Part 4 - Jane Eyre Audiobook by Charlotte Bronte (Chs 17-20)

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A week passed, and no news arrived of Mr. Rochester: ten days, and still he did not
Mrs. Fairfax said she should not be surprised if he were to go straight from
the Leas to London, and thence to the Continent, and not show his face again at
Thornfield for a year to come; he had not
unfrequently quitted it in a manner quite as abrupt and unexpected.
When I heard this, I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart.
I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of
disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once
called my sensations to order; and it was
wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder--how I cleared up the mistake of
supposing Mr. Rochester's movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a
vital interest.
Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of inferiority: on the contrary, I
just said--
"You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than to receive the
salary he gives you for teaching his protegee, and to be grateful for such
respectful and kind treatment as, if you do
your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands.
Be sure that is the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don't
make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies, and so forth.
He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be too self-respecting to lavish
the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted
and would be despised."
I went on with my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vague
suggestions kept wandering across my brain of reasons why I should quit Thornfield;
and I kept involuntarily framing
advertisements and pondering conjectures about new situations: these thoughts I did
not think to check; they might germinate and bear fruit if they could.
Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight, when the post brought Mrs.
Fairfax a letter. "It is from the master," said she, as she
looked at the direction.
"Now I suppose we shall know whether we are to expect his return or not."
And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on taking my coffee
(we were at breakfast): it was hot, and I attributed to that circumstance a fiery
glow which suddenly rose to my face.
Why my hand shook, and why I involuntarily spilt half the contents of my cup into my
saucer, I did not choose to consider.
"Well, I sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance of being busy enough
now: for a little while at least," said Mrs. Fairfax, still holding the note before
her spectacles.
Ere I permitted myself to request an explanation, I tied the string of Adele's
pinafore, which happened to be loose: having helped her also to another bun and
refilled her mug with milk, I said, nonchalantly--
"Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?"
"Indeed he is--in three days, he says: that will be next Thursday; and not alone
I don't know how many of the fine people at the Leas are coming with him: he sends
directions for all the best bedrooms to be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms
are to be cleaned out; I am to get more
kitchen hands from the George Inn, at Millcote, and from wherever else I can; and
the ladies will bring their maids and the gentlemen their valets: so we shall have a
full house of it."
And Mrs. Fairfax swallowed her breakfast and hastened away to commence operations.
The three days were, as she had foretold, busy enough.
I had thought all the rooms at Thornfield beautifully clean and well arranged; but it
appears I was mistaken.
Three women were got to help; and such scrubbing, such brushing, such washing of
paint and beating of carpets, such taking down and putting up of pictures, such
polishing of mirrors and lustres, such
lighting of fires in bedrooms, such airing of sheets and feather-beds on hearths, I
never beheld, either before or since.
Adele ran quite wild in the midst of it: the preparations for company and the
prospect of their arrival, seemed to throw her into ecstasies.
She would have Sophie to look over all her "toilettes," as she called frocks; to
furbish up any that were "passees," and to air and arrange the new.
For herself, she did nothing but caper about in the front chambers, jump on and
off the bedsteads, and lie on the mattresses and piled-up bolsters and
pillows before the enormous fires roaring in the chimneys.
From school duties she was exonerated: Mrs. Fairfax had pressed me into her service,
and I was all day in the storeroom, helping (or hindering) her and the cook; learning
to make custards and cheese-cakes and
French pastry, to truss game and garnish desert-dishes.
The party were expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon, in time for dinner at
During the intervening period I had no time to nurse chimeras; and I believe I was as
active and gay as anybody--Adele excepted.
Still, now and then, I received a damping check to my cheerfulness; and was, in spite
of myself, thrown back on the region of doubts and portents, and dark conjectures.
This was when I chanced to see the third- storey staircase door (which of late had
always been kept locked) open slowly, and give passage to the form of Grace Poole, in
prim cap, white apron, and handkerchief;
when I watched her glide along the gallery, her quiet tread muffled in a list slipper;
when I saw her look into the bustling, topsy-turvy bedrooms,--just say a word,
perhaps, to the charwoman about the proper
way to polish a grate, or clean a marble mantelpiece, or take stains from papered
walls, and then pass on.
She would thus descend to the kitchen once a day, eat her dinner, smoke a moderate
pipe on the hearth, and go back, carrying her pot of porter with her, for her private
solace, in her own gloomy, upper haunt.
Only one hour in the twenty-four did she pass with her fellow-servants below; all
the rest of her time was spent in some low- ceiled, oaken chamber of the second storey:
there she sat and sewed--and probably
laughed drearily to herself,--as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.
The strangest thing of all was, that not a soul in the house, except me, noticed her
habits, or seemed to marvel at them: no one discussed her position or employment; no
one pitied her solitude or isolation.
I once, indeed, overheard part of a dialogue between Leah and one of the
charwomen, of which Grace formed the subject.
Leah had been saying something I had not caught, and the charwoman remarked--
"She gets good wages, I guess?"
"Yes," said Leah; "I wish I had as good; not that mine are to complain of,--there's
no stinginess at Thornfield; but they're not one fifth of the sum Mrs. Poole
And she is laying by: she goes every quarter to the bank at Millcote.
I should not wonder but she has saved enough to keep her independent if she liked
to leave; but I suppose she's got used to the place; and then she's not forty yet,
and strong and able for anything.
It is too soon for her to give up business."
"She is a good hand, I daresay," said the charwoman.
"Ah!--she understands what she has to do,-- nobody better," rejoined Leah
significantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes--not for all the money
she gets."
"That it is not!" was the reply. "I wonder whether the master--"
The charwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived me, and she instantly
gave her companion a nudge.
"Doesn't she know?" I heard the woman whisper.
Leah shook her head, and the conversation was of course dropped.
All I had gathered from it amounted to this,--that there was a mystery at
Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I was purposely excluded.
Thursday came: all work had been completed the previous evening; carpets were laid
down, bed-hangings festooned, radiant white counterpanes spread, toilet tables
arranged, furniture rubbed, flowers piled
in vases: both chambers and saloons looked as fresh and bright as hands could make
The hall, too, was scoured; and the great carved clock, as well as the steps and
banisters of the staircase, were polished to the brightness of glass; in the dining-
room, the sideboard flashed resplendent
with plate; in the drawing-room and boudoir, vases of exotics bloomed on all
Afternoon arrived: Mrs. Fairfax assumed her best black satin gown, her gloves, and her
gold watch; for it was her part to receive the company,--to conduct the ladies to
their rooms, &c.
Adele, too, would be dressed: though I thought she had little chance of being
introduced to the party that day at least.
However, to please her, I allowed Sophie to apparel her in one of her short, full
muslin frocks.
For myself, I had no need to make any change; I should not be called upon to quit
my sanctum of the schoolroom; for a sanctum it was now become to me,--"a very pleasant
refuge in time of trouble."
It had been a mild, serene spring day--one of those days which, towards the end of
March or the beginning of April, rise shining over the earth as heralds of
It was drawing to an end now; but the evening was even warm, and I sat at work in
the schoolroom with the window open. "It gets late," said Mrs. Fairfax, entering
in rustling state.
"I am glad I ordered dinner an hour after the time Mr. Rochester mentioned; for it is
past six now.
I have sent John down to the gates to see if there is anything on the road: one can
see a long way from thence in the direction of Millcote."
She went to the window.
"Here he is!" said she. "Well, John" (leaning out), "any news?"
"They're coming, ma'am," was the answer. "They'll be here in ten minutes."
Adele flew to the window.
I followed, taking care to stand on one side, so that, screened by the curtain, I
could see without being seen.
The ten minutes John had given seemed very long, but at last wheels were heard; four
equestrians galloped up the drive, and after them came two open carriages.
Fluttering veils and waving plumes filled the vehicles; two of the cavaliers were
young, dashing-looking gentlemen; the third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse,
Mesrour, Pilot bounding before him; at his
side rode a lady, and he and she were the first of the party.
Her purple riding-habit almost swept the ground, her veil streamed long on the
breeze; mingling with its transparent folds, and gleaming through them, shone
rich raven ringlets.
"Miss Ingram!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax, and away she hurried to her post below.
The cavalcade, following the sweep of the drive, quickly turned the angle of the
house, and I lost sight of it.
Adele now petitioned to go down; but I took her on my knee, and gave her to understand
that she must not on any account think of venturing in sight of the ladies, either
now or at any other time, unless expressly
sent for: that Mr. Rochester would be very angry, &c.
"Some natural tears she shed" on being told this; but as I began to look very grave,
she consented at last to wipe them.
A joyous stir was now audible in the hall: gentlemen's deep tones and ladies' silvery
accents blent harmoniously together, and distinguishable above all, though not loud,
was the sonorous voice of the master of
Thornfield Hall, welcoming his fair and gallant guests under its roof.
Then light steps ascended the stairs; and there was a tripping through the gallery,
and soft cheerful laughs, and opening and closing doors, and, for a time, a hush.
"Elles changent de toilettes," said Adele; who, listening attentively, had followed
every movement; and she sighed.
"Chez maman," said she, "quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais partout, au salon
et a leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller
les dames, et c'etait si amusant: comme cela on apprend."
"Don't you feel hungry, Adele?" "Mais oui, mademoiselle: voila cinq ou six
heures que nous n'avons pas mange."
"Well now, while the ladies are in their rooms, I will venture down and get you
something to eat."
And issuing from my asylum with precaution, I sought a back-stairs which conducted
directly to the kitchen.
All in that region was fire and commotion; the soup and fish were in the last stage of
projection, and the cook hung over her crucibles in a frame of mind and body
threatening spontaneous combustion.
In the servants' hall two coachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat
round the fire; the abigails, I suppose, were upstairs with their mistresses; the
new servants, that had been hired from Millcote, were bustling about everywhere.
Threading this chaos, I at last reached the larder; there I took possession of a cold
chicken, a roll of bread, some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with
this booty I made a hasty retreat.
I had regained the gallery, and was just shutting the back-door behind me, when an
accelerated hum warned me that the ladies were about to issue from their chambers.
I could not proceed to the schoolroom without passing some of their doors, and
running the risk of being surprised with my cargo of victualage; so I stood still at
this end, which, being windowless, was
dark: quite dark now, for the sun was set and twilight gathering.
Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another: each came out
gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous through the dusk.
For a moment they stood grouped together at the other extremity of the gallery,
conversing in a key of sweet subdued vivacity: they then descended the staircase
almost as noiselessly as a bright mist rolls down a hill.
Their collective appearance had left on me an impression of high- born elegance, such
as I had never before received.
I found Adele peeping through the schoolroom door, which she held ajar.
"What beautiful ladies!" cried she in English.
"Oh, I wish I might go to them!
Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us by-and-bye, after dinner?"
"No, indeed, I don't; Mr. Rochester has something else to think about.
Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see them to-morrow: here is your
She was really hungry, so the chicken and tarts served to divert her attention for a
It was well I secured this forage, or both she, I, and Sophie, to whom I conveyed a
share of our repast, would have run a chance of getting no dinner at all: every
one downstairs was too much engaged to think of us.
The dessert was not carried out till after nine and at ten footmen were still running
to and fro with trays and coffee- cups.
I allowed Adele to sit up much later than usual; for she declared she could not
possibly go to sleep while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people
bustling about.
Besides, she added, a message might possibly come from Mr. Rochester when she
was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"
I told her stories as long as she would listen to them; and then for a change I
took her out into the gallery.
The hall lamp was now lit, and it amused her to look over the balustrade and watch
the servants passing backwards and forwards.
When the evening was far advanced, a sound of music issued from the drawing-room,
whither the piano had been removed; Adele and I sat down on the top step of the
stairs to listen.
Presently a voice blent with the rich tones of the instrument; it was a lady who sang,
and very sweet her notes were.
The solo over, a duet followed, and then a glee: a joyous conversational murmur filled
up the intervals.
I listened long: suddenly I discovered that my ear was wholly intent on analysing the
mingled sounds, and trying to discriminate amidst the confusion of accents those of
Mr. Rochester; and when it caught them,
which it soon did, it found a further task in framing the tones, rendered by distance
inarticulate, into words. The clock struck eleven.
I looked at Adele, whose head leant against my shoulder; her eyes were waxing heavy, so
I took her up in my arms and carried her off to bed.
It was near one before the gentlemen and ladies sought their chambers.
The next day was as fine as its predecessor: it was devoted by the party to
an excursion to some site in the neighbourhood.
They set out early in the forenoon, some on horseback, the rest in carriages; I
witnessed both the departure and the return.
Miss Ingram, as before, was the only lady equestrian; and, as before, Mr. Rochester
galloped at her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest.
I pointed out this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfax, who was standing at the window
with me--
"You said it was not likely they should think of being married," said I, "but you
see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any of the other ladies."
"Yes, I daresay: no doubt he admires her."
"And she him," I added; "look how she leans her head towards him as if she were
conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face; I have never had a glimpse of
it yet."
"You will see her this evening," answered Mrs. Fairfax.
"I happened to remark to Mr. Rochester how much Adele wished to be introduced to the
ladies, and he said: 'Oh! let her come into the drawing-room after dinner; and request
Miss Eyre to accompany her.'"
"Yes; he said that from mere politeness: I need not go, I am sure," I answered.
"Well, I observed to him that as you were unused to company, I did not think you
would like appearing before so gay a party- -all strangers; and he replied, in his
quick way--'Nonsense!
If she objects, tell her it is my particular wish; and if she resists, say I
shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.'"
"I will not give him that trouble," I answered.
"I will go, if no better may be; but I don't like it.
Shall you be there, Mrs. Fairfax?"
"No; I pleaded off, and he admitted my plea.
I'll tell you how to manage so as to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal
entrance, which is the most disagreeable part of the business.
You must go into the drawing- room while it is empty, before the ladies leave the
dinner-table; choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you need not stay long after
the gentlemen come in, unless you please:
just let Mr. Rochester see you are there and then slip away--nobody will notice
you." "Will these people remain long, do you
"Perhaps two or three weeks, certainly not more.
After the Easter recess, Sir George Lynn, who was lately elected member for Millcote,
will have to go up to town and take his seat; I daresay Mr. Rochester will
accompany him: it surprises me that he has
already made so protracted a stay at Thornfield."
It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when I was to
repair with my charge to the drawing-room.
Adele had been in a state of ecstasy all day, after hearing she was to be presented
to the ladies in the evening; and it was not till Sophie commenced the operation of
dressing her that she sobered down.
Then the importance of the process quickly steadied her, and by the time she had her
curls arranged in well-smoothed, drooping clusters, her pink satin frock put on, her
long sash tied, and her lace mittens adjusted, she looked as grave as any judge.
No need to warn her not to disarrange her attire: when she was dressed, she sat
demurely down in her little chair, taking care previously to lift up the satin skirt
for fear she should crease it, and assured
me she would not stir thence till I was ready.
This I quickly was: my best dress (the silver-grey one, purchased for Miss
Temple's wedding, and never worn since) was soon put on; my hair was soon smoothed; my
sole ornament, the pearl brooch, soon assumed.
We descended.
Fortunately there was another entrance to the drawing-room than that through the
saloon where they were all seated at dinner.
We found the apartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marble hearth, and
wax candles shining in bright solitude, amid the exquisite flowers with which the
tables were adorned.
The crimson curtain hung before the arch: slight as was the separation this drapery
formed from the party in the adjoining saloon, they spoke in so low a key that
nothing of their conversation could be distinguished beyond a soothing murmur.
Adele, who appeared to be still under the influence of a most solemnising impression,
sat down, without a word, on the footstool I pointed out to her.
I retired to a window-seat, and taking a book from a table near, endeavoured to
read. Adele brought her stool to my feet; ere
long she touched my knee.
"What is it, Adele?" "Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendrie une
seule de ces fleurs magnifiques, mademoiselle?
Seulement pour completer ma toilette."
"You think too much of your 'toilette,' Adele: but you may have a flower."
And I took a rose from a vase and fastened it in her sash.
She sighed a sigh of ineffable satisfaction, as if her cup of happiness
were now full.
I turned my face away to conceal a smile I could not suppress: there was something
ludicrous as well as painful in the little Parisienne's earnest and innate devotion to
matters of dress.
A soft sound of rising now became audible; the curtain was swept back from the arch;
through it appeared the dining-room, with its lit lustre pouring down light on the
silver and glass of a magnificent dessert-
service covering a long table; a band of ladies stood in the opening; they entered,
and the curtain fell behind them.
There were but eight; yet, somehow, as they flocked in, they gave the impression of a
much larger number.
Some of them were very tall; many were dressed in white; and all had a sweeping
amplitude of array that seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifies the moon.
I rose and curtseyed to them: one or two bent their heads in return, the others only
stared at me.
They dispersed about the room, reminding me, by the lightness and buoyancy of their
movements, of a flock of white plumy birds.
Some of them threw themselves in half- reclining positions on the sofas and
ottomans: some bent over the tables and examined the flowers and books: the rest
gathered in a group round the fire: all
talked in a low but clear tone which seemed habitual to them.
I knew their names afterwards, and may as well mention them now.
First, there was Mrs. Eshton and two of her daughters.
She had evidently been a handsome woman, and was well preserved still.
Of her daughters, the eldest, Amy, was rather little: naive, and child-like in
face and manner, and piquant in form; her white muslin dress and blue sash became her
The second, Louisa, was taller and more elegant in figure; with a very pretty face,
of that order the French term minois chiffone: both sisters were fair as
Lady Lynn was a large and stout personage of about forty, very erect, very haughty-
looking, richly dressed in a satin robe of changeful sheen: her dark hair shone
glossily under the shade of an azure plume, and within the circlet of a band of gems.
Mrs. Colonel Dent was less showy; but, I thought, more lady-like.
She had a slight figure, a pale, gentle face, and fair hair.
Her black satin dress, her scarf of rich foreign lace, and her pearl ornaments,
pleased me better than the rainbow radiance of the titled dame.
But the three most distinguished--partly, perhaps, because the tallest figures of the
band--were the Dowager Lady Ingram and her daughters, Blanche and Mary.
They were all three of the loftiest stature of women.
The Dowager might be between forty and fifty: her shape was still fine; her hair
(by candle-light at least) still black; her teeth, too, were still apparently perfect.
Most people would have termed her a splendid woman of her age: and so she was,
no doubt, physically speaking; but then there was an expression of almost
insupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance.
She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat like a pillar:
these features appeared to me not only inflated and darkened, but even furrowed
with pride; and the chin was sustained by
the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural erectness.
She had, likewise, a fierce and a hard eye: it reminded me of Mrs. Reed's; she mouthed
her words in speaking; her voice was deep, its inflections very pompous, very
dogmatical,--very intolerable, in short.
A crimson velvet robe, and a shawl turban of some gold-wrought Indian fabric,
invested her (I suppose she thought) with a truly imperial dignity.
Blanche and Mary were of equal stature,-- straight and tall as poplars.
Mary was too slim for her height, but Blanche was moulded like a Dian.
I regarded her, of course, with special interest.
First, I wished to see whether her appearance accorded with Mrs. Fairfax's
description; secondly, whether it at all resembled the fancy miniature I had painted
of her; and thirdly--it will out!--whether
it were such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr. Rochester's taste.
As far as person went, she answered point for point, both to my picture and Mrs.
Fairfax's description.
The noble bust, the sloping shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and black
ringlets were all there;--but her face?
Her face was like her mother's; a youthful unfurrowed likeness: the same low brow, the
same high features, the same pride.
It was not, however, so saturnine a pride! she laughed continually; her laugh was
satirical, and so was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.
Genius is said to be self-conscious.
I cannot tell whether Miss Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious--
remarkably self-conscious indeed. She entered into a discourse on botany with
the gentle Mrs. Dent.
It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science: though, as she said, she liked
flowers, "especially wild ones;" Miss Ingram had, and she ran over its vocabulary
with an air.
I presently perceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) trailing Mrs. Dent;
that is, playing on her ignorance--her trail might be clever, but it was
decidedly not good- natured.
She played: her execution was brilliant; she sang: her voice was fine; she talked
French apart to her mamma; and she talked it well, with fluency and with a good
Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer features too, and a
skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark as a Spaniard)--but Mary was deficient
in life: her face lacked expression, her
eye lustre; she had nothing to say, and having once taken her seat, remained fixed
like a statue in its niche. The sisters were both attired in spotless
And did I now think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester would be likely to
make? I could not tell--I did not know his taste
in female beauty.
If he liked the majestic, she was the very type of majesty: then she was accomplished,
Most gentlemen would admire her, I thought; and that he did admire her, I already
seemed to have obtained proof: to remove the last shade of doubt, it remained but to
see them together.
You are not to suppose, reader, that Adele has all this time been sitting motionless
on the stool at my feet: no; when the ladies entered, she rose, advanced to meet
them, made a stately reverence, and said with gravity--
"Bon jour, mesdames."
And Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and exclaimed, "Oh, what a
little puppet!"
Lady Lynn had remarked, "It is Mr. Rochester's ward, I suppose--the little
French girl he was speaking of." Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand, and
given her a kiss.
Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously--"What a love of a child!"
And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced between them,
chattering alternately in French and broken English; absorbing not only the young
ladies' attention, but that of Mrs. Eshton
and Lady Lynn, and getting spoilt to her heart's content.
At last coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen are summoned.
I sit in the shade--if any shade there be in this brilliantly-lit apartment; the
window-curtain half hides me. Again the arch yawns; they come.
The collective appearance of the gentlemen, like that of the ladies, is very imposing:
they are all costumed in black; most of them are tall, some young.
Henry and Frederick Lynn are very dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine
soldierly man.
Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, is gentleman-like: his hair is quite white,
his eyebrows and whiskers still dark, which gives him something of the appearance of a
"pere noble de theatre."
Lord Ingram, like his sisters, is very tall; like them, also, he is handsome; but
he shares Mary's apathetic and listless look: he seems to have more length of limb
than vivacity of blood or vigour of brain.
And where is Mr. Rochester? He comes in last: I am not looking at the
arch, yet I see him enter.
I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles, on the meshes of the purse
I am forming--I wish to think only of the work I have in my hands, to see only the
silver beads and silk threads that lie in
my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure, and I inevitably recall the moment
when I last saw it; just after I had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential
service, and he, holding my hand, and
looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes that revealed a heart full and eager
to overflow; in whose emotions I had a part.
How near had I approached him at that moment!
What had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative positions?
Yet now, how distant, how far estranged we were!
So far estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me.
I did not wonder, when, without looking at me, he took a seat at the other side of the
room, and began conversing with some of the ladies.
No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and that I might gaze
without being observed, than my eyes were drawn involuntarily to his face; I could
not keep their lids under control: they would rise, and the irids would fix on him.
I looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking,--a precious yet poignant pleasure;
pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man
might feel who knows the well to which he
has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless.
Most true is it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer."
My master's colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows,
deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth,--all energy, decision, will,--were
not beautiful, according to rule; but they
were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest, an influence that
quite mastered me,--that took my feelings from my own power and fettered them in his.
I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from
my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him,
they spontaneously arrived, green and strong!
He made me love him without looking at me. I compared him with his guests.
What was the gallant grace of the Lynns, the languid elegance of Lord Ingram,--even
the military distinction of Colonel Dent, contrasted with his look of native pith and
genuine power?
I had no sympathy in their appearance, their expression: yet I could imagine that
most observers would call them attractive, handsome, imposing; while they would
pronounce Mr. Rochester at once harsh- featured and melancholy-looking.
I saw them smile, laugh--it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much soul
in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as much significance as their laugh.
I saw Mr. Rochester smile:--his stern features softened; his eye grew both
brilliant and gentle, its ray both searching and sweet.
He was talking, at the moment, to Louisa and Amy Eshton.
I wondered to see them receive with calm that look which seemed to me so
penetrating: I expected their eyes to fall, their colour to rise under it; yet I was
glad when I found they were in no sense moved.
"He is not to them what he is to me," I thought: "he is not of their kind.
I believe he is of mine;--I am sure he is-- I feel akin to him--I understand the
language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I
have something in my brain and heart, in my
blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him.
Did I say, a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive my
salary at his hands?
Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a paymaster?
Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have
gathers impulsively round him.
I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he
cannot care much for me.
For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to
influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I have certain tastes and
feelings in common with him.
I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered:--and yet, while I
breathe and think, I must love him." Coffee is handed.
The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have become lively as larks; conversation
waxes brisk and merry. Colonel Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on
politics; their wives listen.
The two proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.
Sir George--whom, by-the-bye, I have forgotten to describe,--a very big, and
very fresh-looking country gentleman, stands before their sofa, coffee- cup in
hand, and occasionally puts in a word.
Mr. Frederick Lynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingram, and is showing her the
engravings of a splendid volume: she looks, smiles now and then, but apparently says
The tall and phlegmatic Lord Ingram leans with folded arms on the chair-back of the
little and lively Amy Eshton; she glances up at him, and chatters like a wren: she
likes him better than she does Mr. Rochester.
Henry Lynn has taken possession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa: Adele shares
it with him: he is trying to talk French with her, and Louisa laughs at his
With whom will Blanche Ingram pair? She is standing alone at the table, bending
gracefully over an album.
She seems waiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long: she herself selects
a mate.
Mr. Rochester, having quitted the Eshtons, stands on the hearth as solitary as she
stands by the table: she confronts him, taking her station on the opposite side of
the mantelpiece.
"Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?"
"Nor am I." "Then, what induced you to take charge of
such a little doll as that?"
(pointing to Adele). "Where did you pick her up?"
"I did not pick her up; she was left on my hands."
"You should have sent her to school."
"I could not afford it: schools are so dear."
"Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with her just now--is
she gone?
Oh, no! there she is still, behind the window- curtain.
You pay her, of course; I should think it quite as expensive,--more so; for you have
them both to keep in addition."
I feared--or should I say, hoped?--the allusion to me would make Mr. Rochester
glance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther into the shade: but he never turned
his eyes.
"I have not considered the subject," said he indifferently, looking straight before
him. "No, you men never do consider economy and
common sense.
You should hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I should
think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable and the rest ridiculous,
and all incubi--were they not, mama?"
"Did you speak, my own?" The young lady thus claimed as the
dowager's special property, reiterated her question with an explanation.
"My dearest, don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.
I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice.
I thank Heaven I have now done with them!"
Mrs. Dent here bent over to the pious lady and whispered something in her ear; I
suppose, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder that one of the anathematised race
was present.
"Tant pis!" said her Ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!"
Then, in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed her; I am
a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults of her class."
"What are they, madam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.
"I will tell you in your private ear," replied she, wagging her turban three times
with portentous significancy.
"But my curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."
"Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I." "Oh, don't refer him to me, mama!
I have just one word to say of the whole tribe; they are a nuisance.
Not that I ever suffered much from them; I took care to turn the tables.
What tricks Theodore and I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and
Madame Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a
plot with spirit.
The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was a poor sickly thing, lachrymose
and low- spirited, not worth the trouble of vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was
coarse and insensible; no blow took effect on her.
But poor Madame Joubert!
I see her yet in her raging passions, when we had driven her to extremities--spilt our
tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed our books up to the ceiling, and played a
charivari with the ruler and desk, the fender and fire-irons.
Theodore, do you remember those merry days?"
"Yaas, to be sure I do," drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor old stick used to cry
out 'Oh you villains childs!'--and then we sermonised her on the presumption of
attempting to teach such clever blades as we were, when she was herself so ignorant."
"We did; and, Tedo, you know, I helped you in prosecuting (or persecuting) your tutor,
whey-faced Mr. Vining--the parson in the pip, as we used to call him.
He and Miss Wilson took the liberty of falling in love with each other--at least
Tedo and I thought so; we surprised sundry tender glances and sighs which we
interpreted as tokens of 'la belle
passion,' and I promise you the public soon had the benefit of our discovery; we
employed it as a sort of lever to hoist our dead-weights from the house.
Dear mama, there, as soon as she got an inkling of the business, found out that it
was of an immoral tendency. Did you not, my lady-mother?"
"Certainly, my best.
And I was quite right: depend on that: there are a thousand reasons why liaisons
between governesses and tutors should never be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated
house; firstly--"
"Oh, gracious, mama! Spare us the enumeration!
Au reste, we all know them: danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;
distractions and consequent neglect of duty on the part of the attached--mutual
alliance and reliance; confidence thence
resulting--insolence accompanying--mutiny and general blow-up.
Am I right, Baroness Ingram, of Ingram Park?"
"My lily-flower, you are right now, as always."
"Then no more need be said: change the subject."
Amy Eshton, not hearing or not heeding this dictum, joined in with her soft, infantine
tone: "Louisa and I used to quiz our governess too; but she was such a good
creature, she would bear anything: nothing put her out.
She was never cross with us; was she, Louisa?"
"No, never: we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and her workbox, and turn
her drawers inside out; and she was so good-natured, she would give us anything we
asked for."
"I suppose, now," said Miss Ingram, curling her lip sarcastically, "we shall have an
abstract of the memoirs of all the governesses extant: in order to avert such
a visitation, I again move the introduction of a new topic.
Mr. Rochester, do you second my motion?" "Madam, I support you on this point, as on
every other."
"Then on me be the onus of bringing it forward.
Signior Eduardo, are you in voice to- night?"
"Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be."
"Then, signior, I lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up your lungs and other
vocal organs, as they will be wanted on my royal service."
"Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"
"A fig for Rizzio!" cried she, tossing her head with all its curls, as she moved to
the piano.
"It is my opinion the fiddler David must have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like
black Bothwell better: to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in
him; and history may say what it will of
James Hepburn, but I have a notion, he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero
whom I could have consented to gift with my hand."
"Gentlemen, you hear!
Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?" cried Mr. Rochester.
"I should say the preference lies with you," responded Colonel Dent.
"On my honour, I am much obliged to you," was the reply.
Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself with proud grace at the piano, spreading
out her snowy robes in queenly amplitude, commenced a brilliant prelude; talking
She appeared to be on her high horse to- night; both her words and her air seemed
intended to excite not only the admiration, but the amazement of her auditors: she was
evidently bent on striking them as something very dashing and daring indeed.
"Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed she, rattling away
at the instrument.
"Poor, puny things, not fit to stir a step beyond papa's park gates: nor to go even so
far without mama's permission and guardianship!
Creatures so absorbed in care about their pretty faces, and their white hands, and
their small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty!
As if loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman--her legitimate
appanage and heritage!
I grant an ugly woman is a blot on the fair face of creation; but as to the
gentlemen, let them be solicitous to possess only strength and valour: let their
motto be:--Hunt, shoot, and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip.
Such should be my device, were I a man."
"Whenever I marry," she continued after a pause which none interrupted, "I am
resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me.
I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall exact an undivided homage:
his devotions shall not be shared between me and the shape he sees in his mirror.
Mr. Rochester, now sing, and I will play for you."
"I am all obedience," was the response. "Here then is a Corsair-song.
Know that I doat on Corsairs; and for that reason, sing it con spirito."
"Commands from Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug of milk and water."
"Take care, then: if you don't please me, I will shame you by showing how such things
should be done." "That is offering a premium on incapacity:
I shall now endeavour to fail."
"Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a
proportionate punishment."
"Miss Ingram ought to be clement, for she has it in her power to inflict a
chastisement beyond mortal endurance." "Ha! explain!" commanded the lady.
"Pardon me, madam: no need of explanation; your own fine sense must inform you that
one of your frowns would be a sufficient substitute for capital punishment."
"Sing!" said she, and again touching the piano, she commenced an accompaniment in
spirited style.
"Now is my time to slip away," thought I: but the tones that then severed the air
arrested me.
Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochester possessed a fine voice: he did--a mellow,
powerful bass, into which he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way
through the ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely.
I waited till the last deep and full vibration had expired--till the tide of
talk, checked an instant, had resumed its flow; I then quitted my sheltered corner
and made my exit by the side-door, which was fortunately near.
Thence a narrow passage led into the hall: in crossing it, I perceived my sandal was
loose; I stopped to tie it, kneeling down for that purpose on the mat at the foot of
the staircase.
I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman came out; rising hastily, I stood
face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.
"How do you do?" he asked.
"I am very well, sir." "Why did you not come and speak to me in
the room?"
I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but I would not
take that freedom. I answered--
"I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir."
"What have you been doing during my absence?"
"Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual."
"And getting a good deal paler than you were--as I saw at first sight.
What is the matter?"
"Nothing at all, sir." "Did you take any cold that night you half
drowned me?" "Not the least."
"Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early."
"I am tired, sir." He looked at me for a minute.
"And a little depressed," he said.
"What about? Tell me."
"Nothing--nothing, sir. I am not depressed."
"But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring
tears to your eyes--indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has
slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag.
If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing,
I would know what all this means.
Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect
you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don't neglect it.
Now go, and send Sophie for Adele.
Good-night, my--" He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly left me.
Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how different from the
first three months of stillness, monotony, and solitude I had passed beneath its roof!
All sad feelings seemed now driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten:
there was life everywhere, movement all day long.
You could not now traverse the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front
chambers, once so tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a dandy
The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance hall, were
equally alive; and the saloons were only left void and still when the blue sky and
halcyon sunshine of the genial spring
weather called their occupants out into the grounds.
Even when that weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days, no
damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became more lively and
varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.
I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change of entertainment was
proposed: they spoke of "playing charades," but in my ignorance I did not understand
the term.
The servants were called in, the dining- room tables wheeled away, the lights
otherwise disposed, the chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the arch.
While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen directed these alterations, the ladies were
running up and down stairs ringing for their maids.
Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information respecting the resources of the
house in shawls, dresses, draperies of any kind; and certain wardrobes of the third
storey were ransacked, and their contents,
in the shape of brocaded and hooped petticoats, satin sacques, black modes,
lace lappets, &c., were brought down in armfuls by the abigails; then a selection
was made, and such things as were chosen
were carried to the boudoir within the drawing-room.
Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him, and was selecting
certain of their number to be of his party.
"Miss Ingram is mine, of course," said he: afterwards he named the two Misses Eshton,
and Mrs. Dent.
He looked at me: I happened to be near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs.
Dent's bracelet, which had got loose. "Will you play?" he asked.
I shook my head.
He did not insist, which I rather feared he would have done; he allowed me to return
quietly to my usual seat.
He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party, which was headed
by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of chairs.
One of the gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to propose that I should be
asked to join them; but Lady Ingram instantly negatived the notion.
"No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the sort."
Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up.
Within the arch, the bulky figure of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had
likewise chosen, was seen enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on a table, lay
open a large book; and at his side stood
Amy Eshton, draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book in her hand.
Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adele (who had insisted on being one
of her guardian's party), bounded forward, scattering round her the contents of a
basket of flowers she carried on her arm.
Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingram, clad in white, a long veil on
her head, and a wreath of roses round her brow; by her side walked Mr. Rochester, and
together they drew near the table.
They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshton, dressed also in white, took up
their stations behind them.
A ceremony followed, in dumb show, in which it was easy to recognise the pantomime of a
At its termination, Colonel Dent and his party consulted in whispers for two
minutes, then the Colonel called out-- "Bride!"
Mr. Rochester bowed, and the curtain fell.
A considerable interval elapsed before it again rose.
Its second rising displayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.
The drawing- room, as I have before observed, was raised two steps above the
dining- room, and on the top of the upper step, placed a yard or two back within the
room, appeared a large marble basin--which
I recognised as an ornament of the conservatory--where it usually stood,
surrounded by exotics, and tenanted by gold fish--and whence it must have been
transported with some trouble, on account of its size and weight.
Seated on the carpet, by the side of this basin, was seen Mr. Rochester, costumed in
shawls, with a turban on his head.
His dark eyes and swarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costume exactly: he
looked the very model of an Eastern emir, an agent or a victim of the bowstring.
Presently advanced into view Miss Ingram.
She, too, was attired in oriental fashion: a crimson scarf tied sash-like round the
waist: an embroidered handkerchief knotted about her temples; her beautifully-moulded
arms bare, one of them upraised in the act
of supporting a pitcher, poised gracefully on her head.
Both her cast of form and feature, her complexion and her general air, suggested
the idea of some Israelitish princess of the patriarchal days; and such was
doubtless the character she intended to represent.
She approached the basin, and bent over it as if to fill her pitcher; she again lifted
it to her head.
The personage on the well-brink now seemed to accost her; to make some request:--"She
hasted, let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink."
From the bosom of his robe he then produced a casket, opened it and showed magnificent
bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishment and admiration; kneeling, he
laid the treasure at her feet; incredulity
and delight were expressed by her looks and gestures; the stranger fastened the
bracelets on her arms and the rings in her ears.
It was Eliezer and Rebecca: the camels only were wanting.
The divining party again laid their heads together: apparently they could not agree
about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.
Colonel Dent, their spokesman, demanded "the tableau of the whole;" whereupon the
curtain again descended.
On its third rising only a portion of the drawing-room was disclosed; the rest being
concealed by a screen, hung with some sort of dark and coarse drapery.
The marble basin was removed; in its place, stood a deal table and a kitchen chair:
these objects were visible by a very dim light proceeding from a horn lantern, the
wax candles being all extinguished.
Amidst this sordid scene, sat a man with his clenched hands resting on his knees,
and his eyes bent on the ground.
I knew Mr. Rochester; though the begrimed face, the disordered dress (his coat
hanging loose from one arm, as if it had been almost torn from his back in a
scuffle), the desperate and scowling
countenance, the rough, bristling hair might well have disguised him.
As he moved, a chain clanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.
"Bridewell!" exclaimed Colonel Dent, and the charade was solved.
A sufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resume their ordinary
costume, they re-entered the dining-room.
Mr. Rochester led in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on his acting.
"Do you know," said she, "that, of the three characters, I liked you in the last
Oh, had you but lived a few years earlier, what a gallant gentleman-highwayman you
would have made!" "Is all the soot washed from my face?" he
asked, turning it towards her.
"Alas! yes: the more's the pity! Nothing could be more becoming to your
complexion than that ruffian's rouge." "You would like a hero of the road then?"
"An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an Italian bandit; and
that could only be surpassed by a Levantine pirate."
"Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an hour since, in the
presence of all these witnesses." She giggled, and her colour rose.
"Now, Dent," continued Mr. Rochester, "it is your turn."
And as the other party withdrew, he and his band took the vacated seats.
Miss Ingram placed herself at her leader's right hand; the other diviners filled the
chairs on each side of him and her.
I did not now watch the actors; I no longer waited with interest for the curtain to
rise; my attention was absorbed by the spectators; my eyes, erewhile fixed on the
arch, were now irresistibly attracted to the semicircle of chairs.
What charade Colonel Dent and his party played, what word they chose, how they
acquitted themselves, I no longer remember; but I still see the consultation which
followed each scene: I see Mr. Rochester
turn to Miss Ingram, and Miss Ingram to him; I see her incline her head towards
him, till the jetty curls almost touch his shoulder and wave against his cheek; I hear
their mutual whisperings; I recall their
interchanged glances; and something even of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns
in memory at this moment.
I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I could not unlove
him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me--because I might pass
hours in his presence, and he would never
once turn his eyes in my direction--because I saw all his attentions appropriated by a
great lady, who scorned to touch me with the hem of her robes as she passed; who, if
ever her dark and imperious eye fell on me
by chance, would withdraw it instantly as from an object too mean to merit
I could not unlove him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady--because
I read daily in her a proud security in his intentions respecting her--because I
witnessed hourly in him a style of
courtship which, if careless and choosing rather to be sought than to seek, was yet,
in its very carelessness, captivating, and in its very pride, irresistible.
There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances, though much to create
Much too, you will think, reader, to engender jealousy: if a woman, in my
position, could presume to be jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram's.
But I was not jealous: or very rarely;--the nature of the pain I suffered could not be
explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:
she was too inferior to excite the feeling.
Pardon the seeming paradox; I mean what I say.
She was very showy, but she was not genuine: she had a fine person, many
brilliant attainments; but her mind was poor, her heart barren by nature: nothing
bloomed spontaneously on that soil; no
unforced natural fruit delighted by its freshness.
She was not good; she was not original: she used to repeat sounding phrases from books:
she never offered, nor had, an opinion of her own.
She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but she did not know the sensations of sympathy
and pity; tenderness and truth were not in her.
Too often she betrayed this, by the undue vent she gave to a spiteful antipathy she
had conceived against little Adele: pushing her away with some contumelious epithet if
she happened to approach her; sometimes
ordering her from the room, and always treating her with coldness and acrimony.
Other eyes besides mine watched these manifestations of character--watched them
closely, keenly, shrewdly.
Yes; the future bridegroom, Mr. Rochester himself, exercised over his intended a
ceaseless surveillance; and it was from this sagacity--this guardedness of his--
this perfect, clear consciousness of his
fair one's defects--this obvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards her, that
my ever- torturing pain arose.
I saw he was going to marry her, for family, perhaps political reasons, because
her rank and connections suited him; I felt he had not given her his love, and that her
qualifications were ill adapted to win from him that treasure.
This was the point--this was where the nerve was touched and teased--this was
where the fever was sustained and fed: she could not charm him.
If she had managed the victory at once, and he had yielded and sincerely laid his heart
at her feet, I should have covered my face, turned to the wall, and (figuratively) have
died to them.
If Miss Ingram had been a good and noble woman, endowed with force, fervour,
kindness, sense, I should have had one vital struggle with two tigers--jealousy
and despair: then, my heart torn out and
devoured, I should have admired her-- acknowledged her excellence, and been quiet
for the rest of my days: and the more absolute her superiority, the deeper would
have been my admiration--the more truly tranquil my quiescence.
But as matters really stood, to watch Miss Ingram's efforts at fascinating Mr.
Rochester, to witness their repeated failure--herself unconscious that they did
fail; vainly fancying that each shaft
launched hit the mark, and infatuatedly pluming herself on success, when her pride
and self-complacency repelled further and further what she wished to allure--to
witness this, was to be at once under
ceaseless excitation and ruthless restraint.
Because, when she failed, I saw how she might have succeeded.
Arrows that continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast and fell harmless at
his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand, have quivered keen in his proud
heart--have called love into his stern eye,
and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still, without weapons a silent
conquest might have been won. "Why can she not influence him more, when
she is privileged to draw so near to him?"
I asked myself. "Surely she cannot truly like him, or not
like him with true affection!
If she did, she need not coin her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so
unremittingly, manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous.
It seems to me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying little
and looking less, get nigher his heart.
I have seen in his face a far different expression from that which hardens it now
while she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it was not
elicited by meretricious arts and
calculated manoeuvres; and one had but to accept it--to answer what he asked without
pretension, to address him when needful without grimace--and it increased and grew
kinder and more genial, and warmed one like a fostering sunbeam.
How will she manage to please him when they are married?
I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might be managed; and his wife might, I
verily believe, be the very happiest woman the sun shines on."
I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's project of marrying for
interest and connections.
It surprised me when I first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought
him a man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his choice of a
wife; but the longer I considered the
position, education, &c., of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging and
blaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to ideas and
principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their childhood.
All their class held these principles: I supposed, then, they had reasons for
holding them such as I could not fathom.
It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to my bosom only
such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness of the advantages to the
husband's own happiness offered by this
plan convinced me that there must be arguments against its general adoption of
which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all the world would act as I
wished to act.
But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to my master: I was
forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out.
It had formerly been my endeavour to study all sides of his character: to take the bad
with the good; and from the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgment.
Now I saw no bad.
The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that had startled me once, were
only like keen condiments in a choice dish: their presence was pungent, but their
absence would be felt as comparatively insipid.
And as for the vague something--was it a sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a
desponding expression?--that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye,
and closed again before one could fathom
the strange depth partially disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and
shrink, as if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had suddenly
felt the ground quiver and seen it gape:
that something, I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not
with palsied nerves.
Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to dare--to divine it; and I thought Miss
Ingram happy, because one day she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore
its secrets and analyse their nature.
Meantime, while I thought only of my master and his future bride--saw only them, heard
only their discourse, and considered only their movements of importance--the rest of
the party were occupied with their own separate interests and pleasures.
The Ladies Lynn and Ingram continued to consort in solemn conferences, where they
nodded their two turbans at each other, and held up their four hands in confronting
gestures of surprise, or mystery, or
horror, according to the theme on which their gossip ran, like a pair of magnified
Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs. Eshton; and the two sometimes bestowed
a courteous word or smile on me.
Sir George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and Mr. Eshton discussed politics, or county
affairs, or justice business.
Lord Ingram flirted with Amy Eshton; Louisa played and sang to and with one of the
Messrs. Lynn; and Mary Ingram listened languidly to
the gallant speeches of the other.
Sometimes all, as with one consent, suspended their by-play to observe and
listen to the principal actors: for, after all, Mr. Rochester and--because closely
connected with him--Miss Ingram were the life and soul of the party.
If he was absent from the room an hour, a perceptible dulness seemed to steal over
the spirits of his guests; and his re- entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse
to the vivacity of conversation.
The want of his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly felt one day that
he had been summoned to Millcote on business, and was not likely to return till
The afternoon was wet: a walk the party had proposed to take to see a gipsy camp,
lately pitched on a common beyond Hay, was consequently deferred.
Some of the gentlemen were gone to the stables: the younger ones, together with
the younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard-room.
The dowagers Ingram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.
Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity, some efforts of
Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into conversation, had first murmured over some
sentimental tunes and airs on the piano,
and then, having fetched a novel from the library, had flung herself in haughty
listlessness on a sofa, and prepared to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the
tedious hours of absence.
The room and the house were silent: only now and then the merriment of the billiard-
players was heard from above.
It was verging on dusk, and the clock had already given warning of the hour to dress
for dinner, when little Adele, who knelt by me in the drawing-room window-seat,
suddenly exclaimed--
"Voila, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"
I turned, and Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa: the others, too, looked up
from their several occupations; for at the same time a crunching of wheels and a
splashing tramp of horse-hoofs became audible on the wet gravel.
A post-chaise was approaching. "What can possess him to come home in that
style?" said Miss Ingram.
"He rode Mesrour (the black horse), did he not, when he went out? and Pilot was with
him:--what has he done with the animals?"
As she said this, she approached her tall person and ample garments so near the
window, that I was obliged to bend back almost to the breaking of my spine: in her
eagerness she did not observe me at first,
but when she did, she curled her lip and moved to another casement.
The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-bell, and a gentleman alighted
attired in travelling garb; but it was not Mr. Rochester; it was a tall, fashionable-
looking man, a stranger.
"How provoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram: "you tiresome monkey!"
(apostrophising Adele), "who perched you up in the window to give false intelligence?"
and she cast on me an angry glance, as if I were in fault.
Some parleying was audible in the hall, and soon the new-comer entered.
He bowed to Lady Ingram, as deeming her the eldest lady present.
"It appears I come at an inopportune time, madam," said he, "when my friend, Mr.
Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very long journey, and I think I may
presume so far on old and intimate
acquaintance as to instal myself here till he returns."
His manner was polite; his accent, in speaking, struck me as being somewhat
unusual,--not precisely foreign, but still not altogether English: his age might be
about Mr. Rochester's,--between thirty and
forty; his complexion was singularly sallow: otherwise he was a fine-looking
man, at first sight especially.
On closer examination, you detected something in his face that displeased, or
rather that failed to please.
His features were regular, but too relaxed: his eye was large and well cut, but the
life looking out of it was a tame, vacant life--at least so I thought.
The sound of the dressing-bell dispersed the party.
It was not till after dinner that I saw him again: he then seemed quite at his ease.
But I liked his physiognomy even less than before: it struck me as being at the same
time unsettled and inanimate.
His eye wandered, and had no meaning in its wandering: this gave him an odd look, such
as I never remembered to have seen.
For a handsome and not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there was
no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape: no firmness in that
aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there
was no thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank, brown eye.
As I sat in my usual nook, and looked at him with the light of the girandoles on the
mantelpiece beaming full over him--for he occupied an arm-chair drawn close to the
fire, and kept shrinking still nearer, as
if he were cold, I compared him with Mr. Rochester.
I think (with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be much greater between
a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed
dog, its guardian.
He had spoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend.
A curious friendship theirs must have been: a pointed illustration, indeed, of the old
adage that "extremes meet."
Two or three of the gentlemen sat near him, and I caught at times scraps of their
conversation across the room.
At first I could not make much sense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa
Eshton and Mary Ingram, who sat nearer to me, confused the fragmentary sentences that
reached me at intervals.
These last were discussing the stranger; they both called him "a beautiful man."
Louisa said he was "a love of a creature," and she "adored him;" and Mary instanced
his "pretty little mouth, and nice nose," as her ideal of the charming.
"And what a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa,--"so smooth--none of
those frowning irregularities I dislike so much; and such a placid eye and smile!"
And then, to my great relief, Mr. Henry Lynn summoned them to the other side of the
room, to settle some point about the deferred excursion to Hay Common.
I was now able to concentrate my attention on the group by the fire, and I presently
gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason; then I learned that he was but just
arrived in England, and that he came from
some hot country: which was the reason, doubtless, his face was so sallow, and that
he sat so near the hearth, and wore a surtout in the house.
Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston, Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies as
his residence; and it was with no little surprise I gathered, ere long, that he had
there first seen and become acquainted with Mr. Rochester.
He spoke of his friend's dislike of the burning heats, the hurricanes, and rainy
seasons of that region.
I knew Mr. Rochester had been a traveller: Mrs. Fairfax had said so; but I thought the
continent of Europe had bounded his wanderings; till now I had never heard a
hint given of visits to more distant shores.
I was pondering these things, when an incident, and a somewhat unexpected one,
broke the thread of my musings.
Mr. Mason, shivering as some one chanced to open the door, asked for more coal to be
put on the fire, which had burnt out its flame, though its mass of cinder still
shone hot and red.
The footman who brought the coal, in going out, stopped near Mr. Eshton's chair, and
said something to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the words, "old woman,"-
-"quite troublesome."
"Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take herself off," replied the
magistrate. "No--stop!" interrupted Colonel Dent.
"Don't send her away, Eshton; we might turn the thing to account; better consult the
And speaking aloud, he continued--"Ladies, you talked of going to Hay Common to visit
the gipsy camp; Sam here says that one of the old Mother Bunches is in the servants'
hall at this moment, and insists upon being
brought in before 'the quality,' to tell them their fortunes.
Would you like to see her?" "Surely, colonel," cried Lady Ingram, "you
would not encourage such a low impostor?
Dismiss her, by all means, at once!"
"But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady," said the footman; "nor can any of
the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just now, entreating her to be gone; but she has
taken a chair in the chimney-corner, and
says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leave to come in here."
"What does she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.
"'To tell the gentry their fortunes,' she says, ma'am; and she swears she must and
will do it." "What is she like?" inquired the Misses
Eshton, in a breath.
"A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a crock."
"Why, she's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn.
"Let us have her in, of course."
"To be sure," rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousand pities to throw away
such a chance of fun." "My dear boys, what are you thinking
about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.
"I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding," chimed in the
Dowager Ingram.
"Indeed, mama, but you can--and will," pronounced the haughty voice of Blanche, as
she turned round on the piano-stool; where till now she had sat silent, apparently
examining sundry sheets of music.
"I have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore, Sam, order the beldame
forward." "My darling Blanche! recollect--"
"I do--I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will--quick, Sam!"
"Yes--yes--yes!" cried all the juveniles, both ladies and gentlemen.
"Let her come--it will be excellent sport!"
The footman still lingered. "She looks such a rough one," said he.
"Go!" ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.
Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of raillery and jests
was proceeding when Sam returned. "She won't come now," said he.
"She says it's not her mission to appear before the 'vulgar herd' (them's her
I must show her into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her must go
to her one by one." "You see now, my queenly Blanche," began
Lady Ingram, "she encroaches.
Be advised, my angel girl--and--" "Show her into the library, of course," cut
in the "angel girl."
"It is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd either: I mean to
have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the library?"
"Yes, ma'am--but she looks such a tinkler."
"Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding."
Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose to full flow once more.
"She's ready now," said the footman, as he reappeared.
"She wishes to know who will be her first visitor."
"I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies go," said Colonel
Dent. "Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."
Sam went and returned.
"She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not trouble themselves
to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty suppressing a titter, "any
ladies either, except the young, and single."
"By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.
Miss Ingram rose solemnly: "I go first," she said, in a tone which might have
befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach in the van of his men.
"Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause-- reflect!" was her mama's cry; but she swept
past her in stately silence, passed through the door which Colonel Dent held open, and
we heard her enter the library.
A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to wring
her hands: which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared she felt, for her part,
she never dared venture.
Amy and Louisa Eshton tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.
The minutes passed very slowly: fifteen were counted before the library- door again
Miss Ingram returned to us through the arch.
Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke?
All eyes met her with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of
rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry: she walked stiffly to
her seat, and took it in silence.
"Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram. "What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.
"What did you think? How do you feel?--Is she a real fortune-
teller?" demanded the Misses Eshton.
"Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon me.
Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited: you seem, by the
importance of you all--my good mama included--ascribe to this matter,
absolutely to believe we have a genuine
witch in the house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman.
I have seen a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science
of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell.
My whim is gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag in the
stocks to-morrow morning, as he threatened."
Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined further
I watched her for nearly half-an-hour: during all that time she never turned a
page, and her face grew momently darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly
expressive of disappointment.
She had obviously not heard anything to her advantage: and it seemed to me, from her
prolonged fit of gloom and taciturnity, that she herself, notwithstanding her
professed indifference, attached undue
importance to whatever revelations had been made her.
{During all that time she never turned a page: p184.jpg}
Meantime, Mary Ingram, Amy and Louisa Eshton, declared they dared not go alone;
and yet they all wished to go.
A negotiation was opened through the medium of the ambassador, Sam; and after much
pacing to and fro, till, I think, the said Sam's calves must have ached with the
exercise, permission was at last, with
great difficulty, extorted from the rigorous Sibyl, for the three to wait upon
her in a body.
Their visit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been: we heard hysterical
giggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library; and at the end of about twenty
minutes they burst the door open, and came
running across the hall, as if they were half-scared out of their wits.
"I am sure she is something not right!" they cried, one and all.
"She told us such things!
She knows all about us!" and they sank breathless into the various seats the
gentlemen hastened to bring them.
Pressed for further explanation, they declared she had told them of things they
had said and done when they were mere children; described books and ornaments
they had in their boudoirs at home:
keepsakes that different relations had presented to them.
They affirmed that she had even divined their thoughts, and had whispered in the
ear of each the name of the person she liked best in the world, and informed them
of what they most wished for.
Here the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be further enlightened on
these two last-named points; but they got only blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and
titters, in return for their importunity.
The matrons, meantime, offered vinaigrettes and wielded fans; and again and again
reiterated the expression of their concern that their warning had not been taken in
time; and the elder gentlemen laughed, and
the younger urged their services on the agitated fair ones.
In the midst of the tumult, and while my eyes and ears were fully engaged in the
scene before me, I heard a hem close at my elbow: I turned, and saw Sam.
"If you please, miss, the gipsy declares that there is another young single lady in
the room who has not been to her yet, and she swears she will not go till she has
seen all.
I thought it must be you: there is no one else for it.
What shall I tell her?"
"Oh, I will go by all means," I answered: and I was glad of the unexpected
opportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity.
I slipped out of the room, unobserved by any eye--for the company were gathered in
one mass about the trembling trio just returned--and I closed the door quietly
behind me.
"If you like, miss," said Sam, "I'll wait in the hall for you; and if she frightens
you, just call and I'll come in." "No, Sam, return to the kitchen: I am not
in the least afraid."
Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited.
The library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl--if Sibyl she
were--was seated snugly enough in an easy- chair at the chimney- corner.
She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet: or rather, a broad- brimmed gipsy hat, tied
down with a striped handkerchief under her chin.
An extinguished candle stood on the table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed
reading in a little black book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze: she
muttered the words to herself, as most old
women do, while she read; she did not desist immediately on my entrance: it
appeared she wished to finish a paragraph.
I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with sitting at a
distance from the drawing-room fire.
I felt now as composed as ever I did in my life: there was nothing indeed in the
gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm.
She shut her book and slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I
could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one.
It looked all brown and black: elf- locks bristled out from beneath a white band
which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or rather jaws: her eye
confronted me at once, with a bold and direct gaze.
"Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as decided as her glance,
as harsh as her features.
"I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I ought to warn you,
I have no faith."
"It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard it in your step
as you crossed the threshold." "Did you?
You've a quick ear."
"I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."
"You need them all in your trade." "I do; especially when I've customers like
you to deal with.
Why don't you tremble?" "I'm not cold."
"Why don't you turn pale?" "I am not sick."
"Why don't you consult my art?"
"I'm not silly." The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her
bonnet and bandage; she then drew out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to
Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body, took the pipe
from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire, said very deliberately--"You are
cold; you are sick; and you are silly."
"Prove it," I rejoined. "I will, in few words.
You are cold, because you are alone: no contact strikes the fire from you that is
in you.
You are sick; because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to man,
keeps far away from you.
You are silly, because, suffer as you may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor
will you stir one step to meet it where it waits you."
She again put her short black pipe to her lips, and renewed her smoking with vigour.
"You might say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as a solitary dependent
in a great house."
"I might say it to almost any one: but would it be true of almost any one?"
"In my circumstances."
"Yes; just so, in your circumstances: but find me another precisely placed as you
are." "It would be easy to find you thousands."
"You could scarcely find me one.
If you knew it, you are peculiarly situated: very near happiness; yes, within
reach of it. The materials are all prepared; there only
wants a movement to combine them.
Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approached and bliss results."
"I don't understand enigmas. I never could guess a riddle in my life."
"If you wish me to speak more plainly, show me your palm."
"And I must cross it with silver, I suppose?"
"To be sure."
I gave her a shilling: she put it into an old stocking-foot which she took out of her
pocket, and having tied it round and returned it, she told me to hold out my
I did. She approached her face to the palm, and
pored over it without touching it. "It is too fine," said she.
"I can make nothing of such a hand as that; almost without lines: besides, what is in
a palm? Destiny is not written there."
"I believe you," said I.
"No," she continued, "it is in the face: on the forehead, about the eyes, in the lines
of the mouth. Kneel, and lift up your head."
"Ah! now you are coming to reality," I said, as I obeyed her.
"I shall begin to put some faith in you presently."
I knelt within half a yard of her.
She stirred the fire, so that a ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the
glare, however, as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine, it
"I wonder with what feelings you came to me to-night," she said, when she had examined
me a while.
"I wonder what thoughts are busy in your heart during all the hours you sit in
yonder room with the fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:
just as little sympathetic communion
passing between you and them as if they were really mere shadows of human forms,
and not the actual substance." "I feel tired often, sleepy sometimes, but
seldom sad."
"Then you have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you with whispers of the
future?" "Not I.
The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my earnings to set up a school some
day in a little house rented by myself."
"A mean nutriment for the spirit to exist on: and sitting in that window- seat (you
see I know your habits )--" "You have learned them from the servants."
"Ah! you think yourself sharp.
Well, perhaps I have: to speak truth, I have an acquaintance with one of them, Mrs.
Poole--" I started to my feet when I heard the name.
"You have--have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in the business after all, then!"
"Don't be alarmed," continued the strange being; "she's a safe hand is Mrs. Poole:
close and quiet; any one may repose confidence in her.
But, as I was saying: sitting in that window-seat, do you think of nothing but
your future school?
Have you no present interest in any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairs
before you?
Is there not one face you study? one figure whose movements you follow with at least
curiosity?" "I like to observe all the faces and all
the figures."
"But do you never single one from the rest- -or it may be, two?"
"I do frequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem telling a tale: it
amuses me to watch them."
"What tale do you like best to hear?" "Oh, I have not much choice!
They generally run on the same theme-- courtship; and promise to end in the same
"And do you like that monotonous theme?" "Positively, I don't care about it: it is
nothing to me." "Nothing to you?
When a lady, young and full of life and health, charming with beauty and endowed
with the gifts of rank and fortune, sits and smiles in the eyes of a gentleman you--
"I what?" "You know--and perhaps think well of."
"I don't know the gentlemen here.
I have scarcely interchanged a syllable with one of them; and as to thinking well
of them, I consider some respectable, and stately, and middle-aged, and others young,
dashing, handsome, and lively: but
certainly they are all at liberty to be the recipients of whose smiles they please,
without my feeling disposed to consider the transaction of any moment to me."
"You don't know the gentlemen here?
You have not exchanged a syllable with one of them?
Will you say that of the master of the house!"
"He is not at home."
"A profound remark! A most ingenious quibble!
He went to Millcote this morning, and will be back here to-night or to-morrow: does
that circumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance--blot him, as it were,
out of existence?"
"No; but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with the theme you had
"I was talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and of late so many
smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes that they overflow like two cups
filled above the brim: have you never remarked that?"
"Mr. Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."
"No question about his right: but have you never observed that, of all the tales told
here about matrimony, Mr. Rochester has been favoured with the most lively and the
most continuous?"
"The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator."
I said this rather to myself than to the gipsy, whose strange talk, voice, manner,
had by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream.
One unexpected sentence came from her lips after another, till I got involved in a web
of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirit had been sitting for weeks by my
heart watching its workings and taking record of every pulse.
"Eagerness of a listener!" repeated she: "yes; Mr. Rochester has sat by the hour,
his ear inclined to the fascinating lips that took such delight in their task of
communicating; and Mr. Rochester was so
willing to receive and looked so grateful for the pastime given him; you have noticed
this?" "Grateful!
I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."
"Detecting! You have analysed, then.
And what did you detect, if not gratitude?"
I said nothing. "You have seen love: have you not?--and,
looking forward, you have seen him married, and beheld his bride happy?"
Not exactly. Your witch's skill is rather at fault
sometimes." "What the devil have you seen, then?"
"Never mind: I came here to inquire, not to confess.
Is it known that Mr. Rochester is to be married?"
"Yes; and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."
"Appearances would warrant that conclusion: and, no doubt (though, with an audacity
that wants chastising out of you, you seem to question it), they will be a
superlatively happy pair.
He must love such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably she loves
him, or, if not his person, at least his purse.
I know she considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree; though (God
pardon me!)
I told her something on that point about an hour ago which made her look wondrous
grave: the corners of her mouth fell half an inch.
I would advise her blackaviced suitor to look out: if another comes, with a longer
or clearer rent-roll,--he's dished--"
"But, mother, I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I came to hear my own;
and you have told me nothing of it."
"Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait contradicted
another. Chance has meted you a measure of
happiness: that I know.
I knew it before I came here this evening. She has laid it carefully on one side for
you. I saw her do it.
It depends on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether you will
do so, is the problem I study. Kneel again on the rug."
"Don't keep me long; the fire scorches me."
{She did not stoop towards me, but only gazed, leaning back in her chair: p190.jpg}
I knelt. She did not stoop towards me, but only
gazed, leaning back in her chair.
She began muttering,--
"The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks soft and full of
feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is susceptible; impression follows impression
through its clear sphere; where it ceases
to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs on the lid: that signifies
melancholy resulting from loneliness.
It turns from me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems to deny, by a
mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have already made,--to disown
the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:
its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinion.
The eye is favourable.
"As to the mouth, it delights at times in laughter; it is disposed to impart all that
the brain conceives; though I daresay it would be silent on much the heart
Mobile and flexible, it was never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of
solitude: it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often, and have human
affection for its interlocutor.
That feature too is propitious. "I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in
the brow; and that brow professes to say,-- 'I can live alone, if self-respect, and
circumstances require me so to do.
I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me,
which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered
only at a price I cannot afford to give.'
The forehead declares, 'Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let
the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms.
The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may
imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the last word in
every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.
Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall follow the guiding of
that still small voice which interprets the dictates of conscience.'
"Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected.
I have formed my plans--right plans I deem them--and in them I have attended to the
claims of conscience, the counsels of reason.
I know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of bliss offered,
but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were detected; and I do not want
sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution--such is not my taste.
I wish to foster, not to blight--to earn gratitude, not to wring tears of blood--no,
nor of brine: my harvest must be in smiles, in endearments, in sweet--That will do.
I think I rave in a kind of exquisite delirium.
I should wish now to protract this moment ad infinitum; but I dare not.
So far I have governed myself thoroughly.
I have acted as I inwardly swore I would act; but further might try me beyond my
strength. Rise, Miss Eyre: leave me; the play is
played out'."
Where was I? Did I wake or sleep?
Had I been dreaming? Did I dream still?
The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her gesture, and all were familiar
to me as my own face in a glass--as the speech of my own tongue.
I got up, but did not go.
I looked; I stirred the fire, and I looked again: but she drew her bonnet and her
bandage closer about her face, and again beckoned me to depart.
The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused now, and on the alert for
discoveries, I at once noticed that hand.
It was no more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supple
member, with smooth fingers, symmetrically turned; a broad ring flashed on the little
finger, and stooping forward, I looked at
it, and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before.
Again I looked at the face; which was no longer turned from me--on the contrary, the
bonnet was doffed, the bandage displaced, the head advanced.
"Well, Jane, do you know me?" asked the familiar voice.
"Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then--"
"But the string is in a knot--help me."
"Break it, sir." "There, then--'Off, ye lendings!'"
And Mr. Rochester stepped out of his disguise.
"Now, sir, what a strange idea!"
"But well carried out, eh? Don't you think so?"
"With the ladies you must have managed well."
"But not with you?"
"You did not act the character of a gipsy with me."
"What character did I act? My own?"
"No; some unaccountable one.
In short, I believe you have been trying to draw me out--or in; you have been talking
nonsense to make me talk nonsense. It is scarcely fair, sir."
"Do you forgive me, Jane?"
"I cannot tell till I have thought it all over.
If, on reflection, I find I have fallen into no great absurdity, I shall try to
forgive you; but it was not right."
"Oh, you have been very correct--very careful, very sensible."
I reflected, and thought, on the whole, I had.
It was a comfort; but, indeed, I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of
the interview. Something of masquerade I suspected.
I knew gipsies and fortune-tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old
woman had expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice, her anxiety to
conceal her features.
But my mind had been running on Grace Poole--that living enigma, that mystery of
mysteries, as I considered her. I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.
"Well," said he, "what are you musing about?
What does that grave smile signify?" "Wonder and self-congratulation, sir.
I have your permission to retire now, I suppose?"
"No; stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-room yonder are
"Discussing the gipsy, I daresay." "Sit down!--Let me hear what they said
about me." "I had better not stay long, sir; it must
be near eleven o'clock.
Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here since you left
this morning?" "A stranger!--no; who can it be?
I expected no one; is he gone?"
"No; he said he had known you long, and that he could take the liberty of
installing himself here till you returned." "The devil he did!
Did he give his name?"
"His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies; from Spanish Town, in
Jamaica, I think." Mr. Rochester was standing near me; he had
taken my hand, as if to lead me to a chair.
As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive grip; the smile on his lips froze:
apparently a spasm caught his breath.
"Mason!--the West Indies!" he said, in the tone one might fancy a speaking automaton
to enounce its single words; "Mason!--the West Indies!" he reiterated; and he went
over the syllables three times, growing, in
the intervals of speaking, whiter than ashes: he hardly seemed to know what he was
doing. "Do you feel ill, sir?"
I inquired.
"Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!"
He staggered. "Oh, lean on me, sir."
"Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it now."
"Yes, sir, yes; and my arm." He sat down, and made me sit beside him.
Holding my hand in both his own, he chafed it; gazing on me, at the same time, with
the most troubled and dreary look.
"My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island with only you; and
trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed from me."
"Can I help you, sir?--I'd give my life to serve you."
"Jane, if aid is wanted, I'll seek it at your hands; I promise you that."
"Thank you, sir.
Tell me what to do,--I'll try, at least, to do it."
"Fetch me now, Jane, a glass of wine from the dining-room: they will be at supper
there; and tell me if Mason is with them, and what he is doing."
I went.
I found all the party in the dining-room at supper, as Mr. Rochester had said; they
were not seated at table,--the supper was arranged on the sideboard; each had taken
what he chose, and they stood about here
and there in groups, their plates and glasses in their hands.
Every one seemed in high glee; laughter and conversation were general and animated.
Mr. Mason stood near the fire, talking to Colonel and Mrs. Dent, and appeared as
merry as any of them.
I filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch me frowningly as I did so: she
thought I was taking a liberty, I daresay), and I returned to the library.
Mr. Rochester's extreme pallor had disappeared, and he looked once more firm
and stern. He took the glass from my hand.
"Here is to your health, ministrant spirit!" he said.
He swallowed the contents and returned it to me.
"What are they doing, Jane?"
"Laughing and talking, sir." "They don't look grave and mysterious, as
if they had heard something strange?" "Not at all: they are full of jests and
"And Mason?" "He was laughing too."
"If all these people came in a body and spat at me, what would you do, Jane?"
"Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could."
He half smiled.
"But if I were to go to them, and they only looked at me coldly, and whispered
sneeringly amongst each other, and then dropped off and left me one by one, what
Would you go with them?" "I rather think not, sir: I should have
more pleasure in staying with you." "To comfort me?"
"Yes, sir, to comfort you, as well as I could."
"And if they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"
"I, probably, should know nothing about their ban; and if I did, I should care
nothing about it." "Then, you could dare censure for my sake?"
"I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my adherence; as you, I am
sure, do."
"Go back now into the room; step quietly up to Mason, and whisper in his ear that Mr.
Rochester is come and wishes to see him: show him in here and then leave me."
"Yes, sir."
I did his behest. The company all stared at me as I passed
straight among them.
I sought Mr. Mason, delivered the message, and preceded him from the room: I ushered
him into the library, and then I went upstairs.
At a late hour, after I had been in bed some time, I heard the visitors repair to
their chambers: I distinguished Mr. Rochester's voice, and heard him say, "This
way, Mason; this is your room."
He spoke cheerfully: the gay tones set my heart at ease.
I was soon asleep.
I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to let down my
The consequence was, that when the moon, which was full and bright (for the night
was fine), came in her course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked
in at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.
Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk--silver-white and crystal
It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half rose, and stretched my arm to draw the
curtain. Good God! What a cry!
The night--its silence--its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a sharp, a shrilly
sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.
My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was paralysed.
The cry died, and was not renewed.
Indeed, whatever being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it: not the
widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession, send out such a yell
from the cloud shrouding his eyrie.
The thing delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.
It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead.
And overhead--yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling--I now heard a struggle:
a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and a half-smothered voice shouted--
"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.
"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and stamping went on
wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:--
Rochester! for God's sake, come!" A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or
rushed, along the gallery. Another step stamped on the flooring above
and something fell; and there was silence.
I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I issued from my
The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in
every room; door after door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the
gallery filled.
Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh! what is it?"--"Who is
hurt?"--"What has happened?"--"Fetch a light!"--"Is it fire?"--"Are there
robbers?"--"Where shall we run?" was demanded confusedly on all hands.
But for the moonlight they would have been in complete darkness.
They ran to and fro; they crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion
was inextricable. "Where the devil is Rochester?" cried
Colonel Dent.
"I cannot find him in his bed." "Here! here!" was shouted in return.
"Be composed, all of you: I'm coming."
And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester advanced with a
candle: he had just descended from the upper storey.
One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm: it was Miss Ingram.
"What awful event has taken place?" said she.
"Speak! let us know the worst at once!"
"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses Eshton were
clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast white wrappers, were
bearing down on him like ships in full sail.
"All's right!--all's right!" he cried. "It's a mere rehearsal of Much Ado about
Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax dangerous."
And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks.
Calming himself by an effort, he added--
"A servant has had the nightmare; that is all.
She's an excitable, nervous person: she construed her dream into an apparition, or
something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.
Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the house is settled,
she cannot be looked after. Gentlemen, have the goodness to set the
ladies the example.
Miss Ingram, I am sure you will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors.
Amy and Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.
Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead certainty, if you stay in
this chill gallery any longer."
And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to get them all
once more enclosed in their separate dormitories.
I did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as unnoticed I had
left it.
Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed myself
The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the words that had been uttered, had
probably been heard only by me; for they had proceeded from the room above mine: but
they assured me that it was not a servant's
dream which had thus struck horror through the house; and that the explanation Mr.
Rochester had given was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests.
I dressed, then, to be ready for emergencies.
When dressed, I sat a long time by the window looking out over the silent grounds
and silvered fields and waiting for I knew not what.
It seemed to me that some event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.
No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually, and in about an
hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a desert.
It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
Meantime the moon declined: she was about to set.
Not liking to sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,
dressed as I was.
I left the window, and moved with little noise across the carpet; as I stooped to
take off my shoes, a cautious hand tapped low at the door.
"Am I wanted?"
I asked. "Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to
hear, viz., my master's. "Yes, sir."
"And dressed?"
"Yes." "Come out, then, quietly."
I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding
a light.
"I want you," he said: "come this way: take your time, and make no noise."
My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as a cat.
He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the dark, low corridor of
the fateful third storey: I had followed and stood at his side.
"Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.
"Yes, sir." "Have you any salts--volatile salts?"
"Go back and fetch both." I returned, sought the sponge on the
washstand, the salts in my drawer, and once more retraced my steps.
He still waited; he held a key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors,
he put it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.
"You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"
"I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet."
I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no faintness.
"Just give me your hand," he said: "it will not do to risk a fainting fit."
I put my fingers into his.
"Warm and steady," was his remark: he turned the key and opened the door.
I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax showed me over
the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the tapestry was now looped up in one part,
and there was a door apparent, which had then been concealed.
This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling,
snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling.
Mr. Rochester, putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went
forward to the inner apartment.
A shout of laughter greeted his entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace
Poole's own goblin ha! ha! She then was there.
He made some sort of arrangement without speaking, though I heard a low voice
address him: he came out and closed the door behind him.
"Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a large bed, which
with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable portion of the chamber.
An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man sat in it, dressed with the exception of
his coat; he was still; his head leant back; his eyes were closed.
Mr. Rochester held the candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly
lifeless face--the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side, and one
arm, was almost soaked in blood.
"Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched a basin of water from
the washstand: "Hold that," said he. I obeyed.
He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like face; he asked
for my smelling-bottle, and applied it to the nostrils.
Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned.
Mr. Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and shoulder were
bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fast down.
"Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.
"Pooh! No--a mere scratch.
Don't be so overcome, man: bear up!
I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself: you'll be able to be removed by morning, I
hope. Jane," he continued.
"I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an hour, or
perhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I do when it returns: if he feels
faint, you will put the glass of water on
that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose.
You will not speak to him on any pretext-- and--Richard, it will be at the peril of
your life if you speak to her: open your lips--agitate yourself--and I'll not answer
for the consequences."
Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear, either of death or
of something else, appeared almost to paralyse him.
Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I proceeded to use it as
he had done.
He watched me a second, then saying, "Remember!--No conversation," he left the
I experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the sound of his
retreating step ceased to be heard.
Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic cells;
night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes and hands; a
murderess hardly separated from me by a
single door: yes--that was appalling--the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at the
thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.
I must keep to my post, however.
I must watch this ghastly countenance-- these blue, still lips forbidden to
unclose--these eyes now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room, now fixing
on me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror.
I must dip my hand again and again in the basin of blood and water, and wipe away the
trickling gore.
I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle wane on my employment; the shadows
darken on the wrought, antique tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings
of the vast old bed, and quiver strangely
over the doors of a great cabinet opposite- -whose front, divided into twelve panels,
bore, in grim design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its
separate panel as in a frame; while above
them at the top rose an ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.
According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered here or glanced
there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that bent his brow; now St. John's
long hair that waved; and anon the devilish
face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed gathering life and threatening a
revelation of the arch-traitor--of Satan himself--in his subordinate's form.
Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for the movements of the
wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.
But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound: all the night I heard but three
sounds at three long intervals,--a step creak, a momentary renewal of the snarling,
canine noise, and a deep human groan.
Then my own thoughts worried me.
What crime was this that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither
be expelled nor subdued by the owner?--what mystery, that broke out now in fire and now
in blood, at the deadest hours of night?
What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered
the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?
And this man I bent over--this commonplace, quiet stranger--how had he become involved
in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown at him?
What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimely season, when he should
have been asleep in bed? I had heard Mr. Rochester assign him an
apartment below--what brought him here!
And why, now, was he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?
Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochester enforced?
Why did Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment?
His guest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been hideously
plotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy and sank in oblivion!
Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr. Rochester; that the impetuous will of
the latter held complete sway over the inertness of the former: the few words
which had passed between them assured me of this.
It was evident that in their former intercourse, the passive disposition of the
one had been habitually influenced by the active energy of the other: whence then had
arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason's arrival?
Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual--whom his word now sufficed to
control like a child--fallen on him, a few hours since, as a thunderbolt might fall on
an oak?
Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered: "Jane, I have
got a blow--I have got a blow, Jane."
I could not forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder: and it was
no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit and thrill the vigorous
frame of Fairfax Rochester.
"When will he come? When will he come?"
I cried inwardly, as the night lingered and lingered--as my bleeding patient drooped,
moaned, sickened: and neither day nor aid arrived.
I had, again and again, held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again offered
him the stimulating salts: my efforts seemed ineffectual: either bodily or mental
suffering, or loss of blood, or all three
combined, were fast prostrating his strength.
He moaned so, and looked so weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; and I might
not even speak to him.
The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived streaks of grey light
edging the window curtains: dawn was then approaching.
Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of his distant kennel in the courtyard:
hope revived.
Nor was it unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding lock,
warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted more than two
hours: many a week has seemed shorter.
Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to fetch.
"Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last: "I give you but half-an-hour for
dressing the wound, fastening the bandages, getting the patient downstairs and all."
"But is he fit to move, sir?"
"No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits must be kept up.
Come, set to work."
Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland blind, let in all the
daylight he could; and I was surprised and cheered to see how far dawn was advanced:
what rosy streaks were beginning to brighten the east.
Then he approached Mason, whom the surgeon was already handling.
"Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.
"She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.
"Not a whit!--courage!
This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin the worse of it: you've lost a little
blood; that's all. Carter, assure him there's no danger."
"I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone the bandages;
"only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would not have bled so much--but how is
The flesh on the shoulder is torn as well as cut.
This wound was not done with a knife: there have been teeth here!"
"She bit me," he murmured.
"She worried me like a tigress, when Rochester got the knife from her."
"You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at once," said Mr.
"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.
"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering.
"And I did not expect it: she looked so quiet at first."
"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said--be on your guard when you go near
Besides, you might have waited till to- morrow, and had me with you: it was mere
folly to attempt the interview to-night, and alone."
"I thought I could have done some good."
"You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you:
but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for not taking my
advice; so I'll say no more.
Carter--hurry!--hurry! The sun will soon rise, and I must have him
off." "Directly, sir; the shoulder is just
I must look to this other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."
"She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.
I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of disgust, horror,
hatred, warped his countenance almost to distortion; but he only said--
"Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don't repeat it."
"I wish I could forget it," was the answer.
"You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to Spanish Town, you may
think of her as dead and buried--or rather, you need not think of her at all."
"Impossible to forget this night!"
"It is not impossible: have some energy, man.
You thought you were as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive and
talking now.
There!--Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'll make you decent in a trice.
Jane" (he turned to me for the first time since his re-entrance), "take this key: go
down into my bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open the top
drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean
shirt and neck-handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble."
I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles named, and
returned with them.
"Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his toilet; but don't
leave the room: you may be wanted again." I retired as directed.
"Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired Mr. Rochester
presently. "No, sir; all was very still."
"We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both for your sake, and for
that of the poor creature in yonder. I have striven long to avoid exposure, and
I should not like it to come at last.
Here, Carter, help him on with his waist- coat.
Where did you leave your furred cloak? You can't travel a mile without that, I
know, in this damned cold climate.
In your room?--Jane, run down to Mr. Mason's room,--the one next mine,--and
fetch a cloak you will see there." Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an
immense mantle lined and edged with fur.
"Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you must away to my room
What a mercy you are shod with velvet, Jane!--a clod-hopping messenger would never
do at this juncture.
You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a little phial
and a little glass you will find there,-- quick!"
I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.
"That's well!
Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of administering a dose myself, on my own
I got this cordial at Rome, of an Italian charlatan--a fellow you would have kicked,
It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but it is good upon
occasion: as now, for instance. Jane, a little water."
He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-bottle on the
washstand. "That will do;--now wet the lip of the
I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and presented it to Mason.
"Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour or so."
"But will it hurt me?--is it inflammatory?"
"Drink! drink! drink!" Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently
useless to resist. He was dressed now: he still looked pale,
but he was no longer gory and sullied.
Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had swallowed the liquid; he then
took his arm-- "Now I am sure you can get on your feet,"
he said--"try."
The patient rose. "Carter, take him under the other shoulder.
Be of good cheer, Richard; step out--that's it!"
"I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.
"I am sure you do.
Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door,
and tell the driver of the post-chaise you will see in the yard--or just outside, for
I told him not to drive his rattling wheels
over the pavement--to be ready; we are coming: and, Jane, if any one is about,
come to the foot of the stairs and hem."
It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of rising; but I found
the kitchen still dark and silent.
The side-passage door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as possible:
all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open, and there was a post-chaise,
with horses ready harnessed, and driver seated on the box, stationed outside.
I approached him, and said the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looked
carefully round and listened.
The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere; the curtains were yet drawn
over the servants' chamber windows; little birds were just twittering in the blossom-
blanched orchard trees, whose boughs
drooped like white garlands over the wall enclosing one side of the yard; the
carriage horses stamped from time to time in their closed stables: all else was
The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and the
surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted him into the chaise;
Carter followed.
"Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep him at your house
till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a day or two to see how he gets on.
Richard, how is it with you?"
"The fresh air revives me, Fairfax." "Leave the window open on his side, Carter;
there is no wind--good-bye, Dick." "Fairfax--"
"Well what is it?"
"Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be: let her--"
he stopped and burst into tears.
"I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer: he shut up the
chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.
"Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr. Rochester, as he closed
and barred the heavy yard-gates.
This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door in the wall
bordering the orchard.
I, supposing he had done with me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I
heard him call "Jane!" He had opened feel portal and stood at it,
waiting for me.
"Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said; "that house is a
mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?" "It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."
"The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and you see it through
a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the gilding is slime and the silk draperies
cobwebs; that the marble is sordid slate,
and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly bark.
Now here" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered) "all is real,
sweet, and pure."
He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees, and cherry trees
on one side, and a border on the other full of all sorts of old-fashioned flowers,
stocks, sweet-williams, primroses, pansies,
mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various fragrant herbs.
They were fresh now as a succession of April showers and gleams, followed by a
lovely spring morning, could make them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and
his light illumined the wreathed and dewy
orchard trees and shone down the quiet walks under them.
"Jane, will you have a flower?" He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on
the bush, and offered it to me.
"Thank you, sir." "Do you like this sunrise, Jane?
That sky with its high and light clouds which are sure to melt away as the day
waxes warm--this placid and balmly atmosphere?"
"I do, very much."
"You have passed a strange night, Jane." "Yes, sir."
"And it has made you look pale--were you afraid when I left you alone with Mason?"
"I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."
"But I had fastened the door--I had the key in my pocket: I should have been a careless
shepherd if I had left a lamb--my pet lamb- -so near a wolf's den, unguarded: you were
"Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?" "Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her-
-put the thing out of your thoughts." "Yet it seems to me your life is hardly
secure while she stays."
"Never fear--I will take care of myself." "Is the danger you apprehended last night
gone by now, sir?" "I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out
of England: nor even then.
To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which may crack and spue fire
any day." "But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led.
Your influence, sir, is evidently potent with him: he will never set you at defiance
or wilfully injure you." "Oh, no!
Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me--but, unintentionally, he
might in a moment, by one careless word, deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of
"Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and show him how to avert
the danger." He laughed sardonically, hastily took my
hand, and as hastily threw it from him.
"If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be?
Annihilated in a moment.
Ever since I have known Mason, I have only had to say to him 'Do that,' and the thing
has been done.
But I cannot give him orders in this case: I cannot say 'Beware of harming me,
Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him ignorant that harm to me is
Now you look puzzled; and I will puzzle you further.
You are my little friend, are you not?" "I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you
in all that is right."
"Precisely: I see you do.
I see genuine contentment in your gait and mien, your eye and face, when you are
helping me and pleasing me--working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically
say, 'all that is right:' for if I bid
you do what you thought wrong, there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed
alacrity, no lively glance and animated complexion.
My friend would then turn to me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is
impossible: I cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable as a
fixed star.
Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me: yet I dare not show you where I
am vulnerable, lest, faithful and friendly as you are, you should transfix me at
"If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me, sir, you are very
safe." "God grant it may be so!
Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."
The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a rustic seat.
Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me: but I stood before him.
"Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two.
You don't hesitate to take a place at my side, do you?
Is that wrong, Jane?"
I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been unwise.
"Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew--while all the flowers in
this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch their young ones' breakfast out
of the Thornfield, and the early bees do
their first spell of work--I'll put a case to you, which you must endeavour to suppose
your own: but first, look at me, and tell me you are at ease, and not fearing that I
err in detaining you, or that you err in staying."
"No, sir; I am content."
"Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:-- suppose you were no longer a girl well
reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged from childhood upwards; imagine
yourself in a remote foreign land; conceive
that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what nature or from what motives,
but one whose consequences must follow you through life and taint all your existence.
Mind, I don't say a crime; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other
guilty act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word is
The results of what you have done become in time to you utterly insupportable; you take
measures to obtain relief: unusual measures, but neither unlawful nor
Still you are miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:
your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not leave it till the
time of setting.
Bitter and base associations have become the sole food of your memory: you wander
here and there, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure--I mean in heartless,
sensual pleasure--such as dulls intellect and blights feeling.
Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years of voluntary banishment:
you make a new acquaintance--how or where no matter: you find in this stranger much
of the good and bright qualities which you
have sought for twenty years, and never before encountered; and they are all fresh,
healthy, without soil and without taint.
Such society revives, regenerates: you feel better days come back--higher wishes, purer
feelings; you desire to recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of
days in a way more worthy of an immortal being.
To attain this end, are you justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere
conventional impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your judgment
He paused for an answer: and what was I to say?
Oh, for some good spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response!
Vain aspiration!
The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no gentle Ariel borrowed its breath
as a medium of speech: the birds sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however
sweet, was inarticulate.
Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:
"Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest- seeking and repentant, man justified in
daring the world's opinion, in order to attach to him for ever this gentle,
gracious, genial stranger, thereby securing
his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"
"Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation should never depend
on a fellow-creature.
Men and women die; philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any
one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his equals for
strength to amend and solace to heal."
"But the instrument--the instrument! God, who does the work, ordains the
I have myself--I tell it you without parable--been a worldly, dissipated,
restless man; and I believe I have found the instrument for my cure in--"
He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly rustling.
I almost wondered they did not check their songs and whispers to catch the suspended
revelation; but they would have had to wait many minutes--so long was the silence
At last I looked up at the tardy speaker: he was looking eagerly at me.
"Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone--while his face changed too,
losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh and sarcastic--"you have
noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:
don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me with a vengeance?"
He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and when he came
back he was humming a tune.
"Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with your vigils: don't
you curse me for disturbing your rest?" "Curse you?
No, sir."
"Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers!
They were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the mysterious chamber.
Jane, when will you watch with me again?"
"Whenever I can be useful, sir." "For instance, the night before I am
married! I am sure I shall not be able to sleep.
Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me company?
To you I can talk of my lovely one: for now you have seen her and know her."
"Yes, sir."
"She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?" "Yes, sir."
"A strapper--a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with hair just such as
the ladies of Carthage must have had.
Bless me! there's Dent and Lynn in the stables!
Go in by the shrubbery, through that wicket."
As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard, saying cheerfully--
"Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before sunrise: I rose
at four to see him off."