- MR. ROCHESTER had given me but one week's leave of absence: yet a
month elapsed before I quitted Gateshead. I wished to leave
immediately after the funeral, but Georgiana entreated me to stay
till she could get off to London, whither she was now at last
invited by her uncle, Mr. Gibson, who had come down to direct his
sister's interment and settle the family affairs. Georgiana said
she dreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neither
sympathy in her dejection, support in her fears, nor aid in her
preparations; so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfish
lamentations as well as I could, and did my best in sewing for her
and packing her dresses. It is true, that while I worked, she would
idle; and I thought to myself, "If you and I were destined to live
always together, cousin, we would commence matters on a different
footing. I should not settle tamely down into being the forbearing
party; I should assign you your share of labour, and compel you to
accomplish it, or else it should be left undone: I should insist,
also, on your keeping some of those drawling, half-insincere
complaints hushed in your own breast. It is only because our
connection happens to be very transitory, and comes at a peculiarly
mournful season, that I consent thus to render it so patient and
compliant on my part."
- At last I saw Georgiana off; but now it was Eliza's turn to request
me to stay another week. Her plans required all her time and
attention, she said; she was about to depart for some unknown
bourne; and all day long she stayed in her own room, her door bolted
within, filling trunks, emptying drawers, burning papers, and
holding no communication with any one. She wished me to look after
the house, to see callers, and answer notes of condolence.
- One morning she told me I was at liberty. "And," she added, "I am
obliged to you for your valuable services and discreet conduct!
There is some difference between living with such an one as you and
with Georgiana: you perform your own part in life and burden no
one. To-morrow," she continued, "I set out for the Continent. I
shall take up my abode in a religious house near Lisle -- a nunnery
you would call it; there I shall be quiet and unmolested. I shall
devote myself for a time to the examination of the Roman Catholic
dogmas, and to a careful study of the workings of their system: if
I find it to be, as I half suspect it is, the one best calculated to
ensure the doing of all things decently and in order, I shall
embrace the tenets of Rome and probably take the veil."
- I neither expressed surprise at this resolution nor attempted to
dissuade her from it. "The vocation will fit you to a hair," I
thought: "much good may it do you!"
- When we parted, she said: "Good-bye, cousin Jane Eyre; I wish you
well: you have some sense."
- I then returned: "You are not without sense, cousin Eliza; but what
you have, I suppose, in another year will be walled up alive in a
French convent. However, it is not my business, and so it suits
you, I don't much care."
- "You are in the right," said she; and with these words we each went
our separate way. As I shall not have occasion to refer either to
her or her sister again, I may as well mention here, that Georgiana
made an advantageous match with a wealthy worn-out man of fashion,
and that Eliza actually took the veil, and is at this day superior
of the convent where she passed the period of her novitiate, and
which she endowed with her fortune.
- How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long
or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation. I
had known what it was to come back to Gateshead when a child after a
long walk, to be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and later, what
it was to come back from church to Lowood, to long for a plenteous
meal and a good fire, and to be unable to get either. Neither of
these returnings was very pleasant or desirable: no magnet drew me
to a given point, increasing in its strength of attraction the
nearer I came. The return to Thornfield was yet to be tried.
- My journey seemed tedious -- very tedious: fifty miles one day, a
night spent at an inn; fifty miles the next day. During the first
twelve hours I thought of Mrs. Reed in her last moments; I saw her
disfigured and discoloured face, and heard her strangely altered
voice. I mused on the funeral day, the coffin, the hearse, the
black train of tenants and servants -- few was the number of
relatives -- the gaping vault, the silent church, the solemn service.
Then I thought of Eliza and Georgiana; I beheld one the cynosure of
a ball-room, the other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on
and analysed their separate peculiarities of person and character.
The evening arrival at the great town of ---- scattered these thoughts;
night gave them quite another turn: laid down on my traveller's
bed, I left reminiscence for anticipation.
- I was going back to Thornfield: but how long was I to stay there?
Not long; of that I was sure. I had heard from Mrs. Fairfax in the
interim of my absence: the party at the hall was dispersed; Mr.
Rochester had left for London three weeks ago, but he was then
expected to return in a fortnight. Mrs. Fairfax surmised that he
was gone to make arrangements for his wedding, as he had talked of
purchasing a new carriage: she said the idea of his marrying Miss
Ingram still seemed strange to her; but from what everybody said,
and from what she had herself seen, she could no longer doubt that
the event would shortly take place. "You would be strangely
incredulous if you did doubt it," was my mental comment. "I don't
- The question followed, "Where was I to go?" I dreamt of Miss Ingram
all the night: in a vivid morning dream I saw her closing the gates
of Thornfield against me and pointing me out another road; and Mr.
Rochester looked on with his arms folded -- smiling sardonically, as
it seemed, at both her and me.
- I had not notified to Mrs. Fairfax the exact day of my return; for I
did not wish either car or carriage to meet me at Millcote. I
proposed to walk the distance quietly by myself; and very quietly,
after leaving my box in the ostler's care, did I slip away from the
George Inn, about six o'clock of a June evening, and take the old
road to Thornfield: a road which lay chiefly through fields, and
was now little frequented.
- It was not a bright or splendid summer evening, though fair and
soft: the haymakers were at work all along the road; and the sky,
though far from cloudless, was such as promised well for the future:
its blue -- where blue was visible -- was mild and settled, and its
cloud strata high and thin. The west, too, was warm: no watery
gleam chilled it -- it seemed as if there was a fire lit, an altar
burning behind its screen of marbled vapour, and out of apertures
shone a golden redness.
- I felt glad as the road shortened before me: so glad that I stopped
once to ask myself what that joy meant: and to remind reason that
it was not to my home I was going, or to a permanent resting-place,
or to a place where fond friends looked out for me and waited my
arrival. "Mrs. Fairfax will smile you a calm welcome, to be sure,"
said I; "and little Adèle will clap her hands and jump to see you:
but you know very well you are thinking of another than they, and
that he is not thinking of you."
- But what is so headstrong as youth? What so blind as inexperience?
These affirmed that it was pleasure enough to have the privilege of
again looking on Mr. Rochester, whether he looked on me or not; and
they added -- "Hasten! hasten! be with him while you may: but a few
more days or weeks, at most, and you are parted from him for ever!"
And then I strangled a new-born agony -- a deformed thing which I
could not persuade myself to own and rear -- and ran on.
- They are making hay, too, in Thornfield meadows: or rather, the
labourers are just quitting their work, and returning home with
their rakes on their shoulders, now, at the hour I arrive. I have
but a field or two to traverse, and then I shall cross the road and
reach the gates. How full the hedges are of roses! But I have no
time to gather any; I want to be at the house. I passed a tall
briar, shooting leafy and flowery branches across the path; I see
the narrow stile with stone steps; and I see -- Mr. Rochester sitting
there, a book and a pencil in his hand; he is writing.
- Well, he is not a ghost; yet every nerve I have is unstrung: for a
moment I am beyond my own mastery. What does it mean? I did not
think I should tremble in this way when I saw him, or lose my voice
or the power of motion in his presence. I will go back as soon as I
can stir: I need not make an absolute fool of myself. I know
another way to the house. It does not signify if I knew twenty
ways; for he has seen me.
- "Hillo!" he cries; and he puts up his book and his pencil. "There
you are! Come on, if you please."
- I suppose I do come on; though in what fashion I know not; being
scarcely cognisant of my movements, and solicitous only to appear
calm; and, above all, to control the working muscles of my face --
which I feel rebel insolently against my will, and struggle to
express what I had resolved to conceal. But I have a veil -- it is
down: I may make shift yet to behave with decent composure.
- "And this is Jane Eyre? Are you coming from Millcote, and on foot?
Yes -- just one of your tricks: not to send for a carriage, and come
clattering over street and road like a common mortal, but to steal
into the vicinage of your home along with twilight, just as if you
were a dream or a shade. What the deuce have you done with yourself
this last month?"
- "I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead."
- "A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard! She comes from the
other world -- from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me so
when she meets me alone here in the gloaming! If I dared, I'd touch
you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf! -- but I'd as
soon offer to take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh.
Truant! truant!" he added, when he had paused an instant. "Absent
from me a whole month, and forgetting me quite, I'll be sworn!"
- I knew there would be pleasure in meeting my master again, even
though broken by the fear that he was so soon to cease to be my
master, and by the knowledge that I was nothing to him: but there
was ever in Mr. Rochester (so at least I thought) such a wealth of
the power of communicating happiness, that to taste but of the
crumbs he scattered to stray and stranger birds like me, was to
feast genially. His last words were balm: they seemed to imply
that it imported something to him whether I forgot him or not. And
he had spoken of Thornfield as my home -- would that it were my home!
- He did not leave the stile, and I hardly liked to ask to go by. I
inquired soon if he had not been to London.
- "Yes; I suppose you found that out by second-sight."
- "Mrs. Fairfax told me in a letter."
- "And did she inform you what I went to do?"
- "Oh, yes, sir! Everybody knew your errand."
- "You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don't think it
will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won't look like
Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish,
Jane, I were a trifle better adapted to match with her externally.
Tell me now, fairy as you are -- can't you give me a charm, or a
philter, or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?"
- "It would be past the power of magic, sir;" and, in thought, I
added, "A loving eye is all the charm needed: to such you are
handsome enough; or rather your sternness has a power beyond
- Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen
to me incomprehensible: in the present instance he took no notice
of my abrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certain
smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions.
He seemed to think it too good for common purposes: it was the real
sunshine of feeling -- he shed it over me now.
- "Pass, Janet," said he, making room for me to cross the stile: "go
up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend's
- All I had now to do was to obey him in silence: no need for me to
colloquise further. I got over the stile without a word, and meant
to leave him calmly. An impulse held me fast -- a force turned me
round. I said -- or something in me said for me, and in spite of me: --
- "Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely
glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home -- my
- I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had
he tried. Little Adèle was half wild with delight when she saw me.
Mrs. Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness. Leah
smiled, and even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee. This was very
pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your
fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to
- I that evening shut my eyes resolutely against the future: I
stopped my cars against the voice that kept warning me of near
separation and coming grief. When tea was over and Mrs. Fairfax had
taken her knitting, and I had assumed a low seat near her, and
Adèle, kneeling on the carpet, had nestled close up to me, and a
sense of mutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring of
golden peace, I uttered a silent prayer that we might not be parted
far or soon; but when, as we thus sat, Mr. Rochester entered,
unannounced, and looking at us, seemed to take pleasure in the
spectacle of a group so amicable -- when he said he supposed the old
lady was all right now that she had got her adopted daughter back
again, and added that he saw Adèle was "prête à croquer sa petite
maman Anglaise" -- I half ventured to hope that he would, even after
his marriage, keep us together somewhere under the shelter of his
protection, and not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.
- A fortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield Hall.
Nothing was said of the master's marriage, and I saw no preparation
going on for such an event. Almost every day I asked Mrs. Fairfax
if she had yet heard anything decided: her answer was always in the
negative. Once she said she had actually put the question to Mr.
Rochester as to when he was going to bring his bride home; but he
had answered her only by a joke and one of his queer looks, and she
could not tell what to make of him.
- One thing specially surprised me, and that was, there were no
journeyings backward and forward, no visits to Ingram Park: to be
sure it was twenty miles off, on the borders of another county; but
what was that distance to an ardent lover? To so practised and
indefatigable a horseman as Mr. Rochester, it would be but a
morning's ride. I began to cherish hopes I had no right to
conceive: that the match was broken off; that rumour had been
mistaken; that one or both parties had changed their minds. I used
to look at my master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but I
could not remember the time when it had been so uniformly clear of
clouds or evil feelings. If, in the moments I and my pupil spent
with him, I lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he
became even gay. Never had he called me more frequently to his
presence; never been kinder to me when there -- and, alas! never had I
loved him so well.
- A SPLENDID Midsummer shone over England: skies so pure, suns so
radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favour even
singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days had
come from the South, like a flock of glorious passenger birds, and
lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion. The hay was all got
in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roads
white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood,
full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of
the cleared meadows between.
- On Midsummer-eve, Adèle, weary with gathering wild strawberries in
Hay Lane half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched her
drop asleep, and when I left her, I sought the garden.
- It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four: -- "Day its fervid
fires had wasted," and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched
summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state -- pure of the
pomp of clouds -- spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of
red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and
extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven.
The east had its own charm or fine deep blue, and its own modest
gem, a casino and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but
she was yet beneath the horizon.
- I walked a while on the pavement; but a subtle, well-known scent --
that of a cigar -- stole from some window; I saw the library casement
open a handbreadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I went
apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered and
more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers: a
very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the
other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was
a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding
walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence.
Here one could wander unseen. While such honey-dew fell, such
silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt
such shade for ever; but in threading the flower and fruit parterres
at the upper part of the enclosure, enticed there by the light the
now rising moon cast on this more open quarter, my step is stayed --
not by sound, not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance.
- Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been
yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is
neither of shrub nor flower; it is -- I know it well -- it is Mr.
Rochester's cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden
with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a
mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but
that perfume increases: I must flee. I make for the wicket leading
to the shrubbery, and I see Mr. Rochester entering. I step aside
into the ivy recess; he will not stay long: he will soon return
whence he came, and if I sit still he will never see me.
- But no -- eventide is as pleasant to him as to me, and this antique
garden as attractive; and he strolls on, now lifting the gooseberry-tree branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they
are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping
towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to
admire the dew-beads on their petals. A great moth goes humming by
me; it alights on a plant at Mr. Rochester's foot: he sees it, and
bends to examine it.
- "Now, he has his back towards me," thought I, "and he is occupied
too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed."
- I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel
might not betray me: he was standing among the beds at a yard or
two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged
him. "I shall get by very well," I meditated. As I crossed his
shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet risen high,
he said quietly, without turning: --
- "Jane, come and look at this fellow."
- I had made no noise: he had not eyes behind -- could his shadow feel?
I started at first, and then I approached him.
- "Look at his wings," said he, "he reminds me rather of a West Indian
insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in
England; there! he is flown."
- The moth roamed away. I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr.
Rochester followed me, and when we reached the wicket, he said: --
- "Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house;
and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at
meeting with moonrise."
- It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt
enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in
framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when
a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me out
of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour alone
with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find a
reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging step, and
thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but he
himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became ashamed of
feeling any confusion: the evil -- if evil existent or prospective
there was -- seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious and
- "Jane," he recommenced, as we entered the laurel walk, and slowly
strayed down in the direction of the sunk fence and the horse-chestnut, "Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "You must have become in some degree attached to the house, -- you,
who have an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the organ
- "I am attached to it, indeed."
- "And though I don't comprehend how it is, I perceive you have
acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adèle,
too; and even for simple dame Fairfax?"
- "Yes, sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both."
- "And would be sorry to part with them?"
- "Pity!" he said, and sighed and paused. "It is always the way of
events in this life," he continued presently: "no sooner have you
got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls out to
you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired."
- "Must I move on, sir?" I asked. "Must I leave Thornfield?"
- "I believe you must, Jane. I am sorry, Janet, but I believe indeed
- This was a blow: but I did not let it prostrate me.
- "Well, sir, I shall be ready when the order to march comes."
- "It is come now -- I must give it to-night."
- "Then you ARE going to be married, sir?"
- "Ex-act-ly -- pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have hit
the nail straight on the head."
- "Soon, sir?"
- "Very soon, my ---- that is, Miss Eyre: and you'll remember, Jane, the
first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was my
intention to put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noose, to
enter into the holy estate of matrimony -- to take Miss Ingram to my
bosom, in short (she's an extensive armful: but that's not to the
point -- one can't have too much of such a very excellent thing as my
beautiful Blanche): well, as I was saying -- listen to me, Jane!
You're not turning your head to look after more moths, are you?
That was only a lady-clock, child, 'flying away home.' I wish to
remind you that it was you who first said to me, with that
discretion I respect in you -- with that foresight, prudence, and
humility which befit your responsible and dependent position -- that
in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adèle had better
trot forthwith. I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in this
suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when you are far
away, Janet, I'll try to forget it: I shall notice only its wisdom;
which is such that I have made it my law of action. Adèle must go
to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a new situation."
- "Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately: and meantime, I suppose" ----
I was going to say, "I suppose I may stay here, till I find another
shelter to betake myself to:" but I stopped, feeling it would not do
to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite under command.
- "In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom," continued Mr.
Rochester; "and in the interim, I shall myself look out for
employment and an asylum for you."
- "Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give" ----
- "Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependent does
her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim
upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently
render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law,
heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the
education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of
Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You'll like Ireland, I think:
they're such warm-hearted people there, they say."
- "It is a long way off, sir."
- "No matter -- a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or
- "Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier" ----
- "From what, Jane?"
- "From England and from Thornfield: and" ----
- "From you, sir."
- I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of
free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to be heard,
however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O'Gall and
Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of
all the brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me
and the master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the
remembrance of the wider ocean -- wealth, caste, custom intervened
between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.
- "It is a long way," I again said.
- "It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught,
Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane: that's morally certain.
I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for
the country. We have been good friends, Jane; have we not?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend
the little time that remains to them close to each other. Come!
we'll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or
so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven
yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old
roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should
never more be destined to sit there together." He seated me and
- "It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my
little friend on such weary travels: but if I can't do better, how
is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think,
- I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
- "Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to
you -- especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a
string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably
knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of
your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred
miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of
communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should
take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, -- you'd forget me."
- "That I never should, sir: you know" ---- impossible to proceed.
- "Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!"
- In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I
endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from
head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to
express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never come
- "Because you are sorry to leave it?"
- The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was
claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a
right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last:
yes, -- and to speak.
- "I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield: -- I love it,
because I have lived in it a full and delightful life, -- momentarily
at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified.
I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every
glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I
have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I
delight in, -- with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have
known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish
to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the
necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of
- "Where do you see the necessity?" he asked suddenly.
- "Where? You, sir, have placed it before me."
- "In what shape?"
- "In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, -- your
- "My bride! What bride? I have no bride!"
- "But you will have."
- "Yes; -- I will! -- I will!" He set his teeth.
- "Then I must go: -- you have said it yourself."
- "No: you must stay! I swear it -- and the oath shall be kept."
- "I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like
passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you
think I am an automaton? -- a machine without feelings? and can bear
to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of
living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor,
obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think
wrong! -- I have as much soul as you, -- and full as much heart! And if
God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have
made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave
you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom,
conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; -- it is my spirit that
addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave,
and we stood at God's feet, equal, -- as we are!"
- "As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester -- "so," he added, enclosing me in
his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips:
- "Yes, so, sir," I rejoined: "and yet not so; for you are a married
man -- or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you -- to
one with whom you have no sympathy -- whom I do not believe you truly
love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn
such a union: therefore I am better than you -- let me go!"
- "Where, Jane? To Ireland?"
- "Yes -- to Ireland. I have spoken my mind, and can go anywhere now."
- "Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is
rending its own plumage in its desperation."
- "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with
an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."
- Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
- "And your will shall decide your destiny," he said: "I offer you my
hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions."
- "You play a farce, which I merely laugh at."
- "I ask you to pass through life at my side -- to be my second self,
and best earthly companion."
- "For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by
- "Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be
- A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled
through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away -- away -- to an
indefinite distance -- it died. The nightingale's song was then the
only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr.
Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time
passed before he spoke; he at last said: --
- "Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one
- "I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and
- "But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to
- I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
- "Come, Jane -- come hither."
- "Your bride stands between us."
- He rose, and with a stride reached me.
- "My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, "because my
equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?"
- Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp:
for I was still incredulous.
- "Do you doubt me, Jane?"
- "You have no faith in me?"
- "Not a whit."
- "Am I a liar in your eyes?" he asked passionately. "Little sceptic,
you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None:
and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have
taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my
fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I
presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her
and her mother. I would not -- I could not -- marry Miss Ingram. You -- you strange, you almost unearthly thing! -- I love as my own flesh.
You -- poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are -- I entreat to
accept me as a husband."
- "What, me!" I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness -- and
especially in his incivility -- to credit his sincerity: "me who have
not a friend in the world but you- if you are my friend: not a
shilling but what you have given me?"
- "You, Jane, I must have you for my own -- entirely my own. Will you
be mine? Say yes, quickly."
- "Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight."
- "Because I want to read your countenance -- turn!"
- "There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled,
scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer."
- His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there
were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes
- "Oh, Jane, you torture me!" he exclaimed. "With that searching and
yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!"
- "How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only
feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion -- they cannot
- "Gratitude!" he ejaculated; and added wildly -- "Jane accept me
quickly. Say, Edward -- give me my name -- Edward -- I will marry you."
- "Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish
me to be your wife?"
- "I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it."
- "Then, sir, I will marry you."
- "Edward -- my little wife!"
- "Dear Edward!"
- "Come to me -- come to me entirely now," said he; and added, in his
deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine,
"Make my happiness -- I will make yours."
- "God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not with me:
I have her, and will hold her."
- "There is no one to meddle, sir. I have no kindred to interfere."
- "No -- that is the best of it," he said. And if I had loved him less
I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but,
sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting -- called to the
paradise of union -- I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in
so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, "Are you happy, Jane?"
And again and again I answered, "Yes." After which he murmured, "It
will atone -- it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and
cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace
her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves?
It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I
do. For the world's judgment -- I wash my hands thereof. For man's
opinion -- I defy it."
- But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we
were all in shadow: I could scarcely see my master's face, near as
I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned;
while wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.
- "We must go in," said Mr. Rochester: "the weather changes. I could
have sat with thee till morning, Jane."
- "And so," thought I, "could I with you." I should have said so,
perhaps, but a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I
was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling
peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr.
- The rain rushed down. He hurried me up the walk, through the
grounds, and into the house; but we were quite wet before we could
pass the threshold. He was taking off my shawl in the hall, and
shaking the water out of my loosened hair, when Mrs. Fairfax emerged
from her room. I did not observe her at first, nor did Mr.
Rochester. The lamp was lit. The clock was on the stroke of
- "Hasten to take off your wet things," said he; "and before you go,
good-night -- good-night, my darling!"
- He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms,
there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. I only smiled at
her, and ran upstairs. "Explanation will do for another time,"
thought I. Still, when I reached my chamber, I felt a pang at the
idea she should even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen. But
joy soon effaced every other feeling; and loud as the wind blew,
near and deep as the thunder crashed, fierce and frequent as the
lightning gleamed, cataract-like as the rain fell during a storm of
two hours' duration, I experienced no fear and little awe. Mr.
Rochester came thrice to my door in the course of it, to ask if I
was safe and tranquil: and that was comfort, that was strength for
- Before I left my bed in the morning, little Adèle came running in to
tell me that the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard
had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split
- AS I rose and dressed, I thought over what had happened, and
wondered if it were a dream. I could not be certain of the reality
till I had seen Mr. Rochester again, and heard him renew his words
of love and promise.
- While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt
it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in
its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of
fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple. I had often
been unwilling to look at my master, because I feared he could not
be pleased at my look; but I was sure I might lift my face to his
now, and not cool his affection by its expression. I took a plain
but clean and light summer dress from my drawer and put it on: it
seemed no attire had ever so well become me, because none had I ever
worn in so blissful a mood.
- I was not surprised, when I ran down into the hall, to see that a
brilliant June morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night;
and to feel, through the open glass door, the breathing of a fresh
and fragrant breeze. Nature must be gladsome when I was so happy.
A beggar-woman and her little boy -- pale, ragged objects both -- were
coming up the walk, and I ran down and gave them all the money I
happened to have in my purse -- some three or four shillings: good or
bad, they must partake of my jubilee. The rooks cawed, and blither
birds sang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own
- Mrs. Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sad
countenance, and saying gravely -- "Miss Eyre, will you come to
breakfast?" During the meal she was quiet and cool: but I could
not undeceive her then. I must wait for my master to give
explanations; and so must she. I ate what I could, and then I
hastened upstairs. I met Adèle leaving the schoolroom.
- "Where are you going? It is time for lessons."
- "Mr. Rochester has sent me away to the nursery."
- "Where is he?"
- "In there," pointing to the apartment she had left; and I went in,
and there he stood.
- "Come and bid me good-morning," said he. I gladly advanced; and it
was not merely a cold word now, or even a shake of the hand that I
received, but an embrace and a kiss. It seemed natural: it seemed
genial to be so well loved, so caressed by him.
- "Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty," said he: "truly
pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my
mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek
and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel
eyes?" (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake:
for him they were new-dyed, I suppose.)
- "It is Jane Eyre, sir."
- "Soon to be Jane Rochester," he added: "in four weeks, Janet; not a
day more. Do you hear that?"
- I did, and I could not quite comprehend it: it made me giddy. The
feeling, the announcement sent through me, was something stronger
than was consistent with joy -- something that smote and stunned. It
was, I think almost fear.
- "You blushed, and now you are white, Jane: what is that for?"
- "Because you gave me a new name -- Jane Rochester; and it seems so
- "Yes, Mrs. Rochester," said he; "young Mrs. Rochester -- Fairfax
- "It can never be, sir; it does not sound likely. Human beings never
enjoy complete happiness in this world. I was not born for a
different destiny to the rest of my species: to imagine such a lot
befalling me is a fairy tale -- a day-dream."
- "Which I can and will realise. I shall begin to-day. This morning
I wrote to my banker in London to send me certain jewels he has in
his keeping, -- heirlooms for the ladies of Thornfield. In a day or
two I hope to pour them into your lap: for every privilege, every
attention shall be yours that I would accord a peer's daughter, if
about to marry her."
- "Oh, sir! -- never rain jewels! I don't like to hear them spoken of.
Jewels for Jane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange: I would rather
not have them."
- "I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the
circlet on your forehead, -- which it will become: for nature, at
least, has stamped her patent of nobility on this brow, Jane; and I
will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy-like fingers with rings."
- "No, no, sir! think of other subjects, and speak of other things,
and in another strain. Don't address me as if I were a beauty; I am
your plain, Quakerish governess."
- "You are a beauty in my eyes, and a beauty just after the desire of
my heart, -- delicate and aërial."
- "Puny and insignificant, you mean. You are dreaming, sir, -- or you
are sneering. For God's sake don't be ironical!"
- "I will make the world acknowledge you a beauty, too," he went on,
while I really became uneasy at the strain he had adopted, because I
felt he was either deluding himself or trying to delude me. "I will
attire my Jane in satin and lace, and she shall have roses in her
hair; and I will cover the head I love best with a priceless veil."
- "And then you won't know me, sir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyre
any longer, but an ape in a harlequin's jacket -- a jay in borrowed
plumes. I would as soon see you, Mr. Rochester, tricked out in
stage-trappings, as myself clad in a court-lady's robe; and I don't
call you handsome, sir, though I love you most dearly: far too
dearly to flatter you. Don't flatter me."
- He pursued his theme, however, without noticing my deprecation.
"This very day I shall take you in the carriage to Millcote, and you
must choose some dresses for yourself. I told you we shall be
married in four weeks. The wedding is to take place quietly, in the
church down below yonder; and then I shall waft you away at once to
town. After a brief stay there, I shall bear my treasure to regions
nearer the sun: to French vineyards and Italian plains; and she
shall see whatever is famous in old story and in modern record: she
shall taste, too, of the life of cities; and she shall learn to
value herself by just comparison with others."
- "Shall I travel? -- and with you, sir?"
- "You shall sojourn at Paris, Rome, and Naples: at Florence, Venice,
and Vienna: all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-trodden
by you: wherever I stamped my hoof, your sylph's foot shall step
also. Ten years since, I flew through Europe half mad; with
disgust, hate, and rage as my companions: now I shall revisit it
healed and cleansed, with a very angel as my comforter."
- I laughed at him as he said this. "I am not an angel," I asserted;
"and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr.
Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of
me -- for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you:
which I do not at all anticipate."
- "What do you anticipate of me?"
- "For a little while you will perhaps be as you are now, -- a very
little while; and then you will turn cool; and then you will be
capricious; and then you will be stern, and I shall have much ado to
please you: but when you get well used to me, you will perhaps like
me again, -- like me, I say, not love me. I suppose your love will
effervesce in six months, or less. I have observed in books written
by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which a husband's
ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion, I hope
never to become quite distasteful to my dear master."
- "Distasteful! and like you again! I think I shall like you again,
and yet again: and I will make you confess I do not only like, but
love you -- with truth, fervour, constancy."
- "Yet are you not capricious, sir?"
- "To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil
when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts -- when they open
to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and perhaps imbecility,
coarseness, and ill-temper: but to the clear eye and eloquent
tongue, to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but
does not break -- at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent -- I am ever tender and true."
- "Had you ever experience of such a character, sir? Did you ever
love such an one?"
- "I love it now."
- "But before me: if I, indeed, in any respect come up to your
- "I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me -- you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and
while I am twining the soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends
a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced -- conquered; and the
influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo
has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win. Why do you smile,
Jane? What does that inexplicable, that uncanny turn of countenance
- "I was thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary),
I was thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers" ----
- "You were, you little elfish" ----
- "Hush, sir! You don't talk very wisely just now; any more than
those gentlemen acted very wisely. However, had they been married,
they would no doubt by their severity as husbands have made up for
their softness as suitors; and so will you, I fear. I wonder how
you will answer me a year hence, should I ask a favour it does not
suit your convenience or pleasure to grant."
- "Ask me something now, Jane, -- the least thing: I desire to be
- "Indeed I will, sir; I have my petition all ready."
- "Speak! But if you look up and smile with that countenance, I shall
swear concession before I know to what, and that will make a fool of
- "Not at all, sir; I ask only this: don't send for the jewels, and
don't crown me with roses: you might as well put a border of gold
lace round that plain pocket handkerchief you have there."
- "I might as well 'gild refined gold.' I know it: you request is
granted then -- for the time. I will remand the order I despatched to
my banker. But you have not yet asked for anything; you have prayed
a gift to be withdrawn: try again."
- "Well then, sir, have the goodness to gratify my curiosity, which is
much piqued on one point."
- He looked disturbed. "What? what?" he said hastily. "Curiosity is
a dangerous petition: it is well I have not taken a vow to accord
every request" ----
- "But there can be no danger in complying with this, sir."
- "Utter it, Jane: but I wish that instead of a mere inquiry into,
perhaps, a secret, it was a wish for half my estate."
- "Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you
think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would
much rather have all your confidence. You will not exclude me from
your confidence if you admit me to your heart?"
- "You are welcome to all my confidence that is worth having, Jane;
but for God's sake, don't desire a useless burden! Don't long for
poison -- don't turn out a downright Eve on my hands!"
- "Why not, sir? You have just been telling me how much you liked to
be conquered, and how pleasant over-persuasion is to you. Don't you
think I had better take advantage of the confession, and begin and
coax and entreat -- even cry and be sulky if necessary -- for the sake
of a mere essay of my power?"
- "I dare you to any such experiment. Encroach, presume, and the game
- "Is it, sir? You soon give in. How stern you look now! Your
eyebrows have become as thick as my finger, and your forehead
resembles what, in some very astonishing poetry, I once saw styled,
'a blue-piled thunderloft.' That will be your married look, sir, I
- "If that will be your married look, I, as a Christian, will soon
give up the notion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander.
But what had you to ask, thing, -- out with it?"
- "There, you are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a great
deal better than flattery. I had rather be a thing than an angel.
This is what I have to ask, -- Why did you take such pains to make me
believe you wished to marry Miss Ingram?"
- "Is that all? Thank God it is no worse!" And now he unknit his
black brows; looked down, smiling at me, and stroked my hair, as if
well pleased at seeing a danger averted. "I think I may confess,"
he continued, "even although I should make you a little indignant,
Jane -- and I have seen what a fire-spirit you can be when you are
indignant. You glowed in the cool moonlight last night, when you
mutinied against fate, and claimed your rank as my equal. Janet,
by-the-bye, it was you who made me the offer."
- "Of course I did. But to the point if you please, sir -- Miss
- "Well, I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to
render you as madly in love with me as I was with you; and I knew
jealousy would be the best ally I could call in for the furtherance
of that end."
- "Excellent! Now you are small -- not one whit bigger than the end of
my little finger. It was a burning shame and a scandalous disgrace
to act in that way. Did you think nothing of Miss Ingram's
- "Her feelings are concentrated in one -- pride; and that needs
humbling. Were you jealous, Jane?"
- "Never mind, Mr. Rochester: it is in no way interesting to you to
know that. Answer me truly once more. Do you think Miss Ingram
will not suffer from your dishonest coquetry? Won't she feel
forsaken and deserted?"
- "Impossible! -- when I told you how she, on the contrary, deserted me:
the idea of my insolvency cooled, or rather extinguished, her flame
in a moment."
- "You have a curious, designing mind, Mr. Rochester. I am afraid
your principles on some points are eccentric."
- "My principles were never trained, Jane: they may have grown a
little awry for want of attention."
- "Once again, seriously; may I enjoy the great good that has been
vouchsafed to me, without fearing that any one else is suffering the
bitter pain I myself felt a while ago?"
- "That you may, my good little girl: there is not another being in
the world has the same pure love for me as yourself -- for I lay that
pleasant unction to my soul, Jane, a belief in your affection."
- I turned my lips to the hand that lay on my shoulder. I loved him
very much -- more than I could trust myself to say -- more than words
had power to express.
- "Ask something more," he said presently; "it is my delight to be
entreated, and to yield."
- I was again ready with my request. "Communicate your intentions to
Mrs. Fairfax, sir: she saw me with you last night in the hall, and
she was shocked. Give her some explanation before I see her again.
It pains me to be misjudged by so good a woman."
- "Go to your room, and put on your bonnet," he replied. "I mean you
to accompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare for
the drive, I will enlighten the old lady's understanding. Did she
think, Janet, you had given the world for love, and considered it
- "I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, sir."
- "Station! station! -- your station is in my heart, and on the necks of
those who would insult you, now or hereafter. -- Go."
- I was soon dressed; and when I heard Mr. Rochester quit Mrs.
Fairfax's parlour, I hurried down to it. The old lady, had been
reading her morning portion of Scripture -- the Lesson for the day;
her Bible lay open before her, and her spectacles were upon it. Her
occupation, suspended by Mr. Rochester's announcement, seemed now
forgotten: her eyes, fixed on the blank wall opposite, expressed
the surprise of a quiet mind stirred by unwonted tidings. Seeing
me, she roused herself: she made a sort of effort to smile, and
framed a few words of congratulation; but the smile expired, and the
sentence was abandoned unfinished. She put up her spectacles, shut
the Bible, and pushed her chair back from the table.
- "I feel so astonished," she began, "I hardly know what to say to
you, Miss Eyre. I have surely not been dreaming, have I? Sometimes
I half fall asleep when I am sitting alone and fancy things that
have never happened. It has seemed to me more than once when I have
been in a doze, that my dear husband, who died fifteen years since,
has come in and sat down beside me; and that I have even heard him
call me by my name, Alice, as he used to do. Now, can you tell me
whether it is actually true that Mr. Rochester has asked you to
marry him? Don't laugh at me. But I really thought he came in here
five minutes ago, and said that in a month you would be his wife."
- "He has said the same thing to me," I replied.
- "He has! Do you believe him? Have you accepted him?"
- "Yes." She looked at me bewildered.
- "I could never have thought it. He is
a proud man: all the Rochesters were proud: and his father, at
least, liked money. He, too, has always been called careful. He
means to marry you?"
- "He tells me so."
- She surveyed my whole person: in her eyes I read that they had
there found no charm powerful enough to solve the enigma.
- "It passes me!" she continued; "but no doubt, it is true since you
say so. How it will answer, I cannot tell: I really don't know.
Equality of position and fortune is often advisable in such cases;
and there are twenty years of difference in your ages. He might
almost be your father."
- "No, indeed, Mrs. Fairfax!" exclaimed I, nettled; "he is nothing
like my father! No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for
an instant. Mr. Rochester looks as young, and is as young, as some
men at five-and-twenty."
- "Is it really for love he is going to marry you?" she asked.
- I was so hurt by her coldness and scepticism, that the tears rose to
- "I am sorry to grieve you," pursued the widow; "but you are so
young, and so little acquainted with men, I wished to put you on
your guard. It is an old saying that 'all is not gold that
glitters;' and in this case I do fear there will be something found
to be different to what either you or I expect."
- "Why? -- am I a monster?" I said: "is it impossible that Mr.
Rochester should have a sincere affection for me?"
- "No: you are very well; and much improved of late; and Mr.
Rochester, I daresay, is fond of you. I have always noticed that
you were a sort of pet of his. There are times when, for your sake,
I have been a little uneasy at his marked preference, and have
wished to put you on your guard: but I did not like to suggest even
the possibility of wrong. I knew such an idea would shock, perhaps
offend you; and you were so discreet, and so thoroughly modest and
sensible, I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself. Last
night I cannot tell you what I suffered when I sought all over the
house, and could find you nowhere, nor the master either; and then,
at twelve o'clock, saw you come in with him."
- "Well, never mind that now," I interrupted impatiently; "it is
enough that all was right."
- "I hope all will be right in the end," she said: "but believe me,
you cannot be too careful. Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a
distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen in his
station are not accustomed to marry their governesses."
- I was growing truly irritated: happily, Adèle ran in.
- "Let me go, -- let me go to Millcote too!" she cried. "Mr. Rochester
won't: though there is so much room in the new carriage. Beg him
to let me go mademoiselle."
- "That I will, Adèle;" and I hastened away with her, glad to quit my
gloomy monitress. The carriage was ready: they were bringing it
round to the front, and my master was the pavement, Pilot following
him backwards and forwards.
- "Adèle may accompany us, may she not, sir?"
- "I told her no. I'll have no brats! -- I'll have only you."
- "Do let her go, Mr. Rochester, if you please: it would be better."
- "Not it: she will be a restraint."
- He was quite peremptory, both in look and voice. The chill of Mrs.
Fairfax's warnings, and the damp of her doubts were upon me:
something of unsubstantiality and uncertainty had beset my hopes. I
half lost the sense of power over him. I was about mechanically to
obey him, without further remonstrance; but as he helped me into the
carriage, he looked at my face.
- "What is the matter?" he asked; "all the sunshine is gone. Do you
really wish the bairn to go? Will it annoy you if she is left
- "I would far rather she went, sir."
- "Then off for your bonnet, and back like a flash of lightning!"
cried he to Adèle.
- She obeyed him with what speed she might.
- "After all, a single morning's interruption will not matter much,"
said he, "when I mean shortly to claim you -- your thoughts,
conversation, and company -- for life."
- Adèle, when lifted in, commenced kissing me, by way of expressing
her gratitude for my intercession: she was instantly stowed away
into a corner on the other side of him. She then peeped round to
where I sat; so stern a neighbour was too restrictive to him, in his
present fractious mood, she dared whisper no observations, nor ask
of him any information.
- "Let her come to me," I entreated: "she will, perhaps, trouble you,
sir: there is plenty of room on this side."
- He handed her over as if she had been a lapdog. "I'll send her to
school yet," he said, but now he was smiling.
- Adèle heard him, and asked if she was to go to school "sans
- "Yes," he replied, "absolutely sans mademoiselle; for I am to take
mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of
the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall
live with me there, and only me."
- "She will have nothing to eat: you will starve her," observed
- "I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and
hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adèle."
- "She will want to warm herself: what will she do for a fire?"
- "Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold, I'll
carry her up to a peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater."
- "Oh, qu' elle y sera mal -- peu comfortable! And her clothes, they
will wear out: how can she get new ones?"
- Mr. Rochester professed to be puzzled. "Hem!" said he. "What would
you do, Adèle? Cudgel your brains for an expedient. How would a
white or a pink cloud answer for a gown, do you think? And one
could cut a pretty enough scarf out of a rainbow."
- "She is far better as she is," concluded Adèle, after musing some
time: "besides, she would get tired of living with only you in the
moon. If I were mademoiselle, I would never consent to go with
- "She has consented: she has pledged her word."
- "But you can't get her there; there is no road to the moon: it is
all air; and neither you nor she can fly."
- "Adèle, look at that field." We were now outside Thornfield gates,
and bowling lightly along the smooth road to Millcote, where the
dust was well laid by the thunderstorm, and, where the low hedges
and lofty timber trees on each side glistened green and rain-refreshed.
- "In that field, Adèle, I was walking late one evening about a
fortnight since -- the evening of the day you helped me to make hay in
the orchard meadows; and, as I was tired with raking swaths, I sat
down to rest me on a stile; and there I took out a little book and a
pencil, and began to write about a misfortune that befell me long
ago, and a wish I had for happy days to come: I was writing away
very fast, though daylight was fading from the leaf, when something
came up the path and stopped two yards off me. I looked at it. It
was a little thing with a veil of gossamer on its head. I beckoned
it to come near me; it stood soon at my knee. I never spoke to it,
and it never spoke to me, in words; but I read its eyes, and it read
mine; and our speechless colloquy was to this effect: --
- "It was a fairy, and come from Elf-land, it said; and its errand was
to make me happy: I must go with it out of the common world to a
lonely place -- such as the moon, for instance -- and it nodded its head
towards her horn, rising over Hay-hill: it told me of the alabaster
cave and silver vale where we might live. I said I should like to
go; but reminded it, as you did me, that I had no wings to fly.
- "'Oh,' returned the fairy, 'that does not signify! Here is a
talisman will remove all difficulties;' and she held out a pretty
gold ring. 'Put it,' she said, 'on the fourth finger of my left
hand, and I am yours, and you are mine; and we shall leave earth,
and make our own heaven yonder.' She nodded again at the moon. The
ring, Adèle, is in my breeches-pocket, under the disguise of a
sovereign: but I mean soon to change it to a ring again."
- "But what has mademoiselle to do with it? I don't care for the
fairy: you said it was mademoiselle you would take to the moon?" ----
- "Mademoiselle is a fairy," he said, whispering mysteriously.
Whereupon I told her not to mind his badinage; and she, on her part,
evinced a fund of genuine French scepticism: denominating Mr.
Rochester "un vrai menteur," and assuring him that she made no
account whatever of his "contes de fée," and that "du reste, il n'y
avait pas de fees, et quand meme il y en avait:" she was sure they
would never appear to him, nor ever give him rings, or offer to live
with him in the moon.
- The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr.
Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was
ordered to choose half-a-dozen dresses. I hated the business, I
begged leave to defer it: no -- it should be gone through with now.
By dint of entreaties expressed in energetic whispers, I reduced the
half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he would select himself.
With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed
on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink
satin. I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as
well buy me a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should
certainly never venture to wear his choice. With infinite
difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make
an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk.
"It might pass for the present," he said; "but he would yet see me
glittering like a parterre."
- Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a
jewellers shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned
with a sense of annoyance and degradation. As we re-entered the
carriage, and I sat back feverish and fagged, I remembered what, in
the hurry of events, dark and bright, I had wholly forgotten -- the
letter of my uncle, John Eyre, to Mrs. Reed: his intention to adopt
me and make me his legatee. "It would, indeed, be a relief," I
thought, "if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear
being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second
Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me. I will write
to Madeira the moment I get home, and tell my uncle John I am going
to be married, and to whom: if I had but a prospect of one day
bringing Mr. Rochester an accession of fortune, I could better
endure to be kept by him now." And somewhat relieved by this idea
(which I failed not to execute that day), I ventured once more to
meet my master's and lover's eye, which most pertinaciously sought
mine, though I averted both face and gaze. He smiled; and I thought
his smile was such as a sultan might, in a blissful and fond moment,
bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched: I crushed his
hand, which was ever hunting mine, vigorously, and thrust it back to
him red with the passionate pressure --
- "You need not look in that way," I said; "if you do, I'll wear
nothing but my old Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter. I'll be
married in this lilac gingham: you may make a dressing-gown for
yourself out of the pearl-grey silk, and an infinite series of
waistcoats out of the black satin."
- He chuckled; he rubbed his hands. "Oh, it is rich to see and hear
her?" he exclaimed. "Is she original? Is she piquant? I would not
exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk's whole
seraglio, gazelle-eyes, houri forms, and all!"
- The Eastern allusion bit me again. "I'll not stand you an inch in
the stead of a seraglio," I said; "so don't consider me an
equivalent for one. If you have a fancy for anything in that line,
away with you, sir, to the bazaars of Stamboul without delay, and
lay out in extensive slave-purchases some of that spare cash you
seem at a loss to spend satisfactorily here."
- "And what will you do, Janet, while I am bargaining for so many tons
of flesh and such an assortment of black eyes?"
- "I'll be preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preach
liberty to them that are enslaved -- your harem inmates amongst the
rest. I'll get admitted there, and I'll stir up mutiny; and you,
three-tailed bashaw as you are, sir, shall in a trice find yourself
fettered amongst our hands: nor will I, for one, consent to cut
your bonds till you have signed a charter, the most liberal that
despot ever yet conferred."
- "I would consent to be at your mercy, Jane."
- "I would have no mercy, Mr. Rochester, if you supplicated for it
with an eye like that. While you looked so, I should be certain
that whatever charter you might grant under coercion, your first
act, when released, would be to violate its conditions."
- "Why, Jane, what would you have? I fear you will compel me to go
through a private marriage ceremony, besides that performed at the
altar. You will stipulate, I see, for peculiar terms -- what will
- "I only want an easy mind, sir; not crushed by crowded obligations.
Do you remember what you said of Céline Varens? -- of the diamonds,
the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Céline
Varens. I shall continue to act as Adèle's governess; by that I
shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides.
I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give
me nothing but "----
- "Well, but what?"
- "Your regard; and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be
- "Well, for cool native impudence and pure innate pride, you haven't
your equal," said he. We were now approaching Thornfield. "Will it
please you to dine with me to-day?" he asked, as we re-entered the
- "No, thank you, sir."
- "And what for, 'no, thank you?' if one may inquire."
- "I never have dined with you, sir: and I see no reason why I should
now: till" ----
- "Till what? You delight in half-phrases."
- "Till I can't help it."
- "Do you suppose I eat like an ogre or a ghoul, that you dread being
the companion of my repast?"
- "I have formed no supposition on the subject, sir; but I want to go
on as usual for another month."
- "You will give up your governessing slavery at once."
- "Indeed, begging your pardon, sir, I shall not. I shall just go on
with it as usual. I shall keep out of your way all day, as I have
been accustomed to do: you may send for me in the evening, when you
feel disposed to see me, and I'll come then; but at no other time."
- "I want a smoke, Jane, or a pinch of snuff, to comfort me under all
this, 'pour me donner une contenance,' as Adèle would say; and
unfortunately I have neither my cigar-case, nor my snuff-box. But
listen -- whisper. It is your time now, little tyrant, but it will be
mine presently; and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and
to hold, I'll just -- figuratively speaking -- attach you to a chain
like this" (touching his watch-guard). "Yes, bonny wee thing, I'll
wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne."
- He said this as he helped me to alight from the carriage, and while
he afterwards lifted out Adèle, I entered the house, and made good
my retreat upstairs.
- He duly summoned me to his presence in the evening. I had prepared
an occupation for him; for I was determined not to spend the whole
time in a tête-à-tête conversation. I remembered his fine voice; I
knew he liked to sing -- good singers generally do. I was no vocalist
myself, and, in his fastidious judgment, no musician, either; but I
delighted in listening when the performance was good. No sooner had
twilight, that hour of romance, began to lower her blue and starry
banner over the lattice, than I rose, opened the piano, and
entreated him, for the love of heaven, to give me a song. He said I
was a capricious witch, and that he would rather sing another time;
but I averred that no time was like the present.
- "Did I like his voice?" he asked.
- "Very much." I was not fond of pampering that susceptible vanity of
his; but for once, and from motives of expediency, I would e'en
soothe and stimulate it.
- "Then, Jane, you must play the accompaniment."
- "Very well, sir, I will try."
- I did try, but was presently swept off the stool and denominated "a
little bungler." Being pushed unceremoniously to one side -- which
was precisely what I wished -- he usurped my place, and proceeded to
accompany himself: for he could play as well as sing. I hied me to
the window-recess. And while I sat there and looked out on the
still trees and dim lawn, to a sweet air was sung in mellow tones
the following strain: --
- "The truest love that ever heart
- Felt at its kindled core,
- Did through each vein, in quickened start,
- The tide of being pour.
- Her coming was my hope each day,
- Her parting was my pain;
- The chance that did her steps delay
- Was ice in every vein.
- I dreamed it would be nameless bliss,
- As I loved, loved to be;
- And to this object did I press
- As blind as eagerly.
- But wide as pathless was the space
- That lay our lives between,
- And dangerous as the foamy race
- Of ocean-surges green.
- And haunted as a robber-path
- Through wilderness or wood;
- For Might and Right, and Woe and Wrath,
- Between our spirits stood.
- I dangers dared; I hindrance scorned;
- I omens did defy:
- Whatever menaced, harassed, warned,
- I passed impetuous by.
- On sped my rainbow, fast as light;
- I flew as in a dream;
- For glorious rose upon my sight
- That child of Shower and Gleam.
- Still bright on clouds of suffering dim
- Shines that soft, solemn joy;
- Nor care I now, how dense and grim
- Disasters gather nigh.
- I care not in this moment sweet,
- Though all I have rushed o'er
- Should come on pinion, strong and fleet,
- Proclaiming vengeance sore:
- Though haughty Hate should strike me down,
- Right, bar approach to me,
- And grinding Might, with furious frown,
- Swear endless enmity.
- My love has placed her little hand
- With noble faith in mine,
- And vowed that wedlock's sacred band
- Our nature shall entwine.
- My love has sworn, with sealing kiss,
- With me to live -- to die;
- I have at last my nameless bliss.
- As I love -- loved am I!"
He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his
full falcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every
lineament. I quailed momentarily -- then I rallied. Soft scene,
daring demonstration, I would not have; and I stood in peril of
both: a weapon of defence must be prepared -- I whetted my tongue:
as he reached me, I asked with asperity, "whom he was going to marry
- "That was a strange question to be put by his darling Jane."
- "Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one: he had
talked of his future wife dying with him. What did he mean by such
a pagan idea? I had no intention of dying with him -- he might depend
- "Oh, all he longed, all he prayed for, was that I might live with
him! Death was not for such as I."
- "Indeed it was: I had as good a right to die when my time came as
he had: but I should bide that time, and not be hurried away in a
- "Would I forgive him for the selfish idea, and prove my pardon by a
- "No: I would rather be excused."
- Here I heard myself apostrophised as a "hard little thing;" and it
was added, "any other woman would have been melted to marrow at
hearing such stanzas crooned in her praise."
- I assured him I was naturally hard -- very flinty, and that he would
often find me so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him
divers rugged points in my character before the ensuing four weeks
elapsed: he should know fully what sort of a bargain he had made,
while there was yet time to rescind it.
- "Would I be quiet and talk rationally?"
- "I would be quiet if he liked, and as to talking rationally, I
flattered myself I was doing that now."
- He fretted, pished, and pshawed. "Very good," I thought; "you may
fume and fidget as you please: but this is the best plan to pursue
with you, I am certain. I like you more than I can say; but I'll
not sink into a bathos of sentiment: and with this needle of
repartee I'll keep you from the edge of the gulf too; and, moreover,
maintain by its pungent aid that distance between you and myself
most conducive to our real mutual advantage."
- From less to more, I worked him up to considerable irritation; then,
after he had retired, in dudgeon, quite to the other end of the
room, I got up, and saying, "I wish you good-night, sir," in my
natural and wonted respectful manner, I slipped out by the side-door
and got away.
- The system thus entered on, I pursued during the whole season of
probation; and with the best success. He was kept, to be sure,
rather cross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he was
excellently entertained, and that a lamb-like submission and turtle-dove sensibility, while fostering his despotism more, would have
pleased his judgment, satisfied his common-sense, and even suited
his taste less.
- In other people's presence I was, as formerly, deferential and
quiet; any other line of conduct being uncalled for: it was only in
the evening conferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him. He
continued to send for me punctually the moment the clock struck
seven; though when I appeared before him now, he had no such honeyed
terms as "love" and "darling" on his lips: the best words at my
service were "provoking puppet," "malicious elf," "sprite,"
"changeling," etc. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a
pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a
severe tweak of the ear. It was all right: at present I decidedly
preferred these fierce favours to anything more tender. Mrs.
Fairfax, I saw, approved me: her anxiety on my account vanished;
therefore I was certain I did well. Meantime, Mr. Rochester
affirmed I was wearing him to skin and bone, and threatened awful
vengeance for my present conduct at some period fast coming. I
laughed in my sleeve at his menaces. "I can keep you in reasonable
check now," I reflected; "and I don't doubt to be able to do it
hereafter: if one expedient loses its virtue, another must be
- Yet after all my task was not an easy one; often I would rather have
pleased than teased him. My future husband was becoming to me my
whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He
stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse
intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those
days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol.
- THE month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being
numbered. There was no putting off the day that advanced -- the
bridal day; and all preparations for its arrival were complete. I,
at least, had nothing more to do: there were my trunks, packed,
locked, corded, ranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber;
to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on their road to London:
and so should I (D.V.), -- or rather, not I, but one Jane Rochester, a
person whom as yet I knew not. The cards of address alone remained
to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer. Mr.
Rochester had himself written the direction, "Mrs. Rochester, ----
Hotel, London," on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them,
or to have them affixed. Mrs. Rochester! She did not exist: she
would not be born till to-morrow, some time after eight o'clock
a.m.; and I would wait to be assured she had come into the world
alive before I assigned to her all that property. It was enough
that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said to
be hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw
bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the
pearl-coloured robe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped
portmanteau. I shut the closet to conceal the strange, wraith-like
apparel it contained; which, at this evening hour -- nine o'clock --
gave out certainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of my
apartment. "I will leave you by yourself, white dream," I said. "I
am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out of doors and
- It was not only the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; not
only the anticipation of the great change -- the new life which was to
commence to-morrow: both these circumstances had their share,
doubtless, in producing that restless, excited mood which hurried me
forth at this late hour into the darkening grounds: but a third
cause influenced my mind more than they.
- I had at heart a strange and anxious thought. Something had
happened which I could not comprehend; no one knew of or had seen
the event but myself: it had taken place the preceding night. Mr.
Rochester that night was absent from home; nor was he yet returned:
business had called him to a small estate of two or three farms he
possessed thirty miles off -- business it was requisite he should
settle in person, previous to his meditated departure from England.
I waited now his return; eager to disburthen my mind, and to seek of
him the solution of the enigma that perplexed me. Stay till he
comes, reader; and, when I disclose my secret to him, you shall
share the confidence.
- I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all
day had blown strong and full from the south, without, however,
bringing a speck of rain. Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it
seemed to augment its rush and deepen its roar: the trees blew
steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back
their boughs once in an hour; so continuous was the strain bending
their branchy heads northward -- the clouds drifted from pole to pole,
fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of blue sky had been
visible that July day.
- It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind,
delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent
thundering through space. Descending the laurel walk, I faced the
wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up black and riven: the trunk,
split down the centre, gasped ghastly. The cloven halves were not
broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them
unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed -- the
sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead,
and next winter's tempests would be sure to fell one or both to
earth: as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree -- a
ruin, but an entire ruin.
- "You did right to hold fast to each other," I said: as if the
monster-splinters were living things, and could hear me. "I think,
scathed as you look, and charred and scorched, there must be a
little sense of life in you yet, rising out of that adhesion at the
faithful, honest roots: you will never have green leaves more --
never more see birds making nests and singing idyls in your boughs;
the time of pleasure and love is over with you: but you are not
desolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his
decay." As I looked up at them, the moon appeared momentarily in
that part of the sky which filled their fissure; her disk was blood-red and half overcast; she seemed to throw on me one bewildered,
dreary glance, and buried herself again instantly in the deep drift
of cloud. The wind fell, for a second, round Thornfield; but far
away over wood and water, poured a wild, melancholy wail: it was
sad to listen to, and I ran off again.
- Here and there I strayed through the orchard, gathered up the apples
with which the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then I
employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried them
into the house and put them away in the store-room. Then I repaired
to the library to ascertain whether the fire was lit, for, though
summer, I knew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like to
see a cheerful hearth when he came in: yes, the fire had been
kindled some time, and burnt well. I placed his arm-chair by the
chimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it: I let down the
curtain, and had the candles brought in ready for lighting. More
restless than ever, when I had completed these arrangements I could
not sit still, nor even remain in the house: a little time-piece in
the room and the old clock in the hall simultaneously struck ten.
- "How late it grows!" I said. "I will run down to the gates: it is
moonlight at intervals; I can see a good way on the road. He may be
coming now, and to meet him will save some minutes of suspense."
- The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates;
but the road as far as I could see, to the right hand and the left,
was all still and solitary: save for the shadows of clouds crossing
it at intervals as the moon looked out, it was but a long pale line,
unvaried by one moving speck.
- A puerile tear dimmed my eye while I looked -- a tear of
disappointment and impatience; ashamed of it, I wiped it away. I
lingered; the moon shut herself wholly within her chamber, and drew
close her curtain of dense cloud: the night grew dark; rain came
driving fast on the gale.
- "I wish he would come! I wish he would come!" I exclaimed, seized
with hypochondriac foreboding. I had expected his arrival before
tea; now it was dark: what could keep him? Had an accident
happened? The event of last night again recurred to me. I
interpreted it as a warning of disaster. I feared my hopes were too
bright to be realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that I
imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.
- "Well, I cannot return to the house," I thought; "I cannot sit by
the fireside, while he is abroad in inclement weather: better tire
my limbs than strain my heart; I will go forward and meet him."
- I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter
of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came on, full
gallop; a dog ran by his side. Away with evil presentiment! It was
he: here he was, mounted on Mesrour, followed by Pilot. He saw me;
for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it
watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved it round his head. I
now ran to meet him.
- "There!" he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from
the saddle: "You can't do without me, that is evident. Step on my
boot-toe; give me both hands: mount!"
- I obeyed: joy made me agile: I sprang up before him. A hearty
kissing I got for a welcome, and some boastful triumph, which I
swallowed as well as I could. He checked himself in his exultation
to demand, "But is there anything the matter, Janet, that you come
to meet me at such an hour? Is there anything wrong?"
- "No, but I thought you would never come. I could not bear to wait
in the house for you, especially with this rain and wind."
- "Rain and wind, indeed! Yes, you are dripping like a mermaid; pull
my cloak round you: but I think you are feverish, Jane: both your
cheek and hand are burning hot. I ask again, is there anything the
- "Nothing now; I am neither afraid nor unhappy."
- "Then you have been both?"
- "Rather: but I'll tell you all about it by-and-bye, sir; and I
daresay you will only laugh at me for my pains."
- "I'll laugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I dare
not: my prize is not certain. This is you, who have been as
slippery as an eel this last month, and as thorny as a briar-rose?
I could not lay a finger anywhere but I was pricked; and now I seem
to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms. You wandered out of
the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?"
- "I wanted you: but don't boast. Here we are at Thornfield: now
let me get down."
- He landed me on the pavement. As John took his horse, and he
followed me into the hall, he told me to make haste and put
something dry on, and then return to him in the library; and he
stopped me, as I made for the staircase, to extort a promise that I
would not be long: nor was I long; in five minutes I rejoined him.
I found him at supper.
- "Take a seat and bear me company, Jane: please God, it is the last
meal but one you will eat at Thornfield Hall for a long time."
- I sat down near him, but told him I could not eat.
- "Is it because
you have the prospect of a journey before you, Jane? Is it the
thoughts of going to London that takes away your appetite?"
- "I cannot see my prospects clearly to-night, sir; and I hardly know
what thoughts I have in my head. Everything in life seems unreal."
- "Except me: I am substantial enough -- touch me."
- "You, sir, are the most phantom-like of all: you are a mere dream."
- He held out his hand, laughing. "Is that a dream?" said he, placing
it close to my eyes. He had a rounded, muscular, and vigorous hand,
as well as a long, strong arm.
- "Yes; though I touch it, it is a dream," said I, as I put it down
from before my face. "Sir, have you finished supper?"
- "Yes, Jane."
- I rang the bell and ordered away the tray. When we were again
alone, I stirred the fire, and then took a low seat at my master's
- "It is near midnight," I said.
- "Yes: but remember, Jane, you promised to wake with me the night
before my wedding."
- "I did; and I will keep my promise, for an hour or two at least: I
have no wish to go to bed."
- "Are all your arrangements complete?"
- "All, sir."
- "And on my part likewise," he returned, "I have settled everything;
and we shall leave Thornfield to-morrow, within half-an-hour after
our return from church."
- "Very well, sir."
- "With what an extraordinary smile you uttered that word -- 'very
well,' Jane! What a bright spot of colour you have on each cheek!
and how strangely your eyes glitter! Are you well?"
- "I believe I am."
- "Believe! What is the matter? Tell me what you feel."
- "I could not, sir: no words could tell you what I feel. I wish
this present hour would never end: who knows with what fate the
next may come charged?"
- "This is hypochondria, Jane. You have been over-excited, or over-fatigued."
- "Do you, sir, feel calm and happy?"
- "Calm? -- no: but happy -- to the heart's core."
- I looked up at him to read the signs of bliss in his face: it was
ardent and flushed.
- "Give me your confidence, Jane," he said: "relieve your mind of any
weight that oppresses it, by imparting it to me. What do you fear? -- that I shall not prove a good husband?"
- "It is the idea farthest from my thoughts."
- "Are you apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter? -- of
the new life into which you are passing?"
- "You puzzle me, Jane: your look and tone of sorrowful audacity
perplex and pain me. I want an explanation."
- "Then, sir, listen. You were from home last night?"
- "I was: I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something which
had happened in my absence: -- nothing, probably, of consequence; but,
in short, it has disturbed you. Let me hear it. Mrs. Fairfax has
said something, perhaps? or you have overheard the servants talk? --
your sensitive self-respect has been wounded?"
- "No, sir." It struck twelve -- I waited till the time-piece had
concluded its silver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibritting
stroke, and then I proceeded.
- "All day yesterday I was very busy, and very happy in my ceaseless
bustle; for I am not, as you seem to think, troubled by any haunting
fears about the new sphere, et cetera: I think it a glorious thing
to have the hope of living with you, because I love you. No, sir,
don't caress me now -- let me talk undisturbed. Yesterday I trusted
well in Providence, and believed that events were working together
for your good and mine: it was a fine day, if you recollect -- the
calmness of the air and sky forbade apprehensions respecting your
safety or comfort on your journey. I walked a little while on the
pavement after tea, thinking of you; and I beheld you in imagination
so near me, I scarcely missed your actual presence. I thought of
the life that lay before me -- your life, sir -- an existence more
expansive and stirring than my own: as much more so as the depths
of the sea to which the brook runs are than the shallows of its own
strait channel. I wondered why moralists call this world a dreary
wilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose. Just at sunset, the
air turned cold and the sky cloudy: I went in, Sophie called me
upstairs to look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought;
and under it in the box I found your present -- the veil which, in
your princely extravagance, you sent for from London: resolved, I
suppose, since I would not have jewels, to cheat me into accepting
something as costly. I smiled as I unfolded it, and devised how I
would tease you about your aristocratic tastes, and your efforts to
masque your plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress. I though
how I would carry down to you the square of unembroidered blond I
had myself prepared as a covering for my low-born head, and ask if
that was not good enough for a woman who could bring her husband
neither fortune, beauty, nor connections. I saw plainly how you
would look; and heard your impetuous republican answers, and your
haughty disavowal of any necessity on your part to augment your
wealth, or elevate your standing, by marrying either a purse or a
- "How well you read me, you witch!" interposed Mr. Rochester: "but
what did you find in the veil besides its embroidery? Did you find
poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?"
- "No, no, sir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabric, I
found nothing save Fairfax Rochester's pride; and that did not scare
me, because I am used to the sight of the demon. But, sir, as it
grew dark, the wind rose: it blew yesterday evening, not as it
blows now -- wild and high -- but 'with a sullen, moaning sound' far
more eerie. I wished you were at home. I came into this room, and
the sight of the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me. For
some time after I went to bed, I could not sleep -- a sense of anxious
excitement distressed me. The gale still rising, seemed to my ear
to muffle a mournful under-sound; whether in the house or abroad I
could not at first tell, but it recurred, doubtful yet doleful at
every lull; at last I made out it must be some dog howling at a
distance. I was glad when it ceased. On sleeping, I continued in
dreams the idea of a dark and gusty night. I continued also the
wish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful
consciousness of some barrier dividing us. During all my first
sleep, I was following the windings of an unknown road; total
obscurity environed me; rain pelted me; I was burdened with the
charge of a little child: a very small creature, too young and
feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and wailed
piteously in my ear. I thought, sir, that you were on the road a
long way before me; and I strained every nerve to overtake you, and
made effort on effort to utter your name and entreat you to stop --
but my movements were fettered, and my voice still died away
inarticulate; while you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every
- "And these dreams weigh on your spirits now, Jane, when I am close
to you? Little nervous subject! Forget visionary woe, and think
only of real happiness! You say you love me, Janet: yes -- I will
not forget that; and you cannot deny it. Those words did not die
inarticulate on your lips. I heard them clear and soft: a thought
too solemn perhaps, but sweet as music -- 'I think it is a glorious
thing to have the hope of living with you, Edward, because I love
you.' -- Do you love me, Jane? -- repeat it."
- "I do, sir -- I do, with my whole heart."
- "Well," he said, after some minutes' silence, "it is strange; but
that sentence has penetrated by breast painfully. Why? I think
because you said it with such an earnest, religious energy, and
because your upward gaze at me now is the very sublime of faith,
truth, and devotion: it is too much as if some spirit were near me.
Look wicked, Jane: as you know well how to look: coin one of your
wild, shy, provoking smiles; tell me you hate me -- tease me, vex me;
do anything but move me: I would rather be incensed than saddened."
- "I will tease you and vex you to your heart's content, when I have
finished my tale: but hear me to the end."
- "I thought, Jane, you had told me all. I thought I had found the
source of your melancholy in a dream."
- I shook my head. "What! is there more? But I will not believe it
to be anything important. I warn you of incredulity beforehand. Go
- The disquietude of his air, the somewhat apprehensive impatience of
his manner, surprised me: but I proceeded.
- "I dreamt another dream, sir: that Thornfield Hall was a dreary
ruin, the retreat of bats and owls. I thought that of all the
stately front nothing remained but a shell-like wall, very high and
very fragile-looking. I wandered, on a moonlight night, through the
grass-grown enclosure within: here I stumbled over a marble hearth,
and there over a fallen fragment of cornice. Wrapped up in a shawl,
I still carried the unknown little child: I might not lay it down
anywhere, however tired were my arms -- however much its weight
impeded my progress, I must retain it. I heard the gallop of a
horse at a distance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you were
departing for many years and for a distant country. I climbed the
thin wall with frantic perilous haste, eager to catch one glimpse of
you from the top: the stones rolled from under my feet, the ivy
branches I grasped gave way, the child clung round my neck in
terror, and almost strangled me; at last I gained the summit. I saw
you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment. The
blast blew so strong I could not stand. I sat down on the narrow
ledge; I hushed the scared infant in my lap: you turned an angle of
the road: I bent forward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; I
was shaken; the child rolled from my knee, I lost my balance, fell,
- "Now, Jane, that is all."
- "All the preface, sir; the tale is yet to come. On waking, a gleam
dazzled my eyes; I thought -- Oh, it is daylight! But I was mistaken;
it was only candlelight. Sophie, I supposed, had come in. There
was a light in the dressing-table, and the door of the closet,
where, before going to bed, I had hung my wedding-dress and veil,
stood open; I heard a rustling there. I asked, 'Sophie, what are
you doing?' No one answered; but a form emerged from the closet; it
took the light, held it aloft, and surveyed the garments pendent
from the portmanteau. 'Sophie! Sophie!' I again cried: and still
it was silent. I had risen up in bed, I bent forward: first
surprise, then bewilderment, came over me; and then my blood crept
cold through my veins. Mr. Rochester, this was not Sophie, it was
not Leah, it was not Mrs. Fairfax: it was not -- no, I was sure of
it, and am still -- it was not even that strange woman, Grace Poole."
- "It must have been one of them," interrupted my master.
- "No, sir, I solemnly assure you to the contrary. The shape standing
before me had never crossed my eyes within the precincts of
Thornfield Hall before; the height, the contour were new to me."
- "Describe it, Jane."
- "It seemed, sir, a woman, tall and large, with thick and dark hair
hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it
was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I cannot
- "Did you see her face?"
- "Not at first. But presently she took my veil from its place; she
held it up, gazed at it long, and then she threw it over her own
head, and turned to the mirror. At that moment I saw the reflection
of the visage and features quite distinctly in the dark oblong
- "And how were they?"
- "Fearful and ghastly to me -- oh, sir, I never saw a face like it! It
was a discoloured face -- it was a savage face. I wish I could forget
the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the
- "Ghosts are usually pale, Jane."
- "This, sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow
furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes.
Shall I tell you of what it reminded me?"
- "You may."
- "Of the foul German spectre -- the Vampyre."
- "Ah! -- what did it do?"
- "Sir, it removed my veil from its gaunt head, rent it in two parts,
and flinging both on the floor, trampled on them."
- "It drew aside the window-curtain and looked out; perhaps it saw
dawn approaching, for, taking the candle, it retreated to the door.
Just at my bedside, the figure stopped: the fiery eyes glared upon
me -- she thrust up her candle close to my face, and extinguished it
under my eyes. I was aware her lurid visage flamed over mine, and I
lost consciousness: for the second time in my life -- only the second
time -- I became insensible from terror."
- "Who was with you when you revived?"
- "No one, sir, but the broad day. I rose, bathed my head and face in
water, drank a long draught; felt that though enfeebled I was not
ill, and determined that to none but you would I impart this vision.
Now, sir, tell me who and what that woman was?"
- "The creature of an over-stimulated brain; that is certain. I must
be careful of you, my treasure: nerves like yours were not made for
- "Sir, depend on it, my nerves were not in fault; the thing was real:
the transaction actually took place."
- "And your previous dreams, were they real too? Is Thornfield Hall a
ruin? Am I severed from you by insuperable obstacles? Am I leaving
you without a tear -- without a kiss -- without a word?"
- "Not yet."
- "Am I about to do it? Why, the day is already commenced which is to
bind us indissolubly; and when we are once united, there shall be no
recurrence of these mental terrors: I guarantee that."
- "Mental terrors, sir! I wish I could believe them to be only such:
I wish it more now than ever; since even you cannot explain to me
the mystery of that awful visitant."
- "And since I cannot do it, Jane, it must have been unreal."
- "But, sir, when I said so to myself on rising this morning, and when
I looked round the room to gather courage and comfort from the
cheerful aspect of each familiar object in full daylight, there -- on
the carpet -- I saw what gave the distinct lie to my hypothesis, -- the
veil, torn from top to bottom in two halves!"
- I felt Mr. Rochester start and shudder; he hastily flung his arms
round me. "Thank God!" he exclaimed, "that if anything malignant
did come near you last night, it was only the veil that was harmed.
Oh, to think what might have happened!"
- He drew his breath short, and strained me so close to him, I could
scarcely pant. After some minutes' silence, he continued, cheerily:
- "Now, Janet, I'll explain to you all about it. It was half dream,
half reality. A woman did, I doubt not, enter your room: and that
woman was -- must have been -- Grace Poole. You call her a strange
being yourself: from all you know, you have reason so to call her --
what did she do to me? what to Mason? In a state between sleeping
and waking, you noticed her entrance and her actions; but feverish,
almost delirious as you were, you ascribed to her a goblin
appearance different from her own: the long dishevelled hair, the
swelled black face, the exaggerated stature, were figments of
imagination; results of nightmare: the spiteful tearing of the veil
was real: and it is like her. I see you would ask why I keep such
a woman in my house: when we have been married a year and a day, I
will tell you; but not now. Are you satisfied, Jane? Do you accept
my solution of the mystery?"
- I reflected, and in truth it appeared to me the only possible one:
satisfied I was not, but to please him I endeavoured to appear so --
relieved, I certainly did feel; so I answered him with a contented
smile. And now, as it was long past one, I prepared to leave him.
- "Does not Sophie sleep with Adèle in the nursery?" he asked, as I
lit my candle.
- "Yes, sir."
- "And there is room enough in Adèle's little bed for you. You must
share it with her to-night, Jane: it is no wonder that the incident
you have related should make you nervous, and I would rather you did
not sleep alone: promise me to go to the nursery."
- "I shall be very glad to do so, sir."
- "And fasten the door securely on the inside. Wake Sophie when you
go upstairs, under pretence of requesting her to rouse you in good
time to-morrow; for you must be dressed and have finished breakfast
before eight. And now, no more sombre thoughts: chase dull care
away, Janet. Don't you hear to what soft whispers the wind has
fallen? and there is no more beating of rain against the window-panes: look here" (he lifted up the curtain) -- "it is a lovely
- It was. Half heaven was pure and stainless: the clouds, now
trooping before the wind, which had shifted to the west, were filing
off eastward in long, silvered columns. The moon shone peacefully.
- "Well," said Mr. Rochester, gazing inquiringly into my eyes, "how is
my Janet now?"
- "The night is serene, sir; and so am I."
- "And you will not dream of separation and sorrow to-night; but of
happy love and blissful union."
- This prediction was but half fulfilled: I did not indeed dream of
sorrow, but as little did I dream of joy; for I never slept at all.
With little Adèle in my arms, I watched the slumber of childhood -- so
tranquil, so passionless, so innocent -- and waited for the coming
day: all my life was awake and astir in my frame: and as soon as
the sun rose I rose too. I remember Adèle clung to me as I left
her: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from my
neck; and I cried over her with strange emotion, and quitted her
because I feared my sobs would break her still sound repose. She
seemed the emblem of my past life; and he I was now to array myself
to meet, the dread, but adored, type of my unknown future day.
- SOPHIE came at seven to dress me: she was very long indeed in
accomplishing her task; so long that Mr. Rochester, grown, I
suppose, impatient of my delay, sent up to ask why I did not come.
She was just fastening my veil (the plain square of blond after all)
to my hair with a brooch; I hurried from under her hands as soon as
- "Stop!" she cried in French. "Look at yourself in the mirror: you
have not taken one peep."
- So I turned at the door: I saw a robed and veiled figure, so unlike
my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger.
"Jane!" called a voice, and I hastened down. I was received at the
foot of the stairs by Mr. Rochester.
- "Lingerer!" he said, "my brain is on fire with impatience, and you
tarry so long!"
- He took me into the dining-room, surveyed me keenly all over,
pronounced me "fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life,
but the desire of his eyes," and then telling me he would give me
but ten minutes to eat some breakfast, he rang the bell. One of his
lately hired servants, a footman, answered it.
- "Is John getting the carriage ready?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "Is the luggage brought down?"
- "They are bringing it down, sir."
- "Go you to the church: see if Mr. Wood (the clergyman) and the
clerk are there: return and tell me."
- The church, as the reader knows, was but just beyond the gates; the
footman soon returned.
- "Mr. Wood is in the vestry, sir, putting on his surplice."
- "And the carriage?"
- "The horses are harnessing."
- "We shall not want it to go to church; but it must be ready the
moment we return: all the boxes and luggage arranged and strapped
on, and the coachman in his seat."
- "Yes, sir."
- "Jane, are you ready?"
- I rose. There were no groomsmen, no bridesmaids, no relatives to
wait for or marshal: none but Mr. Rochester and I. Mrs. Fairfax
stood in the hall as we passed. I would fain have spoken to her,
but my hand was held by a grasp of iron: I was hurried along by a
stride I could hardly follow; and to look at Mr. Rochester's face
was to feel that not a second of delay would be tolerated for any
purpose. I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did -- so
bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such
steadfast brows, ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.
- I know not whether the day was fair or foul; in descending the
drive, I gazed neither on sky nor earth: my heart was with my eyes;
and both seemed migrated into Mr. Rochester's frame. I wanted to
see the invisible thing on which, as we went along, he appeared to
fasten a glance fierce and fell. I wanted to feel the thoughts
whose force he seemed breasting and resisting.
- At the churchyard wicket he stopped: he discovered I was quite out
of breath. "Am I cruel in my love?" he said. "Delay an instant:
lean on me, Jane."
- And now I can recall the picture of the grey old house of God rising
calm before me, of a rook wheeling round the steeple, of a ruddy
morning sky beyond. I remember something, too, of the green grave-mounds; and I have not forgotten, either, two figures of strangers
straying amongst the low hillocks and reading the mementoes graven
on the few mossy head-stones. I noticed them, because, as they saw
us, they passed round to the back of the church; and I doubted not
they were going to enter by the side-aisle door and witness the
ceremony. By Mr. Rochester they were not observed; he was earnestly
looking at my face from which the blood had, I daresay, momentarily
fled: for I felt my forehead dewy, and my cheeks and lips cold.
When I rallied, which I soon did, he walked gently with me up the
path to the porch.
- We entered the quiet and humble temple; the priest waited in his
white surplice at the lowly altar, the clerk beside him. All was
still: two shadows only moved in a remote corner. My conjecture
had been correct: the strangers had slipped in before us, and they
now stood by the vault of the Rochesters, their backs towards us,
viewing through the rails the old time-stained marble tomb, where a
kneeling angel guarded the remains of Damer de Rochester, slain at
Marston Moor in the time of the civil wars, and of Elizabeth, his
- Our place was taken at the communion rails. Hearing a cautious step
behind me, I glanced over my shoulder: one of the strangers -- a
gentleman, evidently -- was advancing up the chancel. The service
began. The explanation of the intent of matrimony was gone through;
and then the clergyman came a step further forward, and, bending
slightly towards Mr. Rochester, went on.
- "I require and charge you both (as ye will answer at the dreadful
day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed),
that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully be
joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it; for be ye well
assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's
Word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their
- He paused, as the custom is. When is the pause after that sentence
ever broken by reply? Not, perhaps, once in a hundred years. And
the clergyman, who had not lifted his eyes from his book, and had
held his breath but for a moment, was proceeding: his hand was
already stretched towards Mr. Rochester, as his lips unclosed to
ask, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?" -- when a
distinct and near voice said: --
- "The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an
- The clergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk did
the same; Mr. Rochester moved slightly, as if an earthquake had
rolled under his feet: taking a firmer footing, and not turning his
head or eyes, he said, "Proceed."
- Profound silence fell when he had uttered that word, with deep but
low intonation. Presently Mr. Wood said: --
- "I cannot proceed without some investigation into what has been
asserted, and evidence of its truth or falsehood."
- "The ceremony is quite broken off," subjoined the voice behind us.
"I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable
impediment to this marriage exists."
- Mr. Rochester heard, but heeded not: he stood stubborn and rigid,
making no movement but to possess himself of my hand. What a hot
and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale,
firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone, still
watchful, and yet wild beneath!
- Mr. Wood seemed at a loss. "What is the nature of the impediment?"
he asked. "Perhaps it may be got over -- explained away?"
- "Hardly," was the answer. "I have called it insuperable, and I
- The speaker came forward and leaned on the rails. He continued,
uttering each word distinctly, calmly, steadily, but not loudly --
- "It simply consists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr.
Rochester has a wife now living."
- My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never
vibrated to thunder -- my blood felt their subtle violence as it had
never felt frost or fire; but I was collected, and in no danger of
swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His
whole face was colourless rock: his eye was both spark and flint.
He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things.
Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognise in
me a human being, he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted
me to his side.
- "Who are you?" he asked of the intruder.
- "My name is Briggs, a solicitor of ---- Street, London."
- "And you would thrust on me a wife?"
- "I would remind you of your lady's existence, sir, which the law
recognises, if you do not."
- "Favour me with an account of her -- with her name, her parentage, her
place of abode."
- "Certainly." Mr. Briggs calmly took a paper from his pocket, and
read out in a sort of official, nasal voice: --
- "'I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D. ---- (a date
of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield
Hall, in the county of ----, and of Ferndean Manor, in ----shire, England,
was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas
Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole -- at ---- church,
Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in
the register of that church -- a copy of it is now in my possession.
Signed, Richard Mason.'"
- "That -- if a genuine document -- may prove I have been married, but it
does not prove that the woman mentioned therein as my wife is still
- "She was living three months ago," returned the lawyer.
- "How do you know?"
- "I have a witness to the fact, whose testimony even you, sir, will
- "Produce him -- or go to hell."
- "I will produce him first -- he is on the spot. Mr. Mason, have the
goodness to step forward."
- Mr. Rochester, on hearing the name, set his teeth; he experienced,
too, a sort of strong convulsive quiver; near to him as I was, I
felt the spasmodic movement of fury or despair run through his
frame. The second stranger, who had hitherto lingered in the
background, now drew near; a pale face looked over the solicitor's
shoulder -- yes, it was Mason himself. Mr. Rochester turned and
glared at him. His eye, as I have often said, was a black eye: it
had now a tawny, nay, a bloody light in its gloom; and his face
flushed -- olive cheek and hueless forehead received a glow as from
spreading, ascending heart-fire: and he stirred, lifted his strong
arm -- he could have struck Mason, dashed him on the church-floor,
shocked by ruthless blow the breath from his body -- but Mason shrank
away, and cried faintly, "Good God!" Contempt fell cool on Mr.
Rochester -- his passion died as if a blight had shrivelled it up: he
only asked -- "What have you to say?"
- An inaudible reply escaped Mason's white lips.
- "The devil is in it if you cannot answer distinctly. I again
demand, what have you to say?"
- "Sir -- sir," interrupted the clergyman, "do not forget you are in a
sacred place." Then addressing Mason, he inquired gently, "Are you
aware, sir, whether or not this gentleman's wife is still living?"
- "Courage," urged the lawyer, -- "speak out."
- "She is now living at Thornfield Hall," said Mason, in more
articulate tones: "I saw her there last April. I am her brother."
- "At Thornfield Hall!" ejaculated the clergyman. "Impossible! I am
an old resident in this neighbourhood, sir, and I never heard of a
Mrs. Rochester at Thornfield Hall."
- I saw a grim smile contort Mr. Rochester's lips, and he muttered: --
- "No, by God! I took care that none should hear of it -- or of her
under that name." He mused -- for ten minutes he held counsel with
himself: he formed his resolve, and announced it: --
- "Enough! all shall bolt out at once, like the bullet from the
barrel. Wood, close your book and take off your surplice; John
Green (to the clerk), leave the church: there will be no wedding
to-day." The man obeyed.
- Mr. Rochester continued, hardily and recklessly: "Bigamy is an ugly
word! -- I meant, however, to be a bigamist; but fate has out-manoeuvred me, or Providence has checked me, -- perhaps the last. I
am little better than a devil at this moment; and, as my pastor
there would tell me, deserve no doubt the sternest judgments of God,
even to the quenchless fire and deathless worm. Gentlemen, my plan
is broken up: -- what this lawyer and his client say is true: I have
been married, and the woman to whom I was married lives! You say
you never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at the house up yonder, Wood;
but I daresay you have many a time inclined your ear to gossip about
the mysterious lunatic kept there under watch and ward. Some have
whispered to you that she is my bastard half-sister: some, my cast-off mistress. I now inform you that she is my wife, whom I married
fifteen years ago, -- Bertha Mason by name; sister of this resolute
personage, who is now, with his quivering limbs and white cheeks,
showing you what a stout heart men may bear. Cheer up, Dick! -- never
fear me! -- I'd almost as soon strike a woman as you. Bertha Mason is
mad; and she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three
generations? Her mother, the Creole, was both a madwoman and a
drunkard! -- as I found out after I had wed the daughter: for they
were silent on family secrets before. Bertha, like a dutiful child,
copied her parent in both points. I had a charming partner -- pure,
wise, modest: you can fancy I was a happy man. I went through rich
scenes! Oh! my experience has been heavenly, if you only knew it!
But I owe you no further explanation. Briggs, Wood, Mason, I invite
you all to come up to the house and visit Mrs. Poole's patient, and
my wife! You shall see what sort of a being I was cheated into
espousing, and judge whether or not I had a right to break the
compact, and seek sympathy with something at least human. This
girl," he continued, looking at me, "knew no more than you, Wood, of
the disgusting secret: she thought all was fair and legal and never
dreamt she was going to be entrapped into a feigned union with a
defrauded wretch, already bound to a bad, mad, and embruted partner!
Come all of you -- follow!"
- Still holding me fast, he left the church: the three gentlemen came
after. At the front door of the hall we found the carriage.
- "Take it back to the coach-house, John," said Mr. Rochester coolly;
"it will not be wanted to-day."
- At our entrance, Mrs. Fairfax, Adèle, Sophie, Leah, advanced to meet
and greet us.
- "To the right-about -- every soul!" cried the master; "away with your
congratulations! Who wants them? Not I! -- they are fifteen years
- He passed on and ascended the stairs, still holding my hand, and
still beckoning the gentlemen to follow him, which they did. We
mounted the first staircase, passed up the gallery, proceeded to the
third storey: the low, black door, opened by Mr. Rochester's
master-key, admitted us to the tapestried room, with its great bed
and its pictorial cabinet.
- "You know this place, Mason," said our guide; "she bit and stabbed
- He lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door:
this, too, he opened. In a room without a window, there burnt a
fire guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from
the ceiling by a chain. Grace Poole bent over the fire, apparently
cooking something in a saucepan. In the deep shade, at the farther
end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was,
whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell:
it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like
some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a
quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and
- "Good-morrow, Mrs. Poole!" said Mr. Rochester. "How are you? and
how is your charge to-day?"
- "We're tolerable, sir, I thank you," replied Grace, lifting the
boiling mess carefully on to the hob: "rather snappish, but not
- A fierce cry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report: the
clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind-feet.
- "Ah! sir, she sees you!" exclaimed Grace: "you'd better not stay."
- "Only a few moments, Grace: you must allow me a few moments."
- "Take care then, sir! -- for God's sake, take care!"
- The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage,
and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognised well that purple
face, -- those bloated features. Mrs. Poole advanced.
- "Keep out of the way," said Mr. Rochester, thrusting her aside:
"she has no knife now, I suppose, and I'm on my guard."
- "One never knows what she has, sir: she is so cunning: it is not
in mortal discretion to fathom her craft."
- "We had better leave her," whispered Mason.
- "Go to the devil!" was his brother-in-law's recommendation.
- "'Ware!" cried Grace. The three gentlemen retreated simultaneously.
Mr. Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled
his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they
struggled. She was a big woman, in stature almost equalling her
husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the
contest -- more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he
was. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow; but he
would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her
arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her:
with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. The
operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells and the most
convulsive plunges. Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators:
he looked at them with a smile both acrid and desolate.
- "That is my wife," said he. "Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am
ever to know -- such are the endearments which are to solace my
leisure hours! And this is what I wished to have" (laying his hand
on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at
the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon, I
wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and
Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the
red balls yonder -- this face with that mask -- this form with that
bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and
remember with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged! Off with
you now. I must shut up my prize."
- We all withdrew. Mr. Rochester stayed a moment behind us, to give
some further order to Grace Poole. The solicitor addressed me as he
descended the stair.
- "You, madam," said he, "are cleared from all blame: your uncle will
be glad to hear it -- if, indeed, he should be still living -- when Mr.
Mason returns to Madeira."
- "My uncle! What of him? Do you know him?"
- "Mr. Mason does. Mr. Eyre has been the Funchal correspondent of his
house for some years. When your uncle received your letter
intimating the contemplated union between yourself and Mr.
Rochester, Mr. Mason, who was staying at Madeira to recruit his
health, on his way back to Jamaica, happened to be with him. Mr.
Eyre mentioned the intelligence; for he knew that my client here was
acquainted with a gentleman of the name of Rochester. Mr. Mason,
astonished and distressed as you may suppose, revealed the real
state of matters. Your uncle, I am sorry to say, is now on a sick
bed; from which, considering the nature of his disease -- decline -- and
the stage it has reached, it is unlikely he will ever rise. He
could not then hasten to England himself, to extricate you from the
snare into which you had fallen, but he implored Mr. Mason to lose
no time in taking steps to prevent the false marriage. He referred
him to me for assistance. I used all despatch, and am thankful I
was not too late: as you, doubtless, must be also. Were I not
morally certain that your uncle will be dead ere you reach Madeira,
I would advise you to accompany Mr. Mason back; but as it is, I
think you had better remain in England till you can hear further,
either from or of Mr. Eyre. Have we anything else to stay for?" he
inquired of Mr. Mason.
- "No, no -- let us be gone," was the anxious reply; and without waiting
to take leave of Mr. Rochester, they made their exit at the hall
door. The clergyman stayed to exchange a few sentences, either of
admonition or reproof, with his haughty parishioner; this duty done,
he too departed.
- I heard him go as I stood at the half-open door of my own room, to
which I had now withdrawn. The house cleared, I shut myself in,
fastened the bolt that none might intrude, and proceeded -- not to
weep, not to mourn, I was yet too calm for that, but -- mechanically
to take off the wedding dress, and replace it by the stuff gown I
had worn yesterday, as I thought, for the last time. I then sat
down: I felt weak and tired. I leaned my arms on a table, and my
head dropped on them. And now I thought: till now I had only
heard, seen, moved -- followed up and down where I was led or dragged -- watched event rush on event, disclosure open beyond disclosure:
but now, I thought.
- The morning had been a quiet morning enough -- all except the brief
scene with the lunatic: the transaction in the church had not been
noisy; there was no explosion of passion, no loud altercation, no
dispute, no defiance or challenge, no tears, no sobs: a few words
had been spoken, a calmly pronounced objection to the marriage made;
some stern, short questions put by Mr. Rochester; answers,
explanations given, evidence adduced; an open admission of the truth
had been uttered by my master; then the living proof had been seen;
the intruders were gone, and all was over.
- I was in my own room as usual -- just myself, without obvious change:
nothing had smitten me, or scathed me, or maimed me. And yet where
was the Jane Eyre of yesterday? -- where was her life? -- where were her
- Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman -- almost a bride,
was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects
were desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white
December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples,
drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a
frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve
hours since waved leafy and flagrant as groves between the tropics,
now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway.
My hopes were all dead -- struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one
night, fell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt. I looked on
my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay
stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive. I looked at my
love: that feeling which was my master's -- which he had created; it
shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle;
sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr.
Rochester's arms -- it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh,
never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted -- confidence
destroyed! Mr. Rochester was not to me what he had been; for he was
not what I had thought him. I would not ascribe vice to him; I
would not say he had betrayed me; but the attribute of stainless
truth was gone from his idea, and from his presence I must go: that
I perceived well. When -- how -- whither, I could not yet discern; but
he himself, I doubted not, would hurry me from Thornfield. Real
affection, it seemed, he could not have for me; it had been only
fitful passion: that was balked; he would want me no more. I
should fear even to cross his path now: my view must be hateful to
him. Oh, how blind had been my eyes! How weak my conduct!
- My eyes were covered and closed: eddying darkness seemed to swim
round me, and reflection came in as black and confused a flow.
Self-abandoned, relaxed, and effortless, I seemed to have laid me
down in the dried-up bed of a great river; I heard a flood loosened
in remote mountains, and felt the torrent come: to rise I had no
will, to flee I had no strength. I lay faint, longing to be dead.
One idea only still throbbed life-like within me -- a remembrance of
God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up
and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered,
but no energy was found to express them: --
- "Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help."
- It was near: and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it -- as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my
lips -- it came: in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me. The
whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched,
my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen
mass. That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, "the waters
came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came
into deep waters; the floods overflowed me."
- SOME time in the afternoon I raised my head, and looking round and
seeing the western sun gilding the sign of its decline on the wall,
I asked, "What am I to do?"
- But the answer my mind gave -- "Leave Thornfield at once" -- was so
prompt, so dread, that I stopped my ears. I said I could not bear
such words now. "That I am not Edward Rochester's bride is the
least part of my woe," I alleged: "that I have wakened out of most
glorious dreams, and found them all void and vain, is a horror I
could bear and master; but that I must leave him decidedly,
instantly, entirely, is intolerable. I cannot do it."
- But, then, a voice within me averred that I could do it and foretold
that I should do it. I wrestled with my own resolution: I wanted
to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering
I saw laid out for me; and Conscience, turned tyrant, held Passion
by the throat, told her tauntingly, she had yet but dipped her
dainty foot in the slough, and swore that with that arm of iron he
would thrust her down to unsounded depths of agony.
- "Let me be torn away," then I cried. "Let another help me!"
- "No; you shall tear yourself away, none shall help you: you shall
yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand:
your heart shall be the victim, and you the priest to transfix it."
- I rose up suddenly, terror-struck at the solitude which so ruthless
a judge haunted, -- at the silence which so awful a voice filled. My
head swam as I stood erect. I perceived that I was sickening from
excitement and inanition; neither meat nor drink had passed my lips
that day, for I had taken no breakfast. And, with a strange pang, I
now reflected that, long as I had been shut up here, no message had
been sent to ask how I was, or to invite me to come down: not even
little Adèle had tapped at the door; not even Mrs. Fairfax had
sought me. "Friends always forget those whom fortune forsakes," I
murmured, as I undrew the bolt and passed out. I stumbled over an
obstacle: my head was still dizzy, my sight was dim, and my limbs
were feeble. I could not soon recover myself. I fell, but not on
to the ground: an outstretched arm caught me. I looked up -- I was
supported by Mr. Rochester, who sat in a chair across my chamber
- "You come out at last," he said. "Well, I have been waiting for you
long, and listening: yet not one movement have I heard, nor one
sob: five minutes more of that death-like hush, and I should have
forced the lock like a burglar. So you shun me? -- you shut yourself
up and grieve alone! I would rather you had come and upbraided me
with vehemence. You are passionate. I expected a scene of some
kind. I was prepared for the hot rain of tears; only I wanted them
to be shed on my breast: now a senseless floor has received them,
or your drenched handkerchief. But I err: you have not wept at
all! I see a white cheek and a faded eye, but no trace of tears. I
suppose, then, your heart has been weeping blood?"
- "Well, Jane! not a word of reproach? Nothing bitter -- nothing
poignant? Nothing to cut a feeling or sting a passion? You sit
quietly where I have placed you, and regard me with a weary, passive
- "Jane, I never meant to wound you thus. If the man who had but one
little ewe lamb that was dear to him as a daughter, that ate of his
bread and drank of his cup, and lay in his bosom, had by some
mistake slaughtered it at the shambles, he would not have rued his
bloody blunder more than I now rue mine. Will you ever forgive me?"
- Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such
deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly
energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in
his whole look and mien -- I forgave him all: yet not in words, not
outwardly; only at my heart's core.
- "You know I am a scoundrel, Jane?" ere long he inquired wistfully --
wondering, I suppose, at my continued silence and tameness, the
result rather of weakness than of will.
- "Yes, sir."
- "Then tell me so roundly and sharply -- don't spare me."
- "I cannot: I am tired and sick. I want some water." He heaved a
sort of shuddering sigh, and taking me in his arms, carried me
downstairs. At first I did not know to what room he had borne me;
all was cloudy to my glazed sight: presently I felt the reviving
warmth of a fire; for, summer as it was, I had become icy cold in my
chamber. He put wine to my lips; I tasted it and revived; then I
ate something he offered me, and was soon myself. I was in the
library -- sitting in his chair -- he was quite near. "If I could go
out of life now, without too sharp a pang, it would be well for me,"
I thought; "then I should not have to make the effort of cracking my
heart-strings in rending them from among Mr. Rochester's. I must
leave him, it appears. I do not want to leave him -- I cannot leave
- "How are you now, Jane?"
- "Much better, sir; I shall be well soon."
- "Taste the wine again, Jane."
- I obeyed him; then he put the glass on the table, stood before me,
and looked at me attentively. Suddenly he turned away, with an
inarticulate exclamation, full of passionate emotion of some kind;
he walked fast through the room and came back; he stooped towards me
as if to kiss me; but I remembered caresses were now forbidden. I
turned my face away and put his aside.
- "What! -- How is this?" he exclaimed hastily. "Oh, I know! you won't
kiss the husband of Bertha Mason? You consider my arms filled and
my embraces appropriated?"
- "At any rate, there is neither room nor claim for me, sir."
- "Why, Jane? I will spare you the trouble of much talking; I will
answer for you -- Because I have a wife already, you would reply. -- I
- "If you think so, you must have a strange opinion of me; you must
regard me as a plotting profligate -- a base and low rake who has been
simulating disinterested love in order to draw you into a snare
deliberately laid, and strip you of honour and rob you of self-respect. What do you say to that? I see you can say nothing in the
first place, you are faint still, and have enough to do to draw your
breath; in the second place, you cannot yet accustom yourself to
accuse and revile me, and besides, the flood-gates of tears are
opened, and they would rush out if you spoke much; and you have no
desire to expostulate, to upbraid, to make a scene: you are
thinking how to act -- talking you consider is of no use. I know you -- I am on my guard."
- "Sir, I do not wish to act against you," I said; and my unsteady
voice warned me to curtail my sentence.
- "Not in your sense of the word, but in mine you are scheming to
destroy me. You have as good as said that I am a married man -- as a
married man you will shun me, keep out of my way: just now you have
refused to kiss me. You intend to make yourself a complete stranger
to me: to live under this roof only as Adèle's governess; if ever I
say a friendly word to you, if ever a friendly feeling inclines you
again to me, you will say, -- 'That man had nearly made me his
mistress: I must be ice and rock to him;' and ice and rock you will
- I cleared and steadied my voice to reply: "All is changed about me,
sir; I must change too -- there is no doubt of that; and to avoid
fluctuations of feeling, and continual combats with recollections
and associations, there is only one way -- Adèle must have a new
- "Oh, Adèle will go to school -- I have settled that already; nor do I
mean to torment you with the hideous associations and recollections
of Thornfield Hall -- this accursed place -- this tent of Achan -- this
insolent vault, offering the ghastliness of living death to the
light of the open sky -- this narrow stone hell, with its one real
fiend, worse than a legion of such as we imagine. Jane, you shall
not stay here, nor will I. I was wrong ever to bring you to
Thornfield Hall, knowing as I did how it was haunted. I charged
them to conceal from you, before I ever saw you, all knowledge of
the curse of the place; merely because I feared Adèle never would
have a governess to stay if she knew with what inmate she was
housed, and my plans would not permit me to remove the maniac
elsewhere -- though I possess an old house, Ferndean Manor, even more
retired and hidden than this, where I could have lodged her safely
enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation,
in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the
arrangement. Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me of
her charge: but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a
tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.
- "Concealing the mad-woman's neighbourhood from you, however, was
something like covering a child with a cloak and laying it down near
a upas-tree: that demon's vicinage is poisoned, and always was.
But I'll shut up Thornfield Hall: I'll nail up the front door and
board the lower windows: I'll give Mrs. Poole two hundred a year to
live here with my wife, as you term that fearful hag: Grace will do
much for money, and she shall have her son, the keeper at Grimsby
Retreat, to bear her company and be at hand to give her aid in the
paroxysms, when my wife is prompted by her familiar to burn people
in their beds at night, to stab them, to bite their flesh from their
bones, and so on" ----
- "Sir," I interrupted him, "you are inexorable for that unfortunate
lady: you speak of her with hate -- with vindictive antipathy. It is
cruel -- she cannot help being mad."
- "Jane, my little darling (so I will call you, for so you are), you
don't know what you are talking about; you misjudge me again: it is
not because she is mad I hate her. If you were mad, do you think I
should hate you?"
- "I do indeed, sir."
- "Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing
about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your
flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would
still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it
would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine
you, and not a strait waistcoat -- your grasp, even in fury, would
have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did
this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond
as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with
disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no
watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring
tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary
of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of
recognition for me. -- But why do I follow that train of ideas? I was
talking of removing you from Thornfield. All, you know, is prepared
for prompt departure: to-morrow you shall go. I only ask you to
endure one more night under this roof, Jane; and then, farewell to
its miseries and terrors for ever! I have a place to repair to,
which will be a secure sanctuary from hateful reminiscences, from
unwelcome intrusion -- even from falsehood and slander."
- "And take Adèle with you, sir," I interrupted; "she will be a
companion for you."
- "What do you mean, Jane? I told you I would send Adèle to school;
and what do I want with a child for a companion, and not my own
child, -- a French dancer's bastard? Why do you importune me about
her! I say, why do you assign Adèle to me for a companion?"
- "You spoke of a retirement, sir; and retirement and solitude are
dull: too dull for you."
- "Solitude! solitude!" he reiterated with irritation. "I see I must
come to an explanation. I don't know what sphynx-like expression is
forming in your countenance. You are to share my solitude. Do you
- I shook my head: it required a degree of courage, excited as he was
becoming, even to risk that mute sign of dissent. He had been
walking fast about the room, and he stopped, as if suddenly rooted
to one spot. He looked at me long and hard: I turned my eyes from
him, fixed them on the fire, and tried to assume and maintain a
quiet, collected aspect.
- "Now for the hitch in Jane's character," he said at last, speaking
more calmly than from his look I had expected him to speak. "The
reel of silk has run smoothly enough so far; but I always knew there
would come a knot and a puzzle: here it is. Now for vexation, and
exasperation, and endless trouble! By God! I long to exert a
fraction of Samson's strength, and break the entanglement like tow!"
- He recommenced his walk, but soon again stopped, and this time just
- "Jane! will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips to
my ear); "because, if you won't, I'll try violence." His voice was
hoarse; his look that of a man who is just about to burst an
insufferable bond and plunge headlong into wild license. I saw that
in another moment, and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be
able to do nothing with him. The present -- the passing second of
time -- was all I had in which to control and restrain him -- a movement
of repulsion, flight, fear would have sealed my doom, -- and his. But
I was not afraid: not in the least. I felt an inward power; a
sense of influence, which supported me. The crisis was perilous;
but not without its charm: such as the Indian, perhaps, feels when
he slips over the rapid in his canoe. I took hold of his clenched
hand, loosened the contorted fingers, and said to him, soothingly, --
- "Sit down; I'll talk to you as long as you like, and hear all you
have to say, whether reasonable or unreasonable."
- He sat down: but he did not get leave to speak directly. I had
been struggling with tears for some time: I had taken great pains
to repress them, because I knew he would not like to see me weep.
Now, however, I considered it well to let them flow as freely and as
long as they liked. If the flood annoyed him, so much the better.
So I gave way and cried heartily.
- Soon I heard him earnestly entreating me to be composed. I said I
could not while he was in such a passion.
- "But I am not angry, Jane: I only love you too well; and you had
steeled your little pale face with such a resolute, frozen look, I
could not endure it. Hush, now, and wipe your eyes."
- His softened voice announced that he was subdued; so I, in my turn,
became calm. Now he made an effort to rest his head on my shoulder,
but I would not permit it. Then he would draw me to him: no.
- "Jane! Jane!" he said, in such an accent of bitter sadness it
thrilled along every nerve I had; "you don't love me, then? It was
only my station, and the rank of my wife, that you valued? Now that
you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my
touch as if I were some toad or ape."
- These words cut me: yet what could I do or I say? I ought probably
to have done or said nothing; but I was so tortured by a sense of
remorse at thus hurting his feelings, I could not control the wish
to drop balm where I had wounded.
- "I do love you," I said, "more than ever: but I must not show or
indulge the feeling: and this is the last time I must express it."
- "The last time, Jane! What! do you think you can live with me, and
see me daily, and yet, if you still love me, be always cold and
- "No, sir; that I am certain I could not; and therefore I see there
is but one way: but you will be furious if I mention it."
- "Oh, mention it! If I storm, you have the art of weeping."
- "Mr. Rochester, I must leave you."
- "For how long, Jane? For a few minutes, while you smooth your hair -- which is somewhat dishevelled; and bathe your face -- which looks
- "I must leave Adèle and Thornfield. I must part with you for my
whole life: I must begin a new existence among strange faces and
- "Of course: I told you you should. I pass over the madness about
parting from me. You mean you must become a part of me. As to the
new existence, it is all right: you shall yet be my wife: I am not
married. You shall be Mrs. Rochester -- both virtually and nominally.
I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to
a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the
shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and
guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you
into error -- to make you my mistress. Why did you shake your head?
Jane, you must be reasonable, or in truth I shall again become
- His voice and hand quivered: his large nostrils dilated; his eye
blazed: still I dared to speak: --
- "Sir, your wife is living: that is a fact acknowledged this morning
by yourself. If I lived with you as you desire, I should then be
your mistress: to say otherwise is sophistical -- is false."
- "Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man -- you forget that: I am not
long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me
and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and --
- He bared his wrist, and offered it to me: the blood was forsaking
his cheek and lips, they were growing livid; I was distressed on all
hands. To agitate him thus deeply, by a resistance he so abhorred,
was cruel: to yield was out of the question. I did what human
beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity --
looked for aid to one higher than man: the words "God help me!"
burst involuntarily from my lips.
- "I am a fool!" cried Mr. Rochester suddenly. "I keep telling her I
am not married, and do not explain to her why. I forget she knows
nothing of the character of that woman, or of the circumstances
attending my infernal union with her. Oh, I am certain Jane will
agree with me in opinion, when she knows all that I know! Just put
your hand in mine, Janet -- that I may have the evidence of touch as
well as sight, to prove you are near me -- and I will in a few words
show you the real state of the case. Can you listen to me
- "Yes, sir; for hours if you will."
- "I ask only minutes. Jane, did you ever hear or know at I was not
the eldest son of my house: that I had once a brother older than
- "I remember Mrs. Fairfax told me so once."
- "And did you ever hear that my father was an avaricious, grasping
- "I have understood something to that effect."
- "Well, Jane, being so, it was his resolution to keep the property
together; he could not bear the idea of dividing his estate and
leaving me a fair portion: all, he resolved, should go to my
brother, Rowland. Yet as little could he endure that a son of his
should be a poor man. I must be provided for by a wealthy marriage.
He sought me a partner betimes. Mr. Mason, a West India planter and
merchant, was his old acquaintance. He was certain his possessions
were real and vast: he made inquiries. Mr. Mason, he found, had a
son and daughter; and he learned from him that he could and would
give the latter a fortune of thirty thousand pounds: that sufficed.
When I left college, I was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride
already courted for me. My father said nothing about her money; but
he told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty:
and this was no lie. I found her a fine woman, in the style of
Blanche Ingram: tall, dark, and majestic. Her family wished to
secure me because I was of a good race; and so did she. They showed
her to me in parties, splendidly dressed. I seldom saw her alone,
and had very little private conversation with her. She flattered
me, and lavishly displayed for my pleasure her charms and
accomplishments. All the men in her circle seemed to admire her and
envy me. I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and
being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her.
There is no folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of society,
the prurience, the rashness, the blindness of youth, will not hurry
a man to its commission. Her relatives encouraged me; competitors
piqued me; she allured me: a marriage was achieved almost before I
knew where I was. Oh, I have no respect for myself when I think of
that act! -- an agony of inward contempt masters me. I never loved, I
never esteemed, I did not even know her. I was not sure of the
existence of one virtue in her nature: I had marked neither
modesty, nor benevolence, nor candour, nor refinement in her mind or
manners -- and, I married her: - gross, grovelling, mole-eyed blockhead
that I was! With less sin I might have -- But let me remember to whom
I am speaking."
- "My bride's mother I had never seen: I understood she was dead.
The honeymoon over, I learned my mistake; she was only mad, and shut
up in a lunatic asylum. There was a younger brother, too -- a
complete dumb idiot. The elder one, whom you have seen (and whom I
cannot hate, whilst I abhor all his kindred, because he has some
grains of affection in his feeble mind, shown in the continued
interest he takes in his wretched sister, and also in a dog-like
attachment he once bore me), will probably be in the same state one
day. My father and my brother Rowland knew all this; but they
thought only of the thirty thousand pounds, and joined in the plot
- "These were vile discoveries; but except for the treachery of
concealment, I should have made them no subject of reproach to my
wife, even when I found her nature wholly alien to mine, her tastes
obnoxious to me, her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and
singularly incapable of being led to anything higher, expanded to
anything larger -- when I found that I could not pass a single
evening, nor even a single hour of the day with her in comfort; that
kindly conversation could not be sustained between us, because
whatever topic I started, immediately received from her a turn at
once coarse and trite, perverse and imbecile -- when I perceived that
I should never have a quiet or settled household, because no servant
would bear the continued outbreaks of her violent and unreasonable
temper, or the vexations of her absurd, contradictory, exacting
orders -- even then I restrained myself: I eschewed upbraiding, I
curtailed remonstrance; I tried to devour my repentance and disgust
in secret; I repressed the deep antipathy I felt.
- "Jane, I will not trouble you with abominable details: some strong
words shall express what I have to say. I lived with that woman
upstairs four years, and before that time she had tried me indeed:
her character ripened and developed with frightful rapidity; her
vices sprang up fast and rank: they were so strong, only cruelty
could check them, and I would not use cruelty. What a pigmy
intellect she had, and what giant propensities! How fearful were
the curses those propensities entailed on me! Bertha Mason, the
true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through all the
hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to a
wife at once intemperate and unchaste.
- "My brother in the interval was dead, and at the end of the four
years my father died too. I was rich enough now -- yet poor to
hideous indigence: a nature the most gross, impure, depraved I ever
saw, was associated with mine, and called by the law and by society
a part of me. And I could not rid myself of it by any legal
proceedings: for the doctors now discovered that my wife was mad --
her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity. Jane,
you don't like my narrative; you look almost sick -- shall I defer the
rest to another day?"
- "No, sir, finish it now; I pity you -- I do earnestly pity you."
- "Pity, Jane, from some people is a noxious and insulting sort of
tribute, which one is justified in hurling back in the teeth of
those who offer it; but that is the sort of pity native to callous,
selfish hearts; it is a hybrid, egotistical pain at hearing of woes,
crossed with ignorant contempt for those who have endured them. But
that is not your pity, Jane; it is not the feeling of which your
whole face is full at this moment -- with which your eyes are now
almost overflowing -- with which your heart is heaving -- with which
your hand is trembling in mine. Your pity, my darling, is the
suffering mother of love: its anguish is the very natal pang of the
divine passion. I accept it, Jane; let the daughter have free
advent -- my arms wait to receive her."
- "Now, sir, proceed; what did you do when you found she was mad?"
- "Jane, I approached the verge of despair; a remnant of self-respect
was all that intervened between me and the gulf. In the eyes of the
world, I was doubtless covered with grimy dishonour; but I resolved
to be clean in my own sight -- and to the last I repudiated the
contamination of her crimes, and wrenched myself from connection
with her mental defects. Still, society associated my name and
person with hers; I yet saw her and heard her daily: something of
her breath (faugh!) mixed with the air I breathed; and besides, I
remembered I had once been her husband -- that recollection was then,
and is now, inexpressibly odious to me; moreover, I knew that while
she lived I could never be the husband of another and better wife;
and, though five years my senior (her family and her father had lied
to me even in the particular of her age), she was likely to live as
long as I, being as robust in frame as she was infirm in mind.
Thus, at the age of twenty-six, I was hopeless.
- "One night I had been awakened by her yells -- (since the medical men
had pronounced her mad, she had, of course, been shut up) -- it was a
fiery West Indian night; one of the description that frequently
precede the hurricanes of those climates. Being unable to sleep in
bed, I got up and opened the window. The air was like sulphur-steams -- I could find no refreshment anywhere. Mosquitoes came
buzzing in and hummed sullenly round the room; the sea, which I
could hear from thence, rumbled dull like an earthquake -- black
clouds were casting up over it; the moon was setting in the waves,
broad and red, like a hot cannon-ball -- she threw her last bloody
glance over a world quivering with the ferment of tempest. I was
physically influenced by the atmosphere and scene, and my ears were
filled with the curses the maniac still shrieked out; wherein she
momentarily mingled my name with such a tone of demon-hate, with
such language! -- no professed harlot ever had a fouler vocabulary
than she: though two rooms off, I heard every word -- the thin
partitions of the West India house opposing but slight obstruction
to her wolfish cries.
- "'This life,' said I at last, 'is hell: this is the air -- those are
the sounds of the bottomless pit! I have a right to deliver myself
from it if I can. The sufferings of this mortal state will leave me
with the heavy flesh that now cumbers my soul. Of the fanatic's
burning eternity I have no fear: there is not a future state worse
than this present one -- let me break away, and go home to God!'
- "I said this whilst I knelt down at, and unlocked a trunk which
contained a brace of loaded pistols: I mean to shoot myself. I
only entertained the intention for a moment; for, not being insane,
the crisis of exquisite and unalloyed despair, which had originated
the wish and design of self-destruction, was past in a second.
- "A wind fresh from Europe blew over the ocean and rushed through the
open casement: the storm broke, streamed, thundered, blazed, and
the air grew pure. I then framed and fixed a resolution. While I
walked under the dripping orange-trees of my wet garden, and amongst
its drenched pomegranates and pine-apples, and while the refulgent
dawn of the tropics kindled round me -- I reasoned thus, Jane -- and now
listen; for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and
showed me the right path to follow.
- "The sweet wind from Europe was still whispering in the refreshed
leaves, and the Atlantic was thundering in glorious liberty; my
heart, dried up and scorched for a long time, swelled to the tone,
and filled with living blood -- my being longed for renewal -- my soul
thirsted for a pure draught. I saw hope revive -- and felt
regeneration possible. From a flowery arch at the bottom of my
garden I gazed over the sea -- bluer than the sky: the old world was
beyond; clear prospects opened thus: --
- "'Go,' said Hope, 'and live again in Europe: there it is not known
what a sullied name you bear, nor what a filthy burden is bound to
you. You may take the maniac with you to England; confine her with
due attendance and precautions at Thornfield: then travel yourself
to what clime you will, and form what new tie you like. That woman,
who has so abused your long-suffering, so sullied your name, so
outraged your honour, so blighted your youth, is not your wife, nor
are you her husband. See that she is cared for as her condition
demands, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you.
Let her identity, her connection with yourself, be buried in
oblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being. Place
her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy,
and leave her.'
- "I acted precisely on this suggestion. My father and brother had
not made my marriage known to their acquaintance; because, in the
very first letter I wrote to apprise them of the union -- having
already begun to experience extreme disgust of its consequences,
and, from the family character and constitution, seeing a hideous
future opening to me -- I added an urgent charge to keep it secret:
and very soon the infamous conduct of the wife my father had
selected for me was such as to make him blush to own her as his
daughter-in-law. Far from desiring to publish the connection, he
became as anxious to conceal it as myself.
- "To England, then, I conveyed her; a fearful voyage I had with such
a monster in the vessel. Glad was I when I at last got her to
Thornfield, and saw her safely lodged in that third-storey room, of
whose secret inner cabinet she has now for ten years made a wild
beast's den -- a goblin's cell. I had some trouble in finding an
attendant for her, as it was necessary to select one on whose
fidelity dependence could be placed; for her ravings would
inevitably betray my secret: besides, she had lucid intervals of
days -- sometimes weeks -- which she filled up with abuse of me. At
last I hired Grace Poole from the Grimbsy Retreat. She and the
surgeon, Carter (who dressed Mason's wounds that night he was
stabbed and worried), are the only two I have ever admitted to my
confidence. Mrs. Fairfax may indeed have suspected something, but
she could have gained no precise knowledge as to facts. Grace has,
on the whole, proved a good keeper; though, owing partly to a fault
of her own, of which it appears nothing can cure her, and which is
incident to her harassing profession, her vigilance has been more
than once lulled and baffled. The lunatic is both cunning and
malignant; she has never failed to take advantage of her guardian's
temporary lapses; once to secrete the knife with which she stabbed
her brother, and twice to possess herself of the key of her cell,
and issue therefrom in the night-time. On the first of these
occasions, she perpetrated the attempt to burn me in my bed; on the
second, she paid that ghastly visit to you. I thank Providence, who
watched over you, that she then spent her fury on your wedding
apparel, which perhaps brought back vague reminiscences of her own
bridal days: but on what might have happened, I cannot endure to
reflect. When I think of the thing which flew at my throat this
morning, hanging its black and scarlet visage over the nest of my
dove, my blood curdles" ----
- "And what, sir," I asked, while he paused, "did you do when you had
settled her here? Where did you go?"
- "What did I do, Jane? I transformed myself into a will-o'-the-wisp.
Where did I go? I pursued wanderings as wild as those of the March-spirit. I sought the Continent, and went devious through all its
lands. My fixed desire was to seek and find a good and intelligent
woman, whom I could love: a contrast to the fury I left at
Thornfield -- "
- "But you could not marry, sir."
- "I had determined and was convinced that I could and ought. It was
not my original intention to deceive, as I have deceived you. I
meant to tell my tale plainly, and make my proposals openly: and it
appeared to me so absolutely rational that I should be considered
free to love and be loved, I never doubted some woman might be found
willing and able to understand my case and accept me, in spite of
the curse with which I was burdened."
- "Well, sir?"
- "When you are inquisitive, Jane, you always make me smile. You open
your eyes like an eager bird, and make every now and then a restless
movement, as if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for you,
and you wanted to read the tablet of one's heart. But before I go
on, tell me what you mean by your 'Well, sir?' It is a small phrase
very frequent with you; and which many a time has drawn me on and on
through interminable talk: I don't very well know why."
- "I mean, -- What next? How did you proceed? What came of such an
- "Precisely! and what do you wish to know now?"
- "Whether you found any one you liked: whether you asked her to
marry you; and what she said."
- "I can tell you whether I found any one I liked, and whether I asked
her to marry me: but what she said is yet to be recorded in the
book of Fate. For ten long years I roved about, living first in one
capital, then another: sometimes in St. Petersburg; oftener in
Paris; occasionally in Rome, Naples, and Florence. Provided with
plenty of money and the passport of an old name, I could choose my
own society: no circles were closed against me. I sought my ideal
of a woman amongst English ladies, French countesses, Italian
signoras, and German grafinnen. I could not find her. Sometimes,
for a fleeting moment, I thought I caught a glance, heard a tone,
beheld a form, which announced the realisation of my dream: but I
was presently undeserved. You are not to suppose that I desired
perfection, either of mind or person. I longed only for what suited
me -- for the antipodes of the Creole: and I longed vainly. Amongst
them all I found not one whom, had I been ever so free, I -- warned as
I was of the risks, the horrors, the loathings of incongruous
unions -- would have asked to marry me. Disappointment made me
reckless. I tried dissipation -- never debauchery: that I hated, and
hate. That was my Indian Messalina's attribute: rooted disgust at
it and her restrained me much, even in pleasure. Any enjoyment that
bordered on riot seemed to approach me to her and her vices, and I
- "Yet I could not live alone; so I tried the companionship of
mistresses. The first I chose was Céline Varens -- another of those
steps which make a man spurn himself when he recalls them. You
already know what she was, and how my liaison with her terminated.
She had two successors: an Italian, Giacinta, and a German, Clara;
both considered singularly handsome. What was their beauty to me in
a few weeks? Giacinta was unprincipled and violent: I tired of her
in three months. Clara was honest and quiet; but heavy, mindless,
and unimpressible: not one whit to my taste. I was glad to give
her a sufficient sum to set her up in a good line of business, and
so get decently rid of her. But, Jane, I see by your face you are
not forming a very favourable opinion of me just now. You think me
an unfeeling, loose-principled rake: don't you?"
- "I don't like you so well as I have done sometimes, indeed, sir.
Did it not seem to you in the least wrong to live in that way, first
with one mistress and then another? You talk of it as a mere matter
- "It was with me; and I did not like it. It was a grovelling fashion
of existence: I should never like to return to it. Hiring a
mistress is the next worse thing to buying a slave: both are often
by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live familiarly
with inferiors is degrading. I now hate the recollection of the
time I passed with Céline, Giacinta, and Clara."
- I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain
inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the
teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as -- under any
pretext -- with any justification -- through any temptation -- to become
the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with
the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory. I
did not give utterance to this conviction: it was enough to feel
it. I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve
me as aid in the time of trial.
- "Now, Jane, why don't you say 'Well, sir?' I have not done. You
are looking grave. You disapprove of me still, I see. But let me
come to the point. Last January, rid of all mistresses -- in a harsh,
bitter frame of mind, the result of a useless, roving, lonely life --
corroded with disappointment, sourly disposed against all men, and
especially against all womankind (for I began to regard the notion
of an intellectual, faithful, loving woman as a mere dream),
recalled by business, I came back to England.
- "On a frosty winter afternoon, I rode in sight of Thornfield Hall.
Abhorred spot! I expected no peace -- no pleasure there. On a stile
in Hay Lane I saw a quiet little figure sitting by itself. I passed
it as negligently as I did the pollard willow opposite to it: I had
no presentiment of what it would be to me; no inward warning that
the arbitress of my life -- my genius for good or evil -- waited there
in humble guise. I did not know it, even when, on the occasion of
Mesrour's accident, it came up and gravely offered me help.
Childish and slender creature! It seemed as if a linnet had hopped
to my foot and proposed to bear me on its tiny wing. I was surly;
but the thing would not go: it stood by me with strange
perseverance, and looked and spoke with a sort of authority. I must
be aided, and by that hand: and aided I was.
- "When once I had pressed the frail shoulder, something new -- a fresh
sap and sense -- stole into my frame. It was well I had learnt that
this elf must return to me -- that it belonged to my house down below -- or I could not have felt it pass away from under my hand, and seen
it vanish behind the dim hedge, without singular regret. I heard
you come home that night, Jane, though probably you were not aware
that I thought of you or watched for you. The next day I observed
you -- myself unseen -- for half-an-hour, while you played with Adèle in
the gallery. It was a snowy day, I recollect, and you could not go
out of doors. I was in my room; the door was ajar: I could both
listen and watch. Adèle claimed your outward attention for a while;
yet I fancied your thoughts were elsewhere: but you were very
patient with her, my little Jane; you talked to her and amused her a
long time. When at last she left you, you lapsed at once into deep
reverie: you betook yourself slowly to pace the gallery. Now and
then, in passing a casement, you glanced out at the thick-falling
snow; you listened to the sobbing wind, and again you paced gently
on and dreamed. I think those day visions were not dark: there was
a pleasurable illumination in your eye occasionally, a soft
excitement in your aspect, which told of no bitter, bilious,
hypochondriac brooding: your look revealed rather the sweet musings
of youth when its spirit follows on willing wings the flight of Hope
up and on to an ideal heaven. The voice of Mrs. Fairfax, speaking
to a servant in the hall, wakened you: and how curiously you smiled
to and at yourself, Janet! There was much sense in your smile: it
was very shrewd, and seemed to make light of your own abstraction.
It seemed to say -- 'My fine visions are all very well, but I must not
forget they are absolutely unreal. I have a rosy sky and a green
flowery Eden in my brain; but without, I am perfectly aware, lies at
my feet a rough tract to travel, and around me gather black tempests
to encounter.' You ran downstairs and demanded of Mrs. Fairfax some
occupation: the weekly house accounts to make up, or something of
that sort, I think it was. I was vexed with you for getting out of
- "Impatiently I waited for evening, when I might summon you to my
presence. An unusual -- to me -- a perfectly new character I suspected
was yours: I desired to search it deeper and know it better. You
entered the room with a look and air at once shy and independent:
you were quaintly dressed -- much as you are now. I made you talk:
ere long I found you full of strange contrasts. Your garb and
manner were restricted by rule; your air was often diffident, and
altogether that of one refined by nature, but absolutely unused to
society, and a good deal afraid of making herself disadvantageously
conspicuous by some solecism or blunder; yet when addressed, you
lifted a keen, a daring, and a glowing eye to your interlocutor's
face: there was penetration and power in each glance you gave; when
plied by close questions, you found ready and round answers. Very
soon you seemed to get used to me: I believe you felt the existence
of sympathy between you and your grim and cross master, Jane; for it
was astonishing to see how quickly a certain pleasant ease
tranquillised your manner: snarl as I would, you showed no
surprise, fear, annoyance, or displeasure at my moroseness; you
watched me, and now and then smiled at me with a simple yet
sagacious grace I cannot describe. I was at once content and
stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to
see more. Yet, for a long time, I treated you distantly, and sought
your company rarely. I was an intellectual epicure, and wished to
prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant
acquaintance: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting
fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade -- the
sweet charm of freshness would leave it. I did not then know that
it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of
one, cut in an indestructible gem. Moreover, I wished to see
whether you would seek me if I shunned you -- but you did not; you
kept in the schoolroom as still as your own desk and easel; if by
chance I met you, you passed me as soon, and with as little token of
recognition, as was consistent with respect. Your habitual
expression in those days, Jane, was a thoughtful look; not
despondent, for you were not sickly; but not buoyant, for you had
little hope, and no actual pleasure. I wondered what you thought of
me, or if you ever thought of me, and resolved to find this out.
- "I resumed my notice of you. There was something glad in your
glance, and genial in your manner, when you conversed: I saw you
had a social heart; it was the silent schoolroom -- it was the tedium
of your life -- that made you mournful. I permitted myself the
delight of being kind to you; kindness stirred emotion soon: your
face became soft in expression, your tones gentle; I liked my name
pronounced by your lips in a grateful happy accent. I used to enjoy
a chance meeting with you, Jane, at this time: there was a curious
hesitation in your manner: you glanced at me with a slight trouble -- a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be --
whether I was going to play the master and be stern, or the friend
and be benignant. I was now too fond of you often to simulate the
first whim; and, when I stretched my hand out cordially, such bloom
and light and bliss rose to your young, wistful features, I had much
ado often to avoid straining you then and there to my heart."
- "Don't talk any more of those days, sir," I interrupted, furtively
dashing away some tears from my eyes; his language was torture to
me; for I knew what I must do -- and do soon -- and all these
reminiscences, and these revelations of his feelings only made my
work more difficult.
- "No, Jane," he returned: "what necessity is there to dwell on the
Past, when the Present is so much surer -- the Future so much
- I shuddered to hear the infatuated assertion.
- "You see now how the case stands -- do you not?" he continued. "After
a youth and manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half in
dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly
love -- I have found you. You are my sympathy -- my better self -- my
good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think
you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived
in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of
life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful
flame, fuses you and me in one.
- "It was because I felt and knew this, that I resolved to marry you.
To tell me that I had already a wife is empty mockery: you know now
that I had but a hideous demon. I was wrong to attempt to deceive
you; but I feared a stubbornness that exists in your character. I
feared early instilled prejudice: I wanted to have you safe before
hazarding confidences. This was cowardly: I should have appealed
to your nobleness and magnanimity at first, as I do now -- opened to
you plainly my life of agony -- described to you my hunger and thirst
after a higher and worthier existence -- shown to you, not my
resolution (that word is weak), but my resistless bent to love
faithfully and well, where I am faithfully and well loved in return.
Then I should have asked you to accept my pledge of fidelity and to
give me yours. Jane -- give it me now."
- A pause.
- "Why are you silent, Jane?"
- I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my
vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning!
Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than
I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and
I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised my
intolerable duty -- "Depart!"
- "Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise -- 'I
will be yours, Mr. Rochester.'"
- "Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours."
- Another long silence.
- "Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with
grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror -- for this still
voice was the pant of a lion rising -- "Jane, do you mean to go one
way in the world, and to let me go another?"
- "I do."
- "Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"
- "I do."
- "And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.
- "I do," extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.
- "Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This -- this is wicked. It would not be
wicked to love me."
- "It would to obey you."
- A wild look raised his brows -- crossed his features: he rose; but he
forebore yet. I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support: I
shook, I feared -- but I resolved.
- "One instant, Jane. Give one glance to my horrible life when you
are gone. All happiness will be torn away with you. What then is
left? For a wife I have but the maniac upstairs: as well might you
refer me to some corpse in yonder churchyard. What shall I do,
Jane? Where turn for a companion and for some hope?"
- "Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope
to meet again there."
- "Then you will not yield?"
- "Then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?" His
- "I advise you to live sinless, and I wish you to die tranquil."
- "Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on
lust for a passion -- vice for an occupation?"
- "Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it
for myself. We were born to strive and endure -- you as well as I:
do so. You will forget me before I forget you."
- "You make me a liar by such language: you sully my honour. I
declared I could not change: you tell me to my face I shall change
soon. And what a distortion in your judgment, what a perversity in
your ideas, is proved by your conduct! Is it better to drive a
fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law, no
man being injured by the breach? for you have neither relatives nor
acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me?"
- This was true: and while he spoke my very conscience and reason
turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting
him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured
wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery; think of his
danger -- look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong
nature; consider the recklessness following on despair -- soothe him;
save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in
the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?"
- Still indomitable was the reply -- "I care for myself. The more
solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I
will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned
by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was
sane, and not mad -- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the
times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as
this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour;
stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual
convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They
have a worth -- so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it
now, it is because I am insane -- quite insane: with my veins running
fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.
Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at
this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot."
- I did. Mr. Rochester, reading my countenance, saw I had done so.
His fury was wrought to the highest: he must yield to it for a
moment, whatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my arm
and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming
glance: physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble
exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace: mentally, I still
possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety.
The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter -- often an unconscious, but
still a truthful interpreter -- in the eye. My eye rose to his; and
while I looked in his fierce face I gave an involuntary sigh; his
gripe was painful, and my over-taxed strength almost exhausted.
- "Never," said he, as he ground his teeth, "never was anything at
once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my
hand!" (And he shook me with the force of his hold.) "I could bend
her with my finger and thumb: and what good would it do if I bent,
if I uptore, if I crushed her? Consider that eye: consider the
resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it, defying me, with more
than courage -- with a stern triumph. Whatever I do with its cage, I
cannot get at it -- the savage, beautiful creature! If I tear, if I
rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose.
Conqueror I might be of the house; but the inmate would escape to
heaven before I could call myself possessor of its clay dwelling-place. And it is you, spirit -- with will and energy, and virtue and
purity -- that I want: not alone your brittle frame. Of yourself you
could come with soft flight and nestle against my heart, if you
would: seized against your will, you will elude the grasp like an
essence -- you will vanish ere I inhale your fragrance. Oh! come,
- As he said this, he released me from his clutch, and only looked at
me. The look was far worse to resist than the frantic strain: only
an idiot, however, would have succumbed now. I had dared and
baffled his fury; I must elude his sorrow: I retired to the door.
- "You are going, Jane?"
- "I am going, sir."
- "You are leaving me?"
- "You will not come? You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? My
deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?"
- What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to
reiterate firmly, "I am going."
- "Mr. Rochester!"
- "Withdraw, then, -- I consent; but remember, you leave me here in
anguish. Go up to your own room; think over all I have said, and,
Jane, cast a glance on my sufferings -- think of me."
- He turned away; he threw himself on his face on the sofa. "Oh,
Jane! my hope -- my love -- my life!" broke in anguish from his lips.
Then came a deep, strong sob.
- I had already gained the door; but, reader, I walked back -- walked
back as determinedly as I had retreated. I knelt down by him; I
turned his face from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek; I
smoothed his hair with my hand.
- "God bless you, my dear master!" I said. "God keep you from harm
and wrong -- direct you, solace you -- reward you well for your past
kindness to me."
- "Little Jane's love would have been my best reward," he answered;
"without it, my heart is broken. But Jane will give me her love:
yes -- nobly, generously."
- Up the blood rushed to his face; forth flashed the fire from his
eyes; erect he sprang; he held his arms out; but I evaded the
embrace, and at once quitted the room.
- "Farewell!" was the cry of my heart as I left him. Despair added,
"Farewell for ever!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
- That night I never thought to sleep; but a slumber fell on me as
soon as I lay down in bed. I was transported in thought to the
scenes of childhood: I dreamt I lay in the red-room at Gateshead;
that the night was dark, and my mind impressed with strange fears.
The light that long ago had struck me into syncope, recalled in this
vision, seemed glidingly to mount the wall, and tremblingly to pause
in the centre of the obscured ceiling. I lifted up my head to look:
the roof resolved to clouds, high and dim; the gleam was such as the
moon imparts to vapours she is about to sever. I watched her come --
watched with the strangest anticipation; as though some word of doom
were to be written on her disk. She broke forth as never moon yet
burst from cloud: a hand first penetrated the sable folds and waved
them away; then, not a moon, but a white human form shone in the
azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed on
me. It spoke to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet
so near, it whispered in my heart --
- "My daughter, flee temptation."
- "Mother, I will."
- So I answered after I had waked from the trance-like dream. It was
yet night, but July nights are short: soon after midnight, dawn
comes. "It cannot be too early to commence the task I have to
fulfil," thought I. I rose: I was dressed; for I had taken off
nothing but my shoes. I knew where to find in my drawers some
linen, a locket, a ring. In seeking these articles, I encountered
the beads of a pearl necklace Mr. Rochester had forced me to accept
a few days ago. I left that; it was not mine: it was the visionary
bride's who had melted in air. The other articles I made up in a
parcel; my purse, containing twenty shillings (it was all I had), I
put in my pocket: I tied on my straw bonnet, pinned my shawl, took
the parcel and my slippers, which I would not put on yet, and stole
from my room.
- "Farewell, kind Mrs. Fairfax!" I whispered, as I glided past her
door. "Farewell, my darling Adèle!" I said, as I glanced towards
the nursery. No thought could be admitted of entering to embrace
her. I had to deceive a fine ear: for aught I knew it might now be
- I would have got past Mr. Rochester's chamber without a pause; but
my heart momentarily stopping its beat at that threshold, my foot
was forced to stop also. No sleep was there: the inmate was
walking restlessly from wall to wall; and again and again he sighed
while I listened. There was a heaven -- a temporary heaven -- in this
room for me, if I chose: I had but to go in and to say --
- "Mr. Rochester, I will love you and live with you through life till
death," and a fount of rapture would spring to my lips. I thought
- That kind master, who could not sleep now, was waiting with
impatience for day. He would send for me in the morning; I should
be gone. He would have me sought for: vainly. He would feel
himself forsaken; his love rejected: he would suffer; perhaps grow
desperate. I thought of this too. My hand moved towards the lock:
I caught it back, and glided on.
- Drearily I wound my way downstairs: I knew what I had to do, and I
did it mechanically. I sought the key of the side-door in the
kitchen; I sought, too, a phial of oil and a feather; I oiled the
key and the lock. I got some water, I got some bread: for perhaps
I should have to walk far; and my strength, sorely shaken of late,
must not break down. All this I did without one sound. I opened
the door, passed out, shut it softly. Dim dawn glimmered in the
yard. The great gates were closed and locked; but a wicket in one
of them was only latched. Through that I departed: it, too, I
shut; and now I was out of Thornfield.
- A mile off, beyond the fields, lay a road which stretched in the
contrary direction to Millcote; a road I had never travelled, but
often noticed, and wondered where it led: thither I bent my steps.
No reflection was to be allowed now: not one glance was to be cast
back; not even one forward. Not one thought was to be given either
to the past or the future. The first was a page so heavenly sweet --
so deadly sad -- that to read one line of it would dissolve my courage
and break down my energy. The last was an awful blank: something
like the world when the deluge was gone by.
- I skirted fields, and hedges, and lanes till after sunrise. I
believe it was a lovely summer morning: I know my shoes, which I
had put on when I left the house, were soon wet with dew. But I
looked neither to rising sun, nor smiling sky, nor wakening nature.
He who is taken out to pass through a fair scene to the scaffold,
thinks not of the flowers that smile on his road, but of the block
and axe-edge; of the disseverment of bone and vein; of the grave
gaping at the end: and I thought of drear flight and homeless
wandering -- and oh! with agony I thought of what I left. I could not
help it. I thought of him now -- in his room -- watching the sunrise;
hoping I should soon come to say I would stay with him and be his.
I longed to be his; I panted to return: it was not too late; I
could yet spare him the bitter pang of bereavement. As yet my
flight, I was sure, was undiscovered. I could go back and be his
comforter -- his pride; his redeemer from misery, perhaps from ruin.
Oh, that fear of his self-abandonment -- far worse than my
abandonment -- how it goaded me! It was a barbed arrow-head in my
breast; it tore me when I tried to extract it; it sickened me when
remembrance thrust it farther in. Birds began singing in brake and
copse: birds were faithful to their mates; birds were emblems of
love. What was I? In the midst of my pain of heart and frantic
effort of principle, I abhorred myself. I had no solace from self-approbation: none even from self-respect. I had injured -- wounded --
left my master. I was hateful in my own eyes. Still I could not
turn, nor retrace one step. God must have led me on. As to my own
will or conscience, impassioned grief had trampled one and stifled
the other. I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way:
fast, fast I went like one delirious. A weakness, beginning
inwardly, extending to the limbs, seized me, and I fell: I lay on
the ground some minutes, pressing my face to the wet turf. I had
some fear -- or hope -- that here I should die: but I was soon up;
crawling forwards on my hands and knees, and then again raised to my
feet -- as eager and as determined as ever to reach the road.
- When I got there, I was forced to sit to rest me under the hedge;
and while I sat, I heard wheels, and saw a coach come on. I stood
up and lifted my hand; it stopped. I asked where it was going: the
driver named a place a long way off, and where I was sure Mr.
Rochester had no connections. I asked for what sum he would take me
there; he said thirty shillings; I answered I had but twenty; well,
he would try to make it do. He further gave me leave to get into
the inside, as the vehicle was empty: I entered, was shut in, and
it rolled on its way.
- Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes
never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from
mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so
agonised as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me,
dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.
- TWO days are passed. It is a summer evening; the coachman has set
me down at a place called Whitcross; he could take me no farther for
the sum I had given, and I was not possessed of another shilling in
the world. The coach is a mile off by this time; I am alone. At
this moment I discover that I forgot to take my parcel out of the
pocket of the coach, where I had placed it for safety; there it
remains, there it must remain; and now, I am absolutely destitute.
- Whitcross is no town, nor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar
set up where four roads meet: whitewashed, I suppose, to be more
obvious at a distance and in darkness. Four arms spring from its
summit: the nearest town to which these point is, according to the
inscription, distant ten miles; the farthest, above twenty. From
the well-known names of these towns I learn in what county I have
lighted; a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ridged with
mountain: this I see. There are great moors behind and on each
hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley
at my feet. The population here must be thin, and I see no
passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and
south -- white, broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the
heather grows deep and wild to their very verge. Yet a chance
traveller might pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now: strangers
would wonder what I am doing, lingering here at the sign-post,
evidently objectless and lost. I might be questioned: I could give
no answer but what would sound incredible and excite suspicion. Not
a tie holds me to human society at this moment -- not a charm or hope
calls me where my fellow-creatures are -- none that saw me would have
a kind thought or a good wish for me. I have no relative but the
universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.
- I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeply
furrowing the brown moorside; I waded knee-deep in its dark growth;
I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite
crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it. High banks of moor
were about me; the crag protected my head: the sky was over that.
- Some time passed before I felt tranquil even here: I had a vague
dread that wild cattle might be near, or that some sportsman or
poacher might discover me. If a gust of wind swept the waste, I
looked up, fearing it was the rush of a bull; if a plover whistled,
I imagined it a man. Finding my apprehensions unfounded, however,
and calmed by the deep silence that reigned as evening declined at
nightfall, I took confidence. As yet I had not thought; I had only
listened, watched, dreaded; now I regained the faculty of
- What was I to do? Where to go? Oh, intolerable questions, when I
could do nothing and go nowhere! -- when a long way must yet be
measured by my weary, trembling limbs before I could reach human
habitation -- when cold charity must be entreated before I could get a
lodging: reluctant sympathy importuned, almost certain repulse
incurred, before my tale could be listened to, or one of my wants
- I touched the heath, it was dry, and yet warm with the beat of the
summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star
twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with
propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me
benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I,
who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult,
clung to her with filial fondness. To-night, at least, I would be
her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without
money and without price. I had one morsel of bread yet: the
remnant of a roll I had bought in a town we passed through at noon
with a stray penny -- my last coin. I saw ripe bilberries gleaming
here and there, like jet beads in the heath: I gathered a handful
and ate them with the bread. My hunger, sharp before, was, if not
satisfied, appeased by this hermit's meal. I said my evening
prayers at its conclusion, and then chose my couch.
- Beside the crag the heath was very deep: when I lay down my feet
were buried in it; rising high on each side, it left only a narrow
space for the night-air to invade. I folded my shawl double, and
spread it over me for a coverlet; a low, mossy swell was my pillow.
Thus lodged, I was not, at least -- at the commencement of the night,
- My rest might have been blissful enough, only a sad heart broke it.
It plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven
chords. It trembled for Mr. Rochester and his doom; it bemoaned him
with bitter pity; it demanded him with ceaseless longing; and,
impotent as a bird with both wings broken, it still quivered its
shattered pinions in vain attempts to seek him.
- Worn out with this torture of thought, I rose to my knees. Night
was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too
serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is
everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works
are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the
unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course,
that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His
omnipresence. I had risen to my knees to pray for Mr. Rochester.
Looking up, I, with tear-dimmed eyes, saw the mighty Milky-way.
Remembering what it was -- what countless systems there swept space
like a soft trace of light -- I felt the might and strength of God.
Sure was I of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I
grew that neither earth should perish, nor one of the souls it
treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life
was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe; he was
God's, and by God would he be guarded. I again nestled to the
breast of the hill; and ere long in sleep forgot sorrow.
- But next day, Want came to me pale and bare. Long after the little
birds had left their nests; long after bees had come in the sweet
prime of day to gather the heath honey before the dew was dried --
when the long morning shadows were curtailed, and the sun filled
earth and sky -- I got up, and I looked round me.
- What a still, hot, perfect day! What a golden desert this spreading
moor! Everywhere sunshine. I wished I could live in it and on it.
I saw a lizard run over the crag; I saw a bee busy among the sweet
bilberries. I would fain at the moment have become bee or lizard,
that I might have found fitting nutriment, permanent shelter here.
But I was a human being, and had a human being's wants: I must not
linger where there was nothing to supply them. I rose; I looked
back at the bed I had left. Hopeless of the future, I wished but
this -- that my Maker had that night thought good to require my soul
of me while I slept; and that this weary frame, absolved by death
from further conflict with fate, had now but to decay quietly, and
mingle in peace with the soil of this wilderness. Life, however,
was yet in my possession, with all its requirements, and pains, and
responsibilities. The burden must be carried; the want provided
for; the suffering endured; the responsibility fulfilled. I set
- Whitcross regained, I followed a road which led from the sun, now
fervent and high. By no other circumstance had I will to decide my
choice. I walked a long time, and when I thought I had nearly done
enough, and might conscientiously yield to the fatigue that almost
overpowered me -- might relax this forced action, and, sitting down on
a stone I saw near, submit resistlessly to the apathy that clogged
heart and limb -- I heard a bell chime -- a church bell.
- I turned in the direction of the sound, and there, amongst the
romantic hills, whose changes and aspect I had ceased to note an
hour ago, I saw a hamlet and a spire. All the valley at my right
hand was full of pasture-fields, and cornfields, and wood; and a
glittering stream ran zig-zag through the varied shades of green,
the mellowing grain, the sombre woodland, the clear and sunny lea.
Recalled by the rumbling of wheels to the road before me, I saw a
heavily-laden waggon labouring up the hill, and not far beyond were
two cows and their drover. Human life and human labour were near.
I must struggle on: strive to live and bend to toil like the rest.
- About two o'clock p.m. I entered the village. At the bottom of its
one street there was a little shop with some cakes of bread in the
window. I coveted a cake of bread. With that refreshment I could
perhaps regain a degree of energy: without it, it would be
difficult to proceed. The wish to have some strength and some
vigour returned to me as soon as I was amongst my fellow-beings. I
felt it would be degrading to faint with hunger on the causeway of a
hamlet. Had I nothing about me I could offer in exchange for one of
these rolls? I considered. I had a small silk handkerchief tied
round my throat; I had my gloves. I could hardly tell how men and
women in extremities of destitution proceeded. I did not know
whether either of these articles would be accepted: probably they
would not; but I must try.
- I entered the shop: a woman was there. Seeing a respectably-dressed person, a lady as she supposed, she came forward with
civility. How could she serve me? I was seized with shame: my
tongue would not utter the request I had prepared. I dared not
offer her the half-worn gloves, the creased handkerchief: besides,
I felt it would be absurd. I only begged permission to sit down a
moment, as I was tired. Disappointed in the expectation of a
customer, she coolly acceded to my request. She pointed to a seat;
I sank into it. I felt sorely urged to weep; but conscious how
unseasonable such a manifestation would be, I restrained it. Soon I
asked her "if there were any dressmaker or plain-workwoman in the
- "Yes; two or three. Quite as many as there was employment for."
- I reflected. I was driven to the point now. I was brought face to
face with Necessity. I stood in the position of one without a
resource, without a friend, without a coin. I must do something.
What? I must apply somewhere. Where?
- "Did she know of any place in the neighbourhood where a servant was
- "Nay; she couldn't say."
- "What was the chief trade in this place? What did most of the
- "Some were farm labourers; a good deal worked at Mr. Oliver's
needle-factory, and at the foundry."
- "Did Mr. Oliver employ women?"
- "Nay; it was men's work."
- "And what do the women do?"
- "I knawn't," was the answer. "Some does one thing, and some
another. Poor folk mun get on as they can."
- She seemed to be tired of my questions: and, indeed, what claim had
I to importune her? A neighbour or two came in; my chair was
evidently wanted. I took leave.
- I passed up the street, looking as I went at all the houses to the
right hand and to the left; but I could discover no pretext, nor see
an inducement to enter any. I rambled round the hamlet, going
sometimes to a little distance and returning again, for an hour or
more. Much exhausted, and suffering greatly now for want of food, I
turned aside into a lane and sat down under the hedge. Ere many
minutes had elapsed, I was again on my feet, however, and again
searching something -- a resource, or at least an informant. A pretty
little house stood at the top of the lane, with a garden before it,
exquisitely neat and brilliantly blooming. I stopped at it. What
business had I to approach the white door or touch the glittering
knocker? In what way could it possibly be the interest of the
inhabitants of that dwelling to serve me? Yet I drew near and
knocked. A mild-looking, cleanly-attired young woman opened the
door. In such a voice as might be expected from a hopeless heart
and fainting frame -- a voice wretchedly low and faltering -- I asked if
a servant was wanted here?
- "No," said she; "we do not keep a servant."
- "Can you tell me where I could get employment of any kind?" I
continued. "I am a stranger, without acquaintance in this place. I
want some work: no matter what."
- But it was not her business to think for me, or to seek a place for
me: besides, in her eyes, how doubtful must have appeared my
character, position, tale. She shook her head, she "was sorry she
could give me no information," and the white door closed, quite
gently and civilly: but it shut me out. If she had held it open a
little longer, I believe I should have begged a piece of bread; for
I was now brought low.
- I could not bear to return to the sordid village, where, besides, no
prospect of aid was visible. I should have longed rather to deviate
to a wood I saw not far off, which appeared in its thick shade to
offer inviting shelter; but I was so sick, so weak, so gnawed with
nature's cravings, instinct kept me roaming round abodes where there
was a chance of food. Solitude would be no solitude -- rest no rest --
while the vulture, hunger, thus sank beak and talons in my side.
- I drew near houses; I left them, and came back again, and again I
wandered away: always repelled by the consciousness of having no
claim to ask -- no right to expect interest in my isolated lot.
Meantime, the afternoon advanced, while I thus wandered about like a
lost and starving dog. In crossing a field, I saw the church spire
before me: I hastened towards it. Near the churchyard, and in the
middle of a garden, stood a well-built though small house, which I
had no doubt was the parsonage. I remembered that strangers who
arrive at a place where they have no friends, and who want
employment, sometimes apply to the clergyman for introduction and
aid. It is the clergyman's function to help -- at least with advice --
those who wished to help themselves. I seemed to have something
like a right to seek counsel here. Renewing then my courage, and
gathering my feeble remains of strength, I pushed on. I reached the
house, and knocked at the kitchen-door. An old woman opened: I
asked was this the parsonage?
- "Was the clergyman in?"
- "Would he be in soon?"
- "No, he was gone from home."
- "To a distance?"
- "Not so far -- happen three mile. He had been called away by the
sudden death of his father: he was at Marsh End now, and would very
likely stay there a fortnight longer."
- "Was there any lady of the house?"
- "Nay, there was naught but her, and she was housekeeper;" and of
her, reader, I could not bear to ask the relief for want of which I
was sinking; I could not yet beg; and again I crawled away.
- Once more I took off my handkerchief -- once more I thought of the
cakes of bread in the little shop. Oh, for but a crust! for but one
mouthful to allay the pang of famine! Instinctively I turned my
face again to the village; I found the shop again, and I went in;
and though others were there besides the woman I ventured the
request -- "Would she give me a roll for this handkerchief?"
- She looked at me with evident suspicion: "Nay, she never sold stuff
i' that way."
- Almost desperate, I asked for half a cake; she again refused. "How
could she tell where I had got the handkerchief?" she said.
- "Would she take my gloves?"
- "No! what could she do with them?"
- Reader, it is not pleasant to dwell on these details. Some say
there is enjoyment in looking back to painful experience past; but
at this day I can scarcely bear to review the times to which I
allude: the moral degradation, blent with the physical suffering,
form too distressing a recollection ever to be willingly dwelt on.
I blamed none of those who repulsed me. I felt it was what was to
be expected, and what could not be helped: an ordinary beggar is
frequently an object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitably
so. To be sure, what I begged was employment; but whose business
was it to provide me with employment? Not, certainly, that of
persons who saw me then for the first time, and who knew nothing
about my character. And as to the woman who would not take my
handkerchief in exchange for her bread, why, she was right, if the
offer appeared to her sinister or the exchange unprofitable. Let me
condense now. I am sick of the subject.
- A little before dark I passed a farm-house, at the open door of
which the farmer was sitting, eating his supper of bread and cheese.
I stopped and said: --
- "Will you give me a piece of bread? for I am very hungry." He cast
on me a glance of surprise; but without answering, he cut a thick
slice from his loaf, and gave it to me. I imagine he did not think
I was a beggar, but only an eccentric sort of lady, who had taken a
fancy to his brown loaf. As soon as I was out of sight of his
house, I sat down and ate it.
- I could not hope to get a lodging under a roof, and sought it in the
wood I have before alluded to. But my night was wretched, my rest
broken: the ground was damp, the air cold: besides, intruders
passed near me more than once, and I had again and again to change
my quarters; no sense of safety or tranquillity befriended me.
Towards morning it rained; the whole of the following day was wet.
Do not ask me, reader, to give a minute account of that day; as
before, I sought work; as before, I was repulsed; as before, I
starved; but once did food pass my lips. At the door of a cottage I
saw a little girl about to throw a mess of cold porridge into a pig
trough. "Will you give me that?" I asked.
- She stared at me. "Mother!" she exclaimed, "there is a woman wants
me to give her these porridge."
- "Well lass," replied a voice within, "give it her if she's a beggar.
T pig doesn't want it."
- The girl emptied the stiffened mould into my hand, and I devoured it
- As the wet twilight deepened, I stopped in a solitary bridle-path,
which I had been pursuing an hour or more.
- "My strength is quite failing me," I said in a soliloquy. "I feel I
cannot go much farther. Shall I be an outcast again this night?
While the rain descends so, must I lay my head on the cold, drenched
ground? I fear I cannot do otherwise: for who will receive me?
But it will be very dreadful, with this feeling of hunger,
faintness, chill, and this sense of desolation -- this total
prostration of hope. In all likelihood, though, I should die before
morning. And why cannot I reconcile myself to the prospect of
death? Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life? Because I
know, or believe, Mr. Rochester is living: and then, to die of want
and cold is a fate to which nature cannot submit passively. Oh,
Providence! sustain me a little longer! Aid! -- direct me!"
- My glazed eye wandered over the dim and misty landscape. I saw I
had strayed far from the village: it was quite out of sight. The
very cultivation surrounding it had disappeared. I had, by cross-ways and by-paths, once more drawn near the tract of moorland; and
now, only a few fields, almost as wild and unproductive as the heath
from which they were scarcely reclaimed, lay between me and the
- "Well, I would rather die yonder than in a street or on a frequented
road," I reflected. "And far better that crows and ravens -- if any
ravens there be in these regions -- should pick my flesh from my
bones, than that they should be prisoned in a workhouse coffin and
moulder in a pauper's grave."
- To the hill, then, I turned. I reached it. It remained now only to
find a hollow where I could lie down, and feel at least hidden, if
not secure. But all the surface of the waste looked level. It
showed no variation but of tint: green, where rush and moss
overgrew the marshes; black, where the dry soil bore only heath.
Dark as it was getting, I could still see these changes, though but
as mere alternations of light and shade; for colour had faded with
- My eye still roved over the sullen swell and along the moor-edge,
vanishing amidst the wildest scenery, when at one dim point, far in
among the marshes and the ridges, a light sprang up. "That is an
ignis fatuus," was my first thought; and I expected it would soon
vanish. It burnt on, however, quite steadily, neither receding nor
advancing. "Is it, then, a bonfire just kindled?" I questioned. I
watched to see whether it would spread: but no; as it did not
diminish, so it did not enlarge. "It may be a candle in a house," I
then conjectured; "but if so, I can never reach it. It is much too
far away: and were it within a yard of me, what would it avail? I
should but knock at the door to have it shut in my face."
- And I sank down where I stood, and hid my face against the ground.
I lay still a while: the night-wind swept over the hill and over
me, and died moaning in the distance; the rain fell fast, wetting me
afresh to the skin. Could I but have stiffened to the still frost --
the friendly numbness of death -- it might have pelted on; I should
not have felt it; but my yet living flesh shuddered at its chilling
influence. I rose ere long.
- The light was yet there, shining dim but constant through the rain.
I tried to walk again: I dragged my exhausted limbs slowly towards
it. It led me aslant over the hill, through a wide bog, which would
have been impassable in winter, and was splashy and shaking even
now, in the height of summer. Here I fell twice; but as often I
rose and rallied my faculties. This light was my forlorn hope: I
must gain it.
- Having crossed the marsh, I saw a trace of white over the moor. I
approached it; it was a road or a track: it led straight up to the
light, which now beamed from a sort of knoll, amidst a clump of
trees -- firs, apparently, from what I could distinguish of the
character of their forms and foliage through the gloom. My star
vanished as I drew near: some obstacle had intervened between me
and it. I put out my hand to feel the dark mass before me: I
discriminated the rough stones of a low wall -- above it, something
like palisades, and within, a high and prickly hedge. I groped on.
Again a whitish object gleamed before me: it was a gate -- a wicket;
it moved on its hinges as I touched it. On each side stood a sable
bush-holly or yew.
- Entering the gate and passing the shrubs, the silhouette of a house
rose to view, black, low, and rather long; but the guiding light
shone nowhere. All was obscurity. Were the inmates retired to
rest? I feared it must be so. In seeking the door, I turned an
angle: there shot out the friendly gleam again, from the lozenged
panes of a very small latticed window, within a foot of the ground,
made still smaller by the growth of ivy or some other creeping
plant, whose leaves clustered thick over the portion of the house
wall in which it was set. The aperture was so screened and narrow,
that curtain or shutter had been deemed unnecessary; and when I
stooped down and put aside the spray of foliage shooting over it, I
could see all within. I could see clearly a room with a sanded
floor, clean scoured; a dresser of walnut, with pewter plates ranged
in rows, reflecting the redness and radiance of a glowing peat-fire.
I could see a clock, a white deal table, some chairs. The candle,
whose ray had been my beacon, burnt on the table; and by its light
an elderly woman, somewhat rough-looking, but scrupulously clean,
like all about her, was knitting a stocking.
- I noticed these objects cursorily only -- in them there was nothing
extraordinary. A group of more interest appeared near the hearth,
sitting still amidst the rosy peace and warmth suffusing it. Two
young, graceful women -- ladies in every point -- sat, one in a low
rocking-chair, the other on a lower stool; both wore deep mourning
of crape and bombazeen, which sombre garb singularly set off very
fair necks and faces: a large old pointer dog rested its massive
head on the knee of one girl -- in the lap of the other was cushioned
a black cat.
- A strange place was this humble kitchen for such occupants! Who
were they? They could not be the daughters of the elderly person at
the table; for she looked like a rustic, and they were all delicacy
and cultivation. I had nowhere seen such faces as theirs: and yet,
as I gazed on them, I seemed intimate with every lineament. I
cannot call them handsome -- they were too pale and grave for the
word: as they each bent over a book, they looked thoughtful almost
to severity. A stand between them supported a second candle and two
great volumes, to which they frequently referred, comparing them,
seemingly, with the smaller books they held in their hands, like
people consulting a dictionary to aid them in the task of
translation. This scene was as silent as if all the figures had
been shadows and the firelit apartment a picture: so hushed was it,
I could hear the cinders fall from the grate, the clock tick in its
obscure corner; and I even fancied I could distinguish the click-click of the woman's knitting-needles. When, therefore, a voice
broke the strange stillness at last, it was audible enough to me.
- "Listen, Diana," said one of the absorbed students; "Franz and old
Daniel are together in the night-time, and Franz is telling a dream
from which he has awakened in terror -- listen!" And in a low voice
she read something, of which not one word was intelligible to me;
for it was in an unknown tongue -- neither French nor Latin. Whether
it were Greek or German I could not tell.
- "That is strong," she said, when she had finished: "I relish it."
The other girl, who had lifted her head to listen to her sister,
repeated, while she gazed at the fire, a line of what had been read.
At a later day, I knew the language and the book; therefore, I will
here quote the line: though, when I first heard it, it was only
like a stroke on sounding brass to me -- conveying no meaning: --
- "'Da trat hervor Einer, anzusehen wie die Sternen Nacht.' Good!
good!" she exclaimed, while her dark and deep eye sparkled. "There
you have a dim and mighty archangel fitly set before you! The line
is worth a hundred pages of fustian. 'Ich wage die Gedanken in der
Schale meines Zornes und die Werke mit dem Gewichte meines Grimms.'
I like it!"
- Both were again silent.
- "Is there ony country where they talk i' that way?" asked the old
woman, looking up from her knitting.
- "Yes, Hannah -- a far larger country than England, where they talk in
no other way."
- "Well, for sure case, I knawn't how they can understand t' one
t'other: and if either o' ye went there, ye could tell what they
said, I guess?"
- "We could probably tell something of what they said, but not all --
for we are not as clever as you think us, Hannah. We don't speak
German, and we cannot read it without a dictionary to help us."
- "And what good does it do you?"
- "We mean to teach it some time -- or at least the elements, as they
say; and then we shall get more money than we do now."
- "Varry like: but give ower studying; ye've done enough for to-night."
- "I think we have: at least I'm tired. Mary, are you?"
- "Mortally: after all, it's tough work fagging away at a language
with no master but a lexicon."
- "It is, especially such a language as this crabbed but glorious
Deutsch. I wonder when St. John will come home."
- "Surely he will not be long now: it is just ten (looking at a
little gold watch she drew from her girdle). It rains fast, Hannah:
will you have the goodness to look at the fire in the parlour?"
- The woman rose: she opened a door, through which I dimly saw a
passage: soon I heard her stir a fire in an inner room; she
presently came back.
- "Ah, childer!" said she, "it fair troubles me to go into yond' room
now: it looks so lonesome wi' the chair empty and set back in a
- She wiped her eyes with her apron: the two girls, grave before,
looked sad now.
- "But he is in a better place," continued Hannah: "we shouldn't wish
him here again. And then, nobody need to have a quieter death nor
- "You say he never mentioned us?" inquired one of the ladies.
- "He hadn't time, bairn: he was gone in a minute, was your father.
He had been a bit ailing like the day before, but naught to signify;
and when Mr. St. John asked if he would like either o' ye to be sent
for, he fair laughed at him. He began again with a bit of a
heaviness in his head the next day -- that is, a fortnight sin' -- and
he went to sleep and niver wakened: he wor a'most stark when your
brother went into t' chamber and fand him. Ah, childer! that's t'
last o' t' old stock -- for ye and Mr. St. John is like of different
soart to them 'at's gone; for all your mother wor mich i' your way,
and a'most as book-learned. She wor the pictur' o' ye, Mary: Diana
is more like your father."
- I thought them so similar I could not tell where the old servant
(for such I now concluded her to be) saw the difference. Both were
fair complexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full of
distinction and intelligence. One, to be sure, had hair a shade
darker than the other, and there was a difference in their style of
wearing it; Mary's pale brown locks were parted and braided smooth:
Diana's duskier tresses covered her neck with thick curls. The
clock struck ten.
- "Ye'll want your supper, I am sure," observed Hannah; "and so will
Mr. St. John when he comes in."
- And she proceeded to prepare the meal. The ladies rose; they seemed
about to withdraw to the parlour. Till this moment, I had been so
intent on watching them, their appearance and conversation had
excited in me so keen an interest, I had half-forgotten my own
wretched position: now it recurred to me. More desolate, more
desperate than ever, it seemed from contrast. And how impossible
did it appear to touch the inmates of this house with concern on my
behalf; to make them believe in the truth of my wants and woes -- to
induce them to vouchsafe a rest for my wanderings! As I groped out
the door, and knocked at it hesitatingly, I felt that last idea to
be a mere chimera. Hannah opened.
- "What do you want?" she inquired, in a voice of surprise, as she
surveyed me by the light of the candle she held.
- "May I speak to your mistresses?" I said.
- "You had better tell me what you have to say to them. Where do you
- "I am a stranger."
- "What is your business here at this hour?"
- "I want a night's shelter in an out-house or anywhere, and a morsel
of bread to eat."
- Distrust, the very feeling I dreaded, appeared in Hannah's face.
"I'll give you a piece of bread," she said, after a pause; "but we
can't take in a vagrant to lodge. It isn't likely."
- "Do let me speak to your mistresses."
- "No, not I. What can they do for you? You should not be roving
about now; it looks very ill."
- "But where shall I go if you drive me away? What shall I do?"
- "Oh, I'll warrant you know where to go and what to do. Mind you
don't do wrong, that's all. Here is a penny; now go" ----
- "A penny cannot feed me, and I have no strength to go farther.
Don't shut the door: -- oh, don't, for God's sake!"
- "I must; the rain is driving in" ----
- "Tell the young ladies. Let me see them" ----
- "Indeed, I will not. You are not what you ought to be, or you
wouldn't make such a noise. Move off."
- "But I must die if I am turned away."
- "Not you. I'm fear'd you have some ill plans agate, that bring you
about folk's houses at this time o' night. If you've any followers -- housebreakers or such like -- anywhere near, you may tell them we are
not by ourselves in the house; we have a gentleman, and dogs, and
guns." Here the honest but inflexible servant clapped the door to
and bolted it within.
- This was the climax. A pang of exquisite suffering -- a throe of true
despair -- rent and heaved my heart. Worn out, indeed, I was; not
another step could I stir. I sank on the wet doorstep: I groaned --
I wrung my hands -- I wept in utter anguish. Oh, this spectre of
death! Oh, this last hour, approaching in such horror! Alas, this
isolation -- this banishment from my kind! Not only the anchor of
hope, but the footing of fortitude was gone -- at least for a moment;
but the last I soon endeavoured to regain.
- "I can but die," I said, "and I believe in God. Let me try to wait
His will in silence."
- These words I not only thought, but uttered; and thrusting back all
my misery into my heart, I made an effort to compel it to remain
there -- dumb and still.
- "All men must die," said a voice quite close at hand; "but all are
not condemned to meet a lingering and premature doom, such as yours
would be if you perished here of want."
- "Who or what speaks?" I asked, terrified at the unexpected sound,
and incapable now of deriving from any occurrence a hope of aid. A
form was near -- what form, the pitch-dark night and my enfeebled
vision prevented me from distinguishing. With a loud long knock,
the new-comer appealed to the door.
- "Is it you, Mr. St. John?" cried Hannah.
- "Yes -- yes; open quickly."
- "Well, how wet and cold you must be, such a wild night as it is!
Come in -- your sisters are quite uneasy about you, and I believe
there are bad folks about. There has been a beggar-woman -- I declare
she is not gone yet! -- laid down there. Get up! for shame! Move
off, I say!"
- "Hush, Hannah! I have a word to say to the woman. You have done
your duty in excluding, now let me do mine in admitting her. I was
near, and listened to both you and her. I think this is a peculiar
case -- I must at least examine into it. Young woman, rise, and pass
before me into the house."
- With difficulty I obeyed him. Presently I stood within that clean,
bright kitchen -- on the very hearth -- trembling, sickening; conscious
of an aspect in the last degree ghastly, wild, and weather-beaten.
The two ladies, their brother, Mr. St. John, the old servant, were
all gazing at me.
- "St. John, who is it?" I heard one ask.
- "I cannot tell: I found her at the door," was the reply.
- "She does look white," said Hannah.
- "As white as clay or death," was responded. "She will fall: let
- And indeed my head swam: I dropped, but a chair received me. I
still possessed my senses, though just now I could not speak.
- "Perhaps a little water would restore her. Hannah, fetch some. But
she is worn to nothing. How very thin, and how very bloodless!"
- "A mere spectre!"
- "Is she ill, or only famished?"
- "Famished, I think. Hannah, is that milk? Give it me, and a piece
- Diana (I knew her by the long curls which I saw drooping between me
and the fire as she bent over me) broke some bread, dipped it in
milk, and put it to my lips. Her face was near mine: I saw there
was pity in it, and I felt sympathy in her hurried breathing. In
her simple words, too, the same balm-like emotion spoke: "Try to
- "Yes -- try," repeated Mary gently; and Mary's hand removed my sodden
bonnet and lifted my head. I tasted what they offered me: feebly
at first, eagerly soon.
- "Not too much at first -- restrain her," said the brother; "she has
had enough." And he withdrew the cup of milk and the plate of
- "A little more, St. John -- look at the avidity in her eyes."
- "No more at present, sister. Try if she can speak now -- ask her her
- I felt I could speak, and I answered -- "My name is Jane Elliott."
Anxious as ever to avoid discovery, I had before resolved to assume
- "And where do you live? Where are your friends?"
- I was silent.
- "Can we send for any one you know?"
- I shook my head.
- "What account can you give of yourself?"
- Somehow, now that I had once crossed the threshold of this house,
and once was brought face to face with its owners, I felt no longer
outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world. I dared to put
off the mendicant -- to resume my natural manner and character. I
began once more to know myself; and when Mr. St. John demanded an
account -- which at present I was far too weak to render -- I said after
a brief pause, --
- "Sir, I can give you no details to-night."
- "But what, then," said he, "do you expect me to do for you?"
- "Nothing," I replied. My strength sufficed for but short answers.
Diana took the word: --
- "Do you mean," she asked, "that we have now given you what aid you
require? and that we may dismiss you to the moor and the rainy
- I looked at her. She had, I thought, a remarkable countenance,
instinct both with power and goodness. I took sudden courage.
Answering her compassionate gate with a smile, I said -- "I will trust
you. If I were a masterless and stray dog, I know that you would
not turn me from your hearth to-night: as it is, I really have no
fear. Do with me and for me as you like; but excuse me from much
discourse -- my breath is short -- I feel a spasm when I speak." All
three surveyed me, and all three were silent.
- "Hannah," said Mr. St. John, at last, "let her sit there at present,
and ask her no questions; in ten minutes more, give her the
remainder of that milk and bread. Mary and Diana, let us go into
the parlour and talk the matter over."
- They withdrew. Very soon one of the ladies returned -- I could not
tell which. A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me as I sat
by the genial fire. In an undertone she gave some directions to
Hannah. Ere long, with the servant's aid, I contrived to mount a
staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warm, dry bed
received me. I thanked God -- experienced amidst unutterable
exhaustion a glow of grateful joy -- and slept.
- THE recollection of about three days and nights succeeding this is
very dim in my mind. I can recall some sensations felt in that
interval; but few thoughts framed, and no actions performed. I knew
I was in a small room and in a narrow bed. To that bed I seemed to
have grown; I lay on it motionless as a stone; and to have torn me
from it would have been almost to kill me. I took no note of the
lapse of time -- of the change from morning to noon, from noon to
evening. I observed when any one entered or left the apartment: I
could even tell who they were; I could understand what was said when
the speaker stood near to me; but I could not answer; to open my
lips or move my limbs was equally impossible. Hannah, the servant,
was my most frequent visitor. Her coming disturbed me. I had a
feeling that she wished me away: that she did not understand me or
my circumstances; that she was prejudiced against me. Diana and
Mary appeared in the chamber once or twice a day. They would
whisper sentences of this sort at my bedside: --
- "It is very well we took her in."
- "Yes; she would certainly have been found dead at the door in the
morning had she been left out all night. I wonder what she has gone
- "Strange hardships, I imagine -- poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer?"
- "She is not an uneducated person, I should think, by her manner of
speaking; her accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took off,
though splashed and wet, were little worn and fine."
- "She has a peculiar face; fleshless and haggard as it is, I rather
like it; and when in good health and animated, I can fancy her
physiognomy would be agreeable."
- Never once in their dialogues did I hear a syllable of regret at the
hospitality they had extended to me, or of suspicion of, or aversion
to, myself. I was comforted.
- Mr. St. John came but once: he looked at me, and said my state of
lethargy was the result of reaction from excessive and protracted
fatigue. He pronounced it needless to send for a doctor: nature,
he was sure, would manage best, left to herself. He said every
nerve had been overstrained in some way, and the whole system must
sleep torpid a while. There was no disease. He imagined my
recovery would be rapid enough when once commenced. These opinions
he delivered in a few words, in a quiet, low voice; and added, after
a pause, in the tone of a man little accustomed to expansive
comment, "Rather an unusual physiognomy; certainly, not indicative
of vulgarity or degradation."
- "Far otherwise," responded Diana. "To speak truth, St. John, my
heart rather warms to the poor little soul. I wish we may be able
to benefit her permanently."
- "That is hardly likely," was the reply. "You will find she is some
young lady who has had a misunderstanding with her friends, and has
probably injudiciously left them. We may, perhaps, succeed in
restoring her to them, if she is not obstinate: but I trace lines
of force in her face which make me sceptical of her tractability."
He stood considering me some minutes; then added, "She looks
sensible, but not at all handsome."
- "She is so ill, St. John."
- "Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of
beauty are quite wanting in those features."
- On the third day I was better; on the fourth, I could speak, move,
rise in bed, and turn. Hannah had brought me some gruel and dry
toast, about, as I supposed, the dinner-hour. I had eaten with
relish: the food was good -- void of the feverish flavour which had
hitherto poisoned what I had swallowed. When she left me, I felt
comparatively strong and revived: ere long satiety of repose and
desire for action stirred me. I wished to rise; but what could I
put on? Only my damp and bemired apparel; in which I had slept on
the ground and fallen in the marsh. I felt ashamed to appear before
my benefactors so clad. I was spared the humiliation.
- On a chair by the bedside were all my own things, clean and dry. My
black silk frock hung against the wall. The traces of the bog were
removed from it; the creases left by the wet smoothed out: it was
quite decent. My very shoes and stockings were purified and
rendered presentable. There were the means of washing in the room,
and a comb and brush to smooth my hair. After a weary process, and
resting every five minutes, I succeeded in dressing myself. My
clothes hung loose on me; for I was much wasted, but I covered
deficiencies with a shawl, and once more, clean and respectable
looking -- no speck of the dirt, no trace of the disorder I so hated,
and which seemed so to degrade me, left -- I crept down a stone
staircase with the aid of the banisters, to a narrow low passage,
and found my way presently to the kitchen.
- It was full of the fragrance of new bread and the warmth of a
generous fire. Hannah was baking. Prejudices, it is well known,
are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never
been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as
weeds among stones. Hannah had been cold and stiff, indeed, at the
first: latterly she had begun to relent a little; and when she saw
me come in tidy and well-dressed, she even smiled.
- "What, you have got up!" she said. "You are better, then. You may
sit you down in my chair on the hearthstone, if you will."
- She pointed to the rocking-chair: I took it. She bustled about,
examining me every now and then with the corner of her eye. Turning
to me, as she took some loaves from the oven, she asked bluntly --
- "Did you ever go a-begging afore you came here?"
- I was indignant for a moment; but remembering that anger was out of
the question, and that I had indeed appeared as a beggar to her, I
answered quietly, but still not without a certain marked firmness --
- "You are mistaken in supposing me a beggar. I am no beggar; any
more than yourself or your young ladies."
- After a pause she said, "I dunnut understand that: you've like no
house, nor no brass, I guess?"
- "The want of house or brass (by which I suppose you mean money) does
not make a beggar in your sense of the word."
- "Are you book-learned?" she inquired presently.
- "Yes, very."
- "But you've never been to a boarding-school?"
- "I was at a boarding-school eight years."
- She opened her eyes wide. "Whatever cannot ye keep yourself for,
- "I have kept myself; and, I trust, shall keep myself again. What
are you going to do with these gooseberries?" I inquired, as she
brought out a basket of the fruit.
- "Mak' 'em into pies."
- "Give them to me and I'll pick them."
- "Nay; I dunnut want ye to do nought."
- "But I must do something. Let me have them."
- She consented; and she even brought me a clean towel to spread over
my dress, "lest," as she said, "I should mucky it."
- "Ye've not been used to sarvant's wark, I see by your hands," she
remarked. "Happen ye've been a dressmaker?"
- "No, you are wrong. And now, never mind what I have been: don't
trouble your head further about me; but tell me the name of the
house where we are."
- "Some calls it Marsh End, and some calls it Moor House."
- "And the gentleman who lives here is called Mr. St. John?"
- "Nay; he doesn't live here: he is only staying a while. When he is
at home, he is in his own parish at Morton."
- "That village a few miles off?
- "And what is he?"
- "He is a parson."
- I remembered the answer of the old housekeeper at the parsonage,
when I had asked to see the clergyman. "This, then, was his
- "Aye; old Mr. Rivers lived here, and his father, and grandfather,
and gurt (great) grandfather afore him."
- "The name, then, of that gentleman, is Mr. St. John Rivers?"
- "Aye; St. John is like his kirstened name."
- "And his sisters are called Diana and Mary Rivers?"
- "Their father is dead?"
- "Dead three weeks sin' of a stroke."
- "They have no mother?"
- "The mistress has been dead this mony a year."
- "Have you lived with the family long?"
- "I've lived here thirty year. I nursed them all three."
- "That proves you must have been an honest and faithful servant. I
will say so much for you, though you have had the incivility to call
me a beggar."
- She again regarded me with a surprised stare. "I believe," she
said, "I was quite mista'en in my thoughts of you: but there is so
mony cheats goes about, you mun forgie me."
- "And though," I continued, rather severely, "you wished to turn me
from the door, on a night when you should not have shut out a dog."
- "Well, it was hard: but what can a body do? I thought more o' th'
childer nor of mysel: poor things! They've like nobody to tak'
care on 'em but me. I'm like to look sharpish."
- I maintained a grave silence for some minutes.
- "You munnut think too hardly of me," she again remarked.
- "But I do think hardly of you," I said; "and I'll tell you why -- not
so much because you refused to give me shelter, or regarded me as an
impostor, as because you just now made it a species of reproach that
I had no 'brass' and no house. Some of the best people that ever
lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian,
you ought not to consider poverty a crime."
- "No more I ought," said she: "Mr. St. John tells me so too; and I
see I wor wrang -- but I've clear a different notion on you now to
what I had. You look a raight down dacent little crater."
- "That will do -- I forgive you now. Shake hands."
- She put her floury and horny hand into mine; another and heartier
smile illumined her rough face, and from that moment we were
- Hannah was evidently fond of talking. While I picked the fruit, and
she made the paste for the pies, she proceeded to give me sundry
details about her deceased master and mistress, and "the childer,"
as she called the young people.
- Old Mr. Rivers, she said, was a plain man enough, but a gentleman,
and of as ancient a family as could be found. Marsh End had
belonged to the Rivers ever since it was a house: and it was, she
affirmed, "aboon two hundred year old -- for all it looked but a
small, humble place, naught to compare wi' Mr. Oliver's grand hall
down i' Morton Vale. But she could remember Bill Oliver's father a
journeyman needlemaker; and th' Rivers wor gentry i' th' owd days o'
th' Henrys, as onybody might see by looking into th' registers i'
Morton Church vestry." Still, she allowed, "the owd maister was
like other folk -- naught mich out o' t' common way: stark mad o'
shooting, and farming, and sich like." The mistress was different.
She was a great reader, and studied a deal; and the "bairns" had
taken after her. There was nothing like them in these parts, nor
ever had been; they had liked learning, all three, almost from the
time they could speak; and they had always been "of a mak' of their
own." Mr. St. John, when he grew up, would go to college and be a
parson; and the girls, as soon as they left school, would seek
places as governesses: for they had told her their father had some
years ago lost a great deal of money by a man he had trusted turning
bankrupt; and as he was now not rich enough to give them fortunes,
they must provide for themselves. They had lived very little at
home for a long while, and were only come now to stay a few weeks on
account of their father's death; but they did so like Marsh End and
Morton, and all these moors and hills about. They had been in
London, and many other grand towns; but they always said there was
no place like home; and then they were so agreeable with each other -- never fell out nor "threaped." She did not know where there was
such a family for being united.
- Having finished my task of gooseberry picking, I asked where the two
ladies and their brother were now.
- "Gone over to Morton for a walk; but they would be back in half-an-hour to tea."
- They returned within the time Hannah had allotted them: they
entered by the kitchen door. Mr. St. John, when he saw me, merely
bowed and passed through; the two ladies stopped: Mary, in a few
words, kindly and calmly expressed the pleasure she felt in seeing
me well enough to be able to come down; Diana took my hand: she
shook her head at me.
- "You should have waited for my leave to descend," she said. "You
still look very pale -- and so thin! Poor child! -- poor girl!"
- Diana had a voice toned, to my ear, like the cooing of a dove. She
possessed eyes whose gaze I delighted to encounter. Her whole face
seemed to me fill of charm. Mary's countenance was equally
intelligent -- her features equally pretty; but her expression was
more reserved, and her manners, though gentle, more distant. Diana
looked and spoke with a certain authority: she had a will,
evidently. It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to an
authority supported like hers, and to bend, where my conscience and
self-respect permitted, to an active will.
- "And what business have you here?" she continued. "It is not your
place. Mary and I sit in the kitchen sometimes, because at home we
like to be free, even to license -- but you are a visitor, and must go
into the parlour."
- "I am very well here."
- "Not at all -- with Hannah bustling about and covering you with
- "Besides, the fire is too hot for you," interposed Mary.
- "To be sure," added her sister. "Come, you must be obedient." And
still holding my hand she made me rise, and led me into the inner
- "Sit there," she said, placing me on the sofa, "while we take our
things off and get the tea ready; it is another privilege we
exercise in our little moorland home -- to prepare our own meals when
we are so inclined, or when Hannah is baking, brewing, washing, or
- She closed the door, leaving me solus with Mr. St. John, who sat
opposite, a book or newspaper in his hand. I examined first, the
parlour, and then its occupant.
- The parlour was rather a small room, very plainly furnished, yet
comfortable, because clean and neat. The old-fashioned chairs were
very bright, and the walnut-wood table was like a looking-glass. A
few strange, antique portraits of the men and women of other days
decorated the stained walls; a cupboard with glass doors contained
some books and an ancient set of china. There was no superfluous
ornament in the room -- not one modern piece of furniture, save a
brace of workboxes and a lady's desk in rosewood, which stood on a
side-table: everything -- including the carpet and curtains -- looked
at once well worn and well saved.
- Mr. St. John -- sitting as still as one of the dusty pictures on the
walls, keeping his eyes fixed on the page he perused, and his lips
mutely sealed -- was easy enough to examine. Had he been a statue
instead of a man, he could not have been easier. He was young --
perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty -- tall, slender; his face riveted
the eye; it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline: quite a
straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is
seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as
did his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity of
my lineaments, his own being so harmonious. His eyes were large and
blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was
partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair.
- This is a gentle delineation, is it not, reader? Yet he whom it
describes scarcely impressed one with the idea of a gentle, a
yielding, an impressible, or even of a placid nature. Quiescent as
he now sat, there was something about his nostril, his mouth, his
brow, which, to my perceptions, indicated elements within either
restless, or hard, or eager. He did not speak to me one word, nor
even direct to me one glance, till his sisters returned. Diana, as
she passed in and out, in the course of preparing tea, brought me a
little cake, baked on the top of the oven.
- "Eat that now," she said: "you must be hungry. Hannah says you
have had nothing but some gruel since breakfast."
- I did not refuse it, for my appetite was awakened and keen. Mr.
Rivers now closed his book, approached the table, and, as he took a
seat, fixed his blue pictorial-looking eyes full on me. There was
an unceremonious directness, a searching, decided steadfastness in
his gaze now, which told that intention, and not diffidence, had
hitherto kept it averted from the stranger.
- "You are very hungry," he said.
- "I am, sir." It is my way -- it always was my way, by instinct -- ever
to meet the brief with brevity, the direct with plainness.
- "It is well for you that a low fever has forced you to abstain for
the last three days: there would have been danger in yielding to
the cravings of your appetite at first. Now you may eat, though
still not immoderately."
- "I trust I shall not eat long at your expense, sir," was my very
clumsily-contrived, unpolished answer.
- "No," he said coolly: "when you have indicated to us the residence
of your friends, we can write to them, and you may be restored to
- "That, I must plainly tell you, is out of my power to do; being
absolutely without home and friends."
- The three looked at me, but not distrustfully; I felt there was no
suspicion in their glances: there was more of curiosity. I speak
particularly of the young ladies. St. John's eyes, though clear
enough in a literal sense, in a figurative one were difficult to
fathom. He seemed to use them rather as instruments to search other
people's thoughts, than as agents to reveal his own: the which
combination of keenness and reserve was considerably more calculated
to embarrass than to encourage.
- "Do you mean to say," he asked, "that you are completely isolated
from every connection?"
- "I do. Not a tie links me to any living thing: not a claim do I
possess to admittance under any roof in England."
- "A most singular position at your age!"
- Here I saw his glance directed to my hands, which were folded on the
table before me. I wondered what he sought there: his words soon
explained the quest.
- "You have never been married? You are a spinster?"
- Diana laughed. "Why, she can't he above seventeen or eighteen years
old, St. John," said she.
- "I am near nineteen: but I am not married. No."
- I felt a burning glow mount to my face; for bitter and agitating
recollections were awakened by the allusion to marriage. They all
saw the embarrassment and the emotion. Diana and Mary relieved me
by turning their eyes elsewhere than to my crimsoned visage; but the
colder and sterner brother continued to gaze, till the trouble he
had excited forced out tears as well as colour.
- "Where did you last reside?" he now asked.
- "You are too inquisitive, St. John," murmured Mary in a low voice;
but he leaned over the table and required an answer by a second firm
and piercing look.
- "The name of the place where, and of the person with whom I lived,
is my secret," I replied concisely.
- "Which, if you like, you have, in my opinion, a right to keep, both
from St. John and every other questioner," remarked Diana.
- "Yet if I know nothing about you or your history, I cannot help
you," he said. "And you need help, do you not?"
- "I need it, and I seek it so far, sir, that some true philanthropist
will put me in the way of getting work which I can do, and the
remuneration for which will keep me, if but in the barest
necessaries of life."
- "I know not whether I am a true philanthropist; yet I am willing to
aid you to the utmost of my power in a purpose so honest. First,
then, tell me what you have been accustomed to do, and what you can
- I had now swallowed my tea. I was mightily refreshed by the
beverage; as much so as a giant with wine: it gave new tone to my
unstrung nerves, and enabled me to address this penetrating young
- "Mr. Rivers," I said, turning to him, and looking at him, as he
looked at me, openly and without diffidence, "you and your sisters
have done me a great service -- the greatest man can do his fellow-being; you have rescued me, by your noble hospitality, from death.
This benefit conferred gives you an unlimited claim on my gratitude,
and a claim, to a certain extent, on my confidence. I will tell you
as much of the history of the wanderer you have harboured, as I can
tell without compromising my own peace of mind -- my own security,
moral and physical, and that of others.
- "I am an orphan, the daughter of a clergyman. My parents died
before I could know them. I was brought up a dependant; educated in
a charitable institution. I will even tell you the name of the
establishment, where I passed six years as a pupil, and two as a
teacher -- Lowood Orphan Asylum, ----shire: you will have heard of it,
Mr. Rivers? -- the Rev. Robert Brocklehurst is the treasurer."
- "I have heard of Mr. Brocklehurst, and I have seen the school."
- "I left Lowood nearly a year since to become a private governess. I
obtained a good situation, and was happy. This place I was obliged
to leave four days before I came here. The reason of my departure I
cannot and ought not to explain: it would be useless, dangerous,
and would sound incredible. No blame attached to me: I am as free
from culpability as any one of you three. Miserable I am, and must
be for a time; for the catastrophe which drove me from a house I had
found a paradise was of a strange and direful nature. I observed
but two points in planning my departure -- speed, secrecy: to secure
these, I had to leave behind me everything I possessed except a
small parcel; which, in my hurry and trouble of mind, I forgot to
take out of the coach that brought me to Whitcross. To this
neighbourhood, then, I came, quite destitute. I slept two nights in
the open air, and wandered about two days without crossing a
threshold: but twice in that space of time did I taste food; and it
was when brought by hunger, exhaustion, and despair almost to the
last gasp, that you, Mr. Rivers, forbade me to perish of want at
your door, and took me under the shelter of your roof. I know all
your sisters have done for me since -- for I have not been insensible
during my seeming torpor -- and I owe to their spontaneous, genuine,
genial compassion as large a debt as to your evangelical charity."
- "Don't make her talk any more now, St. John," said Diana, as I
paused; "she is evidently not yet fit for excitement. Come to the
sofa and sit down now, Miss Elliott."
- I gave an involuntary half start at hearing the alias: I had
forgotten my new name. Mr. Rivers, whom nothing seemed to escape,
noticed it at once.
- "You said your name was Jane Elliott?" he observed.
- "I did say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient to
be called at present, but it is not my real name, and when I hear
it, it sounds strange to me."
- "Your real name you will not give?"
- "No: I fear discovery above all things; and whatever disclosure
would lead to it, I avoid."
- "You are quite right, I am sure," said Diana. "Now do, brother, let
her be at peace a while."
- But when St. John had mused a few moments he recommenced as
imperturbably and with as much acumen as ever.
- "You would not like to be long dependent on our hospitality -- you
would wish, I see, to dispense as soon as may be with my sisters'
compassion, and, above all, with my charity (I am quite sensible of
the distinction drawn, nor do I resent it -- it is just): you desire
to be independent of us?"
- "I do: I have already said so. Show me how to work, or how to seek
work: that is all I now ask; then let me go, if it be but to the
meanest cottage; but till then, allow me to stay here: I dread
another essay of the horrors of homeless destitution."
- "Indeed you shall stay here," said Diana, putting her white hand on
my head. "You shall," repeated Mary, in the tone of undemonstrative
sincerity which seemed natural to her.
- "My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you," said Mr. St.
John, "as they would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing a
half-frozen bird, some wintry wind might have driven through their
casement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of keeping
yourself, and shall endeavour to do so; but observe, my sphere is
narrow. I am but the incumbent of a poor country parish: my aid
must be of the humblest sort. And if you are inclined to despise
the day of small things, seek some more efficient succour than such
as I can offer."
- "She has already said that she is willing to do anything honest she
can do," answered Diana for me; "and you know, St. John, she has no
choice of helpers: she is forced to put up with such crusty people
- "I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-workwoman; I will be a
servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better," I answered.
- "Right," said Mr. St. John, quite coolly. "If such is your spirit,
I promise to aid you, in my own time and way."
- He now resumed the book with which he had been occupied before tea.
I soon withdrew, for I had talked as much, and sat up as long, as my
present strength would permit.
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