Part 8 - Jane Eyre Audiobook by Charlotte Bronte (Chs 34-38)

Uploaded by CCProse on 21.09.2011

It was near Christmas by the time all was settled: the season of general holiday
I now closed Morton school, taking care that the parting should not be barren on my
Good fortune opens the hand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to give somewhat
when we have largely received, is but to afford a vent to the unusual ebullition of
the sensations.
I had long felt with pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we
parted, that consciousness was confirmed: they manifested their affection plainly and
Deep was my gratification to find I had really a place in their unsophisticated
hearts: I promised them that never a week should pass in future that I did not visit
them, and give them an hour's teaching in their school.
Mr. Rivers came up as, having seen the classes, now numbering sixty girls, file
out before me, and locked the door, I stood with the key in my hand, exchanging a few
words of special farewell with some half-
dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest, and well-informed
young women as could be found in the ranks of the British peasantry.
And that is saying a great deal; for after all, the British peasantry are the best
taught, best mannered, most self-respecting of any in Europe: since those days I have
seen paysannes and Bauerinnen; and the best
of them seemed to me ignorant, coarse, and besotted, compared with my Morton girls.
"Do you consider you have got your reward for a season of exertion?" asked Mr.
Rivers, when they were gone.
"Does not the consciousness of having done some real good in your day and generation
give pleasure?" "Doubtless."
"And you have only toiled a few months!
Would not a life devoted to the task of regenerating your race be well spent?"
"Yes," I said; "but I could not go on for ever so: I want to enjoy my own faculties
as well as to cultivate those of other people.
I must enjoy them now; don't recall either my mind or body to the school; I am out of
it and disposed for full holiday." He looked grave.
"What now?
What sudden eagerness is this you evince? What are you going to do?"
"To be active: as active as I can.
And first I must beg you to set Hannah at liberty, and get somebody else to wait on
you." "Do you want her?"
"Yes, to go with me to Moor House.
Diana and Mary will be at home in a week, and I want to have everything in order
against their arrival." "I understand.
I thought you were for flying off on some excursion.
It is better so: Hannah shall go with you."
"Tell her to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the schoolroom key: I will give
you the key of my cottage in the morning." He took it.
"You give it up very gleefully," said he; "I don't quite understand your light-
heartedness, because I cannot tell what employment you propose to yourself as a
substitute for the one you are relinquishing.
What aim, what purpose, what ambition in life have you now?"
"My first aim will be to clean down (do you comprehend the full force of the
expression?)--to clean down Moor House from chamber to cellar; my next to rub it
up with bees-wax, oil, and an indefinite
number of cloths, till it glitters again; my third, to arrange every chair, table,
bed, carpet, with mathematical precision; afterwards I shall go near to ruin you in
coals and peat to keep up good fires in
every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your sisters are
expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a beating of eggs, sorting of
currants, grating of spices, compounding of
Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and solemnising of other
culinary rites, as words can convey but an inadequate notion of to the uninitiated
like you.
My purpose, in short, is to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of readiness
for Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambition is to give them a beau-
ideal of a welcome when they come."
St. John smiled slightly: still he was dissatisfied.
"It is all very well for the present," said he; "but seriously, I trust that when the
first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a little higher than domestic
endearments and household joys."
"The best things the world has!" I interrupted.
"No, Jane, no: this world is not the scene of fruition; do not attempt to make it so:
nor of rest; do not turn slothful."
"I mean, on the contrary, to be busy."
"Jane, I excuse you for the present: two months' grace I allow you for the full
enjoyment of your new position, and for pleasing yourself with this late-found
charm of relationship; but then, I hope
you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and sisterly society, and the
selfish calm and sensual comfort of civilised affluence.
I hope your energies will then once more trouble you with their strength."
I looked at him with surprise. "St. John," I said, "I think you are almost
wicked to talk so.
I am disposed to be as content as a queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness!
To what end?"
"To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed to your
keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict account.
Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously--I warn you of that.
And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with which you throw yourself into
commonplace home pleasures.
Don't cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy and ardour for
an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite transient objects.
Do you hear, Jane?"
"Yes; just as if you were speaking Greek. I feel I have adequate cause to be happy,
and I will be happy. Goodbye!"
Happy at Moor House I was, and hard I worked; and so did Hannah: she was charmed
to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle of a house turned topsy-turvy--how I
could brush, and dust, and clean, and cook.
And really, after a day or two of confusion worse confounded, it was delightful by
degrees to invoke order from the chaos ourselves had made.
I had previously taken a journey to S--- to purchase some new furniture: my cousins
having given me carte blanche to effect what alterations I pleased, and a sum
having been set aside for that purpose.
The ordinary sitting-room and bedrooms I left much as they were: for I knew Diana
and Mary would derive more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and
chairs, and beds, than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations.
Still some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the piquancy with which I
wished it to be invested.
Dark handsome new carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected
antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and mirrors, and dressing-
cases, for the toilet tables, answered the
end: they looked fresh without being glaring.
A spare parlour and bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson
upholstery: I laid canvas on the passage, and carpets on the stairs.
When all was finished, I thought Moor House as complete a model of bright modest
snugness within, as it was, at this season, a specimen of wintry waste and desert
dreariness without.
The eventful Thursday at length came. They were expected about dark, and ere dusk
fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchen was in perfect trim; Hannah and I
were dressed, and all was in readiness.
St. John arrived first.
I had entreated him to keep quite clear of the house till everything was arranged:
and, indeed, the bare idea of the commotion, at once sordid and trivial,
going on within its walls sufficed to scare him to estrangement.
He found me in the kitchen, watching the progress of certain cakes for tea, then
Approaching the hearth, he asked, "If I was at last satisfied with housemaid's work?"
I answered by inviting him to accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my
With some difficulty, I got him to make the tour of the house.
He just looked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wandered upstairs and
downstairs, he said I must have gone through a great deal of fatigue and trouble
to have effected such considerable changes
in so short a time: but not a syllable did he utter indicating pleasure in the
improved aspect of his abode. This silence damped me.
I thought perhaps the alterations had disturbed some old associations he valued.
I inquired whether this was the case: no doubt in a somewhat crest-fallen tone.
"Not at all; he had, on the contrary, remarked that I had scrupulously respected
every association: he feared, indeed, I must have bestowed more thought on the
matter than it was worth.
How many minutes, for instance, had I devoted to studying the arrangement of this
very room?--By-the-bye, could I tell him where such a book was?"
I showed him the volume on the shelf: he took it down, and withdrawing to his
accustomed window recess, he began to read it.
Now, I did not like this, reader.
St. John was a good man; but I began to feel he had spoken truth of himself when he
said he was hard and cold.
The humanities and amenities of life had no attraction for him--its peaceful enjoyments
no charm.
Literally, he lived only to aspire--after what was good and great, certainly; but
still he would never rest, nor approve of others resting round him.
As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone--at his fine
lineaments fixed in study--I comprehended all at once that he would hardly make a
good husband: that it would be a trying thing to be his wife.
I understood, as by inspiration, the nature of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with
him that it was but a love of the senses.
I comprehended how he should despise himself for the feverish influence it
exercised over him; how he should wish to stifle and destroy it; how he should
mistrust its ever conducting permanently to his happiness or hers.
I saw he was of the material from which nature hews her heroes--Christian and
Pagan--her lawgivers, her statesmen, her conquerors: a steadfast bulwark for great
interests to rest upon; but, at the
fireside, too often a cold cumbrous column, gloomy and out of place.
"This parlour is not his sphere," I reflected: "the Himalayan ridge or Caffre
bush, even the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp would suit him better.
Well may he eschew the calm of domestic life; it is not his element: there his
faculties stagnate--they cannot develop or appear to advantage.
It is in scenes of strife and danger--where courage is proved, and energy exercised,
and fortitude tasked--that he will speak and move, the leader and superior.
A merry child would have the advantage of him on this hearth.
He is right to choose a missionary's career--I see it now."
"They are coming! they are coming!" cried Hannah, throwing open the parlour door.
At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully.
Out I ran.
It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible.
Hannah soon had a lantern lit.
The vehicle had stopped at the wicket; the driver opened the door: first one well-
known form, then another, stepped out.
In a minute I had my face under their bonnets, in contact first with Mary's soft
cheek, then with Diana's flowing curls.
They laughed--kissed me--then Hannah: patted Carlo, who was half wild with
delight; asked eagerly if all was well; and being assured in the affirmative, hastened
into the house.
They were stiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcross, and chilled with the
frosty night air; but their pleasant countenances expanded to the cheerful
While the driver and Hannah brought in the boxes, they demanded St. John.
At this moment he advanced from the parlour.
They both threw their arms round his neck at once.
He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low tone a few words of welcome, stood a while
to be talked to, and then, intimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in
the parlour, withdrew there as to a place of refuge.
I had lit their candles to go upstairs, but Diana had first to give hospitable orders
respecting the driver; this done, both followed me.
They were delighted with the renovation and decorations of their rooms; with the new
drapery, and fresh carpets, and rich tinted china vases: they expressed their
gratification ungrudgingly.
I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangements met their wishes exactly, and
that what I had done added a vivid charm to their joyous return home.
Sweet was that evening.
My cousins, full of exhilaration, were so eloquent in narrative and comment, that
their fluency covered St. John's taciturnity: he was sincerely glad to see
his sisters; but in their glow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise.
The event of the day--that is, the return of Diana and Mary--pleased him; but the
accompaniments of that event, the glad tumult, the garrulous glee of reception
irked him: I saw he wished the calmer morrow was come.
In the very meridian of the night's enjoyment, about an hour after tea, a rap
was heard at the door.
Hannah entered with the intimation that "a poor lad was come, at that unlikely time,
to fetch Mr. Rivers to see his mother, who was drawing away."
"Where does she live, Hannah?"
"Clear up at Whitcross Brow, almost four miles off, and moor and moss all the way."
"Tell him I will go." "I'm sure, sir, you had better not.
It's the worst road to travel after dark that can be: there's no track at all over
the bog. And then it is such a bitter night--the
keenest wind you ever felt.
You had better send word, sir, that you will be there in the morning."
But he was already in the passage, putting on his cloak; and without one objection,
one murmur, he departed.
It was then nine o'clock: he did not return till midnight.
Starved and tired enough he was: but he looked happier than when he set out.
He had performed an act of duty; made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and
deny, and was on better terms with himself. I am afraid the whole of the ensuing week
tried his patience.
It was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent it in a sort
of merry domestic dissipation.
The air of the moors, the freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and
Mary's spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from morning till
noon, and from noon till night.
They could always talk; and their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such
charms for me, that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing anything
St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped from it: he was seldom in the
house; his parish was large, the population scattered, and he found daily business in
visiting the sick and poor in its different districts.
One morning at breakfast, Diana, after looking a little pensive for some minutes,
asked him, "If his plans were yet unchanged."
"Unchanged and unchangeable," was the reply.
And he proceeded to inform us that his departure from England was now definitively
fixed for the ensuing year.
"And Rosamond Oliver?" suggested Mary, the words seeming to escape her lips
involuntarily: for no sooner had she uttered them, than she made a gesture as if
wishing to recall them.
St. John had a book in his hand--it was his unsocial custom to read at meals--he closed
it, and looked up.
"Rosamond Oliver," said he, "is about to be married to Mr. Granby, one of the best
connected and most estimable residents in S-, grandson and heir to Sir Frederic
Granby: I had the intelligence from her father yesterday."
His sisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked at him: he was serene
as glass.
"The match must have been got up hastily," said Diana: "they cannot have known each
other long." "But two months: they met in October at the
county ball at S-.
But where there are no obstacles to a union, as in the present case, where the
connection is in every point desirable, delays are unnecessary: they will be
married as soon as S--- Place, which Sir
Frederic gives up to them, can he refitted for their reception."
The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I felt tempted to
inquire if the event distressed him: but he seemed so little to need sympathy, that, so
far from venturing to offer him more, I
experienced some shame at the recollection of what I had already hazarded.
Besides, I was out of practice in talking to him: his reserve was again frozen over,
and my frankness was congealed beneath it.
He had not kept his promise of treating me like his sisters; he continually made
little chilling differences between us, which did not at all tend to the
development of cordiality: in short, now
that I was acknowledged his kinswoman, and lived under the same roof with him, I felt
the distance between us to be far greater than when he had known me only as the
village schoolmistress.
When I remembered how far I had once been admitted to his confidence, I could hardly
comprehend his present frigidity.
Such being the case, I felt not a little surprised when he raised his head suddenly
from the desk over which he was stooping, and said--
"You see, Jane, the battle is fought and the victory won."
Startled at being thus addressed, I did not immediately reply: after a moment's
hesitation I answered--
"But are you sure you are not in the position of those conquerors whose triumphs
have cost them too dear? Would not such another ruin you?"
"I think not; and if I were, it does not much signify; I shall never be called upon
to contend for such another. The event of the conflict is decisive: my
way is now clear; I thank God for it!"
So saying, he returned to his papers and his silence.
As our mutual happiness (i.e., Diana's, Mary's, and mine) settled into a quieter
character, and we resumed our usual habits and regular studies, St. John stayed more
at home: he sat with us in the same room, sometimes for hours together.
While Mary drew, Diana pursued a course of encyclopaedic reading she had (to my awe
and amazement) undertaken, and I fagged away at German, he pondered a mystic lore
of his own: that of some Eastern tongue,
the acquisition of which he thought necessary to his plans.
Thus engaged, he appeared, sitting in his own recess, quiet and absorbed enough; but
that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving the outlandish- looking grammar, and
wandering over, and sometimes fixing upon
us, his fellow-students, with a curious intensity of observation: if caught, it
would be instantly withdrawn; yet ever and anon, it returned searchingly to our table.
I wondered what it meant: I wondered, too, at the punctual satisfaction he never
failed to exhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small moment, namely, my
weekly visit to Morton school; and still
more was I puzzled when, if the day was unfavourable, if there was snow, or rain,
or high wind, and his sisters urged me not to go, he would invariably make light of
their solicitude, and encourage me to
accomplish the task without regard to the elements.
"Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her," he would say: "she can bear a
mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of snow, as well as any of us.
Her constitution is both sound and elastic;--better calculated to endure
variations of climate than many more robust."
And when I returned, sometimes a good deal tired, and not a little weather-beaten, I
never dared complain, because I saw that to murmur would be to vex him: on all
occasions fortitude pleased him; the reverse was a special annoyance.
One afternoon, however, I got leave to stay at home, because I really had a cold.
His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead: I sat reading Schiller; he,
deciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls.
As I exchanged a translation for an exercise, I happened to look his way: there
I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchful blue eye.
How long it had been searching me through and through, and over and over, I cannot
tell: so keen was it, and yet so cold, I felt for the moment superstitious--as if I
were sitting in the room with something uncanny.
"Jane, what are you doing?" "Learning German."
"I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."
"You are not in earnest?" "In such earnest that I must have it so:
and I will tell you why."
He then went on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he was himself at present
studying; that, as he advanced, he was apt to forget the commencement; that it would
assist him greatly to have a pupil with
whom he might again and again go over the elements, and so fix them thoroughly in his
mind; that his choice had hovered for some time between me and his sisters; but that
he had fixed on me because he saw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.
Would I do him this favour?
I should not, perhaps, have to make the sacrifice long, as it wanted now barely
three months to his departure.
St. John was not a man to be lightly refused: you felt that every impression
made on him, either for pain or pleasure, was deep-graved and permanent.
I consented.
When Diana and Mary returned, the former found her scholar transferred from her to
her brother: she laughed, and both she and Mary agreed that St. John should never have
persuaded them to such a step.
He answered quietly-- "I know it."
I found him a very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting master: he
expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his expectations, he, in his own
way, fully testified his approbation.
By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind:
his praise and notice were more restraining than his indifference.
I could no longer talk or laugh freely when he was by, because a tiresomely importunate
instinct reminded me that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him.
I was so fully aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable, that
in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other became vain: I fell under
a freezing spell.
When he said "go," I went; "come," I came; "do this," I did it.
But I did not love my servitude: I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect
One evening when, at bedtime, his sisters and I stood round him, bidding him good-
night, he kissed each of them, as was his custom; and, as was equally his custom, he
gave me his hand.
Diana, who chanced to be in a frolicsome humour (she was not painfully controlled
by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong), exclaimed--
"St. John! you used to call Jane your third sister, but you don't treat her as such:
you should kiss her too." She pushed me towards him.
I thought Diana very provoking, and felt uncomfortably confused; and while I was
thus thinking and feeling, St. John bent his head; his Greek face was brought to a
level with mine, his eyes questioned my eyes piercingly--he kissed me.
There are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say my
ecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes; but there may be
experiment kisses, and his was an experiment kiss.
When given, he viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking: I am sure I
did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a little pale, for I felt as if this kiss
were a seal affixed to my fetters.
He never omitted the ceremony afterwards, and the gravity and quiescence with which I
underwent it, seemed to invest it for him with a certain charm.
As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt daily more and
more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half my faculties, wrest my tastes
from their original bent, force myself to
the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation.
He wanted to train me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked me hourly to
aspire to the standard he uplifted.
The thing was as impossible as to mould my irregular features to his correct and
classic pattern, to give to my changeable green eyes the sea-blue tint and solemn
lustre of his own.
Not his ascendancy alone, however, held me in thrall at present.
Of late it had been easy enough for me to look sad: a cankering evil sat at my heart
and drained my happiness at its source--the evil of suspense.
Perhaps you think I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst these changes of
place and fortune. Not for a moment.
His idea was still with me, because it was not a vapour sunshine could disperse, nor a
sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a name graven on a tablet, fated to
last as long as the marble it inscribed.
The craving to know what had become of him followed me everywhere; when I was at
Morton, I re-entered my cottage every evening to think of that; and now at Moor
House, I sought my bedroom each night to brood over it.
In the course of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs about the
will, I had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester's present residence and state
of health; but, as St. John had
conjectured, he was quite ignorant of all concerning him.
I then wrote to Mrs. Fairfax, entreating information on the subject.
I had calculated with certainty on this step answering my end: I felt sure it would
elicit an early answer.
I was astonished when a fortnight passed without reply; but when two months wore
away, and day after day the post arrived and brought nothing for me, I fell a prey
to the keenest anxiety.
I wrote again: there was a chance of my first letter having missed.
Renewed hope followed renewed effort: it shone like the former for some weeks, then,
like it, it faded, flickered: not a line, not a word reached me.
When half a year wasted in vain expectancy, my hope died out, and then I felt dark
indeed. A fine spring shone round me, which I could
not enjoy.
Summer approached; Diana tried to cheer me: she said I looked ill, and wished to
accompany me to the sea-side.
This St. John opposed; he said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my
present life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose, by way of
supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still
further my lessons in Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their
accomplishment: and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him--I could not
resist him.
One day I had come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; the ebb was occasioned
by a poignantly felt disappointment.
Hannah had told me in the morning there was a letter for me, and when I went down to
take it, almost certain that the long- looked for tidings were vouchsafed me at
last, I found only an unimportant note from Mr. Briggs on business.
The bitter check had wrung from me some tears; and now, as I sat poring over the
crabbed characters and flourishing tropes of an Indian scribe, my eyes filled again.
St. John called me to his side to read; in attempting to do this my voice failed me:
words were lost in sobs.
He and I were the only occupants of the parlour: Diana was practising her music in
the drawing-room, Mary was gardening--it was a very fine May day, clear, sunny, and
My companion expressed no surprise at this emotion, nor did he question me as to its
cause; he only said-- "We will wait a few minutes, Jane, till you
are more composed."
And while I smothered the paroxysm with all haste, he sat calm and patient, leaning on
his desk, and looking like a physician watching with the eye of science an
expected and fully understood crisis in a patient's malady.
Having stifled my sobs, wiped my eyes, and muttered something about not being very
well that morning, I resumed my task, and succeeded in completing it.
St. John put away my books and his, locked his desk, and said--
"Now, Jane, you shall take a walk; and with me."
"I will call Diana and Mary."
"No; I want only one companion this morning, and that must be you.
Put on your things; go out by the kitchen- door: take the road towards the head of
Marsh Glen: I will join you in a moment."
I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with
positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and
determined revolt.
I have always faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting,
sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other; and as neither present circumstances
warranted, nor my present mood inclined me
to mutiny, I observed careful obedience to St. John's directions; and in ten minutes I
was treading the wild track of the glen, side by side with him.
The breeze was from the west: it came over the hills, sweet with scents of heath and
rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream descending the ravine, swelled with
past spring rains, poured along plentiful
and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun, and sapphire tints from the firmament.
As we advanced and left the track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and emerald green,
minutely enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like
yellow blossom: the hills, meantime, shut
us quite in; for the glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.
"Let us rest here," said St. John, as we reached the first stragglers of a battalion
of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and
where, still a little farther, the mountain
shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment and crag for gem--where it
exaggerated the wild to the savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning--where
it guarded the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.
I took a seat: St. John stood near me.
He looked up the pass and down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream,
and returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it: he removed his
hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow.
He seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt: with his eye he bade farewell to
"And I shall see it again," he said aloud, "in dreams when I sleep by the Ganges: and
again in a more remote hour--when another slumber overcomes me--on the shore of a
darker stream!"
Strange words of a strange love! An austere patriot's passion for his
He sat down; for half-an-hour we never spoke; neither he to me nor I to him: that
interval past, he recommenced--
"Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman which sails on
the 20th of June." "God will protect you; for you have
undertaken His work," I answered.
"Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of an infallible Master.
I am not going out under human guidance, subject to the defective laws and erring
control of my feeble fellow-worms: my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-
It seems strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same banner,--
to join in the same enterprise."
"All have not your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to wish to march with
the strong."
"I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only such as are worthy of
the work, and competent to accomplish it." "Those are few in number, and difficult to
"You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up--to urge and exhort them to
the effort--to show them what their gifts are, and why they were given--to speak
Heaven's message in their ear,--to offer
them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen."
"If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own hearts be the first to
inform them of it?"
I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me: I trembled to
hear some fatal word spoken which would at once declare and rivet the spell.
"And what does your heart say?" demanded St. John.
"My heart is mute,--my heart is mute," I answered, struck and thrilled.
"Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice.
"Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer."
The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved!
It was as if I had heard a summons from Heaven--as if a visionary messenger, like
him of Macedonia, had enounced, "Come over and help us!"
But I was no apostle,--I could not behold the herald,--I could not receive his call.
"Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"
I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed his duty, knew neither
mercy nor remorse. He continued--
"God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife.
It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for
labour, not for love.
A missionary's wife you must--shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you--not for my
pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service." "I am not fit for it: I have no vocation,"
I said.
He had calculated on these first objections: he was not irritated by them.
Indeed, as he leaned back against the crag behind him, folded his arms on his chest,
and fixed his countenance, I saw he was prepared for a long and trying opposition,
and had taken in a stock of patience to
last him to its close--resolved, however, that that close should be conquest for him.
"Humility, Jane," said he, "is the groundwork of Christian virtues: you say
right that you are not fit for the work.
Who is fit for it? Or who, that ever was truly called,
believed himself worthy of the summons? I, for instance, am but dust and ashes.
With St. Paul, I acknowledge myself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not suffer
this sense of my personal vileness to daunt me.
I know my Leader: that He is just as well as mighty; and while He has chosen a feeble
instrument to perform a great task, He will, from the boundless stores of His
providence, supply the inadequacy of the means to the end.
Think like me, Jane--trust like me.
It is the Rock of Ages I ask you to lean on: do not doubt but it will bear the
weight of your human weakness." "I do not understand a missionary life: I
have never studied missionary labours."
"There I, humble as I am, can give you the aid you want: I can set you your task from
hour to hour; stand by you always; help you from moment to moment.
This I could do in the beginning: soon (for I know your powers) you would be as strong
and apt as myself, and would not require my help."
"But my powers--where are they for this undertaking?
I do not feel them. Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you
I am sensible of no light kindling--no life quickening--no voice counselling or
Oh, I wish I could make you see how much my mind is at this moment like a rayless
dungeon, with one shrinking fear fettered in its depths--the fear of being persuaded
by you to attempt what I cannot accomplish!"
"I have an answer for you--hear it. I have watched you ever since we first met:
I have made you my study for ten months.
I have proved you in that time by sundry tests: and what have I seen and elicited?
In the village school I found you could perform well, punctually, uprightly, labour
uncongenial to your habits and inclinations; I saw you could perform it
with capacity and tact: you could win while you controlled.
In the calm with which you learnt you had become suddenly rich, I read a mind clear
of the vice of Demas:--lucre had no undue power over you.
In the resolute readiness with which you cut your wealth into four shares, keeping
but one to yourself, and relinquishing the three others to the claim of abstract
justice, I recognised a soul that revelled in the flame and excitement of sacrifice.
In the tractability with which, at my wish, you forsook a study in which you were
interested, and adopted another because it interested me; in the untiring assiduity
with which you have since persevered in it-
-in the unflagging energy and unshaken temper with which you have met its
difficulties--I acknowledge the complement of the qualities I seek.
Jane, you are docile, diligent, disinterested, faithful, constant, and
courageous; very gentle, and very heroic: cease to mistrust yourself--I can trust you
As a conductress of Indian schools, and a helper amongst Indian women, your
assistance will be to me invaluable." My iron shroud contracted round me;
persuasion advanced with slow sure step.
Shut my eyes as I would, these last words of his succeeded in making the way, which
had seemed blocked up, comparatively clear.
My work, which had appeared so vague, so hopelessly diffuse, condensed itself as he
proceeded, and assumed a definite form under his shaping hand.
He waited for an answer.
I demanded a quarter of an hour to think, before I again hazarded a reply.
"Very willingly," he rejoined; and rising, he strode a little distance up the pass,
threw himself down on a swell of heath, and there lay still.
{He threw himself down on a swell of heath, and there lay still: p389.jpg}
"I can do what he wants me to do: I am forced to see and acknowledge that," I
meditated,--"that is, if life be spared me.
But I feel mine is not the existence to be long protracted under an Indian sun.
What then?
He does not care for that: when my time came to die, he would resign me, in all
serenity and sanctity, to the God who gave me.
The case is very plain before me.
In leaving England, I should leave a loved but empty land--Mr. Rochester is not there;
and if he were, what is, what can that ever be to me?
My business is to live without him now: nothing so absurd, so weak as to drag on
from day to day, as if I were waiting some impossible change in circumstances, which
might reunite me to him.
Of course (as St. John once said) I must seek another interest in life to replace
the one lost: is not the occupation he now offers me truly the most glorious man can
adopt or God assign?
Is it not, by its noble cares and sublime results, the one best calculated to fill
the void left by uptorn affections and demolished hopes?
I believe I must say, Yes--and yet I shudder.
Alas! If I join St. John, I abandon half myself:
if I go to India, I go to premature death.
And how will the interval between leaving England for India, and India for the grave,
be filled? Oh, I know well!
That, too, is very clear to my vision.
By straining to satisfy St. John till my sinews ache, I shall satisfy him--to the
finest central point and farthest outward circle of his expectations.
If I do go with him--if I do make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it
absolutely: I will throw all on the altar-- heart, vitals, the entire victim.
He will never love me; but he shall approve me; I will show him energies he has not yet
seen, resources he has never suspected. Yes, I can work as hard as he can, and with
as little grudging.
"Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item--one dreadful item.
It is--that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband's heart for me
than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder
He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all.
Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his
calculations--coolly put into practice his plans--go through the wedding ceremony?
Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt
not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent?
Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made
on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous.
I will never undergo it.
As his sister, I might accompany him--not as his wife: I will tell him so."
I looked towards the knoll: there he lay, still as a prostrate column; his face
turned to me: his eye beaming watchful and keen.
He started to his feet and approached me.
"I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."
"Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."
"You have hitherto been my adopted brother- -I, your adopted sister: let us continue as
such: you and I had better not marry." He shook his head.
"Adopted fraternity will not do in this case.
If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take you, and seek no
But as it is, either our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it
cannot exist: practical obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan.
Do you not see it, Jane?
Consider a moment--your strong sense will guide you."
I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me only to the fact that
we did not love each other as man and wife should: and therefore it inferred we ought
not to marry.
I said so. "St. John," I returned, "I regard you as a
brother--you, me as a sister: so let us continue."
"We cannot--we cannot," he answered, with short, sharp determination: "it would not
do. You have said you will go with me to India:
remember--you have said that."
"Conditionally." "Well--well.
To the main point--the departure with me from England, the co-operation with me in
my future labours--you do not object.
You have already as good as put your hand to the plough: you are too consistent to
withdraw it.
You have but one end to keep in view--how the work you have undertaken can best be
Simplify your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge all
considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling with effect--with power--the
mission of your great Master.
To do so, you must have a coadjutor: not a brother--that is a loose tie--but a
husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister
might any day be taken from me.
I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain
absolutely till death."
I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow--his hold on my
limbs. "Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John:
seek one fitted to you."
"One fitted to my purpose, you mean--fitted to my vocation.
Again I tell you it is not the insignificant private individual--the mere
man, with the man's selfish senses--I wish to mate: it is the missionary."
"And I will give the missionary my energies--it is all he wants--but not
myself: that would be only adding the husk and shell to the kernel.
For them he has no use: I retain them."
"You cannot--you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied with
half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice?
It is the cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist you.
I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be entire."
"Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said.
"You do not want it." I will not swear, reader, that there was
not something of repressed sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence,
and in the feeling that accompanied it.
I had silently feared St. John till now, because I had not understood him.
He had held me in awe, because he had held me in doubt.
How much of him was saint, how much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but
revelations were being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was
proceeding before my eyes.
I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended them.
I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of heath, and with that
handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I.
The veil fell from his hardness and despotism.
Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took
I was with an equal--one with whom I might argue--one whom, if I saw good, I might
He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently risked an upward
glance at his countenance. His eye, bent on me, expressed at once
stern surprise and keen inquiry.
"Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic to me!" it seemed to say.
"What does this signify?"
"Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere long; "one of which we
may neither think nor talk lightly without sin.
I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will serve your heart to God: it is
all I want.
Once wrench your heart from man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that
Maker's spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour; you will
be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end.
You will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by our physical and
mental union in marriage: the only union that gives a character of permanent
conformity to the destinies and designs of
human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices--all trivial difficulties and
delicacies of feeling--all scruple about the degree, kind, strength or tenderness of
mere personal inclination--you will hasten to enter into that union at once."
"Shall I?"
I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful in their harmony, but
strangely formidable in their still severity; at his brow, commanding but not
open; at his eyes, bright and deep and
searching, but never soft; at his tall imposing figure; and fancied myself in idea
his wife. Oh! it would never do!
As his curate, his comrade, all would be right: I would cross oceans with him in
that capacity; toil under Eastern suns, in Asian deserts with him in that office;
admire and emulate his courage and devotion
and vigour; accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed at his
ineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the man: profoundly esteem
the one, and freely forgive the other.
I should suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity: my body would
be under rather a stringent yoke, but my heart and mind would be free.
I should still have my unblighted self to turn to: my natural unenslaved feelings
with which to communicate in moments of loneliness.
There would be recesses in my mind which would be only mine, to which he never came,
and sentiments growing there fresh and sheltered which his austerity could never
blight, nor his measured warrior-march
trample down: but as his wife--at his side always, and always restrained, and always
checked--forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to
burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though
the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital--this would be unendurable.
"St. John!" I exclaimed, when I had got so far in my
"Well?" he answered icily. "I repeat I freely consent to go with you
as your fellow-missionary, but not as your wife; I cannot marry you and become part of
"A part of me you must become," he answered steadily; "otherwise the whole bargain is
How can I, a man not yet thirty, take out with me to India a girl of nineteen, unless
she be married to me?
How can we be for ever together--sometimes in solitudes, sometimes amidst savage
tribes--and unwed?"
"Very well," I said shortly; "under the circumstances, quite as well as if I were
either your real sister, or a man and a clergyman like yourself."
"It is known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you as such: to attempt it
would be to fasten injurious suspicions on us both.
And for the rest, though you have a man's vigorous brain, you have a woman's heart
and--it would not do." "It would do," I affirmed with some
disdain, "perfectly well.
I have a woman's heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I have only a
comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's frankness, fidelity, fraternity, if you
like; a neophyte's respect and submission
to his hierophant: nothing more--don't fear."
"It is what I want," he said, speaking to himself; "it is just what I want.
And there are obstacles in the way: they must be hewn down.
Jane, you would not repent marrying me--be certain of that; we must be married.
I repeat it: there is no other way; and undoubtedly enough of love would follow
upon marriage to render the union right even in your eyes."
"I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up and stood before
him, leaning my back against the rock.
"I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when
you offer it." He looked at me fixedly, compressing his
well-cut lips while he did so.
Whether he was incensed or surprised, or what, it was not easy to tell: he could
command his countenance thoroughly.
"I scarcely expected to hear that expression from you," he said: "I think I
have done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."
I was touched by his gentle tone, and overawed by his high, calm mien.
"Forgive me the words, St. John; but it is your own fault that I have been roused to
speak so unguardedly.
You have introduced a topic on which our natures are at variance--a topic we should
never discuss: the very name of love is an apple of discord between us.
If the reality were required, what should we do?
How should we feel? My dear cousin, abandon your scheme of
marriage--forget it."
"No," said he; "it is a long-cherished scheme, and the only one which can secure
my great end: but I shall urge you no further at present.
To-morrow, I leave home for Cambridge: I have many friends there to whom I should
wish to say farewell.
I shall be absent a fortnight--take that space of time to consider my offer: and do
not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God.
Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon
Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish
ease and barren obscurity.
Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied the
faith, and are worse than infidels!" He had done.
Turning from me, he once more
"Looked to river, looked to hill." But this time his feelings were all pent in
his heart: I was not worthy to hear them uttered.
As I walked by his side homeward, I read well in his iron silence all he felt
towards me: the disappointment of an austere and despotic nature, which has met
resistance where it expected submission--
the disapprobation of a cool, inflexible judgment, which has detected in another
feelings and views in which it has no power to sympathise: in short, as a man, he would
have wished to coerce me into obedience: it
was only as a sincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversity, and allowed
so long a space for reflection and repentance.
That night, after he had kissed his sisters, he thought proper to forget even
to shake hands with me, but left the room in silence.
I--who, though I had no love, had much friendship for him--was hurt by the marked
omission: so much hurt that tears started to my eyes.
"I see you and St. John have been quarrelling, Jane," said Diana, "during
your walk on the moor.
But go after him; he is now lingering in the passage expecting you--he will make it
I have not much pride under such circumstances: I would always rather be
happy than dignified; and I ran after him-- he stood at the foot of the stairs.
"Good-night, St. John," said I.
"Good-night, Jane," he replied calmly. "Then shake hands," I added.
What a cold, loose touch, he impressed on my fingers!
He was deeply displeased by what had occurred that day; cordiality would not
warm, nor tears move him.
No happy reconciliation was to be had with him--no cheering smile or generous word:
but still the Christian was patient and placid; and when I asked him if he forgave
me, he answered that he was not in the
habit of cherishing the remembrance of vexation; that he had nothing to forgive,
not having been offended. And with that answer he left me.
I would much rather he had knocked me down.
He did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he would.
He deferred his departure a whole week, and during that time he made me feel what
severe punishment a good yet stern, a conscientious yet implacable man can
inflict on one who has offended him.
Without one overt act of hostility, one upbraiding word, he contrived to impress me
momently with the conviction that I was put beyond the pale of his favour.
Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness--not that he
would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been fully in his power to do so.
Both by nature and principle, he was superior to the mean gratification of
vengeance: he had forgiven me for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had not
forgotten the words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget them.
I saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were always written on the air
between me and him; whenever I spoke, they sounded in my voice to his ear, and their
echo toned every answer he gave me.
He did not abstain from conversing with me: he even called me as usual each morning to
join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt man within him had a pleasure
unimparted to, and unshared by, the pure
Christian, in evincing with what skill he could, while acting and speaking apparently
just as usual, extract from every deed and every phrase the spirit of interest and
approval which had formerly communicated a
certain austere charm to his language and manner.
To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye was a cold,
bright, blue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument--nothing more.
All this was torture to me--refined, lingering torture.
It kept up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed
and crushed me altogether.
I felt how--if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could
soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving on his
own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him.
No ruth met my ruth.
He experienced no suffering from estrangement--no yearning after
reconciliation; and though, more than once, my fast falling tears blistered the page
over which we both bent, they produced no
more effect on him than if his heart had been really a matter of stone or metal.
To his sisters, meantime, he was somewhat kinder than usual: as if afraid that mere
coldness would not sufficiently convince me how completely I was banished and banned,
he added the force of contrast; and this I
am sure he did not by force, but on principle.
The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the garden about sunset,
and remembering, as I looked at him, that this man, alienated as he now was, had once
saved my life, and that we were near
relations, I was moved to make a last attempt to regain his friendship.
I went out and approached him as he stood leaning over the little gate; I spoke to
the point at once.
"St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me.
Let us be friends."
"I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still watched the rising of
the moon, which he had been contemplating as I approached.
"No, St. John, we are not friends as we were.
You know that." "Are we not?
That is wrong.
For my part, I wish you no ill and all good."
"I believe you, St. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishing any one ill; but,
as I am your kinswoman, I should desire somewhat more of affection than that sort
of general philanthropy you extend to mere strangers."
"Of course," he said. "Your wish is reasonable, and I am far from
regarding you as a stranger."
This, spoken in a cool, tranquil tone, was mortifying and baffling enough.
Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ire, I should immediately have left
him; but something worked within me more strongly than those feelings could.
I deeply venerated my cousin's talent and principle.
His friendship was of value to me: to lose it tried me severely.
I would not so soon relinquish the attempt to reconquer it.
"Must we part in this way, St. John?
And when you go to India, will you leave me so, without a kinder word than you have yet
spoken?" He now turned quite from the moon and faced
"When I go to India, Jane, will I leave you!
What! do you not go to India?" "You said I could not unless I married
"And you will not marry me! You adhere to that resolution?"
Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put into the ice of
their questions?
How much of the fall of the avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the
frozen sea in their displeasure? "No. St. John, I will not marry you.
I adhere to my resolution."
The avalanche had shaken and slid a little forward, but it did not yet crash down.
"Once more, why this refusal?" he asked.
"Formerly," I answered, "because you did not love me; now, I reply, because you
almost hate me. If I were to marry you, you would kill me.
You are killing me now."
His lips and cheeks turned white--quite white.
"I should kill you--I am killing you? Your words are such as ought not to be
used: violent, unfeminine, and untrue.
They betray an unfortunate state of mind: they merit severe reproof: they would seem
inexcusable, but that it is the duty of man to forgive his fellow even until seventy-
and-seven times."
I had finished the business now.
While earnestly wishing to erase from his mind the trace of my former offence, I had
stamped on that tenacious surface another and far deeper impression, I had burnt it
"Now you will indeed hate me," I said. "It is useless to attempt to conciliate
you: I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."
A fresh wrong did these words inflict: the worse, because they touched on the truth.
That bloodless lip quivered to a temporary spasm.
I knew the steely ire I had whetted.
I was heart-wrung. "You utterly misinterpret my words," I
said, at once seizing his hand: "I have no intention to grieve or pain you--indeed, I
have not."
Most bitterly he smiled--most decidedly he withdrew his hand from mine.
"And now you recall your promise, and will not go to India at all, I presume?" said
he, after a considerable pause.
"Yes, I will, as your assistant," I answered.
A very long silence succeeded.
What struggle there was in him between Nature and Grace in this interval, I cannot
tell: only singular gleams scintillated in his eyes, and strange shadows passed over
his face.
He spoke at last. "I before proved to you the absurdity of a
single woman of your age proposing to accompany abroad a single man of mine.
I proved it to you in such terms as, I should have thought, would have prevented
your ever again alluding to the plan. That you have done so, I regret--for your
I interrupted him. Anything like a tangible reproach gave me
courage at once. "Keep to common sense, St. John: you are
verging on nonsense.
You pretend to be shocked by what I have said.
You are not really shocked: for, with your superior mind, you cannot be either so dull
or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning.
I say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your wife."
Again he turned lividly pale; but, as before, controlled his passion perfectly.
He answered emphatically but calmly--
"A female curate, who is not my wife, would never suit me.
With me, then, it seems, you cannot go: but if you are sincere in your offer, I will,
while in town, speak to a married missionary, whose wife needs a coadjutor.
Your own fortune will make you independent of the Society's aid; and thus you may
still be spared the dishonour of breaking your promise and deserting the band you
engaged to join."
Now I never had, as the reader knows, either given any formal promise or entered
into any engagement; and this language was all much too hard and much too despotic for
the occasion.
I replied-- "There is no dishonour, no breach of
promise, no desertion in the case. I am not under the slightest obligation to
go to India, especially with strangers.
With you I would have ventured much, because I admire, confide in, and, as a
sister, I love you; but I am convinced that, go when and with whom I would, I
should not live long in that climate."
"Ah! you are afraid of yourself," he said, curling his lip.
"I am.
God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you wish me would, I begin to
think, be almost equivalent to committing suicide.
Moreover, before I definitively resolve on quitting England, I will know for certain
whether I cannot be of greater use by remaining in it than by leaving it."
"What do you mean?"
"It would be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a point on which I
have long endured painful doubt, and I can go nowhere till by some means that doubt is
"I know where your heart turns and to what it clings.
The interest you cherish is lawless and unconsecrated.
Long since you ought to have crushed it: now you should blush to allude to it.
You think of Mr. Rochester?" It was true.
I confessed it by silence.
"Are you going to seek Mr. Rochester?" "I must find out what is become of him."
"It remains for me, then," he said, "to remember you in my prayers, and to entreat
God for you, in all earnestness, that you may not indeed become a castaway.
I had thought I recognised in you one of the chosen.
But God sees not as man sees: His will be done--"
He opened the gate, passed through it, and strayed away down the glen.
He was soon out of sight.
On re-entering the parlour, I found Diana standing at the window, looking very
Diana was a great deal taller than I: she put her hand on my shoulder, and, stooping,
examined my face. "Jane," she said, "you are always agitated
and pale now.
I am sure there is something the matter. Tell me what business St. John and you have
on hands.
I have watched you this half hour from the window; you must forgive my being such a
spy, but for a long time I have fancied I hardly know what.
St. John is a strange being--"
She paused--I did not speak: soon she resumed--
"That brother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sort respecting you, I am
sure: he has long distinguished you by a notice and interest he never showed to any
one else--to what end?
I wish he loved you--does he, Jane?" I put her cool hand to my hot forehead;
"No, Die, not one whit."
"Then why does he follow you so with his eyes, and get you so frequently alone with
him, and keep you so continually at his side?
Mary and I had both concluded he wished you to marry him."
"He does--he has asked me to be his wife." Diana clapped her hands.
"That is just what we hoped and thought!
And you will marry him, Jane, won't you? And then he will stay in England."
"Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to procure a fitting
fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."
"What! He wishes you to go to India?"
"Yes." "Madness!" she exclaimed.
"You would not live three months there, I am certain.
You never shall go: you have not consented, have you, Jane?"
"I have refused to marry him--"
"And have consequently displeased him?" she suggested.
"Deeply: he will never forgive me, I fear: yet I offered to accompany him as his
"It was frantic folly to do so, Jane. Think of the task you undertook--one of
incessant fatigue, where fatigue kills even the strong, and you are weak.
St. John--you know him--would urge you to impossibilities: with him there would be no
permission to rest during the hot hours; and unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever
he exacts, you force yourself to perform.
I am astonished you found courage to refuse his hand.
You do not love him then, Jane?" "Not as a husband."
"Yet he is a handsome fellow."
"And I am so plain, you see, Die. We should never suit."
"Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too
good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta."
And again she earnestly conjured me to give up all thoughts of going out with her
"I must indeed," I said; "for when just now I repeated the offer of serving him for a
deacon, he expressed himself shocked at my want of decency.
He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in proposing to accompany him
unmarried: as if I had not from the first hoped to find in him a brother, and
habitually regarded him as such."
"What makes you say he does not love you, Jane?"
"You should hear himself on the subject.
He has again and again explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to
mate. He has told me I am formed for labour--not
for love: which is true, no doubt.
But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it follows that I am not formed for
Would it not be strange, Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but as a
useful tool?" "Insupportable--unnatural--out of the
"And then," I continued, "though I have only sisterly affection for him now, yet,
if forced to be his wife, I can imagine the possibility of conceiving an inevitable,
strange, torturing kind of love for him,
because he is so talented; and there is often a certain heroic grandeur in his
look, manner, and conversation. In that case, my lot would become
unspeakably wretched.
He would not want me to love him; and if I showed the feeling, he would make me
sensible that it was a superfluity, unrequired by him, unbecoming in me.
I know he would."
"And yet St. John is a good man," said Diana.
"He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and
claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views.
It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out of his way, lest,
in his progress, he should trample them down.
Here he comes!
I will leave you, Diana." And I hastened upstairs as I saw him
entering the garden. But I was forced to meet him again at
During that meal he appeared just as composed as usual.
I had thought he would hardly speak to me, and I was certain he had given up the
pursuit of his matrimonial scheme: the sequel showed I was mistaken on both
He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manner, or what had, of late, been his
ordinary manner--one scrupulously polite.
No doubt he had invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the anger I had
roused in him, and now believed he had forgiven me once more.
For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first chapter of
It was at all times pleasant to listen while from his lips fell the words of the
Bible: never did his fine voice sound at once so sweet and full--never did his
manner become so impressive in its noble
simplicity, as when he delivered the oracles of God: and to-night that voice
took a more solemn tone--that manner a more thrilling meaning--as he sat in the midst
of his household circle (the May moon
shining in through the uncurtained window, and rendering almost unnecessary the light
of the candle on the table): as he sat there, bending over the great old Bible,
and described from its page the vision of
the new heaven and the new earth--told how God would come to dwell with men, how He
would wipe away all tears from their eyes, and promised that there should be no more
death, neither sorrow nor crying, nor any
more pain, because the former things were passed away.
The succeeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them: especially as I felt, by
the slight, indescribable alteration in sound, that in uttering them, his eye had
turned on me.
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall
be my son.
But," was slowly, distinctly read, "the fearful, the unbelieving, &c., shall have
their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second
Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.
A calm, subdued triumph, blent with a longing earnestness, marked his enunciation
of the last glorious verses of that chapter.
The reader believed his name was already written in the Lamb's book of life, and he
yearned after the hour which should admit him to the city to which the kings of the
earth bring their glory and honour; which
has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, because the glory of God lightens it, and
the Lamb is the light thereof.
In the prayer following the chapter, all his energy gathered--all his stern zeal
woke: he was in deep earnest, wrestling with God, and resolved on a conquest.
He supplicated strength for the weak- hearted; guidance for wanderers from the
fold: a return, even at the eleventh hour, for those whom the temptations of the world
and the flesh were luring from the narrow path.
He asked, he urged, he claimed the boon of a brand snatched from the burning.
Earnestness is ever deeply solemn: first, as I listened to that prayer, I wondered at
his; then, when it continued and rose, I was touched by it, and at last awed.
He felt the greatness and goodness of his purpose so sincerely: others who heard him
plead for it, could not but feel it too.
The prayer over, we took leave of him: he was to go at a very early hour in the
Diana and Mary having kissed him, left the room--in compliance, I think, with a
whispered hint from him: I tendered my hand, and wished him a pleasant journey.
"Thank you, Jane.
As I said, I shall return from Cambridge in a fortnight: that space, then, is yet left
you for reflection.
If I listened to human pride, I should say no more to you of marriage with me; but I
listen to my duty, and keep steadily in view my first aim--to do all things to the
glory of God.
My Master was long-suffering: so will I be. I cannot give you up to perdition as a
vessel of wrath: repent--resolve, while there is yet time.
Remember, we are bid to work while it is day--warned that 'the night cometh when no
man shall work.' Remember the fate of Dives, who had his
good things in this life.
God give you strength to choose that better part which shall not be taken from you!"
He laid his hand on my head as he uttered the last words.
He had spoken earnestly, mildly: his look was not, indeed, that of a lover beholding
his mistress, but it was that of a pastor recalling his wandering sheep--or better,
of a guardian angel watching the soul for which he is responsible.
All men of talent, whether they be men of feeling or not; whether they be zealots, or
aspirants, or despots--provided only they be sincere--have their sublime moments,
when they subdue and rule.
I felt veneration for St. John--veneration so strong that its impetus thrust me at
once to the point I had so long shunned.
I was tempted to cease struggling with him- -to rush down the torrent of his will into
the gulf of his existence, and there lose my own.
I was almost as hard beset by him now as I had been once before, in a different way,
by another. I was a fool both times.
To have yielded then would have been an error of principle; to have yielded now
would have been an error of judgment.
So I think at this hour, when I look back to the crisis through the quiet medium of
time: I was unconscious of folly at the instant.
I stood motionless under my hierophant's touch.
My refusals were forgotten--my fears overcome--my wrestlings paralysed.
The Impossible--i.e., my marriage with St. John--was fast becoming the Possible.
All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep.
Religion called--Angels beckoned--God commanded--life rolled together like a
scroll--death's gates opening, showed eternity beyond: it seemed, that for safety
and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a second.
The dim room was full of visions. "Could you decide now?" asked the
The inquiry was put in gentle tones: he drew me to him as gently.
Oh, that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force!
I could resist St. John's wrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness.
Yet I knew all the time, if I yielded now, I should not the less be made to repent,
some day, of my former rebellion.
His nature was not changed by one hour of solemn prayer: it was only elevated.
"I could decide if I were but certain," I answered: "were I but convinced that it is
God's will I should marry you, I could vow to marry you here and now--come afterwards
what would!"
"My prayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John.
He pressed his hand firmer on my head, as if he claimed me: he surrounded me with his
arm, almost as if he loved me (I say almost--I knew the difference--for I had
felt what it was to be loved; but, like
him, I had now put love out of the question, and thought only of duty).
I contended with my inward dimness of vision, before which clouds yet rolled.
I sincerely, deeply, fervently longed to do what was right; and only that.
"Show me, show me the path!" I entreated of Heaven.
I was excited more than I had ever been; and whether what followed was the effect of
excitement the reader shall judge.
All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and myself, were now
retired to rest. The one candle was dying out: the room was
full of moonlight.
My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb.
Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through, and
passed at once to my head and extremities.
The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was quite as sharp, as strange, as
startling: it acted on my senses as if their utmost activity hitherto had been but
torpor, from which they were now summoned and forced to wake.
They rose expectant: eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.
"What have you heard?
What do you see?" asked St. John. I saw nothing, but I heard a voice
somewhere cry-- "Jane!
Jane!"--nothing more. "O God! what is it?"
I gasped.
I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room--nor in the house-
-nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air--nor from under the earth--nor from
I had heard it--where, or whence, for ever impossible to know!
And it was the voice of a human being--a known, loved, well-remembered voice--that
of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently.
"I am coming!"
I cried. "Wait for me!
Oh, I will come!" I flew to the door and looked into the
passage: it was dark.
I ran out into the garden: it was void. "Where are you?"
I exclaimed. The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer
faintly back--"Where are you?"
I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was
moorland loneliness and midnight hush. "Down superstition!"
I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate.
"This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature.
She was roused, and did--no miracle--but her best."
I broke from St. John, who had followed, and would have detained me.
It was my time to assume ascendency.
My powers were in play and in force. I told him to forbear question or remark;
I desired him to leave me: I must and would be alone.
He obeyed at once.
Where there is energy to command well enough, obedience never fails.
I mounted to my chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; and prayed in my way--a
different way to St. John's, but effective in its own fashion.
I seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit; and my soul rushed out in gratitude
at His feet.
I rose from the thanksgiving--took a resolve--and lay down, unscared,
enlightened--eager but for the daylight.
The daylight came. I rose at dawn.
I busied myself for an hour or two with arranging my things in my chamber, drawers,
and wardrobe, in the order wherein I should wish to leave them during a brief absence.
Meantime, I heard St. John quit his room.
He stopped at my door: I feared he would knock--no, but a slip of paper was passed
under the door. I took it up.
It bore these words--
"You left me too suddenly last night. Had you stayed but a little longer, you
would have laid your hand on the Christian's cross and the angel's crown.
I shall expect your clear decision when I return this day fortnight.
Meantime, watch and pray that you enter not into temptation: the spirit, I trust, is
willing, but the flesh, I see, is weak.
I shall pray for you hourly.--Yours, ST. JOHN."
"My spirit," I answered mentally, "is willing to do what is right; and my flesh,
I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of Heaven, when once that will is
distinctly known to me.
At any rate, it shall be strong enough to search--inquire--to grope an outlet from
this cloud of doubt, and find the open day of certainty."
It was the first of June; yet the morning was overcast and chilly: rain beat fast on
my casement. I heard the front-door open, and St. John
pass out.
Looking through the window, I saw him traverse the garden.
He took the way over the misty moors in the direction of Whitcross--there he would meet
the coach.
"In a few more hours I shall succeed you in that track, cousin," thought I: "I too have
a coach to meet at Whitcross. I too have some to see and ask after in
England, before I depart for ever."
It wanted yet two hours of breakfast-time. I filled the interval in walking softly
about my room, and pondering the visitation which had given my plans their present
I recalled that inward sensation I had experienced: for I could recall it, with
all its unspeakable strangeness.
I recalled the voice I had heard; again I questioned whence it came, as vainly as
before: it seemed in me--not in the external world.
I asked was it a mere nervous impression--a delusion?
I could not conceive or believe: it was more like an inspiration.
The wondrous shock of feeling had come like the earthquake which shook the foundations
of Paul and Silas's prison; it had opened the doors of the soul's cell and loosed its
bands--it had wakened it out of its sleep,
whence it sprang trembling, listening, aghast; then vibrated thrice a cry on my
startled ear, and in my quaking heart and through my spirit, which neither feared nor
shook, but exulted as if in joy over the
success of one effort it had been privileged to make, independent of the
cumbrous body.
"Ere many days," I said, as I terminated my musings, "I will know something of him
whose voice seemed last night to summon me. Letters have proved of no avail--personal
inquiry shall replace them."
At breakfast I announced to Diana and Mary that I was going a journey, and should be
absent at least four days. "Alone, Jane?" they asked.
"Yes; it was to see or hear news of a friend about whom I had for some time been
They might have said, as I have no doubt they thought, that they had believed me to
be without any friends save them: for, indeed, I had often said so; but, with
their true natural delicacy, they abstained
from comment, except that Diana asked me if I was sure I was well enough to travel.
I looked very pale, she observed.
I replied, that nothing ailed me save anxiety of mind, which I hoped soon to
It was easy to make my further arrangements; for I was troubled with no
inquiries--no surmises.
Having once explained to them that I could not now be explicit about my plans, they
kindly and wisely acquiesced in the silence with which I pursued them, according to me
the privilege of free action I should under similar circumstances have accorded them.
I left Moor House at three o'clock p.m., and soon after four I stood at the foot of
the sign-post of Whitcross, waiting the arrival of the coach which was to take me
to distant Thornfield.
Amidst the silence of those solitary roads and desert hills, I heard it approach from
a great distance.
It was the same vehicle whence, a year ago, I had alighted one summer evening on this
very spot--how desolate, and hopeless, and objectless!
It stopped as I beckoned.
I entered--not now obliged to part with my whole fortune as the price of its
accommodation. Once more on the road to Thornfield, I felt
like the messenger-pigeon flying home.
It was a journey of six-and-thirty hours.
I had set out from Whitcross on a Tuesday afternoon, and early on the succeeding
Thursday morning the coach stopped to water the horses at a wayside inn, situated in
the midst of scenery whose green hedges and
large fields and low pastoral hills (how mild of feature and verdant of hue compared
with the stern North- Midland moors of Morton!) met my eye like the lineaments of
a once familiar face.
Yes, I knew the character of this landscape: I was sure we were near my
bourne. "How far is Thornfield Hall from here?"
I asked of the ostler.
"Just two miles, ma'am, across the fields." "My journey is closed," I thought to
I got out of the coach, gave a box I had into the ostler's charge, to be kept till I
called for it; paid my fare; satisfied the coachman, and was going: the brightening
day gleamed on the sign of the inn, and I read in gilt letters, "The Rochester Arms."
My heart leapt up: I was already on my master's very lands.
It fell again: the thought struck it:--
"Your master himself may be beyond the British Channel, for aught you know: and
then, if he is at Thornfield Hall, towards which you hasten, who besides him is there?
His lunatic wife: and you have nothing to do with him: you dare not speak to him or
seek his presence. You have lost your labour--you had better
go no farther," urged the monitor.
"Ask information of the people at the inn; they can give you all you seek: they can
solve your doubts at once. Go up to that man, and inquire if Mr.
Rochester be at home."
The suggestion was sensible, and yet I could not force myself to act on it.
I so dreaded a reply that would crush me with despair.
To prolong doubt was to prolong hope.
I might yet once more see the Hall under the ray of her star.
There was the stile before me--the very fields through which I had hurried, blind,
deaf, distracted with a revengeful fury tracking and scourging me, on the morning I
fled from Thornfield: ere I well knew what
course I had resolved to take, I was in the midst of them.
How fast I walked! How I ran sometimes!
How I looked forward to catch the first view of the well-known woods!
With what feelings I welcomed single trees I knew, and familiar glimpses of meadow and
hill between them!
At last the woods rose; the rookery clustered dark; a loud cawing broke the
morning stillness. Strange delight inspired me: on I hastened.
Another field crossed--a lane threaded--and there were the courtyard walls--the back
offices: the house itself, the rookery still hid.
"My first view of it shall be in front," I determined, "where its bold battlements
will strike the eye nobly at once, and where I can single out my master's very
window: perhaps he will be standing at it--
he rises early: perhaps he is now walking in the orchard, or on the pavement in
front. Could I but see him!--but a moment!
Surely, in that case, I should not be so mad as to run to him?
I cannot tell--I am not certain. And if I did--what then?
God bless him!
What then? Who would be hurt by my once more tasting
the life his glance can give me?
I rave: perhaps at this moment he is watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees, or
on the tideless sea of the south."
I had coasted along the lower wall of the orchard--turned its angle: there was a gate
just there, opening into the meadow, between two stone pillars crowned by stone
From behind one pillar I could peep round quietly at the full front of the mansion.
I advanced my head with precaution, desirous to ascertain if any bedroom
window-blinds were yet drawn up: battlements, windows, long front--all from
this sheltered station were at my command.
The crows sailing overhead perhaps watched me while I took this survey.
I wonder what they thought.
They must have considered I was very careful and timid at first, and that
gradually I grew very bold and reckless.
A peep, and then a long stare; and then a departure from my niche and a straying out
into the meadow; and a sudden stop full in front of the great mansion, and a
protracted, hardy gaze towards it.
"What affectation of diffidence was this at first?" they might have demanded; "what
stupid regardlessness now?" Hear an illustration, reader.
A lover finds his mistress asleep on a mossy bank; he wishes to catch a glimpse of
her fair face without waking her.
He steals softly over the grass, careful to make no sound; he pauses--fancying she has
stirred: he withdraws: not for worlds would he be seen.
All is still: he again advances: he bends above her; a light veil rests on her
features: he lifts it, bends lower; now his eyes anticipate the vision of beauty--warm,
and blooming, and lovely, in rest.
How hurried was their first glance! But how they fix!
How he starts!
How he suddenly and vehemently clasps in both arms the form he dared not, a moment
since, touch with his finger! How he calls aloud a name, and drops his
burden, and gazes on it wildly!
He thus grasps and cries, and gazes, because he no longer fears to waken by any
sound he can utter--by any movement he can make.
He thought his love slept sweetly: he finds she is stone dead.
I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house: I saw a blackened ruin.
No need to cower behind a gate-post, indeed!--to peep up at chamber lattices,
fearing life was astir behind them!
No need to listen for doors opening--to fancy steps on the pavement or the gravel-
walk! The lawn, the grounds were trodden and
waste: the portal yawned void.
The front was, as I had once seen it in a dream, but a well-like wall, very high and
very fragile-looking, perforated with paneless windows: no roof, no battlements,
no chimneys--all had crashed in.
And there was the silence of death about it: the solitude of a lonesome wild.
No wonder that letters addressed to people here had never received an answer: as well
despatch epistles to a vault in a church aisle.
The grim blackness of the stones told by what fate the Hall had fallen--by
conflagration: but how kindled? What story belonged to this disaster?
What loss, besides mortar and marble and wood-work had followed upon it?
Had life been wrecked as well as property? If so, whose?
Dreadful question: there was no one here to answer it--not even dumb sign, mute token.
In wandering round the shattered walls and through the devastated interior, I gathered
evidence that the calamity was not of late occurrence.
Winter snows, I thought, had drifted through that void arch, winter rains beaten
in at those hollow casements; for, amidst the drenched piles of rubbish, spring had
cherished vegetation: grass and weed grew
here and there between the stones and fallen rafters.
And oh! where meantime was the hapless owner of this wreck?
In what land?
Under what auspices? My eye involuntarily wandered to the grey
church tower near the gates, and I asked, "Is he with Damer de Rochester, sharing the
shelter of his narrow marble house?"
Some answer must be had to these questions. I could find it nowhere but at the inn, and
thither, ere long, I returned. The host himself brought my breakfast into
the parlour.
I requested him to shut the door and sit down: I had some questions to ask him.
But when he complied, I scarcely knew how to begin; such horror had I of the possible
And yet the spectacle of desolation I had just left prepared me in a measure for a
tale of misery. The host was a respectable-looking, middle-
aged man.
"You know Thornfield Hall, of course?" I managed to say at last.
"Yes, ma'am; I lived there once." "Did you?"
Not in my time, I thought: you are a stranger to me.
"I was the late Mr. Rochester's butler," he added.
The late!
I seem to have received, with full force, the blow I had been trying to evade.
"The late!" I gasped.
"Is he dead?"
"I mean the present gentleman, Mr. Edward's father," he explained.
I breathed again: my blood resumed its flow.
Fully assured by these words that Mr. Edward--my Mr. Rochester (God bless him,
wherever he was!)--was at least alive: was, in short, "the present gentleman."
Gladdening words!
It seemed I could hear all that was to come--whatever the disclosures might be--
with comparative tranquillity.
Since he was not in the grave, I could bear, I thought, to learn that he was at
the Antipodes. "Is Mr. Rochester living at Thornfield Hall
I asked, knowing, of course, what the answer would be, but yet desirous of
deferring the direct question as to where he really was.
"No, ma'am--oh, no!
No one is living there.
I suppose you are a stranger in these parts, or you would have heard what
happened last autumn,--Thornfield Hall is quite a ruin: it was burnt down just about
A dreadful calamity! such an immense quantity of valuable property destroyed:
hardly any of the furniture could be saved.
The fire broke out at dead of night, and before the engines arrived from Millcote,
the building was one mass of flame. It was a terrible spectacle: I witnessed it
"At dead of night!" I muttered.
Yes, that was ever the hour of fatality at Thornfield.
"Was it known how it originated?"
I demanded. "They guessed, ma'am: they guessed.
Indeed, I should say it was ascertained beyond a doubt.
You are not perhaps aware," he continued, edging his chair a little nearer the table,
and speaking low, "that there was a lady-- a--a lunatic, kept in the house?"
"I have heard something of it."
"She was kept in very close confinement, ma'am: people even for some years was not
absolutely certain of her existence.
No one saw her: they only knew by rumour that such a person was at the Hall; and who
or what she was it was difficult to conjecture.
They said Mr. Edward had brought her from abroad, and some believed she had been his
mistress. But a queer thing happened a year since--a
very queer thing."
I feared now to hear my own story. I endeavoured to recall him to the main
fact. "And this lady?"
"This lady, ma'am," he answered, "turned out to be Mr. Rochester's wife!
The discovery was brought about in the strangest way.
There was a young lady, a governess at the Hall, that Mr. Rochester fell in--"
"But the fire," I suggested. "I'm coming to that, ma'am--that Mr. Edward
fell in love with.
The servants say they never saw anybody so much in love as he was: he was after her
They used to watch him--servants will, you know, ma'am--and he set store on her past
everything: for all, nobody but him thought her so very handsome.
She was a little small thing, they say, almost like a child.
I never saw her myself; but I've heard Leah, the house-maid, tell of her.
Leah liked her well enough.
Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not twenty; and you see, when
gentlemen of his age fall in love with girls, they are often like as if they were
Well, he would marry her." "You shall tell me this part of the story
another time," I said; "but now I have a particular reason for wishing to hear all
about the fire.
Was it suspected that this lunatic, Mrs. Rochester, had any hand in it?"
"You've hit it, ma'am: it's quite certain that it was her, and nobody but her, that
set it going.
She had a woman to take care of her called Mrs. Poole--an able woman in her line, and
very trustworthy, but for one fault--a fault common to a deal of them nurses and
matrons--she kept a private bottle of gin
by her, and now and then took a drop over- much.
It is excusable, for she had a hard life of it: but still it was dangerous; for when
Mrs. Poole was fast asleep after the gin and water, the mad lady, who was as cunning
as a witch, would take the keys out of her
pocket, let herself out of her chamber, and go roaming about the house, doing any wild
mischief that came into her head.
They say she had nearly burnt her husband in his bed once: but I don't know about
However, on this night, she set fire first to the hangings of the room next her own,
and then she got down to a lower storey, and made her way to the chamber that had
been the governess's--(she was like as if
she knew somehow how matters had gone on, and had a spite at her)--and she kindled
the bed there; but there was nobody sleeping in it, fortunately.
The governess had run away two months before; and for all Mr. Rochester sought
her as if she had been the most precious thing he had in the world, he never could
hear a word of her; and he grew savage--
quite savage on his disappointment: he never was a wild man, but he got dangerous
after he lost her. He would be alone, too.
He sent Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, away to her friends at a distance; but he did it
handsomely, for he settled an annuity on her for life: and she deserved it--she was
a very good woman.
Miss Adele, a ward he had, was put to school.
He broke off acquaintance with all the gentry, and shut himself up like a hermit
at the Hall."
"What! did he not leave England?" "Leave England?
Bless you, no!
He would not cross the door-stones of the house, except at night, when he walked just
like a ghost about the grounds and in the orchard as if he had lost his senses--which
it is my opinion he had; for a more
spirited, bolder, keener gentleman than he was before that midge of a governess
crossed him, you never saw, ma'am.
He was not a man given to wine, or cards, or racing, as some are, and he was not so
very handsome; but he had a courage and a will of his own, if ever man had.
I knew him from a boy, you see: and for my part, I have often wished that Miss Eyre
had been sunk in the sea before she came to Thornfield Hall."
"Then Mr. Rochester was at home when the fire broke out?"
"Yes, indeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all was burning above and
below, and got the servants out of their beds and helped them down himself, and went
back to get his mad wife out of her cell.
And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing,
waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a
mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes.
She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the
flames as she stood.
I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the sky-light
on to the roof; we heard him call 'Bertha!'
We saw him approach her; and then, ma'am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next
minute she lay smashed on the pavement." {The next minute she lay smashed on the
pavement: p413.jpg}
"Dead?" "Dead!
Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were scattered."
"Good God!"
"You may well say so, ma'am: it was frightful!"
He shuddered. "And afterwards?"
I urged.
"Well, ma'am, afterwards the house was burnt to the ground: there are only some
bits of walls standing now." "Were any other lives lost?"
"No--perhaps it would have been better if there had."
"What do you mean?" "Poor Mr. Edward!" he ejaculated, "I little
thought ever to have seen it!
Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping his first marriage secret, and
wanting to take another wife while he had one living: but I pity him, for my part."
"You said he was alive?"
I exclaimed. "Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he
had better be dead." "Why? How?"
My blood was again running cold.
"Where is he?" I demanded.
"Is he in England?" "Ay--ay--he's in England; he can't get out
of England, I fancy--he's a fixture now."
What agony was this! And the man seemed resolved to protract it.
"He is stone-blind," he said at last. "Yes, he is stone-blind, is Mr. Edward."
I had dreaded worse.
I had dreaded he was mad. I summoned strength to ask what had caused
this calamity.
"It was all his own courage, and a body may say, his kindness, in a way, ma'am: he
wouldn't leave the house till every one else was out before him.
As he came down the great staircase at last, after Mrs. Rochester had flung
herself from the battlements, there was a great crash--all fell.
He was taken out from under the ruins, alive, but sadly hurt: a beam had fallen in
such a way as to protect him partly; but one eye was knocked out, and one hand so
crushed that Mr. Carter, the surgeon, had to amputate it directly.
The other eye inflamed: he lost the sight of that also.
He is now helpless, indeed--blind and a cripple."
"Where is he? Where does he now live?"
"At Ferndean, a manor-house on a farm he has, about thirty miles off: quite a
desolate spot." "Who is with him?"
"Old John and his wife: he would have none else.
He is quite broken down, they say." "Have you any sort of conveyance?"
"We have a chaise, ma'am, a very handsome chaise."
"Let it be got ready instantly; and if your post-boy can drive me to Ferndean before
dark this day, I'll pay both you and him twice the hire you usually demand."
The manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable antiquity, moderate size,
and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood.
I had heard of it before.
Mr. Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes went there.
His father had purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers.
He would have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible
and insalubrious site.
Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished, with the exception of some two
or three rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the squire when he went
there in the season to shoot.
To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics of
sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain.
The last mile I performed on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the
double remuneration I had promised.
Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of
it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it.
Iron gates between granite pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through
them, I found myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees.
There was a grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty
shafts and under branched arches.
I followed it, expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it
would far and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way.
The darkness of natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me.
I looked round in search of another road.
There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage--no
opening anywhere.
I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld
a railing, then the house--scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees;
so dank and green were its decaying walls.
Entering a portal, fastened only by a latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed
ground, from which the wood swept away in a semicircle.
There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat,
and this set in the heavy frame of the forest.
The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and
narrow: the front door was narrow too, one step led up to it.
The whole looked, as the host of the Rochester Arms had said, "quite a desolate
It was as still as a church on a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest leaves was
the only sound audible in its vicinage. "Can there be life here?"
I asked.
Yes, life of some kind there was; for I heard a movement--that narrow front-door
was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue from the grange.
It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on the step; a man
without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to feel whether it rained.
Dusk as it was, I had recognised him--it was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester,
and no other.
I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him--to examine him, myself
unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a sudden meeting, and one in which
rapture was kept well in check by pain.
I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from exclamation, my step from hasty
His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his port was
still erect, his hair was still raven black; nor were his features altered or
sunk: not in one year's space, by any
sorrow, could his athletic strength be quelled or his vigorous prime blighted.
But in his countenance I saw a change: that looked desperate and brooding--that
reminded me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to approach
in his sullen woe.
The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has extinguished, might look as
looked that sightless Samson.
And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity?--if you do, you little
know me.
A soft hope blest with my sorrow that soon I should dare to drop a kiss on that brow
of rock, and on those lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet.
I would not accost him yet.
He descended the one step, and advanced slowly and gropingly towards the grass-
plat. Where was his daring stride now?
Then he paused, as if he knew not which way to turn.
He lifted his hand and opened his eyelids; gazed blank, and with a straining effort,
on the sky, and toward the amphitheatre of trees: one saw that all to him was void
He stretched his right hand (the left arm, the mutilated one, he kept hidden in his
bosom); he seemed to wish by touch to gain an idea of what lay around him: he met but
vacancy still; for the trees were some yards off where he stood.
He relinquished the endeavour, folded his arms, and stood quiet and mute in the rain,
now falling fast on his uncovered head.
At this moment John approached him from some quarter.
"Will you take my arm, sir?" he said; "there is a heavy shower coming on: had you
not better go in?"
"Let me alone," was the answer. John withdrew without having observed me.
Mr. Rochester now tried to walk about: vainly,--all was too uncertain.
He groped his way back to the house, and, re-entering it, closed the door.
I now drew near and knocked: John's wife opened for me.
"Mary," I said, "how are you?"
She started as if she had seen a ghost: I calmed her.
To her hurried "Is it really you, miss, come at this late hour to this lonely
I answered by taking her hand; and then I followed her into the kitchen, where John
now sat by a good fire.
I explained to them, in few words, that I had heard all which had happened since I
left Thornfield, and that I was come to see Mr. Rochester.
I asked John to go down to the turn- pike- house, where I had dismissed the chaise,
and bring my trunk, which I had left there: and then, while I removed my bonnet and
shawl, I questioned Mary as to whether I
could be accommodated at the Manor House for the night; and finding that
arrangements to that effect, though difficult, would not be impossible, I
informed her I should stay.
Just at this moment the parlour-bell rang. "When you go in," said I, "tell your master
that a person wishes to speak to him, but do not give my name."
"I don't think he will see you," she answered; "he refuses everybody."
When she returned, I inquired what he had said.
"You are to send in your name and your business," she replied.
She then proceeded to fill a glass with water, and place it on a tray, together
with candles.
"Is that what he rang for?" I asked.
"Yes: he always has candles brought in at dark, though he is blind."
"Give the tray to me; I will carry it in."
I took it from her hand: she pointed me out the parlour door.
The tray shook as I held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heart struck my
ribs loud and fast.
Mary opened the door for me, and shut it behind me.
This parlour looked gloomy: a neglected handful of fire burnt low in the grate;
and, leaning over it, with his head supported against the high, old-fashioned
mantelpiece, appeared the blind tenant of the room.
His old dog, Pilot, lay on one side, removed out of the way, and coiled up as if
afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon.
Pilot pricked up his ears when I came in: then he jumped up with a yelp and a whine,
and bounded towards me: he almost knocked the tray from my hands.
I set it on the table; then patted him, and said softly, "Lie down!"
Mr. Rochester turned mechanically to see what the commotion was: but as he saw
nothing, he returned and sighed.
"Give me the water, Mary," he said. I approached him with the now only half-
filled glass; Pilot followed me, still excited.
"What is the matter?" he inquired.
"Down, Pilot!" I again said.
He checked the water on its way to his lips, and seemed to listen: he drank, and
put the glass down.
"This is you, Mary, is it not?" "Mary is in the kitchen," I answered.
He put out his hand with a quick gesture, but not seeing where I stood, he did not
touch me.
"Who is this? Who is this?" he demanded, trying, as it
seemed, to see with those sightless eyes- -unavailing and distressing attempt!
"Answer me--speak again!" he ordered, imperiously and aloud.
"Will you have a little more water, sir? I spilt half of what was in the glass," I
"Who is it? What is it?
Who speaks?" "Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I
am here.
I came only this evening," I answered. "Great God!--what delusion has come over
me? What sweet madness has seized me?"
"No delusion--no madness: your mind, sir, is too strong for delusion, your health too
sound for frenzy." "And where is the speaker?
Is it only a voice?
Oh! I cannot see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst.
Whatever--whoever you are--be perceptible to the touch or I cannot live!"
He groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
"Her very fingers!" he cried; "her small, slight fingers!
If so there must be more of her."
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder--neck--waist--I
was entwined and gathered to him. "Is it Jane?
What is it?
This is her shape--this is her size--" "And this her voice," I added.
"She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir!
I am glad to be so near you again."
"Jane Eyre!--Jane Eyre," was all he said. "My dear master," I answered, "I am Jane
Eyre: I have found you out--I am come back to you."
"In truth?--in the flesh?
My living Jane?" "You touch me, sir,--you hold me, and fast
enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?"
"My living darling!
These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I cannot be so blest,
after all my misery.
It is a dream; such dreams as I have had at night when I have clasped her once more to
my heart, as I do now; and kissed her, as thus--and felt that she loved me, and
trusted that she would not leave me."
"Which I never will, sir, from this day." "Never will, says the vision?
But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned--
my life dark, lonely, hopeless--my soul athirst and forbidden to drink--my heart
famished and never to be fed.
Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters
have all fled before you: but kiss me before you go--embrace me, Jane."
"There, sir--and there!"'
I pressed my lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes--I swept his hair from his
brow, and kissed that too.
He suddenly seemed to arouse himself: the conviction of the reality of all this
seized him. "It is you--is it, Jane?
You are come back to me then?"
"I am." "And you do not lie dead in some ditch
under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast amongst
"No, sir! I am an independent woman now."
"Independent! What do you mean, Jane?"
"My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds."
"Ah! this is practical--this is real!" he cried: "I should never dream that.
Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as
soft: it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it.--What, Janet!
Are you an independent woman?
A rich woman?"
"If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your
door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an
"But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you,
and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?"
"I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress."
"And you will stay with me?" "Certainly--unless you object.
I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper.
I find you lonely: I will be your companion--to read to you, to walk with
you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you.
Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so
long as I live."
He replied not: he seemed serious-- abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened his
lips as if to speak: he closed them again. I felt a little embarrassed.
Perhaps I had too rashly over-leaped conventionalities; and he, like St. John,
saw impropriety in my inconsiderateness.
I had indeed made my proposal from the idea that he wished and would ask me to be his
wife: an expectation, not the less certain because unexpressed, had buoyed me up, that
he would claim me at once as his own.
But no hint to that effect escaping him and his countenance becoming more overcast, I
suddenly remembered that I might have been all wrong, and was perhaps playing the fool
unwittingly; and I began gently to withdraw
myself from his arms--but he eagerly snatched me closer.
"No--no--Jane; you must not go.
No--I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort of your presence--the sweetness of
your consolation: I cannot give up these joys.
I have little left in myself--I must have you.
The world may laugh--may call me absurd, selfish--but it does not signify.
My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance
on its frame." "Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have
said so."
"Yes--but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another.
You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair--to wait on me as a
kind little nurse (for you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit,
which prompt you to make sacrifices for
those you pity), and that ought to suffice for me no doubt.
I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for you: do you think so?
Come--tell me."
"I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think
it better." "But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet:
you are young--you must marry one day."
"I don't care about being married." "You should care, Janet: if I were what I
once was, I would try to make you care-- but--a sightless block!"
He relapsed again into gloom.
I, on the contrary, became more cheerful, and took fresh courage: these last words
gave me an insight as to where the difficulty lay; and as it was no difficulty
with me, I felt quite relieved from my previous embarrassment.
I resumed a livelier vein of conversation.
"It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you," said I, parting his thick
and long uncut locks; "for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or
something of that sort.
You have a 'faux air' of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about you, that is certain: your
hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds'
claws or not, I have not yet noticed."
"On this arm, I have neither hand nor nails," he said, drawing the mutilated limb
from his breast, and showing it to me. "It is a mere stump--a ghastly sight!
Don't you think so, Jane?"
"It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes--and the scar of fire on your
forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all this;
and making too much of you."
"I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrised
visage." "Did you?
Don't tell me so--lest I should say something disparaging to your judgment.
Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a better fire, and have the hearth swept up.
Can you tell when there is a good fire?"
"Yes; with the right eye I see a glow--a ruddy haze."
"And you see the candles?" "Very dimly--each is a luminous cloud."
"Can you see me?"
"No, my fairy: but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you."
"When do you take supper?" "I never take supper."
"But you shall have some to-night.
I am hungry: so are you, I daresay, only you forget."
Summoning Mary, I soon had the room in more cheerful order: I prepared him, likewise,
a comfortable repast.
My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper, and
for a long time after.
There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him;
for with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him; all I said or did
seemed either to console or revive him.
Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole
nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine.
Blind as he was, smiles played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead: his
lineaments softened and warmed.
After supper, he began to ask me many questions, of where I had been, what I had
been doing, how I had found him out; but I gave him only very partial replies: it was
too late to enter into particulars that night.
Besides, I wished to touch no deep- thrilling chord--to open no fresh well of
emotion in his heart: my sole present aim was to cheer him.
Cheered, as I have said, he was: and yet but by fits.
If a moment's silence broke the conversation, he would turn restless, touch
me, then say, "Jane."
"You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?"
{You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?: p422.jpg}
"I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester."
"Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone
I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was given me
by you: I asked a question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your voice
spoke at my ear."
"Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray."
"And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you.
Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past?
Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of
cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless
sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again.
Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight.
How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me?
Will she not depart as suddenly as she came?
To-morrow, I fear I shall find her no more."
A commonplace, practical reply, out of the train of his own disturbed ideas, was, I
was sure, the best and most reassuring for him in this frame of mind.
I passed my finger over his eyebrows, and remarked that they were scorched, and that
I would apply something which would make them grow as broad and black as ever.
"Where is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit, when, at some fatal
moment, you will again desert me--passing like a shadow, whither and how to me
unknown, and for me remaining afterwards undiscoverable?
"Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?" "What for, Jane?"
"Just to comb out this shaggy black mane.
I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a
fairy, but I am sure, you are more like a brownie."
"Am I hideous, Jane?"
"Very, sir: you always were, you know." "Humph!
The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned."
"Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better
people; possessed of ideas and views you never entertained in your life: quite more
refined and exalted."
"Who the deuce have you been with?" "If you twist in that way you will make me
pull the hair out of your head; and then I think you will cease to entertain doubts of
my substantiality."
"Who have you been with, Jane?"
"You shall not get it out of me to-night, sir; you must wait till to-morrow; to leave
my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of security that I shall appear at
your breakfast table to finish it.
By the bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass of water then: I
must bring an egg at the least, to say nothing of fried ham."
"You mocking changeling--fairy-born and human-bred!
You make me feel as I have not felt these twelve months.
If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised
without the aid of the harp." "There, sir, you are redd up and made
Now I'll leave you: I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am
tired. Good night."
"Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?"
I laughed and made my escape, still laughing as I ran upstairs.
"A good idea!"
I thought with glee. "I see I have the means of fretting him out
of his melancholy for some time to come."
Very early the next morning I heard him up and astir, wandering from one room to
another. As soon as Mary came down I heard the
question: "Is Miss Eyre here?"
Then: "Which room did you put her into? Was it dry?
Is she up? Go and ask if she wants anything; and when
she will come down."
I came down as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast.
Entering the room very softly, I had a view of him before he discovered my presence.
It was mournful, indeed, to witness the subjugation of that vigorous spirit to a
corporeal infirmity.
He sat in his chair--still, but not at rest: expectant evidently; the lines of now
habitual sadness marking his strong features.
His countenance reminded one of a lamp quenched, waiting to be re-lit--and alas!
it was not himself that could now kindle the lustre of animated expression: he was
dependent on another for that office!
I had meant to be gay and careless, but the powerlessness of the strong man touched my
heart to the quick: still I accosted him with what vivacity I could.
"It is a bright, sunny morning, sir," I said.
"The rain is over and gone, and there is a tender shining after it: you shall have a
walk soon."
I had wakened the glow: his features beamed.
"Oh, you are indeed there, my skylark! Come to me.
You are not gone: not vanished?
I heard one of your kind an hour ago, singing high over the wood: but its song
had no music for me, any more than the rising sun had rays.
All the melody on earth is concentrated in my Jane's tongue to my ear (I am glad it is
not naturally a silent one): all the sunshine I can feel is in her presence."
The water stood in my eyes to hear this avowal of his dependence; just as if a
royal eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to entreat a sparrow to become its
But I would not be lachrymose: I dashed off the salt drops, and busied myself with
preparing breakfast. Most of the morning was spent in the open
I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him
how brilliantly green they were; how the flowers and hedges looked refreshed; how
sparklingly blue was the sky.
I sought a seat for him in a hidden and lovely spot, a dry stump of a tree; nor did
I refuse to let him, when seated, place me on his knee.
Why should I, when both he and I were happier near than apart?
Pilot lay beside us: all was quiet. He broke out suddenly while clasping me in
his arms--
"Cruel, cruel deserter!
Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered you had fled from Thornfield, and when I
could nowhere find you; and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that
you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent!
A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks
were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour.
What could my darling do, I asked, left destitute and penniless?
And what did she do? Let me hear now."
Thus urged, I began the narrative of my experience for the last year.
I softened considerably what related to the three days of wandering and starvation,
because to have told him all would have been to inflict unnecessary pain: the
little I did say lacerated his faithful heart deeper than I wished.
I should not have left him thus, he said, without any means of making my way: I
should have told him my intention.
I should have confided in him: he would never have forced me to be his mistress.
Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too
tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would have given me half his fortune,
without demanding so much as a kiss in
return, rather than I should have flung myself friendless on the wide world.
I had endured, he was certain, more than I had confessed to him.
"Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short," I answered: and then
I proceeded to tell him how I had been received at Moor House; how I had obtained
the office of schoolmistress, &c.
The accession of fortune, the discovery of my relations, followed in due order.
Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently in the progress of my tale.
When I had done, that name was immediately taken up.
"This St. John, then, is your cousin?" "Yes."
"You have spoken of him often: do you like him?"
"He was a very good man, sir; I could not help liking him."
"A good man.
Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of fifty?
Or what does it mean?" "St John was only twenty-nine, sir."
"'Jeune encore,' as the French say.
Is he a person of low stature, phlegmatic, and plain.
A person whose goodness consists rather in his guiltlessness of vice, than in his
prowess in virtue."
"He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives
to perform." "But his brain?
That is probably rather soft?
He means well: but you shrug your shoulders to hear him talk?"
"He talks little, sir: what he does say is ever to the point.
His brain is first-rate, I should think not impressible, but vigorous."
"Is he an able man, then?" "Truly able."
"A thoroughly educated man?"
"St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar."
"His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste?--priggish and parsonic?"
"I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste, they must suit it;
they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike."
"His appearance,--I forget what description you gave of his appearance;--a sort of raw
curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-
soled high-lows, eh?"
"St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue
eyes, and a Grecian profile." (Aside.)
"Damn him!"--(To me.)
"Did you like him, Jane?" "Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you
asked me that before." I perceived, of course, the drift of my
Jealousy had got hold of him: she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it gave
him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy.
I would not, therefore, immediately charm the snake.
"Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?" was the next
somewhat unexpected observation.
"Why not, Mr. Rochester?" "The picture you have just drawn is
suggestive of a rather too overwhelming contrast.
Your words have delineated very prettily a graceful Apollo: he is present to your
imagination,--tall, fair, blue- eyed, and with a Grecian profile.
Your eyes dwell on a Vulcan,--a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and
blind and lame into the bargain." "I never thought of it, before; but you
certainly are rather like Vulcan, sir."
"Well, you can leave me, ma'am: but before you go" (and he retained me by a firmer
grasp than ever), "you will be pleased just to answer me a question or two."
He paused.
"What questions, Mr. Rochester?" Then followed this cross-examination.
"St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were his cousin?"
"You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?"
"Daily." "He would approve of your plans, Jane?
I know they would be clever, for you are a talented creature!"
"He approved of them--yes." "He would discover many things in you he
could not have expected to find?
Some of your accomplishments are not ordinary."
"I don't know about that."
"You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever come there to see
you?" "Now and then?"
"Of an evening?"
"Once or twice." A pause.
"How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the cousinship was
"Five months." "Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies
of his family?"
"Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the window, and we by
the table." "Did he study much?"
"A good deal."
"What?" "Hindostanee."
"And what did you do meantime?" "I learnt German, at first."
"Did he teach you?"
"He did not understand German." "Did he teach you nothing?"
"A little Hindostanee." "Rivers taught you Hindostanee?"
"Yes, sir."
"And his sisters also?" "No."
"Only you?" "Only me."
"Did you ask to learn?"
"No." "He wished to teach you?"
"Yes." A second pause.
"Why did he wish it?
Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?" "He intended me to go with him to India."
"Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry him?"
"He asked me to marry him."
"That is a fiction--an impudent invention to vex me."
"I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than once, and was
as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be."
"Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me.
How often am I to say the same thing? Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on
my knee, when I have given you notice to quit?"
"Because I am comfortable there."
"No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not with me: it is
with this cousin--this St. John. Oh, till this moment, I thought my little
Jane was all mine!
I had a belief she loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of sweet in much
Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over our separation, I never
thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another!
But it is useless grieving.
Jane, leave me: go and marry Rivers." "Shake me off, then, sir,--push me away,
for I'll not leave you of my own accord." "Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it
still renews hope, it sounds so truthful.
When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I forget that you have formed a new tie.
But I am not a fool--go--" "Where must I go, sir?"
"Your own way--with the husband you have chosen."
"Who is that?" "You know--this St. John Rivers."
"He is not my husband, nor ever will be.
He does not love me: I do not love him. He loves (as he can love, and that is not
as you love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond.
He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable
missionary's wife, which she would not have done.
He is good and great, but severe; and, for me, cold as an iceberg.
He is not like you, sir: I am not happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him.
He has no indulgence for me--no fondness.
He sees nothing attractive in me; not even youth--only a few useful mental points.--
Then I must leave you, sir, to go to him?"
I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but
beloved master. He smiled.
"What, Jane!
Is this true? Is such really the state of matters between
you and Rivers?" "Absolutely, sir!
Oh, you need not be jealous!
I wanted to tease you a little to make you less sad: I thought anger would be better
than grief.
But if you wish me to love you, could you but see how much I do love you, you would
be proud and content.
All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were
fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever."
Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.
"My seared vision! My crippled strength!" he murmured
I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking, and wanted
to speak for him, but dared not.
As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid,
and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.
"I am no better than the old lightning- struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield
orchard," he remarked ere long.
"And what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with
freshness?" "You are no ruin, sir--no lightning-struck
tree: you are green and vigorous.
Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take
delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and
wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop."
Again he smiled: I gave him comfort. "You speak of friends, Jane?" he asked.
"Yes, of friends," I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I meant more than
friends, but could not tell what other word to employ.
He helped me.
"Ah! Jane. But I want a wife."
"Do you, sir?" "Yes: is it news to you?"
"Of course: you said nothing about it before."
"Is it unwelcome news?" "That depends on circumstances, sir--on
your choice."
"Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision."
"Choose then, sir--her who loves you best."
"I will at least choose--her I love best.
Jane, will you marry me?" "Yes, sir."
"A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?"
"Yes, sir."
"A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?"
"Yes, sir." "Truly, Jane?"
"Most truly, sir."
"Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!"
"Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life--if ever I thought a good
thought--if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer--if ever I wished a
righteous wish,--I am rewarded now.
To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth."
"Because you delight in sacrifice." "Sacrifice!
What do I sacrifice?
Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what
I value--to press my lips to what I love-- to repose on what I trust: is that to make
a sacrifice?
If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."
"And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my deficiencies."
"Which are none, sir, to me.
I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of
proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and
"Hitherto I have hated to be helped--to be led: henceforth, I feel I shall hate it no
I did not like to put my hand into a hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel it
circled by Jane's little fingers.
I preferred utter loneliness to the constant attendance of servants; but Jane's
soft ministry will be a perpetual joy. Jane suits me: do I suit her?"
"To the finest fibre of my nature, sir."
"The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we must be married
instantly." He looked and spoke with eagerness: his old
impetuosity was rising.
"We must become one flesh without any delay, Jane: there is but the licence to
get--then we marry."
"Mr. Rochester, I have just discovered the sun is far declined from its meridian, and
Pilot is actually gone home to his dinner. Let me look at your watch."
"Fasten it into your girdle, Janet, and keep it henceforward: I have no use for
it." "It is nearly four o'clock in the
afternoon, sir.
Don't you feel hungry?" "The third day from this must be our
wedding-day, Jane. Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now:
all that is not worth a fillip."
"The sun has dried up all the rain-drops, sir.
The breeze is still: it is quite hot."
"Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened
round my bronze scrag under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only
treasure, as a memento of her."
"We will go home through the wood: that will be the shadiest way."
He pursued his own thoughts without heeding me.
"Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with
gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now.
He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more
I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed guilt on its
purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me.
I, in my stiff- necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending
to the decree, I defied it.
Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to
pass through the valley of the shadow of death.
His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever.
You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to
foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness?
Of late, Jane--only--only of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in
my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance;
the wish for reconcilement to my Maker.
I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.
"Some days since: nay, I can number them-- four; it was last Monday night, a singular
mood came over me: one in which grief replaced frenzy--sorrow, sullenness.
I had long had the impression that since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead.
Late that night--perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o'clock--ere I
retired to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I
might soon be taken from this life, and
admitted to that world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane.
"I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to
feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars and only by a vague, luminous
haze, knew the presence of a moon.
I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and
I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough
desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and peace once more.
That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged--that I could scarcely endure
more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart's wishes broke involuntarily from
my lips in the words--'Jane!
Jane! Jane!'"
"Did you speak these words aloud?" "I did, Jane.
If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such
frantic energy." "And it was last Monday night, somewhere
near midnight?"
"Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the strange point.
You will think me superstitious,--some superstition I have in my blood, and always
had: nevertheless, this is true--true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.
"As I exclaimed 'Jane!
Jane!' a voice--I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was--
replied, 'I am coming: wait for me;' and a moment after, went whispering on the wind
the words--'Where are you?'
"I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet
it is difficult to express what I want to express.
Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies
'Where are you?' seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo
repeat the words.
Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could have
deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting.
In spirit, I believe we must have met.
You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul
wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your accents--as certain as I
live--they were yours!"
Reader, it was on Monday night--near midnight--that I too had received the
mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it.
I listened to Mr. Rochester's narrative, but made no disclosure in return.
The coincidence struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be communicated or
If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound
impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too
prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural.
I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.
"You cannot now wonder," continued my master, "that when you rose upon me so
unexpectedly last night, I had difficulty in believing you any other than a mere
voice and vision, something that would melt
to silence and annihilation, as the midnight whisper and mountain echo had
melted before. Now, I thank God! I know it to be
Yes, I thank God!" He put me off his knee, rose, and
reverently lifting his hat from his brow, and bending his sightless eyes to the
earth, he stood in mute devotion.
Only the last words of the worship were audible.
"I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, he has remembered mercy.
I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life
than I have done hitherto!" Then he stretched his hand out to be led.
I took that dear hand, held it a moment to my lips, then let it pass round my
shoulder: being so much lower of stature than he, I served both for his prop and
We entered the wood, and wended homeward.
Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the
parson and clerk, were alone present.
When we got back from church, I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary
was cooking the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said--
"Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning."
The housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent phlegmatic order of people,
to whom one may at any time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news
without incurring the danger of having
one's ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by a
torrent of wordy wonderment.
Mary did look up, and she did stare at me: the ladle with which she was basting a pair
of chickens roasting at the fire, did for some three minutes hang suspended in air;
and for the same space of time John's
knives also had rest from the polishing process: but Mary, bending again over the
roast, said only-- "Have you, Miss?
Well, for sure!"
A short time after she pursued--"I seed you go out with the master, but I didn't know
you were gone to church to be wed;" and she basted away.
John, when I turned to him, was grinning from ear to ear.
"I telled Mary how it would be," he said: "I knew what Mr. Edward" (John was an old
servant, and had known his master when he was the cadet of the house, therefore, he
often gave him his Christian name)--"I knew
what Mr. Edward would do; and I was certain he would not wait long neither: and he's
done right, for aught I know. I wish you joy, Miss!" and he politely
pulled his forelock.
"Thank you, John. Mr. Rochester told me to give you and Mary
this." I put into his hand a five-pound note.
Without waiting to hear more, I left the kitchen.
In passing the door of that sanctum some time after, I caught the words--
"She'll happen do better for him nor ony o't' grand ladies."
And again, "If she ben't one o' th' handsomest, she's noan faal and varry good-
natured; and i' his een she's fair beautiful, onybody may see that."
I wrote to Moor House and to Cambridge immediately, to say what I had done: fully
explaining also why I had thus acted. Diana and Mary approved the step
Diana announced that she would just give me time to get over the honeymoon, and then
she would come and see me.
"She had better not wait till then, Jane," said Mr. Rochester, when I read her letter
to him; "if she does, she will be too late, for our honeymoon will shine our life long:
its beams will only fade over your grave or mine."
How St. John received the news, I don't know: he never answered the letter in which
I communicated it: yet six months after he wrote to me, without, however, mentioning
Mr. Rochester's name or alluding to my marriage.
His letter was then calm, and, though very serious, kind.
He has maintained a regular, though not frequent, correspondence ever since: he
hopes I am happy, and trusts I am not of those who live without God in the world,
and only mind earthly things.
You have not quite forgotten little Adele, have you, reader?
I had not; I soon asked and obtained leave of Mr. Rochester, to go and see her at the
school where he had placed her.
Her frantic joy at beholding me again moved me much.
She looked pale and thin: she said she was not happy.
I found the rules of the establishment were too strict, its course of study too severe
for a child of her age: I took her home with me.
I meant to become her governess once more, but I soon found this impracticable; my
time and cares were now required by another--my husband needed them all.
So I sought out a school conducted on a more indulgent system, and near enough to
permit of my visiting her often, and bringing her home sometimes.
I took care she should never want for anything that could contribute to her
comfort: she soon settled in her new abode, became very happy there, and made fair
progress in her studies.
As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French
defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion:
docile, good-tempered, and well-principled.
By her grateful attention to me and mine, she has long since well repaid any little
kindness I ever had it in my power to offer her.
My tale draws to its close: one word respecting my experience of married life,
and one brief glance at the fortunes of those whose names have most frequently
recurred in this narrative, and I have done.
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and
with what I love best on earth.
I hold myself supremely blest--blest beyond what language can express; because I am my
husband's life as fully as he is mine.
No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone
and flesh of his flesh.
I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we
each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently,
we are ever together.
To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company.
We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an
audible thinking.
All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are
precisely suited in character--perfect concord is the result.
Mr. Rochester continued blind the first two years of our union; perhaps it was that
circumstance that drew us so very near-- that knit us so very close: for I was then
his vision, as I am still his right hand.
Literally, I was (what he often called me) the apple of his eye.
He saw nature--he saw books through me; and never did I weary of gazing for his behalf,
and of putting into words the effect of field, tree, town, river, cloud, sunbeam--
of the landscape before us; of the weather
round us--and impressing by sound on his ear what light could no longer stamp on his
Never did I weary of reading to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he
wished to go: of doing for him what he wished to be done.
And there was a pleasure in my services, most full, most exquisite, even though sad-
-because he claimed these services without painful shame or damping humiliation.
He loved me so truly, that he knew no reluctance in profiting by my attendance:
he felt I loved him so fondly, that to yield that attendance was to indulge my
sweetest wishes.
One morning at the end of the two years, as I was writing a letter to his dictation, he
came and bent over me, and said--"Jane, have you a glittering ornament round your
I had a gold watch-chain: I answered "Yes." "And have you a pale blue dress on?"
{And have you a pale blue dress on?: p435.jpg}
I had.
He informed me then, that for some time he had fancied the obscurity clouding one eye
was becoming less dense; and that now he was sure of it.
He and I went up to London.
He had the advice of an eminent oculist; and he eventually recovered the sight of
that one eye.
He cannot now see very distinctly: he cannot read or write much; but he can find
his way without being led by the hand: the sky is no longer a blank to him--the earth
no longer a void.
When his first-born was put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited his
own eyes, as they once were--large, brilliant, and black.
On that occasion, he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God had tempered
judgment with mercy.
My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we most love are
happy likewise.
Diana and Mary Rivers are both married: alternately, once every year, they come to
see us, and we go to see them. Diana's husband is a captain in the navy,
a gallant officer and a good man.
Mary's is a clergyman, a college friend of her brother's, and, from his attainments
and principles, worthy of the connection. Both Captain Fitzjames and Mr. Wharton love
their wives, and are loved by them.
As to St. John Rivers, he left England: he went to India.
He entered on the path he had marked for himself; he pursues it still.
A more resolute, indefatigable pioneer never wrought amidst rocks and dangers.
Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy, and zeal, and truth, he labours for
his race; he clears their painful way to improvement; he hews down like a giant the
prejudices of creed and caste that encumber it.
He may be stern; he may be exacting; he may be ambitious yet; but his is the sternness
of the warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of
His is the exaction of the apostle, who speaks but for Christ, when he says--
"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow
His is the ambition of the high master- spirit, which aims to fill a place in the
first rank of those who are redeemed from the earth--who stand without fault before
the throne of God, who share the last
mighty victories of the Lamb, who are called, and chosen, and faithful.
St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now.
Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil, and the toil draws near its close: his
glorious sun hastens to its setting.
The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my
heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown.
I know that a stranger's hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful
servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord.
And why weep for this?
No fear of death will darken St. John's last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his
heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast.
His own words are a pledge of this--
"My Master," he says, "has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly,--
'Surely I come quickly!' and hourly I more eagerly respond,--'Amen; even so come, Lord