long?"

"I'velived here thirty year.  I nursed them all three."

"Thatproves you must have been an honest and faithful servant.  Iwill sayso much for youthough you have had the incivility to callme abeggar."

She againregarded me with a surprised stare.  "I believe" shesaid"Iwas quite mista'en in my thoughts of you:  but there is somonycheats goes aboutyou mun forgie me."

"Andthough" I continuedrather severely"you wished to turnmefrom thedooron a night when you should not have shut out a dog."

"Wellit was hard:  but what can a body do?  I thought more o'th'childernor of mysel:  poor things!  They've like nobody to tak'care on'em but me.  I'm like to look sharpish."

Imaintained a grave silence for some minutes.

"Youmunnut think too hardly of me" she again remarked.

"ButI do think hardly of you" I said; "and I'll tell youwhy--notso muchbecause you refused to give me shelteror regarded me as animpostoras because you just now made it a species of reproach thatI had no'brass' and no house.  Some of the best people that everlived havebeen as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christianyou oughtnot to consider poverty a crime."

"Nomore I ought" said she:  "Mr. St. John tells me sotoo; and Isee I worwrang--but I've clear a different notion on you now towhat Ihad.  You look a raight down dacent little crater."

"Thatwill do--I forgive you now.  Shake hands."

She puther floury and horny hand into mine; another and heartiersmileillumined her rough faceand from that moment we werefriends.

Hannah wasevidently fond of talking.  While I picked the fruitandshe madethe paste for the piesshe proceeded to give me sundrydetailsabout her deceased master and mistressand "the childer"as shecalled the young people.

Old Mr.Riversshe saidwas a plain man enoughbut a gentlemanand of asancient a family as could be found.  Marsh End hadbelongedto the Rivers ever since it was a house:  and it wassheaffirmed"aboon two hundred year old--for all it looked but asmallhumble placenaught to compare wi' Mr. Oliver's grand halldown i'Morton Vale.  But she could remember Bill Oliver's father ajourneymanneedlemaker; and th' Rivers wor gentry i' th' owd days o'th'Henrysas onybody might see by looking into th' registers i'MortonChurch vestry."  Stillshe allowed"the owd maisterwaslike otherfolk--naught mich out o' t' common way:  stark mad o'shootingand farmingand sich like."  The mistress was different.She was agreat readerand studied a deal; and the "bairns" hadtakenafter her.  There was nothing like them in these partsnorever hadbeen; they had liked learningall threealmost from thetime theycould speak; and they had always been "of a mak' of theirown." Mr. St. Johnwhen he grew upwould go to college and be aparson;and the girlsas soon as they left schoolwould seekplaces asgovernesses:  for they had told her their father had someyears agolost a great deal of money by a man he had trusted turningbankrupt;and as he was now not rich enough to give them fortunesthey mustprovide for themselves.  They had lived very little athome for along whileand were only come now to stay a few weeks onaccount oftheir father's death; but they did so like Marsh End andMortonand all these moors and hills about.  They had been inLondonand many other grand towns; but they always said there wasno placelike home; and then they were so agreeable with each other--neverfell out nor "threaped."  She did not know where therewassuch afamily for being united.

Havingfinished my task of gooseberry pickingI asked where the twoladies andtheir brother were now.

"Goneover to Morton for a walk; but they would be back in half-an-hour totea."

Theyreturned within the time Hannah had allotted them:  theyentered bythe kitchen door.  Mr. St. Johnwhen he saw memerelybowed andpassed through; the two ladies stopped:  Maryin a fewwordskindly and calmly expressed the pleasure she felt in seeingme wellenough to be able to come down; Diana took my hand:  sheshook herhead at me.

"Youshould have waited for my leave to descend" she said. "Youstill lookvery pale--and so thin!  Poor child!--poor girl!"

Diana hada voice tonedto my earlike the cooing of a dove.  Shepossessedeyes whose gaze I delighted to encounter.  Her whole faceseemed tome fill of charm.  Mary's countenance was equallyintelligent--herfeatures equally pretty; but her expression wasmorereservedand her mannersthough gentlemore distant.  Dianalooked andspoke with a certain authority:  she had a willevidently. It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to anauthoritysupported like hersand to bendwhere my conscience andself-respectpermittedto an active will.

"Andwhat business have you here?" she continued.  "It isnot yourplace. Mary and I sit in the kitchen sometimesbecause at home welike to befreeeven to license--but you are a visitorand must gointo theparlour."

"I amvery well here."

"Notat allwith Hannah bustling about and covering you withflour."

"Besidesthe fire is too hot for you" interposed Mary.

"Tobe sure" added her sister.  "Comeyou must beobedient."  Andstillholding my hand she made me riseand led me into the innerroom.

"Sitthere" she saidplacing me on the sofa"while we takeourthings offand get the tea ready; it is another privilege weexercisein our little moorland home--to prepare our own meals whenwe are soinclinedor when Hannah is bakingbrewingwashingorironing."

She closedthe doorleaving me solus with Mr. St. Johnwho satoppositea book or newspaper in his hand.  I examined firsttheparlourand then its occupant.

Theparlour was rather a small roomvery plainly furnishedyetcomfortablebecause clean and neat.  The old-fashioned chairs wereverybrightand the walnut-wood table was like a looking-glass.  Afewstrangeantique portraits of the men and women of other daysdecoratedthe stained walls; a cupboard with glass doors containedsome booksand an ancient set of china.  There was no superfluousornamentin the room--not one modern piece of furnituresave abrace ofworkboxes and a lady's desk in rosewoodwhich stood on aside-table: everything--including the carpet and curtains--lookedat oncewell worn and well saved.

Mr. St.John--sitting as still as one of the dusty pictures on thewallskeeping his eyes fixed on the page he perusedand his lipsmutelysealed--was easy enough to examine.  Had he been a statueinstead ofa manhe could not have been easier.  He was young--perhapsfrom twenty-eight to thirty--tallslender; his face rivetedthe eye;it was like a Greek facevery pure in outline:  quite astraightclassic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin.  It isseldomindeedan English face comes so near the antique models asdid his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity ofmylineamentshis own being so harmonious.  His eyes were largeandbluewithbrown lashes; his high foreheadcolourless as ivorywaspartiallystreaked over by careless locks of fair hair.

This is agentle delineationis it notreader?  Yet he whom itdescribesscarcely impressed one with the idea of a gentleayieldingan impressibleor even of a placid nature.  Quiescent ashe nowsatthere was something about his nostrilhis mouthhisbrowwhichto my perceptionsindicated elements within eitherrestlessor hardor eager.  He did not speak to me one wordnorevendirect to me one glancetill his sisters returned.  Dianaasshe passedin and outin the course of preparing teabrought me alittlecakebaked on the top of the oven.

"Eatthat now" she said:  "you must be hungry. Hannah says youhave hadnothing but some gruel since breakfast."

I did notrefuse itfor my appetite was awakened and keen.  Mr.Rivers nowclosed his bookapproached the tableandas he took aseatfixed his blue pictorial-looking eyes full on me.  There wasanunceremonious directnessa searchingdecided steadfastness inhis gazenowwhich told that intentionand not diffidencehadhithertokept it averted from the stranger.

"Youare very hungry" he said.

"Iamsir."  It is my way--it always was my waybyinstinct--everto meetthe brief with brevitythe direct with plainness.

"Itis well for you that a low fever has forced you to abstain forthe lastthree days:  there would have been danger in yielding tothecravings of your appetite at first.  Now you may eatthoughstill notimmoderately."

"Itrust I shall not eat long at your expensesir" was my veryclumsily-contrivedunpolished answer.

"No"he said coolly:  "when you have indicated to us theresidenceof yourfriendswe can write to themand you may be restored tohome."

"ThatI must plainly tell youis out of my power to do; beingabsolutelywithout home and friends."

The threelooked at mebut not distrustfully; I felt there was nosuspicionin their glances:  there was more of curiosity.  I speakparticularlyof the young ladies.  St. John's eyesthough clearenough ina literal sensein a figurative one were difficult tofathom. He seemed to use them rather as instruments to search otherpeople'sthoughtsthan as agents to reveal his own:  the whichcombinationof keenness and reserve was considerably more calculatedtoembarrass than to encourage.

"Doyou mean to say" he asked"that you are completelyisolatedfrom everyconnection?"

"Ido.  Not a tie links me to any living thing:  not a claimdo Ipossess toadmittance under any roof in England."

"Amost singular position at your age!"

Here I sawhis glance directed to my handswhich were folded on thetablebefore me.  I wondered what he sought there:  his wordssoonexplainedthe quest.

"Youhave never been married?  You are a spinster?"

Dianalaughed.  "Whyshe can't he above seventeen or eighteenyearsoldSt.John" said she.

"I amnear nineteen:  but I am not married.  No."

I felt aburning glow mount to my face; for bitter and agitatingrecollectionswere awakened by the allusion to marriage.  They allsaw theembarrassment and the emotion.  Diana and Mary relieved meby turningtheir eyes elsewhere than to my crimsoned visage; but thecolder andsterner brother continued to gazetill the trouble hehadexcited forced out tears as well as colour.

"Wheredid you last reside?" he now asked.

"Youare too inquisitiveSt. John" murmured Mary in a low voice;but heleaned over the table and required an answer by a second firmandpiercing look.

"Thename of the place whereand of the person with whom I livedis mysecret" I replied concisely.

"Whichif you likeyou havein my opiniona right to keepbothfrom St.John and every other questioner" remarked Diana.

"Yetif I know nothing about you or your historyI cannot helpyou"he said.  "And you need helpdo you not?"

"Ineed itand I seek it so farsirthat some true philanthropistwill putme in the way of getting work which I can doand theremunerationfor which will keep meif but in the barestnecessariesof life."

"Iknow not whether I am a true philanthropist; yet I am willing toaid you tothe utmost of my power in a purpose so honest.  Firstthentellme what you have been accustomed to doand what you CANdo."

I had nowswallowed my tea.  I was mightily refreshed by thebeverage;as much so as a giant with wine:  it gave new tone to myunstrungnervesand enabled me to address this penetrating youngjudgesteadily.

"Mr.Rivers" I saidturning to himand looking at himas helooked atmeopenly and without diffidence"you and your sistershave doneme a great service--the greatest man can do his fellow-being; youhave rescued meby your noble hospitalityfrom death.Thisbenefit conferred gives you an unlimited claim on my gratitudeand aclaimto a certain extenton my confidence.  I will tell youas much ofthe history of the wanderer you have harbouredas I cantellwithout compromising my own peace of mind--my own securitymoral andphysicaland that of others.

"I aman orphanthe daughter of a clergyman.  My parents diedbefore Icould know them.  I was brought up a dependant; educated inacharitable institution.  I will even tell you the name of theestablishmentwhere I passed six years as a pupiland two as ateacher--LowoodOrphan Asylum-shire:  you will have heard of itMr.Rivers?--the Rev. Robert Brocklehurst is the treasurer."

"Ihave heard of Mr. Brocklehurstand I have seen the school."

"Ileft Lowood nearly a year since to become a private governess. Iobtained agood situationand was happy.  This place I was obligedto leavefour days before I came here.  The reason of my departure Icannot andought not to explain:  it would be uselessdangerousand wouldsound incredible.  No blame attached to me:  I am as freefromculpability as any one of you three.  Miserable I amand mustbe for atime; for the catastrophe which drove me from a house I hadfound aparadise was of a strange and direful nature.  I observedbut twopoints in planning my departure--speedsecrecy:  to securetheseIhad to leave behind me everything I possessed except asmallparcel; whichin my hurry and trouble of mindI forgot totake outof the coach that brought me to Whitcross.  To thisneighbourhoodthenI camequite destitute.  I slept two nights inthe openairand wandered about two days without crossing athreshold: but twice in that space of time did I taste food; and itwas whenbrought by hungerexhaustionand despair almost to thelast gaspthat youMr. Riversforbade me to perish of want atyour doorand took me under the shelter of your roof.  I know allyoursisters have done for me since--for I have not been insensibleduring myseeming torpor--and I owe to their spontaneousgenuinegenialcompassion as large a debt as to your evangelical charity."

"Don'tmake her talk any more nowSt. John" said Dianaas Ipaused;"she is evidently not yet fit for excitement.  Come to thesofa andsit down nowMiss Elliott."

I gave aninvoluntary half start at hearing the alias:  I hadforgottenmy new name.  Mr. Riverswhom nothing seemed to escapenoticed itat once.

"Yousaid your name was Jane Elliott?" he observed.

"Idid say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient tobe calledat presentbut it is not my real nameand when I hearititsounds strange to me."

"Yourreal name you will not give?"

"No: I fear discovery above all things; and whatever disclosurewould leadto itI avoid."

"Youare quite rightI am sure" said Diana.  "Now dobrotherlether be atpeace a while."

But whenSt. John had mused a few moments he recommenced asimperturbablyand with as much acumen as ever.

"Youwould not like to be long dependent on our hospitality--youwouldwishI seeto dispense as soon as may be with my sisters'compassionandabove allwith my CHARITY (I am quite sensible ofthedistinction drawnnor do I resent it--it is just):  you desireto beindependent of us?"

"Ido:  I have already said so.  Show me how to workor howto seekwork: that is all I now ask; then let me goif it be but to themeanestcottage; but till thenallow me to stay here:  I dreadanotheressay of the horrors of homeless destitution."

"Indeedyou SHALL stay here" said Dianaputting her white hand onmy head. "You SHALL" repeated Maryin the tone of undemonstrativesinceritywhich seemed natural to her.

"Mysistersyou seehave a pleasure in keeping you" said Mr. St.John"asthey would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing ahalf-frozenbirdsome wintry wind might have driven through theircasement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of keepingyourselfand shall endeavour to do so; but observemy sphere isnarrow. I am but the incumbent of a poor country parish:  my aidmust be ofthe humblest sort.  And if you are inclined to despisethe day ofsmall thingsseek some more efficient succour than suchas I canoffer."

"Shehas already said that she is willing to do anything honest shecan do"answered Diana for me; "and you knowSt. Johnshe has nochoice ofhelpers:  she is forced to put up with such crusty peopleas you."

"Iwill be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-workwoman; I will be aservantanurse-girlif I can be no better" I answered.

"Right"said Mr. St. Johnquite coolly.  "If such is your spiritI promiseto aid youin my own time and way."

He nowresumed the book with which he had been occupied before tea.I soonwithdrewfor I had talked as muchand sat up as longas mypresentstrength would permit.

 

CHAPTERXXX

 

The more Iknew of the inmates of Moor Housethe better I likedthem. In a few days I had so far recovered my health that I couldsit up alldayand walk out sometimes.  I could join with Diana andMary inall their occupations; converse with them as much as theywishedand aid them when and where they would allow me.  There wasa revivingpleasure in this intercourseof a kind now tasted by mefor thefirst time-the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality oftastessentimentsand principles.

I liked toread what they liked to read:  what they enjoyeddelightedme; what they approvedI reverenced.  They loved theirsequesteredhome.  Itooin the greysmallantique structurewith itslow roofits latticed casementsits mouldering wallsitsavenue ofaged firs--all grown aslant under the stress of mountainwinds; itsgardendark with yew and holly--and where no flowers butof thehardiest species would bloom--found a charm both potent andpermanent. They clung to the purple moors behind and around theirdwelling--tothe hollow vale into which the pebbly bridle-pathleadingfrom their gate descendedand which wound between fern-banksfirstand then amongst a few of the wildest little pasture-fieldsthat ever bordered a wilderness of heathor gave sustenanceto a flockof grey moorland sheepwith their little mossy-facedlambs:-they clung to this sceneI saywith a perfect enthusiasmofattachment.  I could comprehend the feelingand share both itsstrengthand truth.  I saw the fascination of the locality.  I felttheconsecration of its loneliness:  my eye feasted on the outlineof swelland sweep--on the wild colouring communicated to ridge anddell bymossby heath-bellby flower-sprinkled turfby brilliantbrackenand mellow granite crag.  These details were just to mewhat theywere to them--so many pure and sweet sources of pleasure.The strongblast and the soft breeze; the rough and the halcyon day;the hoursof sunrise and sunset; the moonlight and the cloudednightdeveloped for mein these regionsthe same attraction asforthem--wound round my faculties the same spell that entrancedtheirs.

Indoors weagreed equally well.  They were both more accomplishedand betterread than I was; but with eagerness I followed in thepath ofknowledge they had trodden before me.  I devoured the booksthey lentme:  then it was full satisfaction to discuss with them intheevening what I had perused during the day.  Thought fittedthought;opinion met opinion:  we coincidedin shortperfectly.

If in ourtrio there was a superior and a leaderit was Diana.Physicallyshe far excelled me:  she was handsome; she wasvigorous. In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life andcertaintyof flowsuch as excited my wonderwhile it baffled mycomprehension. I could talk a while when the evening commencedbutthe firstgush of vivacity and fluency goneI was fain to sit on astool atDiana's feetto rest my head on her kneeand listenalternatelyto her and Marywhile they sounded thoroughly the topicon which Ihad but touched.  Diana offered to teach me German.  Iliked tolearn of her:  I saw the part of instructress pleased andsuitedher; that of scholar pleased and suited me no less.  Ournaturesdovetailed:  mutual affection--of the strongest kind--wastheresult.  They discovered I could draw:  their pencils andcolour-boxeswere immediately at my service.  My skillgreater inthis onepoint than theirssurprised and charmed them.  Mary wouldsit andwatch me by the hour together:  then she would take lessons;and adocileintelligentassiduous pupil she made.  Thus occupiedandmutually entertaineddays passed like hoursand weeks likedays.

As to Mr.St Johnthe intimacy which had arisen so naturally andrapidlybetween me and his sisters did not extend to him.  Onereason ofthe distance yet observed between us wasthat he wascomparativelyseldom at home:  a large proportion of his timeappeareddevoted to visiting the sick and poor among the scatteredpopulationof his parish.

No weatherseemed to hinder him in these pastoral excursions:  rainor fairhe wouldwhen his hours of morning study were overtakehis hatandfollowed by his father's old pointerCarlogo out onhismission of love or duty--I scarcely know in which light heregardedit.  Sometimeswhen the day was very unfavourablehissisterswould expostulate.  He would then saywith a peculiarsmilemore solemn than cheerful -

"Andif I let a gust of wind or a sprinkling of rain turn me asidefrom theseeasy taskswhat preparation would such sloth be for thefuture Ipropose to myself?"

Diana andMary's general answer to this question was a sighandsomeminutes of apparently mournful meditation.

Butbesides his frequent absencesthere was another barrier tofriendshipwith him:  he seemed of a reservedan abstractedandeven of abrooding nature.  Zealous in his ministerial laboursblamelessin his life and habitshe yet did not appear to enjoythatmental serenitythat inward contentwhich should bet hereward ofevery sincere Christian and practical philanthropist.Oftenofan eveningwhen he sat at the windowhis desk and papersbeforehimhe would cease reading or writingrest his chin on hishandanddeliver himself up to I know not what course of thought;but thatit was perturbed and exciting might be seen in the frequentflash andchangeful dilation of his eye.

I thinkmoreoverthat Nature was not to him that treasury ofdelight itwas to his sisters.  He expressed onceand but once inmyhearinga strong sense of the rugged charm of the hillsand aninbornaffection for the dark roof and hoary walls he called hishome; butthere was more of gloom than pleasure in the tone andwords inwhich the sentiment was manifested; and never did he seemto roamthe moors for the sake of their soothing silence--never seekout ordwell upon the thousand peaceful delights they could yield.

Incommunicativeas he wassome time elapsed before I had anopportunityof gauging his mind.  I first got an idea of its calibrewhen Iheard him preach in his own church at Morton.  I wish I coulddescribethat sermon:  but it is past my power.  I cannot evenrenderfaithfully the effect it produced on me.

It begancalm--and indeedas far as delivery and pitch of voicewentitwas calm to the end:  an earnestly feltyet strictlyrestrainedzeal breathed soon in the distinct accentsand promptedthenervous language.  This grew to force--compressedcondensedcontrolled. The heart was thrilledthe mind astonishedby thepower ofthe preacher:  neither were softened.  Throughout there wasa strangebitterness; an absence of consolatory gentleness; sternallusionsto Calvinistic doctrines--electionpredestinationreprobation--werefrequent; and each reference to these pointssoundedlike a sentence pronounced for doom.  When he had doneinstead offeeling bettercalmermore enlightened by hisdiscourseI experienced an inexpressible sadness; for it seemed tome--I knownot whether equally so to others--that the eloquence towhich Ihad been listening had sprung from a depth where lay turbiddregs ofdisappointment--where moved troubling impulses of insatiateyearningsand disquieting aspirations.  I was sure St. John Rivers--pure-livedconscientiouszealous as he was--had not yet found thatpeace ofGod which passeth all understanding:  he had no more founditIthoughtthan had I with my concealed and racking regrets formy brokenidol and lost elysium--regrets to which I have latterlyavoidedreferringbut which possessed me and tyrannised over meruthlessly.

Meantime amonth was gone.  Diana and Mary were soon to leave MoorHouseandreturn to the far different life and scene which awaitedthemasgovernesses in a largefashionablesouth-of-England citywhere eachheld a situation in families by whose wealthy and haughtymembersthey were regarded only as humble dependantsand whoneitherknew nor sought out their innate excellencesandappreciatedonly their acquired accomplishments as they appreciatedthe skillof their cook or the taste of their waiting-woman.  Mr.St. Johnhad said nothing to me yet about the employment he hadpromisedto obtain for me; yet it became urgent that I should have avocationof some kind.  One morningbeing left alone with him a fewminutes inthe parlourI ventured to approach the window-recess--which histablechairand desk consecrated as a kind of study--andI wasgoing to speakthough not very well knowing in what words toframe myinquiry--for it is at all times difficult to break the iceof reserveglassing over such natures as his--when he saved me thetrouble bybeing the first to commence a dialogue.

Looking upas I drew near--"You have a question to ask of me?" hesaid.

"Yes;I wish to know whether you have heard of any service I canoffermyself to undertake?"

"Ifound or devised something for you three weeks ago; but as youseemedboth useful and happy here--as my sisters had evidentlybecomeattached to youand your society gave them unusual pleasure--I deemedit inexpedient to break in on your mutual comfort tilltheirapproaching departure from Marsh End should render yoursnecessary."

"Andthey will go in three days now?" I said.

"Yes;and when they goI shall return to the parsonage at Morton:Hannahwill accompany me; and this old house will be shut up."

I waited afew momentsexpecting he would go on with the subjectfirstbroached:  but he seemed to have entered another train ofreflection: his look denoted abstraction from me and my business.I wasobliged to recall him to a theme which was of necessity one ofclose andanxious interest to me.

"Whatis the employment you had in viewMr. Rivers?  I hope thisdelay willnot have increased the difficulty of securing it."

"Ohno; since it is in employment which depends only on me to giveand you toaccept."

He againpaused:  there seemed a reluctance to continue.  I grewimpatient: a restless movement or twoand an eager and exactingglancefastened on his faceconveyed the feeling to him aseffectuallyas words could have doneand with less trouble.

"Youneed be in no hurry to hear" he said:  "let mefrankly tellyouIhave nothing eligible or profitable to suggest.  Before Iexplainrecallif you pleasemy noticeclearly giventhat if Ihelpedyouit must be as the blind man would help the lame.  I ampoor; forI find thatwhen I have paid my father's debtsall thepatrimonyremaining to me will be this crumbling grangethe row ofscathedfirs behindand the patch of moorish soilwith the yew-trees andholly-bushes in front.  I am obscure:  Rivers is an oldname; butof the three sole descendants of the racetwo earn thedependant'scrust among strangersand the third considers himselfan alienfrom his native country--not only for lifebut in death.Yesanddeemsand is bound to deemhimself honoured by the lotandaspires but after the day when the cross of separation fromfleshlyties shall be laid on his shouldersand when the Head ofthatchurch-militant of whose humblest members he is oneshall givethe word'Risefollow Me!'"

St. Johnsaid these words as he pronounced his sermonswith aquietdeep voice; with an unflushed cheekand a coruscatingradianceof glance.  He resumed -

"Andsince I am myself poor and obscureI can offer you but aservice ofpoverty and obscurity.  YOU may even think it degrading--for I seenow your habits have been what the world calls refined:yourtastes lean to the idealand your society has at least beenamongstthe educated; but I consider that no service degrades whichcan betterour race.  I hold that the more arid and unreclaimed thesoil wherethe Christian labourer's task of tillage is appointedhim--thescantier the meed his toil brings--the higher the honour.Hisundersuch circumstancesis the destiny of the pioneer; andthe firstpioneers of the Gospel were the Apostles--their captainwas Jesusthe RedeemerHimself."

"Well?"I saidas he again paused--"proceed."

He lookedat me before he proceeded:  indeedhe seemed leisurely toread myfaceas if its features and lines were characters on apage. The conclusions drawn from this scrutiny he partiallyexpressedin his succeeding observations.

"Ibelieve you will accept the post I offer you" said he"andholdit for awhile:  not permanentlythough:  any more than I couldpermanentlykeep the narrow and narrowing--the tranquilhiddenoffice ofEnglish country incumbent; for in your nature is an alloyasdetrimental to repose as that in minethough of a differentkind."

"Doexplain" I urgedwhen he halted once more.

"Iwill; and you shall hear how poor the proposal is--how trivial--howcramping.  I shall not stay long at Mortonnow that my fatheris deadand that I am my own master.  I shall leave the placeprobablyin the course of a twelve-month; but while I do stayIwill exertmyself to the utmost for its improvement.  Mortonwhen Icame to ittwo years agohad no school:  the children of the poorwereexcluded from every hope of progress.  I established one forboys: I mean now to open a second school for girls.  I have hired abuildingfor the purposewith a cottage of two rooms attached to itfor themistress's house.  Her salary will be thirty pounds a year:her houseis already furnishedvery simplybut sufficientlybythekindness of a ladyMiss Oliver; the only daughter of the solerich manin my parish--Mr. Oliverthe proprietor of a needle-factoryand iron-foundry in the valley.  The same lady pays for theeducationand clothing of an orphan from the workhouseon conditionthat sheshall aid the mistress in such menial offices connectedwith herown house and the school as her occupation of teaching willpreventher having time to discharge in person.  Will you be thismistress?"

He put thequestion rather hurriedly; he seemed half to expect anindignantor at least a disdainful rejection of the offer:  notknowingall my thoughts and feelingsthough guessing somehe couldnot tellin what light the lot would appear to me.  In truth it washumble--butthen it was shelteredand I wanted a safe asylum:  itwasplodding--but thencompared with that of a governess in a richhouseitwas independent; and the fear of servitude with strangersentered mysoul like iron:  it was not ignoble--not unworthy--notmentallydegradingI made my decision.

"Ithank you for the proposalMr. Riversand I accept it with allmy heart."

"Butyou comprehend me?" he said.  "It is a villageschool:  yourscholarswill be only poor girls--cottagers' children--at the bestfarmers'daughters.  Knittingsewingreadingwritingcipheringwill beall you will have to teach.  What will you do with youraccomplishments? Whatwith the largest portion of your mind--sentiments--tastes?"

"Savethem till they are wanted.  They will keep."

"Youknow what you undertakethen?"

"Ido."

He nowsmiled:  and not a bitter or a sad smilebut one wellpleasedand deeply gratified.

"Andwhen will you commence the exercise of your function?"

"Iwill go to my house to-morrowand open the schoolif you likenextweek."

"Verywell:  so be it."

He roseand walked through the room.  Standing stillhe againlooked atme.  He shook his head.

"Whatdo you disapprove ofMr. Rivers?" I asked.

"Youwill not stay at Morton long:  nono!"

"Why? What is your reason for saying so?"

"Iread it in your eye; it is not of that description which promisesthemaintenance of an even tenor in life."

"I amnot ambitious."

He startedat the word "ambitious."  He repeated"No. What madeyou thinkof ambition?  Who is ambitious?  I know I am:  but howdidyou findit out?"

"Iwas speaking of myself."

"Wellif you are not ambitiousyou are--"  He paused.

"What?"

"Iwas going to sayimpassioned:  but perhaps you would havemisunderstoodthe wordand been displeased.  I meanthat humanaffectionsand sympathies have a most powerful hold on you.  I amsure youcannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitudeand todevote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly voidofstimulus:  any more than I can be content" he addedwithemphasis"to live here buried in morasspent in with mountains--mynaturethat God gave mecontravened; my facultiesheaven-bestowedparalysed--made useless.  You hear now how I contradictmyself. Iwho preached contentment with a humble lotandjustifiedthe vocation even of hewers of wood and drawers of waterin God'sservice--IHis ordained ministeralmost rave in myrestlessness. Wellpropensities and principles must be reconciledby somemeans."

He leftthe room.  In this brief hour I had learnt more of him thanin thewhole previous month:  yet still he puzzled me.

Diana andMary Rivers became more sad and silent as the dayapproachedfor leaving their brother and their home.  They bothtried toappear as usual; bat the sorrow they had to struggleagainstwas one that could not be entirely conquered or concealed.Dianaintimated that this would be a different parting from any theyhad everyet known.  It would probablyas far as St. John wasconcernedbe a parting for years:  it might be a parting for life.

"Hewill sacrifice all to his long-framed resolves" she said:"naturalaffection and feelings more potent still.  St. John looksquietJane; but he hides a fever in his vitals.  You would thinkhimgentleyet in some things he is inexorable as death; and theworst ofit ismy conscience will hardly permit me to dissuade himfrom hissevere decision:  certainlyI cannot for a moment blamehim forit.  It is rightnobleChristian:  yet it breaks myheart!" And the tears gushed to her fine eyes.  Mary bent her headlow overher work.

"Weare now without father:  we shall soon be without home andbrother"she murmured

At thatmoment a little accident supervenedwhich seemed decreed byfatepurposely to prove the truth of the adagethat "misfortunesnever comesingly" and to add to their distresses the vexing one ofthe slipbetween the cup and the lip.  St. John passed the windowreading aletter.  He entered.

"Ouruncle John is dead" said he.

Both thesisters seemed struck:  not shocked or appalled; thetidingsappeared in their eyes rather momentous than afflicting.

"Dead?"repeated Diana.

"Yes."

Sheriveted a searching gaze on her brother's face.  "And whatthen?"she demandedin a low voice.

"WhatthenDie?" he repliedmaintaining a marble immobility offeature. "What then?  Why--nothing.  Read."

He threwthe letter into her lap.  She glanced over itand handedit toMary.  Mary perused it in silenceand returned it to herbrother. All three looked at each otherand all three smiled--adrearypensive smile enough.

"Amen! We can yet live" said Diana at last.

"Atany rateit makes us no worse off than we were before"remarkedMary.

"Onlyit forces rather strongly on the mind the picture of whatMIGHT HAVEBEEN" said Mr. Rivers"and contrasts it somewhat toovividlywith what IS."

He foldedthe letterlocked it in his deskand again went out.

For someminutes no one spoke.  Diana then turned to me.

"Janeyou will wonder at us and our mysteries" she said"andthink ushard-hearted beings not to be more moved at the death of sonear arelation as an uncle; but we have never seen him or knownhim. He was my mother's brother.  My father and he quarrelled longago. It was by his advice that my father risked most of hispropertyin the speculation that ruined him.  Mutual recriminationpassedbetween them:  they parted in angerand were neverreconciled. My uncle engaged afterwards in more prosperousundertakings: it appears he realised a fortune of twenty thousandpounds. He was never marriedand had no near kindred but ourselvesand oneother personnot more closely related than we.  My fatheralwayscherished the idea that he would atone for his error byleavinghis possessions to us; that letter informs us that he hasbequeathedevery penny to the other relationwith the exception ofthirtyguineasto be divided between St. JohnDianaand MaryRiversfor the purchase of three mourning rings.  He had a rightof courseto do as he pleased:  and yet a momentary damp is cast onthespirits by the receipt of such news.  Mary and I would haveesteemedourselves rich with a thousand pounds each; and to St. Johnsuch a sumwould have been valuablefor the good it would haveenabledhim to do."

Thisexplanation giventhe subject was droppedand no furtherreferencemade to it by either Mr. Rivers or his sisters.  The nextday I leftMarsh End for Morton.  The day afterDiana and Maryquitted itfor distant B-.  In a weekMr. Rivers and Hannahrepairedto the parsonage:  and so the old grange was abandoned.

 

CHAPTERXXXI

 

My homethenwhen I at last find a home--is a cottage; a littleroom withwhitewashed walls and a sanded floorcontaining fourpaintedchairs and a tablea clocka cupboardwith two or threeplates anddishesand a set of tea-things in delf.  Aboveachamber ofthe same dimensions as the kitchenwith a deal bedsteadand chestof drawers; smallyet too large to be filled with myscantywardrobe:  though the kindness of my gentle and generousfriendshas increased thatby a modest stock of such things as arenecessary.

It isevening.  I have dismissedwith the fee of an orangethelittleorphan who serves me as a handmaid.  I am sitting alone onthehearth.  This morningthe village school opened.  I hadtwentyscholars. But three of the number can read:  none write or cipher.Severalknitand a few sew a little.  They speak with the broadestaccent ofthe district.  At presentthey and I have a difficulty inunderstandingeach other's language.  Some of them are unmanneredroughintractableas well as ignorant; but others are docilehavea wish tolearnand evince a disposition that pleases me.  I mustnot forgetthat these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh andblood asgood as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that thegerms ofnative excellencerefinementintelligencekind feelingare aslikely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born.My dutywill be to develop these germs:  surely I shall find somehappinessin discharging that office.  Much enjoyment I do notexpect inthe life opening before me:  yet it willdoubtlessif Iregulatemy mindand exert my powers as I oughtyield me enough tolive onfrom day to day.

Was I verygleefulsettledcontentduring the hours I passed inyonderbarehumble schoolroom this morning and afternoon?  Not todeceivemyselfI must reply--No:  I felt desolate to a degree.  Ifelt--yesidiot that I am--I felt degraded.  I doubted I had takena stepwhich sank instead of raising me in the scale of socialexistence. I was weakly dismayed at the ignorancethe povertythecoarsenessof all I heard and saw round me.  But let me not hate anddespisemyself too much for these feelings; I know them to be wrong--that is agreat step gained; I shall strive to overcome them.  To-morrowItrustI shall get the better of them partially; and in afew weeksperhapsthey will be quite subdued.  In a few monthsitispossiblethe happiness of seeing progressand a change for thebetter inmy scholars may substitute gratification for disgust.

Meantimelet me ask myself one question--Which is better?--To havesurrenderedto temptation; listened to passion; made no painfuleffort--nostruggle;--but to have sunk down in the silken snare;fallenasleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southernclimeamongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa:  to have been nowliving inFranceMr. Rochester's mistress; delirious with his lovehalf mytime--for he would--ohyeshe would have loved me well fora while. He DID love me--no one will ever love me so again.  Ishallnever more know the sweet homage given to beautyyouthandgrace--fornever to any one else shall I seem to possess thesecharms. He was fond and proud of me--it is what no man besides willeverbe.--But where am I wanderingand what am I sayingand aboveallfeeling?  Whether is it betterI askto be a slave in afool'sparadise at Marseilles--fevered with delusive bliss one hour--suffocatingwith the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next--or to bea village-schoolmistressfree and honestin a breezymountainnook in the healthy heart of England?

Yes; Ifeel now that I was right when I adhered to principle andlawandscorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenziedmoment. God directed me to a correct choice:  I thank Hisprovidencefor the guidance!

Havingbrought my eventide musings to this pointI rosewent to mydoorandlooked at the sunset of the harvest-dayand at the quietfieldsbefore my cottagewhichwith the schoolwas distant half amile fromthe village.  The birds were singing their last strains -

 

"Theair was mildthe dew was balm."

 

While IlookedI thought myself happyand was surprised to findmyself erelong weeping--and why?  For the doom which had reft mefromadhesion to my master:  for him I was no more to see; for thedesperategrief and fatal fury--consequences of my departure--whichmight nowperhapsbe dragging him from the path of righttoo farto leavehope of ultimate restoration thither.  At this thoughtIturned myface aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonely vale ofMorton--Isay LONELYfor in that bend of it visible to me there wasnobuilding apparent save the church and the parsonagehalf-hid intreesandquite at the extremitythe roof of Vale Hallwhere therich Mr.Oliver and his daughter lived.  I hid my eyesand leant myheadagainst the stone frame of my door; but soon a slight noisenear thewicket which shut in my tiny garden from the meadow beyondit made melook up.  A dog--old CarloMr. Rivers' pointeras I sawin amoment--was pushing the gate with his noseand St. Johnhimselfleant upon it with folded arms; his brow knithis gazegravealmost to displeasurefixed on me.  I asked him to come in.

"NoI cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel mysistersleft for you.  I think it contains a colour-boxpencilsandpaper."

Iapproached to take it:  a welcome gift it was.  He examinedmyfaceIthoughtwith austerityas I came near:  the traces oftears weredoubtless very visible upon it.

"Haveyou found your first day's work harder than you expected?" heasked.

"Ohno!  On the contraryI think in time I shall get on with myscholarsvery well."

"Butperhaps your accommodations--your cottage--your furniture--havedisappointedyour expectations?  They arein truthscanty enough;but--"I interrupted -

"Mycottage is clean and weather-proof; my furniture sufficient andcommodious. All I see has made me thankfulnot despondent.  I amnotabsolutely such a fool and sensualist as to regret the absenceof acarpeta sofaand silver plate; besidesfive weeks ago I hadnothing--Iwas an outcasta beggara vagrant; now I haveacquaintancea homea business.  I wonder at the goodness of God;thegenerosity of my friends; the bounty of my lot.  I do notrepine."

"Butyou feel solitude an oppression?  The little house there behindyou isdark and empty."

"Ihave hardly had time yet to enjoy a sense of tranquillitymuchless togrow impatient under one of loneliness."

"Verywell; I hope you feel the content you express:  at any rateyour goodsense will tell you that it is too soon yet to yield tothevacillating fears of Lot's wife.  What you had left before I sawyouofcourse I do not know; but I counsel you to resist firmlyeverytemptation which would incline you to look back:  pursue yourpresentcareer steadilyfor some months at least."

"Itis what I mean to do" I answered.  St. John continued -

"Itis hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn thebent ofnature; but that it may be doneI know from experience.God hasgiven usin a measurethe power to make our own fate; andwhen ourenergies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get--whenour willstrains after a path we may not follow--we need neitherstarvefrom inanitionnor stand still in despair:  we have but toseekanother nourishment for the mindas strong as the forbiddenfood itlonged to taste--and perhaps purer; and to hew out for theadventurousfoot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune hasblocked upagainst usif rougher than it.

"Ayear ago I was myself intensely miserablebecause I thought Ihad made amistake in entering the ministry:  its uniform dutieswearied meto death.  I burnt for the more active life of the world--for themore exciting toils of a literary career--for the destinyof anartistauthororator; anything rather than that of a priest:yestheheart of a politicianof a soldierof a votary of glorya lover ofrenowna luster after powerbeat under my curate'ssurplice. I considered; my life was so wretchedit must bechangedor I must die.  After a season of darkness and strugglinglightbroke and relief fell:  my cramped existence all at oncespread outto a plain without bounds--my powers heard a call fromheaven torisegather their full strengthspread their wingsandmountbeyond ken.  God had an errand for me; to bear which afartodeliver itwellskill and strengthcourage and eloquencethe bestqualificationsof soldierstatesmanand oratorwere all needed:for theseall centre in the good missionary.

"Amissionary I resolved to be.  From that moment my state of mindchanged;the fetters dissolved and dropped from every facultyleavingnothing of bondage but its galling soreness--which time onlycan heal. My fatherindeedimposed the determinationbut sincehis deathI have not a legitimate obstacle to contend with; someaffairssettleda successor for Morton providedan entanglement ortwo of thefeelings broken through or cut asunder--a last conflictwith humanweaknessin which I know I shall overcomebecause Ihave vowedthat I WILL overcome--and I leave Europe for the East."

He saidthisin his peculiarsubduedyet emphatic voice; lookingwhen hehad ceased speakingnot at mebut at the setting sunatwhich Ilooked too.  Both he and I had our backs towards the pathleading upthe field to the wicket.  We had heard no step on thatgrass-growntrack; the water running in the vale was the one lullingsound ofthe hour and scene; we might well then start when a gayvoicesweet as a silver bellexclaimed -

"GoodeveningMr. Rivers.  And good eveningold Carlo.  Yourdogis quickerto recognise his friends than you aresir; he prickedhis earsand wagged his tail when I was at the bottom of the fieldand youhave your back towards me now."

It wastrue.  Though Mr. Rivers had started at the first of thosemusicalaccentsas if a thunderbolt had split a cloud over hisheadhestood yetat the close of the sentencein the sameattitudein which the speaker had surprised him--his arm resting onthe gatehis face directed towards the west.  He turned at lastwithmeasured deliberation.  A visionas it seemed to mehad risenat hisside.  There appearedwithin three feet of hima form cladin purewhite--a youthfulgraceful form:  fullyet fine incontour;and whenafter bending to caress Carloit lifted up itsheadandthrew back a long veilthere bloomed under his glance aface ofperfect beauty.  Perfect beauty is a strong expression; butI do notretrace or qualify it:  as sweet features as ever thetemperateclime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lily asever herhumid gales and vapoury skies generated and screenedjustifiedin this instancethe term.  No charm was wantingnodefect wasperceptible; the young girl had regular and delicatelineaments;eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovelypictureslargeand darkand full; the long and shadowy eyelashwhichencircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; the pencilledbrow whichgives such clearness; the white smooth foreheadwhichadds suchrepose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the cheekovalfreshand smooth; the lipsfresh tooruddyhealthysweetlyformed; the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the smalldimpledchin; the ornament of richplenteous tresses--alladvantagesin shortwhichcombinedrealise the ideal of beautywere fullyhers.  I wonderedas I looked at this fair creature:  Iadmiredher with my whole heart.  Nature had surely formed her in apartialmood; andforgetting her usual stinted step-mother dole ofgiftshadendowed thisher darlingwith a grand-dame's bounty.

What didSt. John Rivers think of this earthly angel?  I naturallyaskedmyself that question as I saw him turn to her and look at her;andasnaturallyI sought the answer to the inquiry in hiscountenance. He had already withdrawn his eye from the Periandwaslooking at a humble tuft of daisies which grew by the wicket.

"Alovely eveningbut late for you to be out alone" he saidashecrushedthe snowy heads of the closed flowers with his foot.

"OhI only came home from S-" (she mentioned the name of a largetown sometwenty miles distant) "this afternoon.  Papa told me youhad openedyour schooland that the new mistress was come; and so Iput on mybonnet after teaand ran up the valley to see her:  thisis she?"pointing to me.

"Itis" said St. John.

"Doyou think you shall like Morton?" she asked of mewith a directand naivesimplicity of tone and mannerpleasingif child-like.

"Ihope I shall.  I have many inducements to do so."

"Didyou find your scholars as attentive as you expected?"

"Quite."

"Doyou like your house?"

"Verymuch."

"HaveI furnished it nicely?"

"Verynicelyindeed."

"Andmade a good choice of an attendant for you in Alice Wood?"

"Youhave indeed.  She is teachable and handy."  (ThisthenIthoughtis Miss Oliverthe heiress; favouredit seemsin thegifts offortuneas well as in those of nature!  What happycombinationof the planets presided over her birthI wonder?)

"Ishall come up and help you to teach sometimes" she added. "Itwill be achange for me to visit you now and then; and I like achange. Mr. RiversI have been SO gay during my stay at S-.  Lastnightorrather this morningI was dancing till two o'clock.  The-thregiment are stationed there since the riots; and the officersare themost agreeable men in the world:  they put all our youngknife-grindersand scissor merchants to shame."

It seemedto me that Mr. St. John's under lip protrudedand hisupper lipcurled a moment.  His mouth certainly looked a good dealcompressedand the lower part of his face unusually stern andsquareasthe laughing girl gave him this information.  He liftedhis gazetoofrom the daisiesand turned it on her.  Anunsmilinga searchinga meaning gaze it was.  She answered it witha secondlaughand laughter well became her youthher rosesherdimplesher bright eyes.

As hestoodmute and graveshe again fell to caressing Carlo."PoorCarlo loves me" said  she.  "HE is not stern anddistant tohisfriends; and if he could speakhe would not be silent."

As shepatted the dog's headbending with native grace before hisyoung andaustere masterI saw a glow rise to that master's face.I saw hissolemn eye melt with sudden fireand flicker withresistlessemotion.  Flushed and kindled thushe looked nearly asbeautifulfor a man as she for a woman.  His chest heaved onceasif hislarge heartweary of despotic constrictionhad expandeddespitethe willand made a vigorous bound for the attainment ofliberty. But he curbed itI thinkas a resolute rider would curba rearingsteed.  He responded neither by word nor movement to thegentleadvances made him.

"Papasays you never come to see us now" continued Miss Oliverlookingup.  "You are quite a stranger at Vale Hall.  He isalonethiseveningand not very well:  will you return with me and visithim?"

"Itis not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver" answered St.John.

"Nota seasonable hour!  But I declare it is.  It is just thehourwhen papamost wants company:  when the works are closed and he hasnobusiness to occupy him.  NowMr. RiversDO come.  Why areyouso veryshyand so very sombre?"  She filled up the hiatus hissilenceleft by a reply of her own.

"Iforgot!" she exclaimedshaking her beautiful curled headas ifshocked atherself.  "I am so giddy and thoughtless!  DO excuseme.It hadslipped my memory that you have good reasons to be indisposedforjoining in my chatter.  Diana and Mary have left youand MoorHouse isshut upand you are so lonely.  I am sure I pity you.  Docome andsee papa."

"Notto-nightMiss Rosamondnot to-night."

Mr. St.John spoke almost like an automaton:  himself only knew theeffort itcost him thus to refuse.

"Wellif you are so obstinateI will leave you; for I dare notstay anylonger:  the dew begins to fall.  Good evening!"

She heldout her hand.  He just touched it.  "Good evening!"herepeatedin a voice low and hollow as an echo.  She turnedbut ina momentreturned.

"Areyou well?" she asked.  Well might she put the question: hisface wasblanched as her gown.

"Quitewell" he enunciated; andwith a bowhe left the gate. Shewent oneway; he another.  She turned twice to gaze after him as shetrippedfairy-like down the field; heas he strode firmly acrossneverturned at all.

Thisspectacle of another's suffering and sacrifice rapt my thoughtsfromexclusive meditation on my own.  Diana Rivers had designatedherbrother "inexorable as death."  She had notexaggerated.

 

CHAPTERXXXII

 

Icontinued the labours of the village-school as actively andfaithfullyas I could.  It was truly hard work at first.  Some timeelapsedbeforewith all my effortsI could comprehend my scholarsand theirnature.  Wholly untaughtwith faculties quite torpidtheyseemed to me hopelessly dull; andat first sightall dullalike: but I soon found I was mistaken.  There was a differenceamongstthem as amongst the educated; and when I got to know themand theymethis difference rapidly developed itself.  Theiramazementat memy languagemy rulesand waysonce subsidedIfound someof these heavy-lookinggaping rustics wake up intosharp-wittedgirls enough.  Many showed themselves obligingandamiabletoo; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples ofnaturalpolitenessand innate self-respectas well as of excellentcapacitythat won both my goodwill and my admiration.  These soontook apleasure in doing their work wellin keeping their personsneatinlearning their tasks regularlyin acquiring quiet andorderlymanners.  The rapidity of their progressin some instanceswas evensurprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it:besidesIbegan personally to like some of the best girls; and theyliked me. I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters:youngwomen grownalmost.  These could already readwriteandsew; andto them I taught the elements of grammargeographyhistoryand the finer kinds of needlework.  I found estimablecharactersamongst them--characters desirous of information anddisposedfor improvement--with whom I passed many a pleasant eveninghour intheir own homes.  Their parents then (the farmer and hiswife)loaded me with attentions.  There was an enjoyment inacceptingtheir simple kindnessand in repaying it by aconsideration--ascrupulous regard to their feelings--to which theywere notperhapsat all times accustomedand which both charmedandbenefited them; becausewhile it elevated them in their owneyesitmade them emulous to merit the deferential treatment theyreceived.

I felt Ibecame a favourite in the neighbourhood.  Whenever I wentoutIheard on all sides cordial salutationsand was welcomed withfriendlysmiles.  To live amidst general regardthough it be butthe regardof working peopleis like "sitting in sunshinecalm andsweet;"serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray.  At thisperiod ofmy lifemy heart far oftener swelled with thankfulnessthan sankwith dejection:  and yetreaderto tell you allin themidst ofthis calmthis useful existence--after a day passed inhonourableexertion amongst my scholarsan evening spent in drawingor readingcontentedly alone--I used to rush into strange dreams atnight: dreams many-colouredagitatedfull of the idealthestirringthe stormy--dreams whereamidst unusual sceneschargedwithadventurewith agitating risk and romantic chanceI stillagain andagain met Mr. Rochesteralways at some exciting crisis;and thenthe sense of being in his armshearing his voicemeetinghis eyetouching his hand and cheekloving himbeing loved byhim--thehope of passing a lifetime at his sidewould be renewedwith allits first force and fire.  Then I awoke.  Then I recalledwhere Iwasand how situated.  Then I rose up on my curtainlessbedtrembling and quivering; and then the stilldark nightwitnessedthe convulsion of despairand heard the burst of passion.By nineo'clock the next morning I was punctually opening theschool;tranquilsettledprepared for the steady duties of theday.

RosamondOliver kept her word in coming to visit me.  Her call atthe schoolwas generally made in the course of her morning ride.She wouldcanter up to the door on her ponyfollowed by a mountedliveryservant.  Anything more exquisite than her appearancein herpurplehabitwith her Amazon's cap of black velvet placedgracefullyabove the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated tohershoulderscan scarcely be imagined:  and it was thus she wouldenter therustic buildingand glide through the dazzled ranks ofthevillage children.  She generally came at the hour when Mr.Rivers wasengaged in giving his daily catechising lesson.  KeenlyI feardid the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor'sheart. A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entranceevenwhen hedid not see it; and when he was looking quite away from thedoorifshe appeared at ithis cheek would glowand his marble-seemingfeaturesthough they refused to relaxchangedindescribablyand in their very quiescence became expressive of arepressedfervourstronger than working muscle or darting glancecouldindicate.

Of courseshe knew her power:  indeedhe did notbecause he couldnotconceal it from her.  In spite of his Christian stoicismwhenshe wentup and addressed himand smiled gailyencouraginglyevenfondly inhis facehis hand would tremble and his eye burn.  Heseemed tosaywith his sad and resolute lookif he did not say itwith hislips"I love youand I know you prefer me.  It is notdespair ofsuccess that keeps me dumb.  If I offered my heartIbelieveyou would accept it.  But that heart is already laid on asacredaltar:  the fire is arranged round it.  It will soon be nomore thana sacrifice consumed."

And thenshe would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloudwouldsoften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her handhastilyfrom hisand turn in transient petulance from his aspectat once soheroic and so martyr-like.  St. Johnno doubtwouldhave giventhe world to followrecallretain herwhen she thusleft him;but he would not give one chance of heavennorrelinquishfor the elysium of her loveone hope of the trueeternalParadise.  Besideshe could not bind all that he had in hisnature--theroverthe aspirantthe poetthe priest--in the limitsof asingle passion.  He could not--he would not--renounce his wildfield ofmission warfare for the parlours and the peace of ValeHall. I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I oncedespitehisreservehad the daring to make on his confidence.

MissOliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage.I hadlearnt her whole characterwhich was without mystery ordisguise: she was coquettish but not heartless; exactingbut notworthlesslyselfish.  She had been indulged from her birthbut wasnotabsolutely spoilt.  She was hastybut good-humoured; vain (shecould nothelp itwhen every glance in the glass showed her such aflush ofloveliness)but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent ofthe prideof wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gaylivelyand unthinking:  she was very charmingin shorteven to acoolobserver of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundlyinterestingor thoroughly impressive.  A very different sort of mindwas hersfrom thatfor instanceof the sisters of St. John.StillIliked her almost as I liked my pupil Adele; except thatfor achild whom we have watched over and taughta closer affectionisengendered than we can give an equally attractive adultacquaintance.

She hadtaken an amiable caprice to me.  She said I was like Mr.Riversonlycertainlyshe allowed"not one-tenth so handsomethough Iwas a nice neat little soul enoughbut he was an angel."I washowevergoodclevercomposedand firmlike him.  I was alususnaturaeshe affirmedas a village schoolmistress:  she wassure myprevious historyif knownwould make a delightful romance.

Oneeveningwhilewith her usual child-like activityandthoughtlessyet not offensive inquisitivenessshe was rummaging thecupboardand the table-drawer of my little kitchenshe discoveredfirst twoFrench booksa volume of Schillera German grammar anddictionaryand then my drawing-materials and some sketchesincludinga pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girlone ofmyscholarsand sundry views from naturetaken in the Vale ofMorton andon the surrounding moors.  She was first transfixed withsurpriseand then electrified with delight.

"HadI done these pictures?  Did I know French and German?  Whatalove--whata miracle I was!  I drew better than her master in thefirstschool in S-.  Would I sketch a portrait of herto show topapa?"

"Withpleasure" I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist--delightat theidea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model.  She hadthen on adark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; heronlyornament was her chestnut tresseswhich waved over hershoulderswith all the wild grace of natural curls.  I took a sheetof finecard-boardand drew a careful outline.  I promised myselfthepleasure of colouring it; andas it was getting late thenItold hershe must come and sit another day.

She madesuch a report of me to her fatherthat Mr. Oliver himselfaccompaniedher next evening--a tallmassive-featuredmiddle-agedandgrey-headed manat whose side his lovely daughter looked like abrightflower near a hoary turret.  He appeared a taciturnandperhaps aproud personage; but he was very kind to me.  The sketchofRosamond's portrait pleased him highly:  he said I must make afinishedpicture of it.  He insistedtooon my coming the next dayto spendthe evening at Vale Hall.

I went. I found it a largehandsome residenceshowing abundantevidencesof wealth in the proprietor.  Rosamond was full of gleeandpleasure all the time I stayed.  Her father was affable; andwhen heentered into conversation with me after teahe expressed instrongterms his approbation of what I had done in Morton schooland saidhe only fearedfrom what he saw and heardI was too goodfor theplaceand would soon quit it for one more suitable.

"Indeed"cried Rosamond"she is clever enough to be a governess ina highfamilypapa."

I thoughtI would far rather be where I am than in any high familyin theland.  Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers--of the Rivers family--with greatrespect.  He said it was a very old name in thatneighbourhood;that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; thatall Mortonhad once belonged to them; that even now he consideredtherepresentative of that house mightif he likedmake analliancewith the best.  He accounted it a pity that so fine andtalented ayoung man should have formed the design of going out as amissionary;it was quite throwing a valuable life away.  Itappearedthenthat her father would throw no obstacle in the wayofRosamond's union with St. John.  Mr. Oliver evidently regardedthe youngclergyman's good birthold nameand sacred profession assufficientcompensation for the want of fortune.

It was the5th of Novemberand a holiday.  My little servantafterhelping meto clean my housewas gonewell satisfied with the feeof a pennyfor her aid.  All about me was spotless and bright--scouredfloorpolished grateand well-rubbed chairs.  I had alsomademyself neatand had now the afternoon before me to spend as Iwould.

Thetranslation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then Igot mypalette and pencilsand fell to the more soothingbecauseeasieroccupationof completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature.  Thehead wasfinished already:  there was but the background to tint andthedrapery to shade off; a touch of carminetooto add to theripelips--a soft curl here and there to the tresses--a deeper tingeto theshadow of the lash under the azured eyelid.  I was absorbedin theexecution of these nice detailswhenafter one rapid tapmy doorunclosedadmitting St. John Rivers.

"I amcome to see how you are spending your holiday" he said."NotI hopein thought?  Nothat is well:  while you draw youwill notfeel lonely.  You seeI mistrust you stillthough youhave borneup wonderfully so far.  I have brought you a book foreveningsolace" and he laid on the table a new publication--a poem:one ofthose genuine productions so often vouchsafed to thefortunatepublic of those days--the golden age of modern literature.Alas! thereaders of our era are less favoured.  But courage!  Iwill notpause either to accuse or repine.  I know poetry is notdeadnorgenius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over eithertobind orslay:  they will both assert their existencetheirpresencetheir liberty and strength again one day.  Powerfulangelssafe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumphandfeebleones weep over their destruction.  Poetry destroyed? Geniusbanished? No!  Mediocrityno:  do not let envy prompt you to thethought. No; they not only livebut reign and redeem:  and withouttheirdivine influence spread everywhereyou would be in hell--thehell ofyour own meanness.

While Iwas eagerly glancing at the bright pages of "Marmion" (for"Marmion"it was)St. John stooped to examine my drawing.  His tallfiguresprang erect again with a start:  he said nothing.  Ilookedup athim:  he shunned my eye.  I knew his thoughts wellandcouldread hisheart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and cooler thanhe: I had then temporarily the advantage of himand I conceived aninclinationto do him some goodif I could.

"Withall his firmness and self-control" thought I"he taskshimselftoo far:  locks every feeling and pang within--expressesconfessesimparts nothing.  I am sure it would benefit him to talka littleabout this sweet Rosamondwhom he thinks he ought not tomarry: I will make him talk."

I saidfirst"Take a chairMr. Rivers."  But he answeredas healwaysdidthat he could not stay.  "Very well" Irespondedmentally"stand if you like; but you shall not go just yetI amdetermined: solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me.I'll tryif I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidenceand findan aperture in that marble breast through which I can shedone dropof the balm of sympathy."

"Isthis portrait like?" I asked bluntly.

"Like! Like whom?  I did not observe it closely."

"YoudidMr. Rivers."

He almoststarted at my sudden and strange abruptness:  he looked atmeastonished.  "Ohthat is nothing yet" I mutteredwithin.  "Idon't meanto be baffled by a little stiffness on your part; I'mpreparedto go to considerable lengths."  I continued"Youobservedit closelyand distinctly; but I have no objection to your lookingat itagain" and I rose and placed it in his hand.

"Awell-executed picture" he said; "very softclearcolouring;verygraceful and correct drawing."

"Yesyes; I know all that.  But what of the resemblance?  Who isitlike?"

Masteringsome hesitationhe answered"Miss OliverI presume."

"Ofcourse.  And nowsirto reward you for the accurate guessIwillpromise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of thisverypictureprovided you admit that the gift would be acceptableto you. I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on anofferingyou would deem worthless."

Hecontinued to gaze at the picture:  the longer he lookedthefirmer heheld itthe more he seemed to covet it.  "It is like!"hemurmured;"the eye is well managed:  the colourlightexpressionareperfect.  It smiles!"

"Wouldit comfortor would it wound you to have a similar painting?Tell methat.  When you are at Madagascaror at the Capeor inIndiawould it be a consolation to have that memento in yourpossession?or would the sight of it bring recollections calculatedtoenervate and distress?"

He nowfurtively raised his eyes:  he glanced at meirresolutedisturbed: he again surveyed the picture.

"ThatI should like to have it is certain:  whether it would bejudiciousor wise is another question."

Since Ihad ascertained that Rosamond really preferred himand thather fatherwas not likely to oppose the matchI--less exalted in myviews thanSt. John--had been strongly disposed in my own heart toadvocatetheir union.  It seemed to me thatshould he become thepossessorof Mr. Oliver's large fortunehe might do as much goodwith it asif he went and laid his genius out to witherand hisstrengthto wasteunder a tropical sun.  With this persuasion I nowanswered -

"Asfar as I can seeit would be wiser and more judicious if youwere totake to yourself the original at once."

By thistime he had sat down:  he had laid the picture on the tablebeforehimand with his brow supported on both handshung fondlyover it. I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at myaudacity. I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subjecthe haddeemed unapproachable--to hear it thus freely handled--wasbeginningto be felt by him as a new pleasure--an unhoped-forrelief. Reserved people often really need the frank discussion oftheirsentiments and griefs more than the expansive.  The sternest-seemingstoic is human after all; and to "burst" with boldness andgood-willinto "the silent sea" of their souls is often to confer onthem thefirst of obligations.

"Shelikes youI am sure" said Ias I stood behind his chair"andher father respects you.  Moreovershe is a sweet girl--ratherthoughtless;but you would have sufficient thought for both yourselfand her. You ought to marry her."

"DOESshe like me?" he asked.

"Certainly;better than she likes any one else.  She talks of youcontinually: there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches uponso often."

"Itis very pleasant to hear this" he said--"very:  go onforanotherquarter of an hour."  And he actually took out his watchandlaid itupon the table to measure the time.

"Butwhere is the use of going on" I asked"when you areprobablypreparingsome iron blow of contradictionor forging a fresh chainto fetteryour heart?"

"Don'timagine such hard things.  Fancy me yielding and meltingasI amdoing:  human love rising like a freshly opened fountain in mymind andoverflowing with sweet inundation all the field I have socarefullyand with such labour prepared--so assiduously sown withthe seedsof good intentionsof self-denying plans.  And now it isdelugedwith a nectarous flood--the young germs swamped--deliciouspoisoncankering them:  now I see myself stretched on an ottoman inthedrawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond Oliver's feet:she istalking to me with her sweet voice--gazing down on me withthose eyesyour skilful hand has copied so well--smiling at me withthesecoral lips.  She is mine--I am hers--this present life andpassingworld suffice to me.  Hush! say nothing--my heart is full ofdelight--mysenses are entranced--let the time I marked pass inpeace."

I humouredhim:  the watch ticked on:  he breathed fast and low: Istoodsilent.  Amidst this hush the quartet sped; he replaced thewatchlaid the picture downroseand stood on the hearth.

"Now"said he"that little space was given to delirium anddelusion. I rested my temples on the breast of temptationand putmy neckvoluntarily under her yoke of flowers.  I tasted her cup.The pillowwas burning:  there is an asp in the garland:  the winehas abitter taste:  her promises are hollow--her offers false: Isee andknow all this."

I gazed athim in wonder.

"Itis strange" pursued he"that while I love Rosamond Oliversowildly--withall the intensityindeedof a first passiontheobject ofwhich is exquisitely beautifulgracefulfascinating--Iexperienceat the same time a calmunwarped consciousness that shewould notmake me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited tome; that Ishould discover this within a year after marriage; andthat totwelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret.This Iknow."

"Strangeindeed!" I could not help ejaculating.

"Whilesomething in me" he went on"is acutely sensible to hercharmssomething else is as deeply impressed with her defects:they aresuch that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to--co-operate innothing I undertook.  Rosamond a sufferera labourerafemaleapostle?  Rosamond a missionary's wife?  No!"

"Butyou need not be a missionary.  You might relinquish thatscheme."

"Relinquish! What! my vocation?  My great work?  My foundation laidon earthfor a mansion in heaven?  My hopes of being numbered in theband whohave merged all ambitions in the glorious one of betteringtheirrace--of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance--ofsubstitutingpeace for war--freedom for bondage--religion forsuperstition--thehope of heaven for the fear of hell?  Must Irelinquishthat?  It is dearer than the blood in my veins.  It iswhat Ihave to look forward toand to live for."

After aconsiderable pauseI said--"And Miss Oliver?  Are herdisappointmentand sorrow of no interest to you?"

"MissOliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers:  in lessthan amonthmy image will be effaced from her heart.  She willforget me;and will marryprobablysome one who will make her farhappierthan I should do."

"Youspeak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict.  You arewastingaway."

"No. If I get a little thinit is with anxiety about my prospectsyetunsettled--my departurecontinually procrastinated.  Only thismorningIreceived intelligence that the successorwhose arrival Ihave beenso long expectingcannot be ready to replace me for threemonths tocome yet; and perhaps the three months may extend to six."

"Youtremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters theschoolroom."

Again thesurprised expression crossed his face.  He had notimaginedthat a woman would dare to speak so to a man.  For meIfelt athome in this sort of discourse.  I could never rest incommunicationwith strongdiscreetand refined mindswhether maleor femaletill I had passed the outworks of conventional reserveandcrossed the threshold of confidenceand won a place by theirheart'svery hearthstone.

"Youare original" said he"and not timid.  There issomethingbrave inyour spiritas well as penetrating in your eye; but allowme toassure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions.  Youthink themmore profound and potent than they are.  You give me alargerallowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to.  When Icolourand when I shade before Miss OliverI do not pity myself.I scornthe weakness.  I know it is ignoble:  a mere fever of theflesh: notI declarethe convulsion of the soul.  THAT is just asfixed as arockfirm set in the depths of a restless sea.  Know meto be whatI am--a cold hard man."

I smiledincredulously.

"Youhave taken my confidence by storm" he continued"and nowitis much atyour service.  I am simplyin my original state--strippedof that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covershumandeformity--a coldhardambitious man.  Natural affectiononlyofall the sentimentshas permanent power over me.  Reasonand notfeelingis my guide; my ambition is unlimited:  my desireto risehigherto do more than othersinsatiable.  I honourenduranceperseveranceindustrytalent; because these are themeans bywhich men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence.I watchyour career with interestbecause I consider you a specimenof adiligentorderlyenergetic woman:  not because I deeplycompassionatewhat you have gone throughor what you still suffer."

"Youwould 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 amnot apaganbut a Christian philosopher--a follower of the sect ofJesus. As His disciple I adopt His pureHis mercifulHisbenignantdoctrines.  I advocate them:  I am sworn to spread them.Won inyouth to religionshe has cultivated my original qualitiesthus:-From the minute germnatural affectionshe has developedtheovershadowing treephilanthropy.  From the wild stringy root ofhumanuprightnessshe has reared a due sense of the Divine justice.Of theambition to win power and renown for my wretched selfshehas formedthe ambition to spread my Master's kingdom; to achievevictoriesfor the standard of the cross.  So much has religion donefor me;turning the original materials to the best account; pruningandtraining nature.  But she could not eradicate nature:  norwillit beeradicated 'till this mortal shall put on immortality.'"

Havingsaid thishe took his hatwhich lay on the table beside mypalette. Once more he looked at the portrait.

"SheIS lovely" he murmured.  "She is well named the Roseof theWorldindeed!"

"Andmay I not paint one like it for you?"

"CUIBONO?  No."

He drewover the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I wasaccustomedto rest my hand in paintingto prevent the cardboardfrom beingsullied.  What he suddenly saw on this blank paperitwasimpossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye.  Hetook it upwith a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a glanceat meinexpressibly peculiarand quite incomprehensible:  a glancethatseemed to take and make note of every point in my shapefaceand dress;for it traversed allquickkeen as lightning.  His lipspartedasif to speak:  but he checked the coming sentencewhateverit was.

"Whatis the matter?" I asked.

"Nothingin the world" was the reply; andreplacing the paperIsaw himdexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin.  Itdisappearedin his glove; andwith one hasty nod and "good-afternoon"he vanished.

"Well!"I exclaimedusing an expression of the district"that capsthe globehowever!"

Iin myturnscrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save afew dingystains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil.I ponderedthe mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvableand beingcertain it could not be of much momentI dismissedandsoonforgot it.

 

CHAPTERXXXIII

 

When Mr.St. John wentit was beginning to snow; the whirling stormcontinuedall night.  The next day a keen wind brought fresh andblindingfalls; by twilight the valley was drifted up and almostimpassable. I had closed my shutterlaid a mat to the door topreventthe snow from blowing in under ittrimmed my fireandaftersitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffledfury ofthe tempestI lit a candletook down "Marmion" andbeginning-

 

"Dayset on Norham's castled steepAndTweed's fair river broad and deepAndCheviot's mountains lone;Themassive towersthe donjon keepTheflanking walls that round them sweepInyellow lustre shone" -

 

I soonforgot storm in music.

I heard anoise:  the windI thoughtshook the door.  No; it wasSt. JohnRiverswholifting the latchcame in out of the frozenhurricane--thehowling darkness--and stood before me:  the cloakthatcovered his tall figure all white as a glacier.  I was almostinconsternationso little had I expected any guest from theblocked-upvale that night.

"Anyill news?" I demanded.  "Has anything happened?"

"No. How very easily alarmed you are?" he answeredremoving hiscloak andhanging it up against the doortowards which he againcoollypushed the mat which his entrance had deranged.  He stampedthe snowfrom his boots.

"Ishall sully the purity of your floor" said he"but youmustexcuse mefor once."  Then he approached the fire.  "I havehad hardwork toget hereI assure you" he observedas he warmed his handsover theflame.  "One drift took me up to the waist; happily thesnow isquite soft yet."

"Butwhy are you come?" I could not forbear saying.

"Ratheran inhospitable question to put to a visitor; but since youask itIanswer simply to have a little talk with you; I got tiredof my mutebooks and empty rooms.  Besidessince yesterday I haveexperiencedthe excitement of a person to whom a tale has been half-toldandwho is impatient to hear the sequel."

He satdown.  I recalled his singular conduct of yesterdayandreally Ibegan to fear his wits were touched.  If he were insanehoweverhis was a very cool and collected insanity:  I had neverseen thathandsome-featured face of his look more like chiselledmarblethan it did just nowas he put aside his snow-wet hair fromhisforehead and let the firelight shine free on his pale brow andcheek aspalewhere it grieved me to discover the hollow trace ofcare orsorrow now so plainly graved.  I waitedexpecting he wouldsaysomething I could at least comprehend; but his hand was now athis chinhis finger on his lip:  he was thinking.  It struck methat hishand looked wasted like his face.  A perhaps uncalled-forgush ofpity came over my heart:  I was moved to say -

"Iwish Diana or Mary would come and live with you:  it is too badthat youshould be quite alone; and you are recklessly rash aboutyour ownhealth."

"Notat all" said he:  "I care for myself when necessary. I amwell now. What do you see amiss in me?"

This wassaid with a carelessabstracted indifferencewhich showedthat mysolicitude wasat least in his opinionwholly superfluous.I wassilenced.

He stillslowly moved his finger over his upper lipand still hiseye dweltdreamily on the glowing grate; thinking it urgent to saysomethingI asked him presently if he felt any cold draught fromthe doorwhich was behind him.

"Nono!" he responded shortly and somewhat testily.

"Well"I reflected"if you won't talkyou may be still; I'll letyou alonenowand return to my book."

So Isnuffed the candle and resumed the perusal of "Marmion." Hesoonstirred; my eye was instantly drawn to his movements; he onlytook out amorocco pocket-bookthence produced a letterwhich heread insilencefolded itput it backrelapsed into meditation.It wasvain to try to read with such an inscrutable fixture beforeme; norcould Iin impatienceconsent to be dumb; he might rebuffme if myhe likedbut talk I would.

"Haveyou heard from Diana and Mary lately?"

"Notsince the letter I showed you a week ago."

"Therehas not been any change made about your own arrangements?You willnot be summoned to leave England sooner than you expected?"

"Ifear notindeed:  such chance is too good to befall me."Baffled sofarI changed my ground.  I bethought myself to talkabout theschool and my scholars.

"MaryGarrett's mother is betterand Mary came back to the schoolthismorningand I shall have four new girls next week from theFoundryClose--they would have come to-day but for the snow."

"Indeed!"

"Mr.Oliver pays for two."

"Doeshe?"

"Hemeans to give the whole school a treat at Christmas."

"Iknow."

"Wasit your suggestion?"

"No."

"Whosethen?"

"Hisdaughter'sI think."

"Itis like her:  she is so good-natured."

"Yes."

Again camethe blank of a pause:  the clock struck eight strokes.It arousedhim; he uncrossed his legssat erectturned to me.

"Leaveyour book a momentand come a little nearer the fire" hesaid.

Wonderingand of my wonder finding no endI complied.

"Half-an-hourago" he pursued"I spoke of my impatience to hearthe sequelof a tale:  on reflectionI find the matter will bebettermanaged by my assuming the narrator's partand convertingyou into alistener.  Before commencingit is but fair to warn youthat thestory will sound somewhat hackneyed in your ears; but staledetailsoften regain a degree of freshness when they pass throughnew lips. For the restwhether trite or novelit is short.

"Twentyyears agoa poor curate--never mind his name at thismoment--fellin love with a rich man's daughter; she fell in lovewith himand married himagainst the advice of all her friendswhoconsequently disowned her immediately after the wedding.  Beforetwo yearspassedthe rash pair were both deadand laid quietlyside byside under one slab.  (I have seen their grave; it formedpart ofthe pavement of a huge churchyard surrounding the grimsoot-blackold cathedral of an overgrown manufacturing town in -shire.) They left a daughterwhichat its very birthCharityreceivedin her lap--cold as that of the snow-drift I almost stuckfast into-night.  Charity carried the friendless thing to the houseof itsrich maternal relations; it was reared by an aunt-in-lawcalled (Icome to names now) Mrs. Reed of Gateshead.  You start--didyou hear anoise?  I daresay it is only a rat scrambling along therafters ofthe adjoining schoolroom:  it was a barn before I had itrepairedand alteredand barns are generally haunted by rats.--Toproceed. Mrs. Reed kept the orphan ten years:  whether it was happyor notwith herI cannot saynever having been told; but at theend ofthat time she transferred it to a place you know--being noother thanLowood Schoolwhere you so long resided yourself.  Itseems hercareer there was very honourable:  from a pupilshebecame ateacherlike yourself--really it strikes me there areparallelpoints in her history and yours--she left it to be agoverness: thereagainyour fates were analogous; she undertooktheeducation of the ward of a certain Mr. Rochester."

"Mr.Rivers!" I interrupted.

"Ican guess your feelings" he said"but restrain them for awhile: I have nearly finished; hear me to the end.  Of Mr.Rochester'scharacter I know nothingbut the one fact that heprofessedto offer honourable marriage to this young girland thatat thevery altar she discovered he had a wife yet alivethough alunatic. What his subsequent conduct and proposals were is a matterof pureconjecture; but when an event transpired which renderedinquiryafter the governess necessaryit was discovered she wasgone--noone could tell whenwhereor how.  She had leftThornfieldHall in the night; every research after her course hadbeenvain:  the country had been scoured far and wide; no vestige ofinformationcould be gathered respecting her.  Yet that she shouldbe foundis become a matter of serious urgency:  advertisements havebeen putin all the papers; I myself have received a letter from oneMr.Briggsa solicitorcommunicating the details I have justimparted. Is it not an odd tale?"

"Justtell me this" said I"and since you know so muchyousurelycan tellit me--what of Mr. Rochester?  How and where is he?  Whatis hedoing?  Is he well?"

"I amignorant of all concerning Mr. Rochester:  the letter nevermentionshim but to narrate the fraudulent and illegal attempt Ihaveadverted to.  You should rather ask the name of the governess--the natureof the event which requires her appearance."

"Didno one go to Thornfield Hallthen?  Did no one see Mr.Rochester?"

"Isuppose not."

"Butthey wrote to him?"

"Ofcourse."

"Andwhat did he say?  Who has his letters?"

"Mr.Briggs intimates that the answer to his application was notfrom Mr.Rochesterbut from a lady:  it is signed 'Alice Fairfax.'"

I feltcold and dismayed:  my worst fears then were probably true:he had inall probability left England and rushed in recklessdesperationto some former haunt on the Continent.  And what opiatefor hissevere sufferings--what object for his strong passions--hadhe soughtthere?  I dared not answer the question.  Ohmy poormaster--oncealmost my husband--whom I had often called "my dearEdward!"

"Hemust have been a bad man" observed Mr. Rivers.

"Youdon't know him--don't pronounce an opinion upon him" I saidwithwarmth.

"Verywell" he answered quietly:  "and indeed my head isotherwiseoccupiedthan with him:  I have my tale to finish.  Since you won'task thegoverness's nameI must tell it of my own accord.  Stay! Ihave ithere--it is always more satisfactory to see important pointswrittendownfairly committed to black and white."

And thepocket-book was again deliberately producedopenedsoughtthrough;from one of its compartments was extracted a shabby slip ofpaperhastily torn off:  I recognised in its texture and its stainsofultra-marineand lakeand vermillionthe ravished margin oftheportrait-cover.  He got upheld it close to my eyes:  andIreadtraced in Indian inkin my own handwritingthe words "JANEEYRE"--thework doubtless of some moment of abstraction.

"Briggswrote to me of a Jane Eyre:" he said"the advertisementsdemanded aJane Eyre:  I knew a Jane Elliott.--I confess I had mysuspicionsbut it was only yesterday afternoon they were at onceresolvedinto certainty.  You own the name and renounce the alias?"

"Yes--yes;but where is Mr. Briggs?  He perhaps knows more of Mr.Rochesterthan you do."

"Briggsis in London.  I should doubt his knowing anything at allabout Mr.Rochester; it is not in Mr. Rochester he is interested.Meantimeyou forget essential points in pursuing trifles:  you donotinquire why Mr. Briggs sought after you--what he wanted withyou."

"Wellwhat did he want?"

"Merelyto tell you that your uncleMr. Eyre of Madeirais dead;that hehas left you all his propertyand that you are now rich--merelythat--nothing more."

"I!--rich?"

"Yesyourich--quite an heiress."

Silencesucceeded.

"Youmust prove your identity of course" resumed St. Johnpresently: "a step which will offer no difficulties; you can thenenter onimmediate possession.  Your fortune is vested in theEnglishfunds; Briggs has the will and the necessary documents."

Here was anew card turned up!  It is a fine thingreaderto belifted ina moment from indigence to wealth--a very fine thing; butnot amatter one can comprehendor consequently enjoyall at once.And thenthere are other chances in life far more thrilling andrapture-giving: THIS is solidan affair of the actual worldnothingideal about it:  all its associations are solid and soberand itsmanifestations are the same.  One does not jumpand springand shouthurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins toconsiderresponsibilitiesand to ponder business; on a base ofsteadysatisfaction rise certain grave caresand we containourselvesand blood over our bliss with a solemn brow.

Besidesthe words LegacyBequestgo side by side with the wordsDeathFuneral.  My uncle I had heard was dead--my only relative;ever sincebeing made aware of his existenceI had cherished thehope ofone day seeing him:  nowI never should.  And then thismoney cameonly to me:  not to me and a rejoicing familybut to myisolatedself.  It was a grand boon doubtless; and independencewould beglorious--yesI felt that--that thought swelled my heart.

"Youunbend your forehead at last" said Mr. Rivers.  "IthoughtMedusa hadlooked at youand that you were turning to stone.Perhapsnow you will ask how much you are worth?"

"Howmuch am I worth?"

"Oha trifle!  Nothing of course to speak of--twenty thousandpoundsIthink they say--but what is that?"

"Twentythousand pounds?"

Here was anew stunner--I had been calculating on four or fivethousand. This news actually took my breath for a moment:  Mr. St.JohnwhomI had never heard laugh beforelaughed now.

"Well"said he"if you had committed a murderand I had told youyour crimewas discoveredyou could scarcely look more aghast."

"Itis a large sum--don't you think there is a mistake?"

"Nomistake at all."

"Perhapsyou have read the figures wrong--it may be two thousand!"

"Itis written in lettersnot figures--twenty thousand."

I againfelt rather like an individual of but average gastronomicalpowerssitting down to feast alone at a table spread with provisionsfor ahundred.  Mr. Rivers rose now and put his cloak on.

"Ifit were not such a very wild night" he said"I would sendHannahdown to keep you company:  you look too desperately miserableto be leftalone.  But Hannahpoor woman! could not stride thedrifts sowell as I:  her legs are not quite so long:  so I muste'en leaveyou to your sorrows.  Good-night."

He waslifting the latch:  a sudden thought occurred to me.  "Stoponeminute!" I cried.

"Well?"

"Itpuzzles me to know why Mr. Briggs wrote to you about me; or howhe knewyouor could fancy that youliving in such an out-of-the-way placehad the power to aid in my discovery."

"Oh! I am a clergyman" he said; "and the clergy are oftenappealedto aboutodd matters."  Again the latch rattled.

"No;that does not satisfy me!" I exclaimed:  and indeed therewassomethingin the hasty and unexplanatory reply whichinstead ofallayingpiqued my curiosity more than ever.

"Itis a very strange piece of business" I added; "I must knowmoreabout it."

"Anothertime."

"No;to-night!--to-night!" and as he turned from the doorI placedmyselfbetween it and him.  He looked rather embarrassed.

"Youcertainly shall not go till you have told me all" I said.

"Iwould rather not just now."

"Youshall!--you must!"

"Iwould rather Diana or Mary informed you."

Of coursethese objections wrought my eagerness to a climax:gratifiedit must beand that without delay; and I told him so.

"ButI apprised you that I was a hard man" said he"difficulttopersuade."

"AndI am a hard woman--impossible to put off."

"Andthen" he pursued"I am cold:  no fervour infectsme."

"WhereasI am hotand fire dissolves ice.  The blaze there hasthawed allthe snow from your cloak; by the same tokenit hasstreamedon to my floorand made it like a trampled street.  As youhope everto be forgivenMr. Riversthe high crime andmisdemeanourof spoiling a sanded kitchentell me what I wish toknow."

"Wellthen" he said"I yield; if not to your earnestnesstoyourperseverance: as stone is worn by continual dropping.  Besidesyoumust knowsome day--as well now as later.  Your name is Jane Eyre?"

"Ofcourse:  that was all settled before."

"Youare notperhapsaware that I am your namesake?--that I waschristenedSt. John Eyre Rivers?"

"Noindeed!  I remember now seeing the letter E. comprised in yourinitialswritten in books you have at different times lent me; but Ineverasked for what name it stood.  But what then?  Surely--"

Istopped:  I could not trust myself to entertainmuch less toexpressthe thought that rushed upon me--that embodied itself--thatin asecondstood out a strongsolid probability.Circumstancesknit themselvesfitted themselvesshot into order:the chainthat had been lying hitherto a formless lump of links wasdrawn outstraight--every ring was perfectthe connectioncomplete. I knewby instincthow the matter stoodbefore St.John hadsaid another word; but I cannot expect the reader to havethe sameintuitive perceptionso I must repeat his explanation.

"Mymother's name was Eyre; she had two brothers; one a clergymanwhomarried Miss Jane Reedof Gateshead; the otherJohn EyreEsq.merchantlate of FunchalMadeira.  Mr. Briggsbeing Mr.Eyre'ssolicitorwrote to us last August to inform us of ouruncle'sdeathand to say that he had left his property to hisbrotherthe clergyman's orphan daughteroverlooking usinconsequenceof a quarrelnever forgivenbetween him and my father.He wroteagain a few weeks sinceto intimate that the heiress waslostandasking if we knew anything of her.  A name casuallywritten ona slip of paper has enabled me to find her out.  You knowtherest."  Again he was goingbut I set my back against thedoor.

"Dolet me speak" I said; "let me have one moment to drawbreathandreflect."  I paused--he stood before mehat in handlookingcomposedenough.  I resumed -

"Yourmother was my father's sister?"

"Yes."

"Myauntconsequently?"

He bowed.

"Myuncle John was your uncle John?  YouDianaand Mary are hissister'schildrenas I am his brother's child?"

"Undeniably."

"Youthreethenare my cousins; half our blood on each side flowsfrom thesame source?"

"Weare cousins; yes."

I surveyedhim.  It seemed I had found a brother:  one I could beproudof--one I could love; and two sisterswhose qualities weresuchthatwhen I knew them but as mere strangersthey hadinspiredme with genuine affection and admiration.  The two girlson whomkneeling down on the wet groundand looking through thelowlatticed window of Moor House kitchenI had gazed with sobitter amixture of interest and despairwere my near kinswomen;and theyoung and stately gentleman who had found me almost dying athisthreshold was my blood relation.  Glorious discovery to a lonelywretch! This was wealth indeed!--wealth to the heart!--a mine ofpuregenial affections.  This was a blessingbrightvividandexhilarating;--notlike the ponderous gift of gold:  rich andwelcomeenough in its waybut sobering from its weight.  I nowclapped myhands in sudden joy--my pulse boundedmy veins thrilled.

"OhI am glad!--I am glad!" I exclaimed.

St. Johnsmiled.  "Did I not say you neglected essential points topursuetrifles?" he asked.  "You were serious when I told youyouhad got afortune; and nowfor a matter of no momentyou areexcited."

"Whatcan you mean?  It may be of no moment to you; you have sistersand don'tcare for a cousin; but I had nobody; and now threerelations--ortwoif you don't choose to be counted--are borninto myworld full-grown.  I say againI am glad!"

I walkedfast through the room:  I stoppedhalf suffocated with thethoughtsthat rose faster than I could receivecomprehendsettlethem:-thoughts of what mightcouldwouldand should beand thatere long. I looked at the blank wall:  it seemed a sky thick withascendingstars--every one lit me to a purpose or delight.  Thosewho hadsaved my lifewhomtill this hourI had loved barrenlyIcould nowbenefit.  They were under a yoke--I could free them:they werescattered--I could reunite them:  the independencetheaffluencewhich was minemight be theirs too.  Were we not four?Twentythousand pounds shared equally would be five thousand eachjustice--enoughand to spare:  justice would be done--mutualhappinesssecured.  Now the wealth did not weigh on me:  now it wasnot a merebequest of coin--it was a legacy of lifehopeenjoyment.

How Ilooked while these ideas were taking my spirit by stormIcannottell; but I perceived soon that Mr. Rivers had placed a chairbehind meand was gently attempting to make me sit down on it.  Healsoadvised me to be composed; I scorned the insinuation ofhelplessnessand distractionshook off his handand began to walkaboutagain.

"Writeto Diana and Mary to-morrow" I said"and tell them tocomehomedirectly.  Diana said they would both consider themselves richwith athousand poundsso with five thousand they will do verywell."

"Tellme where I can get you a glass of water" said St. John; "youmustreally make an effort to tranquillise your feelings."

"Nonsense!and what sort of an effect will the bequest have on you?Will itkeep you in Englandinduce you to marry Miss Oliverandsettledown like an ordinary mortal?"

"Youwander:  your head becomes confused.  I have been tooabrupt incommunicatingthe news; it has excited you beyond your strength."

"Mr.Rivers! you quite put me out of patience:  I am rationalenough; itis you who misunderstandor rather who affect tomisunderstand."

"Perhapsif you explained yourself a little more fullyI shouldcomprehendbetter."

"Explain! What is there to explain?  You cannot fail to see thattwentythousand poundsthe sum in questiondivided equally betweenthe nephewand three nieces of our unclewill give five thousand toeach? What I want isthat you should write to your sisters andtell themof the fortune that has accrued to them."

"Toyouyou mean."

"Ihave intimated my view of the case:  I am incapable of takinganyother. I am not brutally selfishblindly unjustor fiendishlyungrateful. BesidesI am resolved I will have a home andconnections. I like Moor Houseand I will live at Moor House; Ilike Dianaand Maryand I will attach myself for life to Diana andMary. It would please and benefit me to have five thousand pounds;it wouldtorment and oppress me to have twenty thousand; whichmoreovercould never be mine in justicethough it might in law.  Iabandon toyouthenwhat is absolutely superfluous to me.  Letthere beno oppositionand no discussion about it; let us agreeamongsteach otherand decide the point at once."

"Thisis acting on first impulses; you must take days to considersuch amatterere your word can be regarded as valid."

"Oh!if all you doubt is my sincerityI am easy:  you see thejustice ofthe case?"

"I DOsee a certain justice; but it is contrary to all custom.Besidesthe entire fortune is your right:  my uncle gained it byhis ownefforts; he was free to leave it to whom he would:  he leftit toyou.  After alljustice permits you to keep it:  you maywith aclear conscienceconsider it absolutely your own."

"Withme" said I"it is fully as much a matter of feeling as ofconscience: I must indulge my feelings; I so seldom have had anopportunityof doing so.  Were you to argueobjectand annoy mefor ayearI could not forego the delicious pleasure of which Ihavecaught a glimpse--that of repayingin parta mightyobligationand winning to myself lifelong friends."

"Youthink so now" rejoined St. John"because you do not knowwhatit is topossessnor consequently to enjoy wealth:  you cannot forma notionof the importance twenty thousand pounds would give you; ofthe placeit would enable you to take in society; of the prospectsit wouldopen to you:  you cannot--"

"Andyou" I interrupted"cannot at all imagine the craving Ihaveforfraternal and sisterly love.  I never had a homeI never hadbrothersor sisters; I must and will have them now:  you are notreluctantto admit me and own meare you?"

"JaneI will be your brother--my sisters will be your sisters--withoutstipulating for this sacrifice of your just rights."

"Brother? Yes; at the distance of a thousand leagues!  Sisters?Yes;slaving amongst strangers!  Iwealthy--gorged with gold Ineverearned and do not merit!  Youpenniless!  Famous equalityandfraternisation! Close union!  Intimate attachment!"

"ButJaneyour aspirations after family ties and domestichappinessmay be realised otherwise than by the means youcontemplate: you may marry."

"Nonsenseagain!  Marry!  I don't want to marryand never shallmarry."

"Thatis saying too much:  such hazardous affirmations are a proofof theexcitement under which you labour."

"Itis not saying too much:  I know what I feeland how averse aremyinclinations to the bare thought of marriage.  No one would takeme forlove; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere moneyspeculation. And I do not want a stranger--unsympathisingaliendifferentfrom me; I want my kindred:  those with whom I have fullfellow-feeling. Say again you will be my brother:  when you utteredthe wordsI was satisfiedhappy; repeat themif you canrepeatthemsincerely."

"Ithink I can.  I know I have always loved my own sisters; and Iknow onwhat my affection for them is grounded--respect for theirworth andadmiration of their talents.  You too have principle andmind: your tastes and habits resemble Diana's and Mary's; yourpresenceis always agreeable to me; in your conversation I havealreadyfor some time found a salutary solace.  I feel I can easilyandnaturally make room in my heart for youas my third andyoungestsister."

"Thankyou:  that contents me for to-night.  Now you had bettergo;for if youstay longeryou will perhaps irritate me afresh by somemistrustfulscruple."

"Andthe schoolMiss Eyre?  It must now be shut upI suppose?"

"No. I will retain my post of mistress till you get a substitute."

He smiledapprobation:  we shook handsand he took leave.

I need notnarrate in detail the further struggles I hadandargumentsI usedto get matters regarding the legacy settled as Iwished. My task was a very hard one; butas I was absolutelyresolved--asmy cousins saw at length that my mind was really andimmutablyfixed on making a just division of the property--as theymust intheir own hearts have felt the equity of the intention; andmustbesideshave been innately conscious that in my place theywould havedone precisely what I wished to do--they yielded atlength sofar as to consent to put the affair to arbitration.  Thejudgeschosen were Mr. Oliver and an able lawyer:  both coincided inmyopinion:  I carried my point.  The instruments of transferweredrawnout:  St. JohnDianaMaryand Ieach became possessed of acompetency.

 

CHAPTERXXXIV

 

It wasnear Christmas by the time all was settled:  the season ofgeneralholiday approached.  I now closed Morton schooltaking carethat theparting should not be barren on my side.  Good fortuneopens thehand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to givesomewhatwhen we have largely receivedis but to afford a vent totheunusual ebullition of the sensations.  I had long felt withpleasurethat many of my rustic scholars liked meand when wepartedthat consciousness was confirmed:  they manifested theiraffectionplainly and strongly.  Deep was my gratification to find Ihad reallya place in their unsophisticated hearts:  I promised themthat nevera week should pass in future that I did not visit themand givethem an hour's teaching in their school.

Mr. Riverscame up ashaving seen the classesnow numbering sixtygirlsfile out before meand locked the doorI stood with the keyin myhandexchanging a few words of special farewell with somehalf-dozenof my best scholars:  as decentrespectablemodestandwell-informedyoung women as could be found in the ranks of theBritishpeasantry.  And that is saying a great deal; for after alltheBritish peasantry are the best taughtbest manneredmost self-respectingof any in Europe:  since those days I have seen paysannesandBauerinnen; and the best of them seemed to me ignorantcoarseandbesottedcompared with my Morton girls.

"Doyou consider you have got your reward for a season of exertion?"asked Mr.Riverswhen they were gone.  "Does not the consciousnessof havingdone some real good in your day and generation givepleasure?"

"Doubtless."

"Andyou have only toiled a few months!  Would not a life devoted tothe taskof regenerating your race be well spent?"

"Yes"I said; "but I could not go on for ever so:  I want toenjoymy ownfaculties as well as to cultivate those of other people.  Imust enjoythem now; don't recall either my mind or body to theschool; Iam out of it and disposed for full holiday."

He lookedgrave.  "What now?  What sudden eagerness is this youevince? What are you going to do?"

"Tobe active:  as active as I can.  And first I must beg youto setHannah atlibertyand get somebody else to wait on you."

"Doyou want her?"

"Yesto go with me to Moor House.  Diana and Mary will be at homein a weekand I want to have everything in order against theirarrival."

"Iunderstand.  I thought you were for flying off on someexcursion.It isbetter so:  Hannah shall go with you."

"Tellher to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the schoolroomkey: I will give you the key of my cottage in the morning."

He tookit.  "You give it up very gleefully" said he; "Idon'tquiteunderstand your light-heartednessbecause I cannot tell whatemploymentyou propose to yourself as a substitute for the one youarerelinquishing.  What aimwhat purposewhat ambition in lifehave younow?"

"Myfirst aim will be to CLEAN DOWN (do you comprehend the fullforce ofthe expression?)--to CLEAN DOWN Moor House from chamber tocellar; mynext to rub it up with bees-waxoiland an indefinitenumber ofclothstill it glitters again; my thirdto arrange everychairtablebedcarpetwith mathematical precision; afterwards Ishall gonear to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires ineveryroom; and lastlythe two days preceding that on which yoursistersare expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such abeating ofeggssorting of currantsgrating of spicescompoundingofChristmas cakeschopping up of materials for mince-piesandsolemnisingof other culinary ritesas words can convey but aninadequatenotion of to the uninitiated like you.  My purposeinshortisto have all things in an absolutely perfect state ofreadinessfor Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambitionis to givethem a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come."

St. Johnsmiled slightly:  still he was dissatisfied.

"Itis all very well for the present" said he; "but seriouslyItrust thatwhen the first flush of vivacity is overyou will look alittlehigher than domestic endearments and household joys."

"Thebest things the world has!" I interrupted.

"NoJaneno:  this world is not the scene of fruition; do notattempt tomake it so:  nor of rest; do not turn slothful."

"Imeanon the contraryto be busy."

"JaneI excuse you for the present:  two months' grace I allow youfor thefull enjoyment of your new positionand for pleasingyourselfwith this late-found charm of relationship; but THENIhope youwill begin to look beyond Moor House and Mortonandsisterlysocietyand the selfish calm and sensual comfort ofcivilisedaffluence.  I hope your energies will then once moretroubleyou with their strength."

I lookedat him with surprise.  "St. John" I said"Ithink you arealmostwicked to talk so.  I am disposed to be as content as aqueenandyou try to stir me up to restlessness!  To what end?"

"Tothe end of turning to profit the talents which God has committedto yourkeeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strictaccount. JaneI shall watch you closely and anxiously--I warn youof that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour withwhich youthrow yourself into commonplace home pleasures.  Don'tcling sotenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy andardour foran adequate cause; forbear to waste them on tritetransientobjects.  Do you hearJane?"

"Yes;just as if you were speaking Greek.  I feel I have adequatecause tobe happyand I WILL be happy.  Goodbye!"

Happy atMoor House I wasand hard I worked; and so did Hannah:she wascharmed to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle of ahouseturned topsy-turvy--how I could brushand dustand cleanand cook. And reallyafter a day or two of confusion worseconfoundedit was delightful by degrees to invoke order from thechaosourselves had made.  I had previously taken a journey to S- topurchasesome new furniture:  my cousins having given me CARTEBLANCHE TOeffect what alterations I pleasedand a sum having beenset asidefor that purpose.  The ordinary sitting-room and bedroomsI leftmuch as they were:  for I knew Diana and Mary would derivemorepleasure from seeing again the old homely tablesand chairsand bedsthan from the spectacle of the smartest innovations.Still somenovelty was necessaryto give to their return thepiquancywith which I wished it to be invested.  Dark handsome newcarpetsand curtainsan arrangement of some carefully selectedantiqueornaments in porcelain and bronzenew coveringsandmirrorsand dressing-casesfor the toilet tablesanswered theend: they looked fresh without being glaring.  A spare parlour andbedroom Irefurnished entirelywith old mahogany and crimsonupholstery: I laid canvas on the passageand carpets on thestairs. When all was finishedI thought Moor House as complete amodel ofbright modest snugness withinas it wasat this seasonaspecimenof wintry waste and desert dreariness without.

Theeventful Thursday at length came.  They were expected aboutdarkandere dusk fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchenwas inperfect trim; Hannah and I were dressedand all was inreadiness.

St. Johnarrived first.  I had entreated him to keep quite clear ofthe housetill everything was arranged:  andindeedthe bare ideaof thecommotionat once sordid and trivialgoing on within itswallssufficed to scare him to estrangement.  He found me in thekitchenwatching the progress of certain cakes for teathenbaking. Approaching the hearthhe asked"If I was at lastsatisfiedwith housemaid's work?"  I answered by inviting him toaccompanyme on a general inspection of the result of my labours.With somedifficultyI got him to make the tour of the house.  Hejustlooked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wanderedupstairsand downstairshe said I must have gone through a greatdeal offatigue and trouble to have effected such considerablechanges inso short a time:  but not a syllable did he utterindicatingpleasure in the improved aspect of his abode.

Thissilence damped me.  I thought perhaps the alterations haddisturbedsome old associations he valued.  I inquired whether thiswas thecase:  no doubt in a somewhat crest-fallen tone.

"Notat all; he hadon the contraryremarked that I hadscrupulouslyrespected every association:  he fearedindeedI musthavebestowed more thought on the matter than it was worth.  Howmanyminutesfor instancehad I devoted to studying thearrangementof this very room?--By-the-byecould I tell him wheresuch abook was?"

I showedhim the volume on the shelf:  he took it downandwithdrawingto his accustomed window recesshe began to read it.

NowI didnot like thisreader.  St. John was a good man; but Ibegan tofeel he had spoken truth of himself when he said he washard andcold.  The humanities and amenities of life had noattractionfor him--its peaceful enjoyments no charm.  Literallyhelived onlyto aspire--after what was good and greatcertainly; butstill hewould never restnor approve of others resting round him.As Ilooked at his lofty foreheadstill and pale as a white stone--at hisfine lineaments fixed in study--I comprehended all at oncethat hewould hardly make a good husband:  that it would be a tryingthing tobe his wife.  I understoodas by inspirationthe natureof hislove for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it was but alove ofthe senses.  I comprehended how he should despise himselffor thefeverish influence it exercised over him; how he should wishto stifleand destroy it; how he should mistrust its ever conductingpermanentlyto his happiness or hers.  I saw he was of the materialfrom whichnature hews her heroes--Christian and Pagan--herlawgiversher statesmenher conquerors:  a steadfast bulwark forgreatinterests to rest upon; butat the firesidetoo often a coldcumbrouscolumngloomy and out of place.

"Thisparlour is not his sphere" I reflected:  "theHimalayan ridgeor Caffrebusheven the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp would suithimbetter.  Well may he eschew the calm of domestic life; it is nothiselement:  there his faculties stagnate--they cannot develop orappear toadvantage.  It is in scenes of strife and danger--wherecourage isprovedand energy exercisedand fortitude tasked--thathe willspeak and movethe leader and superior.  A merry childwould havethe advantage of him on this hearth.  He is right tochoose amissionary's career--I see it now."

"Theyare coming! they are coming!" cried Hannahthrowing open theparlourdoor.  At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully.  Out Iran. It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible.  Hannahsoon had alantern lit.  The vehicle had stopped at the wicket; thedriveropened the door:  first one well-known formthen anothersteppedout.  In a minute I had my face under their bonnetsincontactfirst with Mary's soft cheekthen with Diana's flowingcurls. They laughed--kissed me--then Hannah:  patted Carlowho washalf wildwith delight; asked eagerly if all was well; and beingassured inthe affirmativehastened into the house.

They werestiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcrossandchilled with the frosty night air; but their pleasantcountenancesexpanded to the cheerful firelight.  While the driverand Hannahbrought in the boxesthey demanded St. John.  At thismoment headvanced from the parlour.  They both threw their armsround hisneck at once.  He gave each one quiet kisssaid in a lowtone a fewwords of welcomestood a while to be talked toandthenintimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in theparlourwithdrew there as to a place of refuge.

I had littheir candles to go upstairsbut Diana had first to givehospitableorders respecting the driver; this doneboth followedme. They were delighted with the renovation and decorations oftheirrooms; with the new draperyand fresh carpetsand richtintedchina vases:  they expressed their gratificationungrudgingly. I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangementsmet theirwishes exactlyand that what I had done added a vividcharm totheir joyous return home.

Sweet wasthat evening.  My cousinsfull of exhilarationwere soeloquentin narrative and commentthat their fluency covered St.John'staciturnity:  he was sincerely glad to see his sisters; butin theirglow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise.The eventof the day--that isthe return of Diana and Mary--pleasedhim; butthe accompaniments of that eventthe glad tumultthegarrulousglee of reception irked him:  I saw he wished the calmermorrow wascome.  In the very meridian of the night's enjoymentabout anhour after teaa rap was heard at the door.  Hannahenteredwith the intimation that "a poor lad was comeat thatunlikelytimeto fetch Mr. Rivers to see his motherwho wasdrawingaway."

"Wheredoes she liveHannah?"

"Clearup at Whitcross Browalmost four miles offand moor andmoss allthe way."

"Tellhim I will go."

"I'msuresiryou had better not.  It's the worst road to travelafter darkthat can be:  there's no track at all over the bog.  Andthen it issuch a bitter night--the keenest wind you ever felt.  Youhad bettersend wordsirthat you will be there in the morning."

But he wasalready in the passageputting on his cloak; and withoutoneobjectionone murmurhe departed.  It was then nine o'clock:he did notreturn till midnight.  Starved and tired enough he was:but helooked happier than when he set out.  He had performed an actof duty;made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and denyandwas onbetter terms with himself.

I amafraid the whole of the ensuing week tried his patience.  ItwasChristmas week:  we took to no settled employmentbut spent itin a sortof merry domestic dissipation.  The air of the moorsthefreedom ofhomethe dawn of prosperityacted on Diana and Mary'sspiritslike some life-giving elixir:  they were gay from morningtill noonand from noon till night.  They could always talk; andtheirdiscoursewittypithyoriginalhad such charms for methat Ipreferred listening toand sharing in itto doing anythingelse. St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped from it:he wasseldom in the house; his parish was largethe populationscatteredand he found daily business in visiting the sick and poorin itsdifferent districts.

Onemorning at breakfastDianaafter looking a little pensive forsomeminutesasked him"If his plans were yet unchanged."

"Unchangedand unchangeable" was the reply.  And he proceeded toinform usthat his departure from England was now definitively fixedfor theensuing year.

"AndRosamond Oliver?" suggested Marythe words seeming to escapeher lipsinvoluntarily:  for no sooner had she uttered themthanshe made agesture as if wishing to recall them.  St. John had abook inhis hand--it was his unsocial custom to read at meals--heclosed itand looked up

"RosamondOliver" said he"is about to be married to Mr. Granbyone of thebest connected and most estimable residents in S-grandsonand heir to Sir Frederic Granby:  I had the intelligencefrom herfather yesterday."

Hissisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked athim: he was serene as glass.

"Thematch must have been got up hastily" said Diana:  "theycannothave knowneach other long."

"Buttwo months:  they met in October at the county ball at S-. Butwherethere are no obstacles to a unionas in the present casewhere theconnection is in every point desirabledelays areunnecessary: they will be married as soon as S- Placewhich SirFredericgives up to themcan he refitted for their reception."

The firsttime I found St. John alone after this communicationIfelttempted to inquire if the event distressed him:  but he seemedso littleto need sympathythatso far from venturing to offer himmoreIexperienced some shame at the recollection of what I hadalreadyhazarded.  BesidesI was out of practice in talking to him:hisreserve was again frozen overand my frankness was congealedbeneathit.  He had not kept his promise of treating me like hissisters;he continually made little chilling differences between uswhich didnot at all tend to the development of cordiality:  inshortnowthat I was acknowledged his kinswomanand lived underthe sameroof with himI felt the distance between us to be fargreaterthan when he had known me only as the villageschoolmistress. When I remembered how far I had once been admittedto hisconfidenceI could hardly comprehend his present frigidity.

Such beingthe caseI felt not a little surprised when he raisedhis headsuddenly from the desk over which he was stoopingand said-

"YouseeJanethe battle is fought and the victory won."

Startledat being thus addressedI did not immediately reply:after amoment's hesitation I answered -

"Butare you sure you are not in the position of those conquerorswhosetriumphs have cost them too dear?  Would not such another ruinyou?"

"Ithink not; and if I wereit does not much signify; I shall neverbe calledupon to contend for such another.  The event of theconflictis decisive:  my way is now clear; I thank God for it!" Sosayinghereturned to his papers and his silence.

As ourmutual happiness (i.e.Diana'sMary'sand mine) settledinto aquieter characterand we resumed our usual habits andregularstudiesSt. John stayed more at home:  he sat with us inthe sameroomsometimes for hours together.  While Mary drewDianapursued acourse of encyclopaedic reading she had (to my awe andamazement)undertakenand I fagged away at Germanhe pondered amysticlore of his own:  that of some Eastern tonguetheacquisitionof which he thought necessary to his plans.

Thusengagedhe appearedsitting in his own recessquiet andabsorbedenough; but that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving theoutlandish-lookinggrammarand wandering overand sometimes fixingupon ushis fellow-studentswith a curious intensity ofobservation: if caughtit would be instantly withdrawn; yet everand anonit returned searchingly to our table.  I wondered what itmeant: I wonderedtooat the punctual satisfaction he neverfailed toexhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small momentnamelymyweekly visit to Morton school; and still more was Ipuzzledwhenif the day was unfavourableif there was snoworrainorhigh windand his sisters urged me not to gohe wouldinvariablymake light of their solicitudeand encourage me toaccomplishthe task without regard to the elements.

"Janeis not such a weakling as you would make her" he would say:"shecan bear a mountain blastor a showeror a few flakes ofsnowaswell as any of us.  Her constitution is both sound andelastic;--bettercalculated to endure variations of climate thanmany morerobust."

And when Ireturnedsometimes a good deal tiredand not a littleweather-beatenI never dared complainbecause I saw that to murmurwould beto vex him:  on all occasions fortitude pleased him; thereversewas a special annoyance.

OneafternoonhoweverI got leave to stay at homebecause Ireally hada cold.  His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead:  Isatreading Schiller; hedeciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls.As Iexchanged a translation for an exerciseI happened to look hisway: there I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchfulblue eye. How long it had been searching me through and throughand overand overI cannot tell:  so keen was itand yet so coldI felt forthe moment superstitious--as if I were sitting in theroom withsomething uncanny.

"Janewhat are you doing?"

"LearningGerman."

"Iwant you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."

"Youare not in earnest?"

"Insuch earnest that I must have it so:  and I will tell you why."

He thenwent on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he washimself atpresent studying; thatas he advancedhe was apt toforget thecommencement; that it would assist him greatly to have apupil withwhom he might again and again go over the elementsandso fixthem thoroughly in his mind; that his choice had hovered forsome timebetween me and his sisters; but that he had fixed on mebecause hesaw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.Would I dohim this favour?  I should notperhapshave to make thesacrificelongas it wanted now barely three months to hisdeparture.

St. Johnwas not a man to be lightly refused:  you felt that everyimpressionmade on himeither for pain or pleasurewas deep-gravedandpermanent.  I consented.  When Diana and Mary returnedtheformerfound her scholar transferred from her to her brother:  shelaughedand both she and Mary agreed that St. John should neverhavepersuaded them to such a step.  He answered quietly -

"Iknow it."

I foundhim a very patientvery forbearingand yet an exactingmaster: he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled hisexpectationshein his own wayfully testified his approbation.Bydegreeshe acquired a certain influence over me that took awaymy libertyof mind:  his praise and notice were more restrainingthan hisindifference.  I could no longer talk or laugh freely whenhe was bybecause a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded methatvivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him.  I was sofullyaware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptablethat inhis presence every effort to sustain or follow any otherbecamevain:  I fell under a freezing spell.  When he said "go"Iwent;"come" I came; "do this" I did it.  But Idid not love myservitude: I wishedmany a timehe had continued to neglect me.

Oneevening whenat bedtimehis sisters and I stood round himbiddinghim good-nighthe kissed each of themas was his custom;andaswas equally his customhe gave me his hand.  Dianawhochanced tobe in a frolicsome humour (SHE was not painfullycontrolledby his will; for hersin another waywas as strong)exclaimed-

"St.John! you used to call Jane your third sisterbut you don'ttreat heras such:  you should kiss her too."

She pushedme towards him.  I thought Diana very provokingand feltuncomfortablyconfused; and while I was thus thinking and feelingSt. Johnbent his head; his Greek face was brought to a level withminehiseyes questioned my eyes piercingly--he kissed me.  Thereare nosuch things as marble kisses or ice kissesor I should saymyecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes;but theremay be experiment kissesand his was an experiment kiss.Whengivenhe viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking:I am sureI did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a littlepaleforI felt as if this kiss were a seal affixed to my fetters.He neveromitted the ceremony afterwardsand the gravity andquiescencewith which I underwent itseemed to invest it for himwith acertain charm.

As for meI daily wished more to please him; but to do soI feltdaily moreand more that I must disown half my naturestifle halfmyfacultieswrest my tastes from their original bentforce myselfto theadoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation.  Hewanted totrain me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked mehourly toaspire to the standard he uplifted.  The thing was asimpossibleas to mould my irregular features to his correct andclassicpatternto give to my changeable green eyes the sea-bluetint andsolemn lustre of his own.

Not hisascendancy alonehoweverheld me in thrall at present.  Oflate ithad been easy enough for me to look sad:  a cankering evilsat at myheart and drained my happiness at its source--the evil ofsuspense.

Perhapsyou think I had forgotten Mr. Rochesterreaderamidstthesechanges of place and fortune.  Not for a moment.  His ideawasstill withmebecause it was not a vapour sunshine could dispersenor asand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a namegraven ona tabletfated to last as long as the marble itinscribed. The craving to know what had become of him followed meeverywhere;when I was at MortonI re-entered my cottage everyevening tothink of that; and now at Moor HouseI sought my bedroomeach nightto brood over it.

In thecourse of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs aboutthe willI had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester'spresentresidence and state of health; butas St. John hadconjecturedhe was quite ignorant of all concerning him.  I thenwrote toMrs. Fairfaxentreating information on the subject.  I hadcalculatedwith certainty on this step answering my end:  I feltsure itwould elicit an early answer.  I was astonished when afortnightpassed without reply; but when two months wore awayandday afterday the post arrived and brought nothing for meI fell aprey tothe keenest anxiety.

I wroteagain:  there was a chance of my first letter having missed.Renewedhope followed renewed effort:  it shone like the former forsomeweeksthenlike itit fadedflickered:  not a linenot awordreached me.  When half a year wasted in vain expectancymyhope diedoutand then I felt dark indeed.

A finespring shone round mewhich I could not enjoy.  Summerapproached;Diana tried to cheer me:  she said I looked illandwished toaccompany me to the sea-side.  This St. John opposed; hesaid I didnot want dissipationI wanted employment; my presentlife wastoo purposelessI required an aim; andI supposeby wayofsupplying deficiencieshe prolonged still further my lessons inHindostaneeand grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment:and Ilike a foolnever thought of resisting him--I could notresisthim.

One day Ihad come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; theebb wasoccasioned by a poignantly felt disappointment.  Hannah hadtold me inthe morning there was a letter for meand when I wentdown totake italmost certain that the long-looked for tidingswerevouchsafed me at lastI found only an unimportant note fromMr. Briggson business.  The bitter check had wrung from me sometears; andnowas I sat poring over the crabbed characters andflourishingtropes of an Indian scribemy eyes filled again.

St. Johncalled me to his side to read; in attempting to do this myvoicefailed me:  words were lost in sobs.  He and I were theonlyoccupantsof the parlour:  Diana was practising her music in thedrawing-roomMary was gardening--it was a very fine May dayclearsunnyandbreezy.  My companion expressed no surprise at thisemotionnor did he question me as to its cause; he only said -

"Wewill wait a few minutesJanetill you are more composed." Andwhile Ismothered the paroxysm with all hastehe sat calm andpatientleaning on his deskand looking like a physician watchingwith theeye of science an expected and fully understood crisis in apatient'smalady.  Having stifled my sobswiped my eyesandmutteredsomething about not being very well that morningI resumedmy taskand succeeded in completing it.  St. John put away my booksand hislocked his deskand said -

"NowJaneyou shall take a walk; and with me."

"Iwill call Diana and Mary."

"No;I want only one companion this morningand that must be you.Put onyour things; go out by the kitchen-door:  take the roadtowardsthe head of Marsh Glen:  I will join you in a moment."

I know nomedium:  I never in my life have known any medium in mydealingswith positivehard charactersantagonistic to my ownbetweenabsolute submission and determined revolt.  I have alwaysfaithfullyobserved the oneup to the very moment of burstingsometimeswith volcanic vehemenceinto the other; and as neitherpresentcircumstances warrantednor my present mood inclined me tomutinyIobserved careful obedience to St. John's directions; andin tenminutes I was treading the wild track of the glenside byside withhim.

The breezewas from the west:  it came over the hillssweet withscents ofheath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the streamdescendingthe ravineswelled with past spring rainspoured alongplentifuland clearcatching golden gleams from the sunandsapphiretints from the firmament.  As we advanced and left thetrackwetrod a soft turfmossy fine and emerald greenminutelyenamelledwith a tiny white flowerand spangled with a star-likeyellowblossom:  the hillsmeantimeshut us quite in; for theglentowards its headwound to their very core.

"Letus rest here" said St. Johnas we reached the firststragglersof a battalion of rocksguarding a sort of passbeyondwhich thebeck rushed down a waterfall; and wherestill a littlefartherthe mountain shook off turf and flowerhad only heath forraimentand crag for gem--where it exaggerated the wild to thesavageand exchanged the fresh for the frowning--where it guardedtheforlorn hope of solitudeand a last refuge for silence.

I took aseat:  St. John stood near me.  He looked up the pass anddown thehollow; his glance wandered away with the streamandreturnedto traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it:  heremovedhis hatlet the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow.  Heseemed incommunion with the genius of the haunt:  with his eye hebadefarewell to something.

"AndI shall see it again" he said aloud"in dreams when Isleepby theGanges:  and again in a more remote hour--when anotherslumberovercomes me--on the shore of a darker stream!"

Strangewords of a strange love!  An austere patriot's passion forhisfatherland!  He sat down; for half-an-hour we never spoke;neither heto me nor I to him:  that interval pasthe recommenced -

"JaneI go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiamanwhichsails on the 20th of June."

"Godwill protect you; for you have undertaken His work" Ianswered.

"Yes"said he"there is my glory and joy.  I am the servant ofaninfallibleMaster.  I am not going out under human guidancesubjectto thedefective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms:my kingmy lawgivermy captainis the All-perfect.  It seemsstrange tome that all round me do not burn to enlist under the samebanner--tojoin in the same enterprise."

"Allhave not your powersand it would be folly for the feeble towish tomarch with the strong."

"I donot speak to the feebleor think of them:  I address onlysuch asare worthy of the workand competent to accomplish it."

"Thoseare few in numberand difficult to discover."

"Yousay truly; but when foundit is right to stir them up--to urgeand exhortthem to the effort--to show them what their gifts areand whythey were given--to speak Heaven's message in their ear--toofferthemdirect from Goda place in the ranks of His chosen."

"Ifthey are really qualified for the taskwill not their ownhearts bethe first to inform them of it?"

I felt asif an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me:I trembledto hear some fatal word spoken which would at oncedeclareand rivet the spell.

"Andwhat does YOUR heart say?" demanded St. John.

"Myheart is mute--my heart is mute" I answeredstruck andthrilled.

"ThenI must speak for it" continued the deeprelentless voice."Janecome with me to India:  come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer."

The glenand sky spun round:  the hills heaved!  It was as if I hadheard asummons from Heaven--as if a visionary messengerlike himofMacedoniahad enounced"Come over and help us!"  ButI was noapostle--Icould not behold the herald--I could not receive hiscall.

"OhSt. John!" I cried"have some mercy!"

I appealedto one whoin the discharge of what he believed hisdutyknewneither mercy nor remorse.  He continued -

"Godand nature intended you for a missionary's wife.  It is notpersonalbut mental endowments they have given you:  you are formedforlabournot for love.  A missionary's wife you must--shall be.You shallbe mine:  I claim you--not for my pleasurebut for mySovereign'sservice."

"I amnot fit for it:  I have no vocation" I said.

He hadcalculated on these first objections:  he was not irritatedby them. Indeedas he leaned back against the crag behind himfolded hisarms on his chestand fixed his countenanceI saw hewasprepared for a long and trying oppositionand had taken in astock ofpatience to last him to its close--resolvedhoweverthatthat closeshould be conquest for him.

"HumilityJane" said he"is the groundwork of Christian virtues:you sayright that you are not fit for the work.  Who is fit for it?Or whothat ever was truly calledbelieved himself worthy of thesummons? Ifor instanceam but dust and ashes.  With St. PaulIacknowledgemyself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not suffer thissense ofmy personal vileness to daunt me.  I know my Leader:  thatHe is justas well as mighty; and while He has chosen a feebleinstrumentto perform a great taskHe willfrom the boundlessstores ofHis providencesupply the inadequacy of the means to theend. Think like meJane--trust like me.  It is the Rock of Ages Iask you tolean on:  do not doubt but it will bear the weight ofyour humanweakness."

"I donot understand a missionary life:  I have never studiedmissionarylabours."

"ThereIhumble as I amcan give you the aid you want:  I can setyou yourtask from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you frommoment tomoment.  This I could do in the beginning:  soon (for Iknow yourpowers) you would be as strong and apt as myselfandwould notrequire my help."

"Butmy powers--where are they for this undertaking?  I do not feelthem. Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you talk.  I am sensibleof nolight kindling--no life quickening--no voice counselling orcheering. OhI wish I could make you see how much my mind is atthismoment like a rayless dungeonwith one shrinking fear fetteredin itsdepths--the fear of being persuaded by you to attempt what Icannotaccomplish!"

"Ihave an answer for you--hear it.  I have watched you ever sincewe firstmet:  I have made you my study for ten months.  I haveproved youin that time by sundry tests:  and what have I seen andelicited? In the village school I found you could perform wellpunctuallyuprightlylabour uncongenial to your habits andinclinations;I saw you could perform it with capacity and tact:you couldwin while you controlled.  In the calm with which youlearnt youhad become suddenly richI read a mind clear of the viceof Demas:-lucre had no undue power over you.  In the resolutereadinesswith which you cut your wealth into four shareskeepingbut one toyourselfand relinquishing the three others to the claimofabstract justiceI recognised a soul that revelled in the flameandexcitement of sacrifice.  In the tractability with whichat mywishyouforsook a study in which you were interestedand adoptedanotherbecause it interested me; in the untiring assiduity withwhich youhave since persevered in it--in the unflagging energy andunshakentemper with which you have met its difficulties--Iacknowledgethe complement of the qualities I seek.  Janeyou aredocilediligentdisinterestedfaithfulconstantand courageous;verygentleand very heroic:  cease to mistrust yourself--I cantrust youunreservedly.  As a conductress of Indian schoolsand ahelperamongst Indian womenyour assistance will be to meinvaluable."

My ironshroud contracted round me; persuasion advanced with slowsurestep.  Shut my eyes as I wouldthese last words of hissucceededin making the waywhich had seemed blocked upcomparativelyclear.  My workwhich had appeared so vaguesohopelesslydiffusecondensed itself as he proceededand assumed adefiniteform under his shaping hand.  He waited for an answer.  Idemanded aquarter of an hour to thinkbefore I again hazarded areply.

"Verywillingly" he rejoined; and risinghe strode a littledistanceup the passthrew himself down on a swell of heathandthere laystill.

"ICAN do what he wants me to do:  I am forced to see andacknowledgethat" I meditated--"that isif life be spared me.But I feelmine is not the existence to be long protracted under anIndiansun.  What then?  He does not care for that:  when mytimecame todiehe would resign mein all serenity and sanctitytothe Godwho gave me.  The case is very plain before me.  In leavingEnglandIshould leave a loved but empty land--Mr. Rochester is notthere; andif he werewhat iswhat can that ever be to me?  Mybusinessis to live without him now:  nothing so absurdso weak asto drag onfrom day to dayas if I were waiting some impossiblechange incircumstanceswhich might reunite me to him.  Of course(as St.John once said) I must seek another interest in life toreplacethe one lost:  is not the occupation he now offers me trulythe mostglorious man can adopt or God assign?  Is it notby itsnoblecares and sublime resultsthe one best calculated to fill thevoid leftby uptorn affections and demolished hopes?  I believe Imust sayYes--and yet I shudder.  Alas!  If I join St. JohnIabandonhalf myself:  if I go to IndiaI go to premature death.And howwill the interval between leaving England for IndiaandIndia forthe gravebe filled?  OhI know well!  Thattooisvery clearto my vision.  By straining to satisfy St. John till mysinewsacheI SHALL satisfy him--to the finest central point andfarthestoutward circle of his expectations.  If I DO go with him--if I DOmake the sacrifice he urgesI will make it absolutely:  Iwill throwall on the altar--heartvitalsthe entire victim.  Hewill neverlove me; but he shall approve me; I will show himenergieshe has not yet seenresources he has never suspected.YesI canwork as hard as he canand with as little grudging.

"Consentthento his demand is possible:  but for one item--onedreadfulitem.  It is--that he asks me to be his wifeand has nomore of ahusband's heart for me than that frowning giant of a rockdown whichthe stream is foaming in yonder gorge.  He prizes me as asoldierwould a good weapon; and that is all.  Unmarried to himthis wouldnever grieve me; but can I let him complete hiscalculations--coollyput into practice his plans--go through theweddingceremony?  Can I receive from him the bridal ringendureall theforms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulouslyobserve)and know that the spirit was quite absent?  Can I bear theconsciousnessthat every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice madeonprinciple?  No:  such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I willneverundergo it.  As his sisterI might accompany him--not as hiswife: I will tell him so."

I lookedtowards the knoll:  there he laystill as a prostratecolumn;his face turned to me:  his eye beaming watchful and keen.He startedto his feet and approached me.

"I amready to go to Indiaif I may go free."

"Youranswer requires a commentary" he said; "it is not clear."

"Youhave hitherto been my adopted brother--Iyour adopted sister:let uscontinue as such:  you and I had better not marry."

He shookhis head.  "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case.If youwere my real sister it would be different:  I should takeyouandseek no wife.  But as it iseither our union must beconsecratedand sealed by marriageor it cannot exist:  practicalobstaclesoppose themselves to any other plan.  Do you not see itJane? Consider a moment--your strong sense will guide you."

I didconsider; and still my sensesuch as it wasdirected me onlyto thefact that we did not love each other as man and wife should:andtherefore it inferred we ought not to marry.  I said so. "St.John"I returned"I regard you as a brother--youme as a sister:so let uscontinue."

"Wecannot--we cannot" he answeredwith shortsharpdetermination: "it would not do.  You have said you will go with meto India: remember--you have said that."

"Conditionally."

"Well--well. To the main point--the departure with me from Englandtheco-operation with me in my future labours--you do not object.You havealready as good as put your hand to the plough:  you aretooconsistent to withdraw it.  You have but one end to keep inview--howthe work you have undertaken can best be done.  Simplifyyourcomplicated interestsfeelingsthoughtswishesaims; mergeallconsiderations in one purpose:  that of fulfilling with effect--withpower--the mission of your great Master.  To do soyou musthave acoadjutor:  not a brother--that is a loose tie--but ahusband. Itoodo not want a sister:  a sister might any day betaken fromme.  I want a wife:  the sole helpmeet I can influenceefficientlyin lifeand retain absolutely till death."

Ishuddered as he spoke:  I felt his influence in my marrow--hishold on mylimbs.

"Seekone elsewhere than in meSt. John:  seek one fitted to you."

"Onefitted to my purposeyou mean--fitted to my vocation.  Again Itell youit is not the insignificant private individual--the meremanwiththe man's selfish senses--I wish to mate:  it is themissionary."

"AndI will give the missionary my energies--it is all he wants--butnotmyself:  that would be only adding the husk and shell to thekernel. For them he has no use:  I retain them."

"Youcannot--you ought not.  Do you think God will be satisfied withhalf anoblation?  Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice?  It is thecause ofGod I advocate:  it is under His standard I enlist you.  Icannotaccept on His behalf a divided allegiance:  it must beentire."

"Oh! I will give my heart to God" I said.  "YOU do notwant it."

I will notswearreaderthat there was not something of repressedsarcasmboth in the tone in which I uttered this sentenceand inthefeeling that accompanied it.  I had silently feared St. Johntill nowbecause I had not understood him.  He had held me in awebecause hehad held me in doubt.  How much of him was sainthowmuchmortalI could not heretofore tell:  but revelations werebeing madein this conference:  the analysis of his nature wasproceedingbefore my eyes.  I saw his fallibilities:  I comprehendedthem. I understood thatsitting there where I didon the bank ofheathandwith that handsome form before meI sat at the feet of amancaring as I.  The veil fell from his hardness and despotism.Havingfelt in him the presence of these qualitiesI felt hisimperfectionand took courage.  I was with an equal--one with whom Imightargue--one whomif I saw goodI might resist.

He wassilent after I had uttered the last sentenceand I presentlyrisked anupward glance at his countenance.

His eyebent on meexpressed at once stern surprise and keeninquiry. "Is she sarcasticand sarcastic to ME!" it seemed to say."Whatdoes this signify?"

"Donot let us forget that this is a solemn matter" he said erelong; "oneof which we may neither think nor talk lightly withoutsin. I trustJaneyou are in earnest when you say you will serveyour heartto God:  it is all I want.  Once wrench your heart frommanandfix it on your Makerthe advancement of that Maker'sspiritualkingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour;you willbe ready to do at once whatever furthers that end.  Youwill seewhat impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by ourphysicaland mental union in marriage:  the only union that gives acharacterof permanent conformity to the destinies and designs ofhumanbeings; andpassing over all minor caprices--all trivialdifficultiesand delicacies of feeling--all scruple about thedegreekindstrength or tenderness of mere personal inclination--you willhasten to enter into that union at once."

"ShallI?" I said briefly; and I looked at his featuresbeautifulin theirharmonybut strangely formidable in their still severity;at hisbrowcommanding but not open; at his eyesbright and deepandsearchingbut never soft; at his tall imposing figure; andfanciedmyself in idea HIS WIFE.  Oh! it would never do!  As hiscuratehis comradeall would be right:  I would cross oceans withhim inthat capacity; toil under Eastern sunsin Asian deserts withhim inthat office; admire and emulate his courage and devotion andvigour;accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed athisineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the man:profoundlyesteem the oneand freely forgive the other.  I shouldsufferoftenno doubtattached to him only in this capacity:  mybody wouldbe under rather a stringent yokebut my heart and mindwould befree.  I should still have my unblighted self to turn to:my naturalunenslaved feelings with which to communicate in momentsofloneliness.  There would be recesses in my mind which would beonly mineto which he never cameand sentiments growing therefresh andsheltered which his austerity could never blightnor hismeasuredwarrior-march trample down:  but as his wife--at his sidealwaysand always restrainedand always checked--forced to keepthe fireof my nature continually lowto compel it to burn inwardlyand neverutter a crythough the imprisoned flame consumed vitalaftervital--THIS would be unendurable.

"St.John!" I exclaimedwhen I had got so far in my meditation.

"Well?"he answered icily.

"Irepeat I freely consent to go with you as your fellow-missionarybut not asyour wife; I cannot marry you and become part of you."

"Apart of me you must become" he answered steadily; "otherwisethewholebargain is void.  How can Ia man not yet thirtytake outwith me toIndia a girl of nineteenunless she be married to me?How can webe for ever together--sometimes in solitudessometimesamidstsavage tribes--and unwed?"

"Verywell" I said shortly; "under the circumstancesquite aswellas if Iwere either your real sisteror a man and a clergyman likeyourself."

"Itis known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you assuch: to attempt it would be to fasten injurious suspicions on usboth. And for the restthough you have a man's vigorous brainyouhave awoman's heart and--it would not do."

"Itwould do" I affirmed with some disdain"perfectly well. Ihave awoman's heartbut not where you are concerned; for you Ihave onlya comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's franknessfidelityfraternityif you like; a neophyte's respect andsubmissionto his hierophant:  nothing more--don't fear."

"Itis what I want" he saidspeaking to himself; "it is justwhatI want. And there are obstacles in the way:  they must be hewndown. Janeyou would not repent marrying me--be certain of that;we MUST bemarried.  I repeat it:  there is no other way; andundoubtedlyenough of love would follow upon marriage to render theunionright even in your eyes."

"Iscorn your idea of love" I could not help sayingas I rose upand stoodbefore himleaning my back against the rock.  "I scornthecounterfeit sentiment you offer:  yesSt. Johnand I scorn youwhen youoffer it."

He lookedat me fixedlycompressing his well-cut lips while he didso. Whether he was incensed or surprisedor whatit was not easyto tell: he could command his countenance thoroughly.

"Iscarcely expected to hear that expression from you" he said: "Ithink Ihave done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."

I wastouched by his gentle toneand overawed by his highcalmmien.

"Forgiveme the wordsSt. John; but it is your own fault that Ihave beenroused to speak so unguardedly.  You have introduced atopic onwhich our natures are at variance--a topic we should neverdiscuss: the very name of love is an apple of discord between us.If thereality were requiredwhat should we do?  How should wefeel? My dear cousinabandon your scheme of marriage--forget it."

"No"said he; "it is a long-cherished schemeand the only onewhich cansecure my great end:  but I shall urge you no further atpresent. To-morrowI leave home for Cambridge:  I have manyfriendsthere to whom I should wish to say farewell.  I shall beabsent afortnight--take that space of time to consider my offer:and do notforget that if you reject itit is not me you denybutGod. Through my meansHe opens to you a noble career; as my wifeonly canyou enter upon it.  Refuse to be my wifeand you limityourselffor ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.Tremblelest in that case you should be numbered with those who havedenied thefaithand are worse than infidels!"

He haddone.  Turning from mehe once more

 

"Lookedto riverlooked to hill."

 

But thistime his feelings were all pent in his heart:  I was notworthy tohear them uttered.  As I walked by his side homewardIread wellin his iron silence all he felt towards me:  thedisappointmentof an austere and despotic naturewhich has metresistancewhere it expected submission--the disapprobation of acoolinflexible judgmentwhich has detected in another feelingsand viewsin which it has no power to sympathise:  in shortas amanhewould have wished to coerce me into obedience:  it was onlyas asincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversityandallowed solong a space for reflection and repentance.

Thatnightafter he had kissed his sistershe thought proper toforgeteven to shake hands with mebut left the room in silence.I--whothough I had no lovehad much friendship for him--was hurtby themarked omission:  so much hurt that tears started to my eyes.

"Isee you and St. John have been quarrellingJane" said Diana"duringyour walk on the moor.  But go after him; he is nowlingeringin the passage expecting you--he will make it up."

I have notmuch pride under such circumstances:  I would alwaysrather behappy than dignified; and I ran after him--he stood at thefoot ofthe stairs.

"Good-nightSt. John" said I.

"Good-nightJane" he replied calmly.

"Thenshake hands" I added.

What acoldloose touchhe impressed on my fingers!  He was deeplydispleasedby what had occurred that day; cordiality would not warmnor tearsmove him.  No happy reconciliation was to be had with him--nocheering smile or generous word:  but still the Christian waspatientand placid; and when I asked him if he forgave meheansweredthat he was not in the habit of cherishing the remembranceofvexation; that he had nothing to forgivenot having beenoffended.

And withthat answer he left me.  I would much rather he had knockedme down.

 

CHAPTERXXXV

 

He did notleave for Cambridge the next dayas he had said hewould. He deferred his departure a whole weekand during that timehe made mefeel what severe punishment a good yet sternaconscientiousyet implacable man can inflict on one who has offendedhim. Without one overt act of hostilityone upbraiding wordhecontrivedto impress me momently with the conviction that I was putbeyond thepale of his favour.

Not thatSt. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness--not thathe would have injured a hair of my headif it had beenfully inhis power to do so.  Both by nature and principlehe wassuperiorto the mean gratification of vengeance:  he had forgiven mefor sayingI scorned him and his lovebut he had not forgotten thewords; andas long as he and I lived he never would forget them.  Isaw by hislookwhen he turned to methat they were always writtenon the airbetween me and him; whenever I spokethey sounded in myvoice tohis earand their echo toned every answer he gave me.

He did notabstain from conversing with me:  he even called me asusual eachmorning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corruptman withinhim had a pleasure unimparted toand unshared bythepureChristianin evincing with what skill he couldwhile actingandspeaking apparently just as usualextract from every deed andeveryphrase the spirit of interest and approval which had formerlycommunicateda certain austere charm to his language and manner.  Tomehe wasin reality become no longer fleshbut marble; his eyewas acoldbrightblue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument--nothingmore.

All thiswas torture to me--refinedlingering torture.  It kept upa slowfire of indignation and a trembling trouble of griefwhichharassedand crushed me altogether.  I felt how--if I were his wifethis goodmanpure as the deep sunless sourcecould soon kill mewithoutdrawing from my veins a single drop of bloodor receivingon his owncrystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.EspeciallyI felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him.No ruthmet my ruth.  HE experienced no suffering from estrangement--noyearning after reconciliation; and thoughmore than oncemyfastfalling tears blistered the page over which we both benttheyproducedno more effect on him than if his heart had been really amatter ofstone or metal.  To his sistersmeantimehe was somewhatkinderthan usual:  as if afraid that mere coldness would notsufficientlyconvince me how completely I was banished and bannedhe addedthe force of contrast; and this I am sure he did not byforcebuton principle.

The nightbefore he left homehappening to see him walking in thegardenabout sunsetand rememberingas I looked at himthat thismanalienated as he now washad once saved my lifeand that wewere nearrelationsI was moved to make a last attempt to regainhisfriendship.  I went out and approached him as he stood leaningover thelittle gate; I spoke to the point at once.

"St.JohnI am unhappy because you are still angry with me.  Let usbefriends."

"Ihope we are friends" was the unmoved reply; while he stillwatchedthe rising of the moonwhich he had been contemplating as Iapproached.

"NoSt. Johnwe are not friends as we were.  You know that."

"Arewe not?  That is wrong.  For my partI wish you no ill andallgood."

"Ibelieve youSt. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishingany oneill; butas I am your kinswomanI should desire somewhatmore ofaffection than that sort of general philanthropy you extendto merestrangers."

"Ofcourse" he said.  "Your wish is reasonableand I amfar fromregardingyou as a stranger."

Thisspoken in a cooltranquil tonewas mortifying and bafflingenough. Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ireIshouldimmediately have left him; but something worked within memorestrongly than those feelings could.  I deeply venerated mycousin'stalent and principle.  His friendship was of value to me:to lose ittried me severely.  I would not so soon relinquish theattempt toreconquer it.

"Mustwe part in this waySt. John?  And when you go to Indiawillyou leaveme sowithout a kinder word than you have yet spoken?"

He nowturned quite from the moon and faced me.

"WhenI go to IndiaJanewill I leave you!  What! do you not go toIndia?"

"Yousaid I could not unless I married you."

"Andyou will not marry me!  You adhere to that resolution?"

Readerdoyou knowas I dowhat terror those cold people can putinto theice of their questions?  How much of the fall of theavalancheis in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea intheirdispleasure?

"No. St. JohnI will not marry you.  I adhere to my resolution."

Theavalanche had shaken and slid a little forwardbut it did notyet crashdown.

"Oncemorewhy this refusal?" he asked.

"Formerly"I answered"because you did not love me; nowI replybecauseyou almost hate me.  If I were to marry youyou would killme. You are killing me now."

His lipsand cheeks turned white--quite white.

"ISHOULD KILL YOU--I AM KILLING YOU?  Your words are such as oughtnot to beused:  violentunfeminineand untrue.  They betray anunfortunatestate of mind:  they merit severe reproof:  they wouldseeminexcusablebut that it is the duty of man to forgive hisfelloweven until seventy-and-seven times."

I hadfinished the business now.  While earnestly wishing to erasefrom hismind the trace of my former offenceI had stamped on thattenacioussurface another and far deeper impressionI had burnt itin.

"Nowyou will indeed hate me" I said.  "It is useless toattempt toconciliateyou:  I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."

A freshwrong did these words inflict:  the worsebecause theytouched onthe truth.  That bloodless lip quivered to a temporaryspasm. I knew the steely ire I had whetted.  I was heart-wrung.

"Youutterly misinterpret my words" I saidat once seizing hishand: "I have no intention to grieve or pain you--indeedI havenot."

Mostbitterly he smiled--most decidedly he withdrew his hand frommine. "And now you recall your promiseand will not go to India atallIpresume?" said heafter a considerable pause.

"YesI willas your assistant" I answered.

A verylong silence succeeded.  What struggle there was in himbetweenNature and Grace in this intervalI cannot tell:  onlysingulargleams scintillated in his eyesand strange shadows passedover hisface.  He spoke at last.

"Ibefore proved to you the absurdity of a single woman of your ageproposingto accompany abroad a single man of mine.  I proved it toyou insuch terms asI should have thoughtwould have preventedyour everagain alluding to the plan.  That you have done soIregret--foryour sake."

Iinterrupted him.  Anything like a tangible reproach gave mecourage atonce.  "Keep to common senseSt. John:  you arevergingonnonsense.  You pretend to be shocked by what I have said. Youare notreally shocked:  forwith your superior mindyou cannot beeither sodull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning.  Isay againI will be your curateif you likebut never your wife."

Again heturned lividly pale; butas beforecontrolled his passionperfectly. He answered emphatically but calmly -

"Afemale curatewho is not my wifewould never suit me.  Withmethenitseemsyou cannot go:  but if you are sincere in yourofferIwillwhile in townspeak to a married missionarywhosewife needsa coadjutor.  Your own fortune will make you independentof theSociety's aid; and thus you may still be spared the dishonourofbreaking your promise and deserting the band you engaged tojoin."

Now Inever hadas the reader knowseither given any formalpromise orentered into any engagement; and this language was allmuch toohard and much too despotic for the occasion.  I replied -

"Thereis no dishonourno breach of promiseno desertion in thecase. I am not under the slightest obligation to go to Indiaespeciallywith strangers.  With you I would have ventured muchbecause Iadmireconfide inandas a sisterI love you; but I amconvincedthatgo when and with whom I wouldI should not livelong inthat climate."

"Ah!you are afraid of yourself" he saidcurling his lip.

"Iam.  God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as youwish mewouldI begin to thinkbe almost equivalent to committingsuicide. Moreoverbefore I definitively resolve on quittingEnglandIwill know for certain whether I cannot be of greater usebyremaining in it than by leaving it."

"Whatdo you mean?"

"Itwould be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a pointon which Ihave long endured painful doubtand I can go nowheretill bysome means that doubt is removed."

"Iknow where your heart turns and to what it clings.  The interestyoucherish is lawless and unconsecrated.  Long since you ought tohavecrushed it:  now you should blush to allude to it.  Youthinkof Mr.Rochester?"

It wastrue.  I confessed it by silence.

"Areyou going to seek Mr. Rochester?"

"Imust find out what is become of him."

"Itremains for methen" he said"to remember you in myprayersand toentreat God for youin all earnestnessthat you may notindeedbecome a castaway.  I had thought I recognised in you one ofthechosen.  But God sees not as man sees:  HIS will be done--"

He openedthe gatepassed through itand strayed away down theglen. He was soon out of sight.

Onre-entering the parlourI found Diana standing at the windowlookingvery thoughtful.  Diana was a great deal taller than I: sheput herhand on my shoulderandstoopingexamined my face.

"Jane"she said"you are always agitated and pale now.  I am surethere issomething the matter.  Tell me what business St. John andyou haveon hands.  I have watched you this half hour from thewindow;you must forgive my being such a spybut for a long time Ihavefancied I hardly know what.  St. John is a strange being--"

Shepaused--I did not speak:  soon she resumed -

"Thatbrother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sortrespectingyouI am sure:  he has long distinguished you by anotice andinterest he never showed to any one else--to what end?  Iwish heloved you--does heJane?"

I put hercool hand to my hot forehead; "NoDienot one whit."

"Thenwhy does he follow you so with his eyesand get you sofrequentlyalone with himand keep you so continually at his side?Mary and Ihad both concluded he wished you to marry him."

"Hedoes--he has asked me to be his wife."

Dianaclapped her hands.  "That is just what we hoped andthought!And youwill marry himJanewon't you?  And then he will stay inEngland."

"Farfrom thatDiana; his sole idea in proposing to me is toprocure afitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."

"What! He wishes you to go to India?"

"Yes."

"Madness!"she exclaimed.  "You would not live three months thereIamcertain.  You never shall go:  you have not consentedhaveyouJane?"

"Ihave refused to marry him--"

"Andhave consequently displeased him?" she suggested.

"Deeply: he will never forgive meI fear:  yet I offered toaccompanyhim as his sister."

"Itwas frantic folly to do soJane.  Think of the task youundertook--oneof incessant fatiguewhere fatigue kills even thestrongand you are weak.  St. John--you know him--would urge you toimpossibilities: with him there would be no permission to restduring thehot hours; and unfortunatelyI have noticedwhatever heexactsyou force yourself to perform.  I am astonished you foundcourage torefuse his hand.  You do not love him thenJane?"

"Notas a husband."

"Yethe is a handsome fellow."

"AndI am so plainyou seeDie.  We should never suit."

"Plain! You?  Not at all.  You are much too prettyas well as toogoodtobe grilled alive in Calcutta."  And again she earnestlyconjuredme to give up all thoughts of going out with her brother.

"Imust indeed" I said; "for when just now I repeated theoffer ofservinghim for a deaconhe expressed himself shocked at my want ofdecency. He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety inproposingto accompany him unmarried:  as if I had not from thefirsthoped to find in him a brotherand habitually regarded him assuch."

"Whatmakes you say he does not love youJane?"

"Youshould hear himself on the subject.  He has again and againexplainedthat it is not himselfbut his office he wishes to mate.He hastold me I am formed for labour--not for love:  which is trueno doubt. Butin my opinionif I am not formed for loveitfollowsthat I am not formed for marriage.  Would it not be strangeDieto bechained for life to a man who regarded one but as ausefultool?"

"Insupportable--unnatural--outof the question!"

"Andthen" I continued"though I have only sisterly affectionforhim nowyetif forced to be his wifeI can imagine thepossibilityof conceiving an inevitablestrangetorturing kind oflove forhimbecause he is so talented; and there is often acertainheroic grandeur in his lookmannerand conversation.  Inthat casemy lot would become unspeakably wretched.  He would notwant me tolove him; and if I showed the feelinghe would make mesensiblethat it was a superfluityunrequired by himunbecoming inme. I know he would."

"Andyet St. John is a good man" said Diana.

"Heis a good and a great man; but he forgetspitilesslythefeelingsand claims of little peoplein pursuing his own largeviews. It is betterthereforefor the insignificant to keep outof hiswaylestin his progresshe should trample them down.Here hecomes!  I will leave youDiana."  And I hastenedupstairsas I sawhim entering the garden.

But I wasforced to meet him again at supper.  During that meal heappearedjust as composed as usual.  I had thought he would hardlyspeak tomeand I was certain he had given up the pursuit of hismatrimonialscheme:  the sequel showed I was mistaken on bothpoints. He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manneror whathadoflatebeen his ordinary manner--one scrupulously polite.  Nodoubt hehad invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the angerI hadroused in himand now believed he had forgiven me once more.

For theevening reading before prayershe selected the twenty-firstchapter ofRevelation.  It was at all times pleasant to listen whilefrom hislips fell the words of the Bible:  never did his fine voicesound atonce so sweet and full--never did his manner become soimpressivein its noble simplicityas when he delivered the oraclesof God: and to-night that voice took a more solemn tone--thatmanner amore thrilling meaning--as he sat in the midst of hishouseholdcircle (the May moon shining in through the uncurtainedwindowand rendering almost unnecessary the light of the candle onthetable):  as he sat therebending over the great old Bibleanddescribedfrom its page the vision of the new heaven and the newearth--toldhow God would come to dwell with menhow He would wipeaway alltears from their eyesand promised that there should be nomoredeathneither sorrow nor cryingnor any more painbecausethe formerthings were passed away.

Thesucceeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them:especiallyas I feltby the slightindescribable alteration insoundthat in uttering themhis eye had turned on me.

"Hethat overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his Godand heshall be my son.  But" was slowlydistinctly read"thefearfulthe unbelieving&c.shall have their part in the lakewhichburneth with fire and brimstonewhich is the second death."

HenceforwardI knew what fate St. John feared for me.

A calmsubdued triumphblent with a longing earnestnessmarkedhisenunciation of the last glorious verses of that chapter.  Thereaderbelieved his name was already written in the Lamb's book oflifeandhe yearned after the hour which should admit him to thecity towhich the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour;which hasno need of sun or moon to shine in itbecause the gloryof Godlightens itand the Lamb is the light thereof.

In theprayer following the chapterall his energy gathered--allhis sternzeal woke:  he was in deep earnestwrestling with Godandresolved on a conquest.  He supplicated strength for the weak-hearted;guidance for wanderers from the fold:  a returneven attheeleventh hourfor those whom the temptations of the world andthe fleshwere luring from the narrow path.  He askedhe urgedheclaimedthe boon of a brand snatched from the burning.  Earnestnessis everdeeply solemn:  firstas I listened to that prayerIwonderedat his; thenwhen it continued and roseI was touched byitand atlast awed.  He felt the greatness and goodness of hispurpose sosincerely:  others who heard him plead for itcould notbut feelit too.

The prayeroverwe took leave of him:  he was to go at a very earlyhour inthe morning.  Diana and Mary having kissed himleft theroom--incomplianceI thinkwith a whispered hint from him:  Itenderedmy handand wished him a pleasant journey.

"ThankyouJane.  As I saidI shall return from Cambridge in afortnight: that spacethenis yet left you for reflection.  If Ilistenedto human prideI should say no more to you of marriagewith me;but I listen to my dutyand keep steadily in view my firstaim--to doall things to the glory of God.  My Master was long-suffering: so will I be.  I cannot give you up to perdition as avessel ofwrath:  repent--resolvewhile there is yet time.Rememberwe are bid to work while it is day--warned that 'the nightcomethwhen no man shall work.'  Remember the fate of Diveswho hadhis goodthings in this life.  God give you strength to choose thatbetterpart which shall not be taken from you!"

He laidhis hand on my head as he uttered the last words.  He hadspokenearnestlymildly:  his look was notindeedthat of a loverbeholdinghis mistressbut it was that of a pastor recalling hiswanderingsheep--or betterof a guardian angel watching the soulfor whichhe is responsible.  All men of talentwhether they be menof feelingor not; whether they be zealotsor aspirantsordespots--providedonly they be sincere--have their sublime momentswhen theysubdue and rule.  I felt veneration for St. John--venerationso strong that its impetus thrust me at once to the pointI had solong shunned.  I was tempted to cease struggling with him--to rushdown the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existenceand therelose my own.  I was almost as hard beset by him now as Ihad beenonce beforein a different wayby another.  I was a foolbothtimes.  To have yielded then would have been an error ofprinciple;to have yielded now would have been an error of judgment.So I thinkat this hourwhen I look back to the crisis through thequietmedium of time:  I was unconscious of folly at the instant.

I stoodmotionless under my hierophant's touch.  My refusals wereforgotten--myfears overcome--my wrestlings paralysed.  TheImpossible--I.E.my marriage with St. John--was fast becoming thePossible. All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep.  Religioncalled--Angelsbeckoned--God commanded--life rolled together like ascroll--death'sgates openingshowed eternity beyond:  it seemedthat forsafety and bliss thereall here might be sacrificed in asecond. The dim room was full of visions.

"Couldyou decide now?" asked the missionary.  The inquiry was putin gentletones:  he drew me to him as gently.  Ohthat gentleness!how farmore potent is it than force!  I could resist St. John'swrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness.  Yet I knew allthe timeif I yielded nowI should not the less be made to repentsome dayof my former rebellion.  His nature was not changed by onehour ofsolemn prayer:  it was only elevated.

"Icould decide if I were but certain" I answered:  "wereI butconvincedthat it is God's will I should marry youI could vow tomarry youhere and now--come afterwards what would!"

"My Iprayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John.  He pressed hishandfirmer onmy headas if he claimed me:  he surrounded me with hisarmALMOST as if he loved me (I say ALMOST--I knew the difference--for I hadfelt what it was to be loved; butlike himI had now putlove outof the questionand thought only of duty).  I contendedwith myinward dimness of visionbefore which clouds yet rolled.  Isincerelydeeplyfervently longed to do what was right; and onlythat. "Show meshow me the path!" I entreated of Heaven.  Iwasexcitedmore than I had ever been; and whether what followed was theeffect ofexcitement the reader shall judge.

All thehouse was still; for I believe allexcept St. John andmyselfwere now retired to rest.  The one candle was dying out:the roomwas full of moonlight.  My heart beat fast and thick:  Iheard itsthrob.  Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressiblefeelingthat thrilled it throughand passed at once to my head andextremities. The feeling was not like an electric shockbut it wasquite assharpas strangeas startling:  it acted on my senses asif theirutmost activity hitherto had been but torporfrom whichthey werenow summoned and forced to wake.  They rose expectant:eye andear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.

"Whathave you heard?  What do you see?" asked St. John.  Isawnothingbut I heard a voice somewhere cry -

"Jane! Jane!  Jane!"--nothing more.

"OGod! what is it?" I gasped.

I mighthave said"Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room--nor in thehouse--nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air--nor fromunder the earth--nor from overhead.  I had heard it--whereorwhencefor ever impossible to know!  And it was the voiceof a humanbeing--a knownlovedwell-remembered voice--that ofEdwardFairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woewildlyeerilyurgently.

"I amcoming!" I cried.  "Wait for me!  OhI willcome!"  I flew tothe doorand looked into the passage:  it was dark.  I ran out intothegarden:  it was void.

"Whereare you?" I exclaimed.

The hillsbeyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back--"Where areyou?" I listened.  The wind sighed low in the firs:  all wasmoorlandloneliness and midnight hush.

"Downsuperstition!" I commentedas that spectre rose up black bythe blackyew at the gate.  "This is not thy deceptionnor thywitchcraft: it is the work of nature.  She was rousedand did--nomiracle--buther best."

I brokefrom St. Johnwho had followedand would have detained me.It was MYtime to assume ascendency.  MY powers were in play and inforce. I told him to forbear question or remark; I desired him toleave me: I must and would be alone.  He obeyed at once.  Wherethere isenergy to command well enoughobedience never fails.  Imounted tomy chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; andprayed inmy way--a different way to St. John'sbut effective inits ownfashion.  I seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit;and mysoul rushed out in gratitude at His feet.  I rose from thethanksgiving--tooka resolve--and lay downunscaredenlightened--eager butfor the daylight.

 

CHAPTERXXXVI

 

Thedaylight came.  I rose at dawn.  I busied myself for anhour ortwo witharranging my things in my chamberdrawersand wardrobein theorder wherein I should wish to leave them during a briefabsence. MeantimeI heard St. John quit his room.  He stopped atmy door: I feared he would knock--nobut a slip of paper waspassedunder the door.  I took it up.  It bore these words -

"Youleft me too suddenly last night.  Had you stayed but a littlelongeryou would have laid your hand on the Christian's cross andtheangel's crown.  I shall expect your clear decision when I returnthis dayfortnight.  Meantimewatch and pray that you enter notintotemptation:  the spiritI trustis willingbut the fleshIseeisweak.  I shall pray for you hourly.--YoursST. JOHN."

"Myspirit" I answered mentally"is willing to do what isright;and myfleshI hopeis strong enough to accomplish the will ofHeavenwhen once that will is distinctly known to me.  At any rateit shallbe strong enough to search--inquire--to grope an outletfrom thiscloud of doubtand find the open day of certainty."

It was thefirst of June; yet the morning was overcast and chilly:rain beatfast on my casement.  I heard the front-door openand St.John passout.  Looking through the windowI saw him traverse thegarden. He took the way over the misty moors in the direction ofWhitcross--therehe would meet the coach.

"In afew more hours I shall succeed you in that trackcousin"thoughtI:  "I too have a coach to meet at Whitcross.  I toohavesome tosee and ask after in Englandbefore I depart for ever."

It wantedyet two hours of breakfast-time.  I filled the interval inwalkingsoftly about my roomand pondering the visitation which hadgiven myplans their present bent.  I recalled that inward sensationI hadexperienced:  for I could recall itwith all its unspeakablestrangeness. I recalled the voice I had heard; again I questionedwhence itcameas vainly as before:  it seemed in ME--not in theexternalworld.  I asked was it a mere nervous impression--adelusion? I could not conceive or believe:  it was more like aninspiration. The wondrous shock of feeling had come like theearthquakewhich shook the foundations of Paul and Silas's prison;it hadopened the doors of the soul's cell and loosed its bands--ithadwakened it out of its sleepwhence it sprang tremblinglisteningaghast; then vibrated thrice a cry on my startled earand in myquaking heart and through my spiritwhich neither fearednor shookbut exulted as if in joy over the success of one effortit hadbeen privileged to makeindependent of the cumbrous body.

"Eremany days" I saidas I terminated my musings"I willknowsomethingof him whose voice seemed last night to summon me.Lettershave proved of no avail--personal inquiry shall replacethem."

Atbreakfast I announced to Diana and Mary that I was going ajourneyand should be absent at least four days.

"AloneJane?" they asked.

"Yes;it was to see or hear news of a friend about whom I had forsome timebeen uneasy."

They mighthave saidas I have no doubt they thoughtthat they hadbelievedme to be without any friends save them:  forindeedI hadoften saidso; butwith their true natural delicacythey abstainedfromcommentexcept that Diana asked me if I was sure I was wellenough totravel.  I looked very paleshe observed.  I repliedthatnothing ailed me save anxiety of mindwhich I hoped soon toalleviate.

It waseasy to make my further arrangements; for I was troubled withnoinquiries--no surmises.  Having once explained to them that Icould notnow be explicit about my plansthey kindly and wiselyacquiescedin the silence with which I pursued themaccording to metheprivilege of free action I should under similar circumstanceshaveaccorded them.

I leftMoor House at three o'clock p.m.and soon after four I stoodat thefoot of the sign-post of Whitcrosswaiting the arrival ofthe coachwhich was to take me to distant Thornfield.  Amidst thesilence ofthose solitary roads and desert hillsI heard itapproachfrom a great distance.  It was the same vehicle whenceayear agoI had alighted one summer evening on this very spot--howdesolateand hopelessand objectless!  It stopped as I beckoned.Ientered--not now obliged to part with my whole fortune as theprice ofits accommodation.  Once more on the road to ThornfieldIfelt likethe messenger-pigeon flying home.

It was ajourney of six-and-thirty hours.  I had set out fromWhitcrosson a Tuesday afternoonand early on the succeedingThursdaymorning the coach stopped to water the horses at a waysideinnsituated in the midst of scenery whose green hedges and largefields andlow pastoral hills (how mild of feature and verdant ofhuecompared with the stern North-Midland moors of Morton!) met myeye likethe lineaments of a once familiar face.  YesI knew thecharacterof this landscape:  I was sure we were near my bourne.

"Howfar is Thornfield Hall from here?" I asked of the ostler.

"Justtwo milesma'amacross the fields."

"Myjourney is closed" I thought to myself.  I got out of thecoachgave a box I had into the ostler's chargeto be kept till Icalled forit; paid my fare; satisfied the coachmanand was going:thebrightening day gleamed on the sign of the innand I read ingiltletters"The Rochester Arms."  My heart leapt up: I wasalready onmy master's very lands.  It fell again:  the thoughtstruckit:-

"Yourmaster himself may be beyond the British Channelfor aughtyou know: and thenif he is at Thornfield Halltowards which youhastenwho besides him is there?  His lunatic wife:  and you havenothing todo with him:  you dare not speak to him or seek hispresence. You have lost your labour--you had better go no farther"urged themonitor.  "Ask information of the people at the inn; theycan giveyou all you seek:  they can solve your doubts at once.  Goup to thatmanand inquire if Mr. Rochester be at home."

Thesuggestion was sensibleand yet I could not force myself to acton it. I so dreaded a reply that would crush me with despair.  Toprolongdoubt was to prolong hope.  I might yet once more see theHall underthe ray of her star.  There was the stile before me--theveryfields through which I had hurriedblinddeafdistractedwith arevengeful fury tracking and scourging meon the morning Ifled fromThornfield:  ere I well knew what course I had resolved totakeIwas in the midst of them.  How fast I walked!  How I ransometimes! How I looked forward to catch the first view of thewell-knownwoods!  With what feelings I welcomed single trees Iknewandfamiliar glimpses of meadow and hill between them!

At lastthe woods rose; the rookery clustered dark; a loud cawingbroke themorning stillness.  Strange delight inspired me:  on Ihastened. Another field crossed--a lane threaded--and there werethecourtyard walls--the back offices:  the house itselftherookerystill hid.  "My first view of it shall be in front" Idetermined"where its bold battlements will strike the eye nobly atonceandwhere I can single out my master's very window:  perhapshe will bestanding at it--he rises early:  perhaps he is nowwalking inthe orchardor on the pavement in front.  Could I butseehim!--but a moment!  Surelyin that caseI should not be somad as torun to him?  I cannot tell--I am not certain.  And if Idid--whatthen?  God bless him!  What then?  Who would be hurtby myonce moretasting the life his glance can give me?  I rave:  perhapsat thismoment he is watching the sun rise over the Pyreneesor onthetideless sea of the south."

I hadcoasted along the lower wall of the orchard--turned its angle:there wasa gate just thereopening into the meadowbetween twostonepillars crowned by stone balls.  From behind one pillar Icould peepround quietly at the full front of the mansion.  Iadvancedmy head with precautiondesirous to ascertain if anybedroomwindow-blinds were yet drawn up:  battlementswindowslongfront--allfrom this sheltered station were at my command.

The crowssailing overhead perhaps watched me while I took thissurvey. I wonder what they thought.  They must have considered Iwas verycareful and timid at firstand that gradually I grew verybold andreckless.  A peepand then a long stare; and then adeparturefrom my niche and a straying out into the meadow; and asuddenstop full in front of the great mansionand a protractedhardy gazetowards it.  "What affectation of diffidence was this atfirst?"they might have demanded; "what stupid regardlessness now?"

Hear anillustrationreader.

A loverfinds his mistress asleep on a mossy bank; he wishes tocatch aglimpse of her fair face without waking her.  He stealssoftlyover the grasscareful to make no sound; he pauses--fancyingshe hasstirred:  he withdraws:  not for worlds would he be seen.All isstill:  he again advances:  he bends above her; a lightveilrests onher features:  he lifts itbends lower; now his eyesanticipatethe vision of beauty--warmand bloomingand lovelyinrest. How hurried was their first glance!  But how they fix!  Howhestarts!  How he suddenly and vehemently clasps in both arms theform hedared nota moment sincetouch with his finger!  How hecallsaloud a nameand drops his burdenand gazes on it wildly!He thusgrasps and criesand gazesbecause he no longer fears towaken byany sound he can utter--by any movement he can make.  Hethoughthis love slept sweetly:  he finds she is stone dead.

I lookedwith timorous joy towards a stately house:  I saw ablackenedruin.

No need tocower behind a gate-postindeed!--to peep up at chamberlatticesfearing life was astir behind them!  No need to listen fordoorsopening--to fancy steps on the pavement or the gravel-walk!The lawnthe grounds were trodden and waste:  the portal yawnedvoid. The front wasas I had once seen it in a dreambut a well-like wallvery high and very fragile-lookingperforated withpanelesswindows:  no roofno battlementsno chimneys--all hadcrashedin.

And therewas the silence of death about it:  the solitude of alonesomewild.  No wonder that letters addressed to people here hadneverreceived an answer:  as well despatch epistles to a vault in achurchaisle.  The grim blackness of the stones told by what fatethe Hallhad fallen--by conflagration:  but how kindled?  What storybelongedto this disaster?  What lossbesides mortar and marble andwood-workhad followed upon it?  Had life been wrecked as well asproperty? If sowhose?  Dreadful question:  there was no one hereto answerit--not even dumb signmute token.

Inwandering round the shattered walls and through the devastatedinteriorI gathered evidence that the calamity was not of lateoccurrence. Winter snowsI thoughthad drifted through that voidarchwinter rains beaten in at those hollow casements; foramidstthedrenched piles of rubbishspring had cherished vegetation:grass andweed grew here and there between the stones and fallenrafters. And oh! where meantime was the hapless owner of thiswreck? In what land?  Under what auspices?  My eye involuntarilywanderedto the grey church tower near the gatesand I asked"Ishe withDamer de Rochestersharing the shelter of his narrow marblehouse?"

Someanswer must be had to these questions.  I could find it nowherebut at theinnand thitherere longI returned.  The host himselfbrought mybreakfast into the parlour.  I requested him to shut thedoor andsit down:  I had some questions to ask him.  But when hecompliedI scarcely knew how to begin; such horror had I of thepossibleanswers.  And yet the spectacle of desolation I had justleftprepared me in a measure for a tale of misery.  The host was arespectable-lookingmiddle-aged man.

"Youknow Thornfield Hallof course?" I managed to say at last.

"Yesma'am; I lived there once."

"Didyou?"  Not in my timeI thought:  you are a strangerto me.

"Iwas the late Mr. Rochester's butler" he added.

The late! I seem to have receivedwith full forcethe blow I hadbeentrying to evade.

"Thelate!" gasped.  "Is he dead?"

"Imean the present gentlemanMr. Edward's father" he explained.I breathedagain:  my blood resumed its flow.  Fully assured bythesewords that Mr. Edward--MY Mr. Rochester (God bless himwhereverhe was!)--was at least alive:  wasin short"the presentgentleman." Gladdening words!  It seemed I could hear all that wastocome--whatever the disclosures might be--with comparativetranquillity. Since he was not in the graveI could bearIthoughtto learn that he was at the Antipodes.

"IsMr. Rochester living at Thornfield Hall now?" I askedknowingof coursewhat the answer would bebut yet desirous of deferringthe directquestion as to where he really was.

"Noma'am--ohno!  No one is living there.  I suppose you areastrangerin these partsor you would have heard what happened lastautumn--ThornfieldHall is quite a ruin:  it was burnt down justaboutharvest-time.  A dreadful calamity! such an immense quantityofvaluable property destroyed:  hardly any of the furniture couldbe saved. The fire broke out at dead of nightand before theenginesarrived from Millcotethe building was one mass of flame.It was aterrible spectacle:  I witnessed it myself."

"Atdead of night!" I muttered.  Yesthat was ever the hour offatalityat Thornfield.  "Was it known how it originated?" Idemanded.

"Theyguessedma'am:  they guessed.  IndeedI should say it wasascertainedbeyond a doubt.  You are not perhaps aware" hecontinuededging his chair a little nearer the tableand speakinglow"thatthere was a lady--a--a lunatickept in the house?"

"Ihave heard something of it."

"Shewas kept in very close confinementma'am:  people even forsome yearswas not absolutely certain of her existence.  No one sawher: they only knew by rumour that such a person was at the Hall;and who orwhat she was it was difficult to conjecture.  They saidMr. Edwardhad brought her from abroadand some believed she hadbeen hismistress.  But a queer thing happened a year since--a veryqueerthing."

I fearednow to hear my own story.  I endeavoured to recall him tothe mainfact.

"Andthis lady?"

"Thisladyma'am" he answered"turned out to be Mr.Rochester'swife! The discovery was brought about in the strangest way.  Therewas ayoung ladya governess at the Hallthat Mr. Rochester fellin--"

"Butthe fire" I suggested.

"I'mcoming to thatma'am--that Mr. Edward fell in love with.  Theservantssay they never saw anybody so much in love as he was:  hewas afterher continually.  They used to watch him--servants willyou knowma'am--and he set store on her past everything:  for allnobody buthim thought her so very handsome.  She was a little smallthingthey sayalmost like a child.  I never saw her myself; butI've heardLeahthe house-maidtell of her.  Leah liked her wellenough. Mr. Rochester was about fortyand this governess nottwenty;and you seewhen gentlemen of his age fall in love withgirlsthey are often like as if they were bewitched.  Wellhewouldmarry her."

"Youshall tell me this part of the story another time" I said;"butnow I have a particular reason for wishing to hear all aboutthe fire. Was it suspected that this lunaticMrs. Rochesterhadany handin it?"

"You'vehit itma'am:  it's quite certain that it was herandnobody butherthat set it going.  She had a woman to take care ofher calledMrs. Poole--an able woman in her lineand verytrustworthybut for one fault--a fault common to a deal of themnurses andmatrons--she KEPT A PRIVATE BOTTLE OF GIN BY HERand nowand thentook a drop over-much.  It is excusablefor she had a hardlife ofit:  but still it was dangerous; for when Mrs. Poole wasfastasleep after the gin and waterthe mad ladywho was ascunning asa witchwould take the keys out of her pocketletherselfout of her chamberand go roaming about the housedoingany wildmischief that came into her head.  They say she had nearlyburnt herhusband in his bed once:  but I don't know about that.Howeveron this nightshe set fire first to the hangings of theroom nexther ownand then she got down to a lower storeyand madeher way tothe chamber that had been the governess's--(she was likeas if sheknew somehow how matters had gone onand had a spite ather)--andshe kindled the bed there; but there was nobody sleepingin itfortunately.  The governess had run away two months before;and forall Mr. Rochester sought her as if she had been the mostpreciousthing he had in the worldhe never could hear a word ofher; andhe grew savage--quite savage on his disappointment:  henever wasa wild manbut he got dangerous after he lost her.  Hewould bealonetoo.  He sent Mrs. Fairfaxthe housekeeperaway toherfriends at a distance; but he did it handsomelyfor he settledan annuityon her for life:  and she deserved it--she was a verygoodwoman.  Miss Adelea ward he hadwas put to school.  Hebrokeoffacquaintance with all the gentryand shut himself up like ahermit atthe Hall."

"What!did he not leave England?"

"LeaveEngland?  Bless youno!  He would not cross thedoor-stonesof thehouseexcept at nightwhen he walked just like a ghostabout thegrounds and in the orchard as if he had lost his senses--which itis my opinion he had; for a more spiritedbolderkeenergentlemanthan he was before that midge of a governess crossed himyou neversawma'am.  He was not a man given to wineor cardsorracingassome areand he was not so very handsome; but he had acourageand a will of his ownif ever man had.  I knew him from aboyyousee:  and for my partI have often wished that Miss Eyrehad beensunk in the sea before she came to Thornfield Hall."

"ThenMr. Rochester was at home when the fire broke out?"

"Yesindeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all wasburningabove and belowand got the servants out of their beds andhelpedthem down himselfand went back to get his mad wife out ofher cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roofwhere shewas standingwaving her armsabove the battlementsandshoutingout till they could hear her a mile off:  I saw her andheard herwith my own eyes.  She was a big womanand had long blackhair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood.  Iwitnessedand several more witnessedMr. Rochester ascend throughthesky-light on to the roof; we heard him call 'Bertha!'  We sawhimapproach her; and thenma'amshe yelled and gave a springandthe nextminute she lay smashed on the pavement."

"Dead?"

"Dead! Aydead as the stones on which her brains and blood werescattered."

"GoodGod!"

"Youmay well say soma'am:  it was frightful!"

Heshuddered.

"Andafterwards?" I urged.

"Wellma'amafterwards the house was burnt to the ground:  thereare onlysome bits of walls standing now."

"Wereany other lives lost?"

"No--perhapsit would have been better if there had."

"Whatdo you mean?"

"PoorMr. Edward!" he ejaculated"I little thought ever to haveseen it! Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping hisfirstmarriage secretand wanting to take another wife while he hadoneliving:  but I pity himfor my part."

"Yousaid he was alive?" I exclaimed.

"Yesyes:  he is alive; but many think he had better he dead."

"Why? How?"  My blood was again running cold.  "Whereis he?" Idemanded. "Is he in England?"

"Ay--ay--he'sin England; he can't get out of EnglandI fancy--he'sa fixturenow."

What agonywas this!  And the man seemed resolved to protract it.

"Heis stone-blind" he said at last.  "Yeshe isstone-blindisMr.Edward."

I haddreaded worse.  I had dreaded he was mad.  I summonedstrengthto askwhat had caused this calamity.

"Itwas all his own courageand a body may sayhis kindnessin awayma'am:  he wouldn't leave the house till every one else was outbeforehim.  As he came down the great staircase at lastafter Mrs.Rochesterhad flung herself from the battlementsthere was a greatcrash--allfell.  He was taken out from under the ruinsalivebutsadlyhurt:  a beam had fallen in such a way as to protect himpartly;but one eye was knocked outand one hand so crushed thatMr.Carterthe surgeonhad to amputate it directly.  The other eyeinflamed: he lost the sight of that also.  He is now helplessindeed--blindand a cripple."

"Whereis he?  Where does he now live?"

"AtFerndeana manor-house on a farm he hasabout thirty milesoff: quite a desolate spot."

"Whois with him?"

"OldJohn and his wife:  he would have none else.  He is quitebrokendownthey say."

"Haveyou any sort of conveyance?"

"Wehave a chaisema'ama very handsome chaise."

"Letit be got ready instantly; and if your post-boy can drive me toFerndeanbefore dark this dayI'll pay both you and him twice thehire youusually demand."

 

CHAPTERXXXVII

 

Themanor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerableantiquitymoderate sizeand no architectural pretensionsdeepburied ina wood.  I had heard of it before.  Mr. Rochester oftenspoke ofitand sometimes went there.  His father had purchased theestate forthe sake of the game covers.  He would have let thehousebutcould find no tenantin consequence of its ineligibleandinsalubrious site.  Ferndean then remained uninhabited andunfurnishedwith the exception of some two or three rooms fitted upfor theaccommodation of the squire when he went there in the seasonto shoot.

To thishouse I came just ere dark on an evening marked by thecharacteristicsof sad skycold galeand continued smallpenetratingrain.  The last mile I performed on foothavingdismissedthe chaise and driver with the double remuneration I hadpromised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-houseyoucould see nothing of itso thick and dark grew thetimber ofthe gloomy wood about it.  Iron gates between granitepillarsshowed me where to enterand passing through themI foundmyself atonce in the twilight of close-ranked trees.  There was agrass-growntrack descending the forest aisle between hoar andknottyshafts and under branched arches.  I followed itexpectingsoon toreach the dwelling; but it stretched on and onit would farandfarther:  no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.

I thoughtI had taken a wrong direction and lost my way.  Thedarknessof natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me.  Ilookedround in search of another road.  There was none:  all wasinterwovenstemcolumnar trunkdense summer foliage--no openinganywhere.

Iproceeded:  at last my way openedthe trees thinned a little;presentlyI beheld a railingthen the house--scarceby this dimlightdistinguishable from the trees; so dank and green were itsdecayingwalls.  Entering a portalfastened only by a latchIstoodamidst a space of enclosed groundfrom which the wood sweptaway in asemicircle.  There were no flowersno garden-beds; only abroadgravel-walk girdling a grass-platand this set in the heavyframe ofthe forest.  The house presented two pointed gables in itsfront; thewindows were latticed and narrow:  the front door wasnarrowtooone step led up to it.  The whole lookedas the host oftheRochester Arms had said"quite a desolate spot."  Itwas asstill as achurch on a week-day:  the pattering rain on the forestleaves wasthe only sound audible in its vicinage.

"Canthere be life here?" I asked.

Yeslifeof some kind there was; for I heard a movement--thatnarrowfront-door was unclosingand some shape was about to issuefrom thegrange.

It openedslowly:  a figure came out into the twilight and stood onthe step;a man without a hat:  he stretched forth his hand as if tofeelwhether it rained.  Dusk as it wasI had recognised him--itwas mymasterEdward Fairfax Rochesterand no other.

I stayedmy stepalmost my breathand stood to watch him--toexaminehimmyself unseenand alas! to him invisible.  It was asuddenmeetingand one in which rapture was kept well in check bypain. I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from exclamationmy stepfrom hasty advance.

His formwas of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever:  hisport wasstill erecthis heir was still raven black; nor were hisfeaturesaltered or sunk:  not in one year's spaceby any sorrowcould hisathletic strength be quelled or his vigorous primeblighted. But in his countenance I saw a change:  that lookeddesperateand brooding--that reminded me of some wronged andfetteredwild beast or birddangerous to approach in his sullenwoe. The caged eaglewhose gold-ringed eyes cruelty hasextinguishedmight look as looked that sightless Samson.

Andreaderdo you think I feared him in his blind ferocity?--ifyou doyou little know me.  A soft hope blest with my sorrow thatsoon Ishould dare to drop a kiss on that brow of rockand on thoselips sosternly sealed beneath it:  but not yet.  I would notaccosthim yet.

Hedescended the one stepand advanced slowly and gropingly towardsthegrass-plat.  Where was his daring stride now?  Then hepausedas if heknew not which way to turn.  He lifted his hand and openedhiseyelids; gazed blankand with a straining efforton the skyand towardthe amphitheatre of trees:  one saw that all to him wasvoiddarkness.  He stretched his right hand (the left armthemutilatedonehe kept hidden in his bosom); he seemed to wish bytouch togain an idea of what lay around him:  he met but vacancystill; forthe trees were some yards off where he stood.  Herelinquishedthe endeavourfolded his armsand stood quiet andmute inthe rainnow falling fast on his uncovered head.  At thismomentJohn approached him from some quarter.

"Willyou take my armsir?" he said; "there is a heavy showercomingon:  had you not better go in?"

"Letme alone" was the answer.

Johnwithdrew without having observed me.  Mr. Rochester now triedto walkabout:  vainly--all was too uncertain.  He groped his wayback tothe houseandre-entering itclosed the door.

I now drewnear and knocked:  John's wife opened for me.  "Mary"Isaid"howare you?"

Shestarted as if she had seen a ghost:  I calmed her.  To herhurried"Is it really youmisscome at this late hour to thislonelyplace?"  I answered by taking her hand; and then I followedher intothe kitchenwhere John now sat by a good fire.  Iexplainedto themin few wordsthat I had heard all which hadhappenedsince I left Thornfieldand that I was come to see Mr.Rochester. I asked John to go down to the turn-pike-housewhere Ihaddismissed the chaiseand bring my trunkwhich I had leftthere: and thenwhile I removed my bonnet and shawlI questionedMary as towhether I could be accommodated at the Manor House forthe night;and finding that arrangements to that effectthoughdifficultwould not be impossibleI informed her I should stay.Just atthis moment the parlour-bell rang.

"Whenyou go in" said I"tell your master that a person wishestospeak tohimbut do not give my name."

"Idon't think he will see you" she answered; "he refuseseverybody."

When shereturnedI inquired what he had said.  "You are to send inyour nameand your business" she replied.  She then proceeded tofill aglass with waterand place it on a traytogether withcandles.

"Isthat what he rang for?" I asked.

"Yes: he always has candles brought in at darkthough he isblind."

"Givethe tray to me; I will carry it in."

I took itfrom her hand:  she pointed me out the parlour door.  Thetray shookas I held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heartstruck myribs loud and fast.  Mary opened the door for meand shutit behindme.

Thisparlour looked gloomy:  a neglected handful of fire burnt lowin thegrate; andleaning over itwith his head supported againstthe highold-fashioned mantelpieceappeared the blind tenant ofthe room. His old dogPilotlay on one sideremoved out of thewayandcoiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon.Pilotpricked up his ears when I came in:  then he jumped up with ayelp and awhineand bounded towards me:  he almost knocked thetray frommy hands.  I set it on the table; then patted himandsaidsoftly"Lie down!"  Mr. Rochester turned mechanicallyto SEEwhat thecommotion was:  but as he SAW nothinghe returned andsighed.

"Giveme the waterMary" he said.

Iapproached him with the now only half-filled glass; Pilot followedmestillexcited.

"Whatis the matter?" he inquired.

"DownPilot!" I again said.  He checked the water on its way tohislipsandseemed to listen:  he drankand put the glass down."Thisis youMaryis it not?"

"Maryis in the kitchen" I answered.

He put outhis hand with a quick gesturebut not seeing where Istoodhedid not touch me.  "Who is this?  Who is this?"hedemandedtryingas it seemedto SEE with those sightless eyes--unavailingand distressing attempt!  "Answer me--speak again!" heorderedimperiously and aloud.

"Willyou have a little more watersir?  I spilt half of what wasin theglass" I said.

"WHOis it?  WHAT is it?  Who speaks?"

"Pilotknows meand John and Mary know I am here.  I came only thisevening"I answered.

"GreatGod!--what delusion has come over me?  What sweet madness hasseizedme?"

"Nodelusion--no madness:  your mindsiris too strong fordelusionyour health too sound for frenzy."

"Andwhere is the speaker?  Is it only a voice?  Oh!  ICANNOT seebut I mustfeelor my heart will stop and my brain burst.Whatever--whoeveryou are--be perceptible to the touch or I cannotlive!"

He groped;I arrested his wandering handand prisoned it in bothmine.

"Hervery fingers!" he cried; "her smallslight fingers! If sothere mustbe more of her."

Themuscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seizedmyshoulder--neck--waist--Iwas entwined and gathered to him.

"Isit Jane?  WHAT is it?  This is her shape--this is hersize--"

"Andthis her voice" I added.  "She is all here:  herhearttoo.God blessyousir!  I am glad to be so near you again."

"JaneEyre!--Jane Eyre" was all he said.

"Mydear master" I answered"I am Jane Eyre:  I havefound youout--I amcome back to you."

"Intruth?--in the flesh?  My living Jane?"

"Youtouch mesir--you hold meand fast enough:  I am not coldlike acorpsenor vacant like airam I?"

"Myliving darling!  These are certainly her limbsand these herfeatures;but I cannot be so blestafter all my misery.  It is adream;such dreams as I have had at night when I have clasped heronce moreto my heartas I do now; and kissed heras thus--andfelt thatshe loved meand trusted that she would not leave me."

"WhichI never willsirfrom this day."

"Neverwillsays the vision?  But I always woke and found it anemptymockery; and I was desolate and abandoned--my life darklonelyhopeless--my soul athirst and forbidden to drink--my heartfamishedand never to be fed.  Gentlesoft dreamnestling in myarms nowyou will flytooas your sisters have all fled beforeyou: but kiss me before you go--embrace meJane."

"Theresir--and there!"'

I pressedmy lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes--Iswept hishair from his browand kissed that too.  He suddenlyseemed toarouse himself:  the conviction of the reality of all thisseizedhim.

"Itis you--is itJane?  You are come back to me then?"

"Iam."

"Andyou do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream?  And youare not apining outcast amongst strangers?"

"Nosir!  I am an independent woman now."

"Independent! What do you meanJane?"

"Myuncle in Madeira is deadand he left me five thousand pounds."

"Ah!this is practical--this is real!" he cried:  "I shouldneverdreamthat.  Besidesthere is that peculiar voice of herssoanimatingand piquantas well as soft:  it cheers my witheredheart; itputs life into it.--WhatJanet!  Are you an independentwoman? A rich woman?"

"Ifyou won't let me live with youI can build a house of my ownclose upto your doorand you may come and sit in my parlour whenyou wantcompany of an evening."

"Butas you are richJaneyou have nowno doubtfriends who willlook afteryouand not suffer you to devote yourself to a blindlameterlike me?"

"Itold you I am independentsiras well as rich:  I am my ownmistress."

"Andyou will stay with me?"

"Certainly--unlessyou object.  I will be your neighbouryournurseyour housekeeper.  I find you lonely:  I will be yourcompanion--toread to youto walk with youto sit with youtowait onyouto be eyes and hands to you.  Cease to look somelancholymy dear master; you shall not be left desolateso longas Ilive."

He repliednot:  he seemed serious--abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened hislips as if to speak:  he closed them again.  I felt alittleembarrassed.  Perhaps I had too rashly over-leapedconventionalities;and helike St. Johnsaw impropriety in myinconsiderateness. I had indeed made my proposal from the idea thathe wishedand would ask me to be his wife:  an expectationnot thelesscertain because unexpressedhad buoyed me upthat he wouldclaim meat once as his own.  But no hint to that effect escapinghim andhis countenance becoming more overcastI suddenlyrememberedthat I might have been all wrongand was perhaps playingthe foolunwittingly; and I began gently to withdraw myself from hisarms--buthe eagerly snatched me closer.

"No--no--Jane;you must not go.  No--I have touched youheard youfelt thecomfort of your presence--the sweetness of yourconsolation: I cannot give up these joys.  I have little left inmyself--Imust have you.  The world may laugh--may call me absurdselfish--butit does not signify.  My very soul demands you:  itwill besatisfiedor it will take deadly vengeance on its frame."

"WellsirI will stay with you:  I have said so."

"Yes--butyou understand one thing by staying with me; and Iunderstandanother.  Youperhapscould make up your mind to beabout myhand and chair--to wait on me as a kind little nurse (foryou havean affectionate heart and a generous spiritwhich promptyou tomake sacrifices for those you pity)and that ought tosufficefor me no doubt.  I suppose I should now entertain none butfatherlyfeelings for you:  do you think so?  Come--tell me."

"Iwill think what you likesir:  I am content to be only yournurseifyou think it better."

"Butyou cannot always be my nurseJanet:  you are young--you mustmarry oneday."

"Idon't care about being married."

"Youshould careJanet:  if I were what I once wasI would try tomake youcare--but--a sightless block!"

Herelapsed again into gloom.  Ion the contrarybecame morecheerfuland took fresh courage:  these last words gave me aninsight asto where the difficulty lay; and as it was no difficultywith meIfelt quite relieved from my previous embarrassment.  Iresumed alivelier vein of conversation.

"Itis time some one undertook to rehumanise you" said Ipartinghis thickand long uncut locks; "for I see you are beingmetamorphosedinto a lionor something of that sort.  You have a'faux air'of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about youthat iscertain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether yournails aregrown like birds' claws or notI have not yet noticed."

"Onthis armI have neither hand nor nails" he saiddrawing themutilatedlimb from his breastand showing it to me.  "It is a merestump--aghastly sight!  Don't you think soJane?"

"Itis a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes--and the scarof fire onyour forehead:  and the worst of it isone is in dangerof lovingyou too well for all this; and making too much of you."

"Ithought you would be revoltedJanewhen you saw my armand mycicatrisedvisage."

"Didyou?  Don't tell me so--lest I should say something disparagingto yourjudgment.  Nowlet me leave you an instantto make abetterfireand have the hearth swept up.  Can you tell when thereis a goodfire?"

"Yes;with the right eye I see a glow--a ruddy haze."

"Andyou see the candles?"

"Verydimly--each is a luminous cloud."

"Canyou see me?"

"Nomy fairy:  but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you."

"Whendo you take supper?"

"Inever take supper."

"Butyou shall have some to-night.  I am hungry:  so are youIdaresayonly you forget."

SummoningMaryI soon had the room in more cheerful order:  Ipreparedhimlikewisea comfortable repast.  My spirits wereexcitedand with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supperand for along time after.  There was no harassing restraintnorepressingof glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was atperfecteasebecause I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemedeither toconsole or revive him.  Delightful consciousness!  Itbrought tolife and light my whole nature:  in his presence Ithoroughlylived; and he lived in mine.  Blind as he wassmilesplayedover his facejoy dawned on his forehead:  his lineamentssoftenedand warmed.

Aftersupperhe began to ask me many questionsof where I hadbeenwhatI had been doinghow I had found him out; but I gave himonly verypartial replies:  it was too late to enter intoparticularsthat night.  BesidesI wished to touch no deep-thrillingchord--to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart:  mysolepresent aim was to cheer him.  Cheeredas I have saidhe was:and yetbut by fits.  If a moment's silence broke the conversationhe wouldturn restlesstouch methen say"Jane."

"Youare altogether a human beingJane?  You are certain of that?"

"Iconscientiously believe soMr. Rochester."

"Yethowon this dark and doleful eveningcould you so suddenlyrise on mylone hearth?  I stretched my hand to take a glass ofwater froma hirelingand it was given me by you:  I asked aquestionexpecting John's wife to answer meand your voice spokeat myear."

"BecauseI had come inin Mary's steadwith the tray."

"Andthere is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending withyou. Who can tell what a darkdrearyhopeless life I have draggedon formonths past?  Doing nothingexpecting nothing; merging nightin day;feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire gooutofhunger when I forgot to eat:  and then a ceaseless sorrowandattimesa very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again.Yes: for her restoration I longedfar more than for that of mylostsight.  How can it be that Jane is with meand says she lovesme? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came?  To-morrowI fearI shallfind her no more."

Acommonplacepractical replyout of the train of his owndisturbedideaswasI was surethe best and most reassuring forhim inthis frame of mind.  I passed my finger over his eyebrowsandremarked that they were scorchedand that I would applysomethingwhich would make them grow as broad and black as ever.

"Whereis the use of doing me good in any waybeneficent spiritwhenatsome fatal momentyou will again desert me--passing like ashadowwhither and how to me unknownand for me remainingafterwardsundiscoverable?

"Haveyou a pocket-comb about yousir?"

"WhatforJane?"

"Justto comb out this shaggy black mane.  I find you ratheralarmingwhen I examine you close at hand:  you talk of my being afairybutI am sureyou are more like a brownie."

"Am IhideousJane?"

"Verysir:  you always wereyou know."

"Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of youwherever youhavesojourned."

"YetI have been with good people; far better than you:  a hundredtimesbetter people; possessed of ideas and views you neverentertainedin your life:  quite more refined and exalted."

"Whothe deuce have you been with?"

"Ifyou twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of yourhead; andthen I think you will cease to entertain doubts of mysubstantiality."

"Whohave you been withJane?"

"Youshall not get it out of me to-nightsir; you must wait tillto-morrow;to leave my tale half toldwillyou knowbe a sort ofsecuritythat I shall appear at your breakfast table to finish it.By thebyeI must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glassof waterthen:  I must bring an egg at the leastto say nothing offriedham."

"Youmocking changeling--fairy-born and human-bred!  You make mefeel as Ihave not felt these twelve months.  If Saul could have hadyou forhis Davidthe evil spirit would have been exorcised withoutthe aid ofthe harp."

"Theresiryou are redd up and made decent.  Now I'll leave you:I havebeen travelling these last three daysand I believe I amtired. Good night."

"Justone wordJane:  were there only ladies in the house where youhavebeen?"

I laughedand made my escapestill laughing as I ran upstairs.  "Agoodidea!"  I thought with glee.  "I see I have themeans offrettinghim out of his melancholy for some time to come."

Very earlythe next morning I heard him up and astirwandering fromone roomto another.  As soon as Mary came down I heard thequestion: "Is Miss Eyre here?"  Then:  "Which room didyou put herinto? Was it dry?  Is she up?  Go and ask if she wants anything;and whenshe will come down."

I camedown as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast.Enteringthe room very softlyI had a view of him before hediscoveredmy presence.  It was mournfulindeedto witness thesubjugationof that vigorous spirit to a corporeal infirmity.  Hesat in hischair--stillbut not at rest:  expectant evidently; thelines ofnow habitual sadness marking his strong features.  Hiscountenancereminded one of a lamp quenchedwaiting to be re-lit--and alas!it was not himself that could now kindle the lustre ofanimatedexpression:  he was dependent on another for that office!I hadmeant to be gay and carelessbut the powerlessness of thestrong mantouched