- Mr. Rochester, it seems, by the surgeon's orders, went to bed early
that night; nor did he rise soon next morning. When he did come
down, it was to attend to business: his agent and some of his
tenants were arrived, and waiting to speak with him.
- Adèle and I had now to vacate the library: it would be in daily
requisition as a reception-room for callers. A fire was lit in an
apartment upstairs, and there I carried our books, and arranged it
for the future schoolroom. I discerned in the course of the morning
that Thornfield Hall was a changed place: no longer silent as a
church, it echoed every hour or two to a knock at the door, or a
clang of the bell; steps, too, often traversed the hall, and new
voices spoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer world
was flowing through it; it had a master: for my part, I liked it
- Adèle was not easy to teach that day; she could not apply: she kept
running to the door and looking over the banisters to see if she
could get a glimpse of Mr. Rochester; then she coined pretexts to go
downstairs, in order, as I shrewdly suspected, to visit the library,
where I knew she was not wanted; then, when I got a little angry,
and made her sit still, she continued to talk incessantly of her
"ami, Monsieur Edouard Fairfax de Rochester," as she dubbed him (I
had not before heard his prenomens), and to conjecture what presents
he had brought her: for it appears he had intimated the night
before, that when his luggage came from Millcote, there would be
found amongst it a little box in whose contents she had an interest.
- "Et cela doit signifier," said she, "qu'il y aura là dedans un
cadeau pour moi, et peutêtre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle.
Monsieur a parlé de vous: il m'a demandé le nom de ma gouvernante,
et si elle n'était pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu
pâle. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas,
- I and my pupil dined as usual in Mrs. Fairfax's parlour; the
afternoon was wild and snowy, and we passed it in the schoolroom.
At dark I allowed Adèle to put away books and work, and to run
downstairs; for, from the comparative silence below, and from the
cessation of appeals to the door-bell, I conjectured that Mr.
Rochester was now at liberty. Left alone, I walked to the window;
but nothing was to be seen thence: twilight and snowflakes together
thickened the air, and hid the very shrubs on the lawn. I let down
the curtain and went back to the fireside.
- In the clear embers I was tracing a view, not unlike a picture I
remembered to have seen of the castle of Heidelberg, on the Rhine,
when Mrs. Fairfax came in, breaking up by her entrance the fiery
mosaic I had been piercing together, and scattering too some heavy
unwelcome thoughts that were beginning to throng on my solitude.
- "Mr. Rochester would be glad if you and your pupil would take tea
with him in the drawing-room this evening," said she: "he has been
so much engaged all day that he could not ask to see you before."
- "When is his tea-time?" I inquired.
- "Oh, at six o'clock: he keeps early hours in the country. You had
better change your frock now; I will go with you and fasten it.
Here is a candle."
- "Is it necessary to change my frock?"
- "Yes, you had better: I always dress for the evening when Mr.
Rochester is here."
- This additional ceremony seemed somewhat stately; however, I
repaired to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax's aid, replaced my black
stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional
one I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of
the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate
- "You want a brooch," said Mrs. Fairfax. I had a single little pearl
ornament which Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake: I put it
on, and then we went downstairs. Unused as I was to strangers, it
was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned in Mr.
Rochester's presence. I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into the
dining-room, and kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment;
and, passing the arch, whose curtain was now dropped, entered the
elegant recess beyond.
- Two wax candles stood lighted on the table, and two on the
mantelpiece; basking in the light and heat of a superb fire, lay
Pilot -- Adèle knelt near him. Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr.
Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at
Adèle and the dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my
traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead,
made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I
recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than
beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim
mouth, chin, and jaw -- yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.
His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in
squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in
the athletic sense of the term -- broad chested and thin flanked,
though neither tall nor graceful.
- Mr. Rochester must have been aware of the entrance of Mrs. Fairfax
and myself; but it appeared he was not in the mood to notice us, for
he never lifted his head as we approached.
- "Here is Miss Eyre, sir," said Mrs. Fairfax, in her quiet way. He
bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and
- "Let Miss Eyre be seated," said he: and there was something in the
forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed
further--> to express, "What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be
there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her."
- I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness
would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or
repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh
caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent
quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.
Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt
interested to see how he would go on.
- He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved.
Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be
amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual -- and, as usual,
rather trite -- she condoled with him on the pressure of business he
had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with that
painful sprain: then she commended his patience and perseverance in
going through with it.
- "Madam, I should like some tea," was the sole rejoinder she got.
She hastened to ring the bell; and when the tray came, she proceeded
to arrange the cups, spoons, etc., with assiduous celerity. I and
Adèle went to the table; but the master did not leave his couch.
- "Will you hand Mr. Rochester's cup?" said Mrs. Fairfax to me; "Adèle
might perhaps spill it."
- I did as requested. As he took the cup from my hand, Adèle,
thinking the moment propitious for making a request in my favour,
cried out: --
- "N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre
dans votre petit coffre?"
- "Who talks of cadeaux?" said he gruffly. "Did you expect a present,
Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?" and he searched my face with
eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.
- "I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are
generally thought pleasant things."
- "Generally thought? But what do you think?"
- "I should be obliged to take time, sir, before I could give you an
answer worthy of your acceptance: a present has many faces to it,
has it not? and one should consider all, before pronouncing an
opinion as to its nature."
- "Miss Eyre, you are not so unsophisticated as Adèle: she demands a
'cadeau,' clamorously, the moment she sees me: you beat about the
- "Because I have less confidence in my deserts than Adèle has: she
can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and the right too of
custom; for she says you have always been in the habit of giving her
playthings; but if I had to make out a case I should be puzzled,
since I am a stranger, and have done nothing to entitle me to an
- "Oh, don't fall back on over-modesty! I have examined Adèle, and
find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she
has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement."
- "Sir, you have now given me my 'cadeau;' I am obliged to you: it is
the meed teachers most covet -- praise of their pupils' progress."
- "Humph!" said Mr. Rochester, and he took his tea in silence.
- "Come to the fire," said the master, when the tray was taken away,
and Mrs. Fairfax had settled into a corner with her knitting; while
Adèle was leading me by the hand round the room, showing me the
beautiful books and ornaments on the consoles and chiffonnieres. We
obeyed, as in duty bound; Adèle wanted to take a seat on my knee,
but she was ordered to amuse herself with Pilot.
- "You have been resident in my house three months?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "And you came from----?"
- "From Lowood school, in ----shire."
- "Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?"
- "Eight years."
- "Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the
time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder
you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you
had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last
night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind
to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.
Who are your parents?"
- "I have none."
- "Nor ever had, I suppose: do you remember them?"
- "I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you
sat on that stile?"
- "For whom, sir?"
- "For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them.
Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned
ice on the causeway?"
- I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred
years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not
even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of
them. I don't think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will
ever shine on their revels more."
- Mrs. Fairfax had dropped her knitting, and, with raised eyebrows,
seemed wondering what sort of talk this was.
- "Well," resumed Mr. Rochester, "if you disown parents, you must have
some sort of kinsfolk: uncles and aunts?"
- "No; none that I ever saw."
- "And your home?"
- "I have none."
- "Where do your brothers and sisters live?"
- "I have no brothers or sisters."
- "Who recommended you to come here?"
- "I advertised, and Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement."
- "Yes," said the good lady, who now knew what ground we were upon,
"and I am daily thankful for the choice Providence led me to make.
Miss Eyre has been an invaluable companion to me, and a kind and
careful teacher to Adèle."
- "Don't trouble yourself to give her a character," returned Mr.
Rochester: "eulogiums will not bias me; I shall judge for myself.
She began by felling my horse."
- "Sir?" said Mrs. Fairfax.
- "I have to thank her for this sprain."
- The widow looked bewildered.
- "Miss Eyre, have you ever lived in a town?"
- "No, sir."
- "Have you seen much society?"
- "None but the pupils and teachers of Lowood, and now the inmates of
- "Have you read much?"
- "Only such books as came in my way; and they have not been numerous
or very learned."
- "You have lived the life of a nun: no doubt you are well drilled in
religious forms; -- Brocklehurst, who I understand directs Lowood, is
a parson, is he not?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "And you girls probably worshipped him, as a convent full of
religieuses would worship their director."
- "Oh, no."
- "You are very cool! No! What! a novice not worship her priest!
That sounds blasphemous."
- "I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling.
He is a harsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off our
hair; and for economy's sake bought us bad needles and thread, with
which we could hardly sew."
- "That was very false economy," remarked Mrs. Fairfax, who now again
caught the drift of the dialogue.
- "And was that the head and front of his offending?" demanded Mr.
- "He starved us when he had the sole superintendence of the provision
department, before the committee was appointed; and he bored us with
long lectures once a week, and with evening readings from books of
his own inditing, about sudden deaths and judgments, which made us
afraid to go to bed."
- "What age were you when you went to Lowood?"
- "About ten."
- "And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?"
- I assented.
- "Arithmetic, you see, is useful; without its aid, I should hardly
have been able to guess your age. It is a point difficult to fix
where the features and countenance are so much at variance as in
your case. And now what did you learn at Lowood? Can you play?"
- "A little."
- "Of course: that is the established answer. Go into the library -- I
mean, if you please. -- (Excuse my tone of command; I am used to say,
'Do this,' and it is done: I cannot alter my customary habits for
one new inmate.) -- Go, then, into the library; take a candle with
you; leave the door open; sit down to the piano, and play a tune."
- I departed, obeying his directions.
- "Enough!" he called out in a few minutes. "You play a little, I
see; like any other English school-girl; perhaps rather better than
some, but not well."
- I closed the piano and returned. Mr. Rochester continued.
showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours. I
don't know whether they were entirely of your doing; probably a
master aided you?"
- "No, indeed!" I interjected.
- "Ah! that pricks pride. Well, fetch me your portfolio, if you can
vouch for its contents being original; but don't pass your word
unless you are certain: I can recognise patchwork."
- "Then I will say nothing, and you shall judge for yourself, sir."
- I brought the portfolio from the library.
- "Approach the table," said he; and I wheeled it to his couch. Adèle
and Mrs. Fairfax drew near to see the pictures.
- "No crowding," said Mr. Rochester: "take the drawings from my hand
as I finish with them; but don't push your faces up to mine."
- He deliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting. Three he laid
aside; the others, when he had examined them, he swept from him.
- "Take them off to the other table, Mrs. Fairfax," said he, and look
at them with Adèle; -- you" (glancing at me) "resume your seat, and
answer my questions. I perceive those pictures were done by one
hand: was that hand yours?"
- "And when did you find time to do them? They have taken much time,
and some thought."
- "I did them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowood, when I had
no other occupation."
- "Where did you get your copies?"
- "Out of my head."
- "That head I see now on your shoulders?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "Has it other furniture of the same kind within?"
- "I should think it may have: I should hope -- better."
- He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them
- While he is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what they are:
and first, I must premise that they are nothing wonderful. The
subjects had, indeed, risen vividly on my mind. As I saw them with
the spiritual eye, before I attempted to embody them, they were
striking; but my hand would not second my fancy, and in each case it
had wrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.
- These pictures were in water-colours. The first represented clouds
low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea: all the distance was in
eclipse; so, too, was the foreground; or rather, the nearest
billows, for there was no land. One gleam of light lifted into
relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and
large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet
set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my
palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil
could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse
glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb
clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn.
- The second picture contained for foreground only the dim peak of a
hill, with grass and some leaves slanting as if by a breeze. Beyond
and above spread an expanse of sky, dark blue as at twilight:
rising into the sky was a woman's shape to the bust, portrayed in
tints as dusk and soft as I could combine. The dim forehead was
crowned with a star; the lineaments below were seen as through the
suffusion of vapour; the eyes shone dark and wild; the hair streamed
shadowy, like a beamless cloud torn by storm or by electric travail.
On the neck lay a pale reflection like moonlight; the same faint
lustre touched the train of thin clouds from which rose and bowed
this vision of the Evening Star.
- The third showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter
sky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lances, close
serried, along the horizon. Throwing these into distance, rose, in
the foreground, a head, -- a colossal head, inclined towards the
iceberg, and resting against it. Two thin hands, joined under the
forehead, and supporting it, drew up before the lower features a
sable veil, a brow quite bloodless, white as bone, and an eye
hollow and fixed, blank of meaning but for the glassiness of
despair, alone were visible. Above the temples, amidst wreathed
turban folds of black drapery, vague in its character and
consistency as cloud, gleamed a ring of white flame, gemmed with
sparkles of a more lurid tinge. This pale crescent was "the
likeness of a kingly crown;" what it diademed was "the shape which
shape had none."
- "Were you happy when you painted these pictures?" asked Mr.
- "I was absorbed, sir: yes, and I was happy. To paint them, in
short, was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known."
- "That is not saying much. Your pleasures, by your own account, have
been few; but I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist's
dreamland while you blent and arranged these strange tints. Did you
sit at them long each day?"
- "I had nothing else to do, because it was the vacation, and I sat at
them from morning till noon, and from noon till night: the length
of the midsummer days favoured my inclination to apply."
- "And you felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardent
- "Far from it. I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and
my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was
quite powerless to realise."
- "Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no
more, probably. You had not enough of the artist's skill and
science to give it full being: yet the drawings are, for a school-girl, peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish. These eyes in
the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make
them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet
above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn
depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in
that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that
is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!"
- I had scarce tied the strings of the portfolio, when, looking at his
watch, he said abruptly --
- "It is nine o'clock: what are you about, Miss Eyre, to let Adèle
sit up so long? Take her to bed."
- Adèle went to kiss him before quitting the room: he endured the
caress, but scarcely seemed to relish it more than Pilot would have
done, nor so much.
- "I wish you all good-night, now," said he, making a movement of the
hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company,
and wished to dismiss us. Mrs. Fairfax folded up her knitting: I
took my portfolio: we curtseyed to him, received a frigid bow in
return, and so withdrew.
- "You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,"
I observed, when I rejoined her in her room, after putting Adèle to
- "Well, is he?"
- "I think so: he is very changeful and abrupt."
- "True: no doubt he may appear so to a stranger, but I am so
accustomed to his manner, I never think of it; and then, if he has
peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made."
- "Partly because it is his nature -- and we can none of us help our
nature; and partly because he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to
harass him, and make his spirits unequal."
- "What about?"
- "Family troubles, for one thing."
- "But he has no family."
- "Not now, but he has had -- or, at least, relatives. He lost his
elder brother a few years since."
- "His elder brother?"
- "Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long in
possession of the property; only about nine years."
- "Nine years is a tolerable time. Was he so very fond of his brother
as to be still inconsolable for his loss?"
- "Why, no -- perhaps not. I believe there were some misunderstandings
between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr.
Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old
gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate
together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and
yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep
up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some
steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of
mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr.
Edward into what he considered a painful position, for the sake of
making his fortune: what the precise nature of that position was I
never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook what he had to
suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke with his family,
and now for many years he has led an unsettled kind of life. I
don't think he has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnight
together, since the death of his brother without a will left him
master of the estate; and, indeed, no wonder he shuns the old
- "Why should he shun it?"
- "Perhaps he thinks it gloomy."
- The answer was evasive. I should have liked something clearer; but
Mrs. Fairfax either could not, or would not, give me more explicit
information of the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester's trials. She
averred they were a mystery to herself, and that what she knew was
chiefly from conjecture. It was evident, indeed, that she wished me
to drop the subject, which I did accordingly.
- For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester. In the
mornings he seemed much engaged with business, and, in the
afternoon, gentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood called, and
sometimes stayed to dine with him. When his sprain was well enough
to admit of horse exercise, he rode out a good deal; probably to
return these visits, as he generally did not come back till late at
- During this interval, even Adèle was seldom sent for to his
presence, and all my acquaintance with him was confined to an
occasional rencontre in the hall, on the stairs, or in the gallery,
when he would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, just
acknowledging my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and
sometimes bow and smile with gentlemanlike affability. His changes
of mood did not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do
with their alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite
disconnected with me.
- One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio;
in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents: the gentlemen went
away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs. Fairfax
informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr. Rochester
did not accompany them. Soon after they were gone he rang the bell:
a message came that I and Adèle were to go downstairs. I brushed
Adèle's hair and made her neat, and having ascertained that I was
myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch --
all being too close and plain, braided locks included, to admit of
disarrangement -- we descended, Adèle wondering whether the petit
coffre was at length come; for, owing to some mistake, its arrival
had hitherto been delayed. She was gratified: there it stood, a
little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room. She
appeared to know it by instinct.
- "Ma boite! ma boite!" exclaimed she, running towards it.
- "Yes, there is your 'boite' at last: take it into a corner, you
genuine daughter of Paris, and amuse yourself with disembowelling
it," said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr. Rochester,
proceeding from the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside.
"And mind," he continued, "don't bother me with any details of the
anatomical process, or any notice of the condition of the entrails:
let your operation be conducted in silence: tiens-toi tranquille,
- Adèle seemed scarcely to need the warning -- she had already retired
to a sofa with her treasure, and was busy untying the cord which
secured the lid. Having removed this impediment, and lifted certain
silvery envelopes of tissue paper, she merely exclaimed: --
- "Oh ciel! Que c'est beau!" and then remained absorbed in ecstatic
- "Is Miss Eyre there?" now demanded the master, half rising from his
seat to look round to the door, near which I still stood.
- "Ah! well, come forward; be seated here." He drew a chair near his
own. "I am not fond of the prattle of children," he continued;
"for, old bachelor as I am, I have no pleasant associations
connected with their lisp. It would be intolerable to me to pass a
whole evening tête-à-tête with a brat. Don't draw that chair
farther off, Miss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it -- if you
please, that is. Confound these civilities! I continually forget
them. Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies. By-the-bye, I must have mine in mind; it won't do to neglect her; she
is a Fairfax, or wed to one; and blood is said to be thicker than
- He rang, and despatched an invitation to Mrs. Fairfax, who soon
arrived, knitting-basket in hand.
- "Good evening, madam; I sent to you for a charitable purpose. I
have forbidden Adèle to talk to me about her presents, and she is
bursting with repletion: have the goodness to serve her as
auditress and interlocutrice; it will be one of the most benevolent
acts you ever performed."
- Adèle, indeed, no sooner saw Mrs. Fairfax, than she summoned her to
her sofa, and there quickly filled her lap with the porcelain, the
ivory, the waxen contents of her "boite;" pouring out, meantime,
explanations and raptures in such broken English as she was mistress
- "Now I have performed the part of a good host," pursued Mr.
Rochester, "put my guests into the way of amusing each other, I
ought to be at liberty to attend to my own pleasure. Miss Eyre,
draw your chair still a little farther forward: you are yet too far
back; I cannot see you without disturbing my position in this
comfortable chair, which I have no mind to do."
- I did as I was bid, though I would much rather have remained
somewhat in the shade; but Mr. Rochester had such a direct way of
giving orders, it seemed a matter of course to obey him promptly.
- We were, as I have said, in the dining-room: the lustre, which had
been lit for dinner, filled the room with a festal breadth of light;
the large fire was all red and clear; the purple curtains hung rich
and ample before the lofty window and loftier arch; everything was
still, save the subdued chat of Adèle (she dared not speak loud),
and, filling up each pause, the beating of winter rain against the
- Mr. Rochester, as he sat in his damask-covered chair, looked
different to what I had seen him look before; not quite so stern --
much less gloomy. There was a smile on his lips, and his eyes
sparkled, whether with wine or not, I am not sure; but I think it
very probable. He was, in short, in his after-dinner mood; more
expanded and genial, and also more self-indulgent than the frigid
and rigid temper of the morning; still he looked preciously grim,
cushioning his massive head against the swelling back of his chair,
and receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn features,
and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes, and very
fine eyes, too -- not without a certain change in their depths
sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of
- He had been looking two minutes at the fire, and I had been looking
the same length of time at him, when, turning suddenly, he caught my
gaze fastened on his physiognomy.
- "You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he: "do you think me handsome?"
- I should, if I had deliberated, have replied to this question by
something conventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehow
slipped from my tongue before I was aware -- "No, sir."
- "Ah! By my word! there is something singular about you," said he:
"you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and
simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes
generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-bye, when they are
directed piercingly to my face; as just now, for instance); and when
one asks you a question, or makes a remark to which you are obliged
to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at
least brusque. What do you mean by it?"
- "Sir, I was too plain; I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied
that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about
appearances; that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of little
consequence, or something of that sort."
- "You ought to have replied no such thing. Beauty of little
consequence, indeed! And so, under pretence of softening the
previous outrage, of stroking and soothing me into placidity, you
stick a sly penknife under my ear! Go on: what fault do you find
with me, pray? I suppose I have all my limbs and all my features
like any other man?"
- "Mr. Rochester, allow me to disown my first answer: I intended no
pointed repartee: it was only a blunder."
- "Just so: I think so: and you shall be answerable for it.
Criticise me: does my forehead not please you?"
- He lifted up the sable waves of hair which lay horizontally over his
brow, and showed a solid enough mass of intellectual organs, but an
abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have
- "Now, ma'am, am I a fool?"
- "Far from it, sir. You would, perhaps, think me rude if I inquired
in return whether you are a philanthropist?"
- "There again! Another stick of the penknife, when she pretended to
pat my head: and that is because I said I did not like the society
of children and old women (low be it spoken!). No, young lady, I am
not a general philanthropist; but I bear a conscience;" and he
pointed to the prominences which are said to indicate that faculty,
and which, fortunately for him, were sufficiently conspicuous;
giving, indeed, a marked breadth to the upper part of his head:
"and, besides, I once had a kind of rude tenderness of heart. When
I was as old as you, I was a feeling fellow enough, partial to the
unfledged, unfostered, and unlucky; but Fortune has knocked me about
since: she has even kneaded me with her knuckles, and now I flatter
myself I am hard and tough as an India-rubber ball; pervious,
though, through a chink or two still, and with one sentient point in
the middle of the lump. Yes: does that leave hope for me?"
- "Hope of what, sir?"
- "Of my final re-transformation from India-rubber back to flesh?"
- "Decidedly he has had too much wine," I thought; and I did not know
what answer to make to his queer question: how could I tell whether
he was capable of being re-transformed?
- "You looked very much puzzled, Miss Eyre; and though you are not
pretty any more than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you;
besides, it is convenient, for it keeps those searching eyes of
yours away from my physiognomy, and busies them with the worsted
flowers of the rug; so puzzle on. Young lady, I am disposed to be
gregarious and communicative to-night."
- With this announcement he rose from his chair, and stood, leaning
his arm on the marble mantelpiece: in that attitude his shape was
seen plainly as well as his face; his unusual breadth of chest,
disproportionate almost to his length of limb. I am sure most
people would have thought him an ugly man; yet there was so much
unconscious pride in his port; so much ease in his demeanour; such a
look of complete indifference to his own external appearance; so
haughty a reliance on the power of other qualities, intrinsic or
adventitious, to atone for the lack of mere personal attractiveness,
that, in looking at him, one inevitably shared the indifference,
and, even in a blind, imperfect sense, put faith in the confidence.
- "I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative to-night," he
repeated, "and that is why I sent for you: the fire and the
chandelier were not sufficient company for me; nor would Pilot have
been, for none of these can talk. Adèle is a degree better, but
still far below the mark; Mrs. Fairfax ditto; you, I am persuaded,
can suit me if you will: you puzzled me the first evening I invited
you down here. I have almost forgotten you since: other ideas have
driven yours from my head; but to-night I am resolved to be at ease;
to dismiss what importunes, and recall what pleases. It would
please me now to draw you out -- to learn more of you -- therefore
- Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complacent or
submissive smile either.
- "Speak," he urged.
- "What about, sir?"
- "Whatever you like. I leave both the choice of subject and the
manner of treating it entirely to yourself."
- Accordingly I sat and said nothing: "If he expects me to talk for
the mere sake of talking and showing off, he will find he has
addressed himself to the wrong person," I thought.
- "You are dumb, Miss Eyre."
- I was dumb still. He bent his head a little towards me, and with a
single hasty glance seemed to dive into my eyes.
- "Stubborn?" he said, "and annoyed. Ah! it is consistent. I put my
request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your
pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don't wish to treat you like
an inferior: that is" (correcting himself), "I claim only such
superiority as must result from twenty years' difference in age and
a century's advance in experience. This is legitimate, et j'y
tiens, as Adèle would say; and it is by virtue of this superiority,
and this alone, that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me
a little now, and divert my thoughts, which are galled with dwelling
on one point -- cankering as a rusty nail."
- He had deigned an explanation, almost an apology, and I did not feel
insensible to his condescension, and would not seem so.
- "I am willing to amuse you, if I can, sir -- quite willing; but I
cannot introduce a topic, because how do I know what will interest
you? Ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them."
- "Then, in the first place, do you agree with me that I have a right
to be a little masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on
the grounds I stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your
father, and that I have battled through a varied experience with
many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you
have lived quietly with one set of people in one house?"
- "Do as you please, sir."
- "That is no answer; or rather it is a very irritating, because a
very evasive one. Reply clearly."
- "I don't think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because
you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world
than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have
made of your time and experience."
- "Humph! Promptly spoken. But I won't allow that, seeing that it
would never suit my case, as I have made an indifferent, not to say
a bad, use of both advantages. Leaving superiority out of the
question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and
then, without being piqued or hurt by the tone of command. Will
- I smiled: I thought to myself Mr. Rochester IS peculiar -- he seems
to forget that he pays me £30 per annum for receiving his
- "The smile is very well," said he, catching instantly the passing
expression; "but speak too."
- "I was thinking, sir, that very few masters would trouble themselves
to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were piqued and
hurt by their orders."
- "Paid subordinates! What! you are my paid subordinate, are you? Oh
yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well then, on that mercenary
ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?"
- "No, sir, not on that ground; but, on the ground that you did forget
it, and that you care whether or not a dependent is comfortable in
his dependency, I agree heartily."
- "And will you consent to dispense with a great many conventional
forms and phrases, without thinking that the omission arises from
- "I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence:
one I rather like, the other nothing free-born would submit to, even
for a salary."
- "Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for a
salary; therefore, keep to yourself, and don't venture on
generalities of which you are intensely ignorant. However, I
mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its
inaccuracy; and as much for the manner in which it was said, as for
the substance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; one
does not often see such a manner: no, on the contrary, affectation,
or coldness, or stupid, coarse-minded misapprehension of one's
meaning are the usual rewards of candour. Not three in three
thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you
have just done. But I don't mean to flatter you: if you are cast
in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours:
Nature did it. And then, after all, I go too fast in my
conclusions: for what I yet know, you may be no better than the
rest; you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few
- "And so may you," I thought. My eye met his as the idea crossed my
mind: he seemed to read the glance, answering as if its import had
been spoken as well as imagined: --
- "Yes, yes, you are right," said he; "I have plenty of faults of my
own: I know it, and I don't wish to palliate them, I assure you.
God wot I need not be too severe about others; I have a past
existence, a series of deeds, a colour of life to contemplate within
my own breast, which might well call my sneers and censures from my
neighbours to myself. I started, or rather (for like other
defaulters, I like to lay half the blame on ill fortune and adverse
circumstances) was thrust on to a wrong tack at the age of one-and-twenty, and have never recovered the right course since: but I
might have been very different; I might have been as good as you --
wiser -- almost as stainless. I envy you your peace of mind, your
clean conscience, your unpolluted memory. Little girl, a memory
without blot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure -- an
inexhaustible source of pure refreshment: is it not?"
- "How was your memory when you were eighteen, sir?"
- "All right then; limpid, salubrious: no gush of bilge water had
turned it to fetid puddle. I was your equal at eighteen -- quite your
equal. Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre;
one of the better kind, and you see I am not so. You would say you
don't see it; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye
(beware, by-the-bye, what you express with that organ; I am quick at
interpreting its language). Then take my word for it, -- I am not a
villain: you are not to suppose that -- not to attribute to me any
such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to
circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite commonplace
sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the
rich and worthless try to put on life. Do you wonder that I avow
this to you? Know, that in the course of your future life you will
often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your
acquaintances' secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I
have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to
listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that
you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with
a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging
because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations."
- "How do you know? -- how can you guess all this, sir?"
- "I know it well; therefore I proceed almost as freely as if I were
writing my thoughts in a diary. You would say, I should have been
superior to circumstances; so I should -- so I should; but you see I
was not. When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool:
I turned desperate; then I degenerated. Now, when any vicious
simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot
flatter myself that I am better than he: I am forced to confess
that he and I are on a level. I wish I had stood firm -- God knows I
do! Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse
is the poison of life."
- "Repentance is said to be its cure, sir."
- "It is not its cure. Reformation may be its cure; and I could
reform -- I have strength yet for that -- if -- but where is the use of
thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am? Besides, since
happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure
out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may."
- "Then you will degenerate still more, sir."
- "Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure?
And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee
gathers on the moor."
- "It will sting -- it will taste bitter, sir."
- "How do you know? -- you never tried it. How very serious -- how very
solemn you look: and you are as ignorant of the matter as this
cameo head" (taking one from the mantelpiece). "You have no right
to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of
life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries."
- "I only remind you of your own words, sir: you said error brought
remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence."
- "And who talks of error now? I scarcely think the notion that
flittered across my brain was an error. I believe it was an
inspiration rather than a temptation: it was very genial, very
soothing -- I know that. Here it comes again! It is no devil, I
assure you; or if it be, it has put on the robes of an angel of
light. I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance
to my heart."
- "Distrust it, sir; it is not a true angel."
- "Once more, how do you know? By what instinct do you pretend to
distinguish between a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messenger
from the eternal throne -- between a guide and a seducer?"
- "I judged by your countenance, sir, which was troubled when you said
the suggestion had returned upon you. I feel sure it will work you
more misery if you listen to it."
- "Not at all -- it bears the most gracious message in the world: for
the rest, you are not my conscience-keeper, so don't make yourself
uneasy. Here, come in, bonny wanderer!"
- He said this as if he spoke to a vision, viewless to any eye but his
own; then, folding his arms, which he had half extended, on his
chest, he seemed to enclose in their embrace the invisible being.
- "Now," he continued, again addressing me, "I have received the
pilgrim -- a disguised deity, as I verify believe. Already it has
done me good: my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a
- "To speak truth, sir, I don't understand you at all: I cannot keep
up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth. Only one
thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to
be, and that you regretted your own imperfection; -- one thing I can
comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a
perpetual bane. It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would
in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve;
and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your
thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new
and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with
- "Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am
paving hell with energy."
- "I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint.
Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have
- "And better?"
- "And better -- so much better as pure ore is than foul dross. You
seem to doubt me; I don't doubt myself: I know what my aim is, what
my motives are; and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that
of the Medes and Persians, that both are right."
- "They cannot be, sir, if they require a new statute to legalise
- "They are, Miss Eyre, though they absolutely require a new statute:
unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules."
- "That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir; because one can see at once
that it is liable to abuse."
- "Sententious sage! so it is: but I swear by my household gods not
to abuse it."
- "You are human and fallible."
- "I am: so are you -- what then?"
- "The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the
divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted."
- "What power?"
- "That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action, -- 'Let
it be right.'"
- "'Let it be right' -- the very words: you have pronounced them."
- "May it be right then," I said, as I rose, deeming it useless to
continue a discourse which was all darkness to me; and, besides,
sensible that the character of my interlocutor was beyond my
penetration; at least, beyond its present reach; and feeling the
uncertainty, the vague sense of insecurity, which accompanies a
conviction of ignorance.
- "Where are you going?"
- "To put Adèle to bed: it is past her bedtime."
- "You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Sphynx."
- "Your language is enigmatical, sir: but though I am bewildered, I
am certainly not afraid."
- "You are afraid -- your self-love dreads a blunder."
- "In that sense I do feel apprehensive -- I have no wish to talk
- "If you did, it would be in such a grave, quiet manner, I should
mistake it for sense. Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don't trouble
yourself to answer -- I see you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very
merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I
am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you
somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and
restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a
brother -- or father, or master, or what you will -- to smile too gaily,
speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you
will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be
conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have
more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now. I see at
intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set
bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were
it but free, it would soar cloud-high. You are still bent on
- "It has struck nine, sir."
- "Never mind, -- wait a minute: Adèle is not ready to go to bed yet.
My position, Miss Eyre, with my back to the fire, and my face to the
room, favours observation. While talking to you, I have also
occasionally watched Adèle (I have my own reasons for thinking her a
curious study, -- reasons that I may, nay, that I shall, impart to you
some day). She pulled out of her box, about ten minutes ago, a
little pink silk frock; rapture lit her face as she unfolded it;
coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the
marrow of her bones. 'Il faut que je l'essaie!' cried she, 'et à
l'instant même!' and she rushed out of the room. She is now with
Sophie, undergoing a robing process: in a few minutes she will re-enter; and I know what I shall see, -- a miniature of Céline Varens,
as she used to appear on the boards at the rising of -- But never
mind that. However, my tenderest feelings are about to receive a
shock: such is my presentiment; stay now, to see whether it will be
- Ere long, Adèle's little foot was heard tripping across the hall.
She entered, transformed as her guardian had predicted. A dress of
rose-coloured satin, very short, and as full in the skirt as it
could be gathered, replaced the brown frock she had previously worn;
a wreath of rosebuds circled her forehead; her feet were dressed in
silk stockings and small white satin sandals.
- "Est-ce que ma robe va bien?" cried she, bounding forwards; "et mes
souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je crois que je vais danser!"
- And spreading out her dress, she chasséed across the room till,
having reached Mr. Rochester, she wheeled lightly round before him
on tip-toe, then dropped on one knee at his feet, exclaiming: --
- "Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonté;" then rising,
she added, "C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce pas,
- "Pre-cise-ly!" was the answer; "and, 'comme cela,' she charmed my
English gold out of my British breeches' pocket. I have been green,
too, Miss Eyre, -- ay, grass green: not a more vernal tint freshens
you now than once freshened me. My Spring is gone, however, but it
has left me that French floweret on my hands, which, in some moods,
I would fain be rid of. Not valuing now the root whence it sprang;
having found that it was of a sort which nothing but gold dust could
manure, I have but half a liking to the blossom, especially when it
looks so artificial as just now. I keep it and rear it rather on
the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or
small, by one good work. I'll explain all this some day. Good-night."
- MR. ROCHESTER did, on a future occasion, explain it.
- It was one
afternoon, when he chanced to meet me and Adèle in the grounds: and
while she played with Pilot and her shuttlecock, he asked me to walk
up and down a long beech avenue within sight of her.
- He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer,
Céline Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a
"grande passion." This passion Céline had professed to return with
even superior ardour. He thought himself her idol, ugly as he was:
he believed, as he said, that she preferred his "taille d'athlete"
to the elegance of the Apollo Belvidere.
- "And, Miss Eyre, so much was I flattered by this preference of the
Gallic sylph for her British gnome, that I installed her in an
hotel; gave her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage,
cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, etc. In short, I began the process
of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony. I
had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame
and destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not
to deviate an inch from the beaten centre. I had -- as I deserved to
have -- the fate of all other spoonies. Happening to call one evening
when Céline did not expect me, I found her out; but it was a warm
night, and I was tired with strolling through Paris, so I sat down
in her boudoir; happy to breathe the air consecrated so lately by
her presence. No, -- I exaggerate; I never thought there was any
consecrating virtue about her: it was rather a sort of pastille
perfume she had left; a scent of musk and amber, than an odour of
sanctity. I was just beginning to stifle with the fumes of
conservatory flowers and sprinkled essences, when I bethought myself
to open the window and step out on to the balcony. It was moonlight
and gaslight besides, and very still and serene. The balcony was
furnished with a chair or two; I sat down, and took out a cigar, -- I
will take one now, if you will excuse me."
- Here ensued a pause, filled up by the producing and lighting of a
cigar; having placed it to his lips and breathed a trail of Havannah
incense on the freezing and sunless air, he went on: --
- "I liked bonbons too in those days, Miss Eyre, and I was croquant --
(overlook the barbarism) -- croquant chocolate comfits, and smoking
alternately, watching meantime the equipages that rolled along the
fashionable streets towards the neighbouring opera-house, when in an
elegant close carriage drawn by a beautiful pair of English horses,
and distinctly seen in the brilliant city-night, I recognised the
'voiture' I had given Céline. She was returning: of course my
heart thumped with impatience against the iron rails I leant upon.
The carriage stopped, as I had expected, at the hotel door; my flame
(that is the very word for an opera inamorata) alighted: though
muffed in a cloak -- an unnecessary encumbrance, by-the-bye, on so
warm a June evening -- I knew her instantly by her little foot, seen
peeping from the skirt of her dress, as she skipped from the
carriage-step. Bending over the balcony, I was about to murmur 'Mon
ange' -- in a tone, of course, which should be audible to the ear of
love alone -- when a figure jumped from the carriage after her;
cloaked also; but that was a spurred heel which had rung on the
pavement, and that was a hatted head which now passed under the
arched porte cochère of the hotel.
- "You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I
need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both
sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to
be given which shall waken it. You think all existence lapses in as
quiet a flow as that in which your youth has hitherto slid away.
Floating on with closed eyes and muffled ears, you neither see the
rocks bristling not far off in the bed of the flood, nor hear the
breakers boil at their base. But I tell you -- and you may mark my
words -- you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where
the whole of life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult,
foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points,
or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current -- as I am now.
- "I like this day; I like that sky of steel; I like the sternness and
stillness of the world under this frost. I like Thornfield, its
antiquity, its retirement, its old crow-trees and thorn-trees, its
grey facade, and lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin:
and yet how long have I abhorred the very thought of it, shunned it
like a great plague-house? How I do still abhor" ----
- He ground his teeth and was silent: he arrested his step and struck
his boot against the hard ground. Some hated thought seemed to have
him in its grip, and to hold him so tightly that he could not
- We were ascending the avenue when he thus paused; the hall was
before us. Lifting his eye to its battlements, he cast over them a
glare such as I never saw before or since. Pain, shame, ire,
impatience, disgust, detestation, seemed momentarily to hold a
quivering conflict in the large pupil dilating under his ebon
eyebrow. Wild was the wrestle which should be paramount; but
another feeling rose and triumphed: something hard and cynical:
self-willed and resolute: it settled his passion and petrified his
countenance: he went on: --
- "During the moment I was silent, Miss Eyre, I was arranging a point
with my destiny. She stood there, by that beech-trunk -- a hag like
one of those who appeared to Macbeth on the heath of Forres. 'You
like Thornfield?' she said, lifting her finger; and then she wrote
in the air a memento, which ran in lurid hieroglyphics all along the
house-front, between the upper and lower row of windows, 'Like it if
you can! Like it if you dare!'
- "'I will like it,' said I; 'I dare like it;' and" (he subjoined
moodily) "I will keep my word; I will break obstacles to happiness,
to goodness -- yes, goodness. I wish to be a better man than I have
been, than I am; as Job's leviathan broke the spear, the dart, and
the habergeon, hindrances which others count as iron and brass, I
will esteem but straw and rotten wood."
- Adèle here ran before him with her shuttlecock. "Away!" he cried
harshly; "keep at a distance, child; or go in to Sophie!"
Continuing then to pursue his walk in silence, I ventured to recall
him to the point whence he had abruptly diverged: --
- "Did you leave the balcony, sir," I asked, "when Mdlle. Varens
- I almost expected a rebuff for this hardly well-timed question, but,
on the contrary, waking out of his scowling abstraction, he turned
his eyes towards me, and the shade seemed to clear off his brow.
"Oh, I had forgotten Céline! Well, to resume. When I saw my
charmer thus come in accompanied by a cavalier, I seemed to hear a
hiss, and the green snake of jealousy, rising on undulating coils
from the moonlit balcony, glided within my waistcoat, and ate its
way in two minutes to my heart's core. Strange!" he exclaimed,
suddenly starting again from the point. "Strange that I should
choose you for the confidant of all this, young lady; passing
strange that you should listen to me quietly, as if it were the most
usual thing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of his
opera-mistresses to a quaint, inexperienced girl like you! But the
last singularity explains the first, as I intimated once before:
you, with your gravity, considerateness, and caution were made to be
the recipient of secrets. Besides, I know what sort of a mind I
have placed in communication with my own: I know it is one not
liable to take infection: it is a peculiar mind: it is a unique
one. Happily I do not mean to harm it: but, if I did, it would not
take harm from me. The more you and I converse, the better; for
while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me." After this
digression he proceeded: --
- "I remained in the balcony. 'They will come to her boudoir, no
doubt,' thought I: 'let me prepare an ambush.' So putting my hand
in through the open window, I drew the curtain over it, leaving only
an opening through which I could take observations; then I closed
the casement, all but a chink just wide enough to furnish an outlet
to lovers' whispered vows: then I stole back to my chair; and as I
resumed it the pair came in. My eye was quickly at the aperture.
Céline's chamber-maid entered, lit a lamp, left it on the table, and
withdrew. The couple were thus revealed to me clearly: both
removed their cloaks, and there was 'the Varens,' shining in satin
and jewels, -- my gifts of course, -- and there was her companion in an
officer's uniform; and I knew him for a young roue of a vicomte -- a
brainless and vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in society, and
had never thought of hating because I despised him so absolutely.
On recognising him, the fang of the snake Jealousy was instantly
broken; because at the same moment my love for Céline sank under an
extinguisher. A woman who could betray me for such a rival was not
worth contending for; she deserved only scorn; less, however, than
I, who had been her dupe.
- "They began to talk; their conversation eased me completely:
frivolous, mercenary, heartless, and senseless, it was rather
calculated to weary than enrage a listener. A card of mine lay on
the table; this being perceived, brought my name under discussion.
Neither of them possessed energy or wit to belabour me soundly, but
they insulted me as coarsely as they could in their little way:
especially Céline, who even waxed rather brilliant on my personal
defects -- deformities she termed them. Now it had been her custom to
launch out into fervent admiration of what she called my 'beauté
mâle:' wherein she differed diametrically from you, who told me
point-blank, at the second interview, that you did not think me
handsome. The contrast struck me at the time and" ----
- Adèle here came running up again.
- "Monsieur, John has just been to say that your agent has called and
wishes to see you."
- "Ah! in that case I must abridge. Opening the window, I walked in
upon them; liberated Céline from my protection; gave her notice to
vacate her hotel; offered her a purse for immediate exigencies;
disregarded screams, hysterics, prayers, protestations, convulsions;
made an appointment with the vicomte for a meeting at the Bois de
Boulogne. Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left
a bullet in one of his poor etiolated arms, feeble as the wing of a
chicken in the pip, and then thought I had done with the whole crew.
But unluckily the Varens, six months before, had given me this
filette Adèle, who, she affirmed, was my daughter; and perhaps she
may be, though I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in her
countenance: Pilot is more like me than she. Some years after I
had broken with the mother, she abandoned her child, and ran away to
Italy with a musician or singer. I acknowledged no natural claim on
Adèle's part to be supported by me, nor do I now acknowledge any,
for I am not her father; but hearing that she was quite destitute, I
e'en took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and
transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an
English country garden. Mrs. Fairfax found you to train it; but now
you know that it is the illegitimate offspring of a French opera-girl, you will perhaps think differently of your post and protégée:
you will be coming to me some day with notice that you have found
another place -- that you beg me to look out for a new governess, etc. -- Eh?"
- "No: Adèle is not answerable for either her mother's faults or
yours: I have a regard for her; and now that I know she is, in a
sense, parentless -- forsaken by her mother and disowned by you, sir --
I shall cling closer to her than before. How could I possibly
prefer the spoilt pet of a wealthy family, who would hate her
governess as a nuisance, to a lonely little orphan, who leans
towards her as a friend?"
- "Oh, that is the light in which you view it! Well, I must go in
now; and you too: it darkens."
- But I stayed out a few minutes longer with Adèle and Pilot -- ran a
race with her, and played a game of battledore and shuttlecock.
When we went in, and I had removed her bonnet and coat, I took her
on my knee; kept her there an hour, allowing her to prattle as she
liked: not rebuking even some little freedoms and trivialities into
which she was apt to stray when much noticed, and which betrayed in
her a superficiality of character, inherited probably from her
mother, hardly congenial to an English mind. Still she had her
merits; and I was disposed to appreciate all that was good in her to
the utmost. I sought in her countenance and features a likeness to
Mr. Rochester, but found none: no trait, no turn of expression
announced relationship. It was a pity: if she could but have been
proved to resemble him, he would have thought more of her.
- It was not till after I had withdrawn to my own chamber for the
night, that I steadily reviewed the tale Mr. Rochester had told me.
As he had said, there was probably nothing at all extraordinary in
the substance of the narrative itself: a wealthy Englishman's
passion for a French dancer, and her treachery to him, were every-day matters enough, no doubt, in society; but there was something
decidedly strange in the paroxysm of emotion which had suddenly
seized him when he was in the act of expressing the present
contentment of his mood, and his newly revived pleasure in the old
hall and its environs. I meditated wonderingly on this incident;
but gradually quitting it, as I found it for the present
inexplicable, I turned to the consideration of my master's manner to
myself. The confidence he had thought fit to repose in me seemed a
tribute to my discretion: I regarded and accepted it as such. His
deportment had now for some weeks been more uniform towards me than
at the first. I never seemed in his way; he did not take fits of
chilling hauteur: when he met me unexpectedly, the encounter seemed
welcome; he had always a word and sometimes a smile for me: when
summoned by formal invitation to his presence, I was honoured by a
cordiality of reception that made me feel I really possessed the
power to amuse him, and that these evening conferences were sought
as much for his pleasure as for my benefit.
- I, indeed, talked comparatively little, but I heard him talk with
relish. It was his nature to be communicative; he liked to open to
a mind unacquainted with the world glimpses of its scenes and ways
(I do not mean its corrupt scenes and wicked ways, but such as
derived their interest from the great scale on which they were
acted, the strange novelty by which they were characterised); and I
had a keen delight in receiving the new ideas he offered, in
imagining the new pictures he portrayed, and following him in
thought through the new regions he disclosed, never startled or
troubled by one noxious allusion.
- The ease of his manner freed me from painful restraint: the
friendly frankness, as correct as cordial, with which he treated me,
drew me to him. I felt at times as if he were my relation rather
than my master: yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did not
mind that; I saw it was his way. So happy, so gratified did I
become with this new interest added to life, that I ceased to pine
after kindred: my thin crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; the
blanks of existence were filled up; my bodily health improved; I
gathered flesh and strength.
- And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude,
and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the
object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering
than the brightest fire. Yet I had not forgotten his faults;
indeed, I could not, for he brought them frequently before me. He
was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in
my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by
unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably
so; I more than once, when sent for to read to him, found him
sitting in his library alone, with his head bent on his folded arms;
and, when he looked up, a morose, almost a malignant, scowl
blackened his features. But I believed that his moodiness, his
harshness, and his former faults of morality (I say former, for now
he seemed corrected of them) had their source in some cruel cross of
fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies,
higher principles, and purer tastes than such as circumstances had
developed, education instilled, or destiny encouraged. I thought
there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they
hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled. I cannot deny that I
grieved for his grief, whatever that was, and would have given much
to assuage it.
- Though I had now extinguished my candle and was laid down in bed, I
could not sleep for thinking of his look when he paused in the
avenue, and told how his destiny had risen up before him, and dared
him to be happy at Thornfield.
- "Why not?" I asked myself. "What alienates him from the house?
Will he leave it again soon? Mrs. Fairfax said he seldom stayed
here longer than a fortnight at a time; and he has now been resident
eight weeks. If he does go, the change will be doleful. Suppose he
should be absent spring, summer, and autumn: how joyless sunshine
and fine days will seem!"
- I hardly know whether I had slept or not after this musing; at any
rate, I started wide awake on hearing a vague murmur, peculiar and
lugubrious, which sounded, I thought, just above me. I wished I had
kept my candle burning: the night was drearily dark; my spirits
were depressed. I rose and sat up in bed, listening. The sound was
- I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward
tranquillity was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck
two. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers
had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery
outside. I said, "Who is there?" Nothing answered. I was chilled
- All at once I remembered that it might be Pilot, who, when the
kitchen-door chanced to be left open, not unfrequently found his way
up to the threshold of Mr. Rochester's chamber: I had seen him
lying there myself in the mornings. The idea calmed me somewhat: I
lay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush now
reigned again through the whole house, I began to feel the return of
slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A
dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted,
scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.
- This was a demoniac laugh -- low, suppressed, and deep -- uttered, as it
seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door. The head of my bed
was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laugher stood
at my bedside -- or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked
round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural
sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels.
My first impulse was to rise and fasten the bolt; my next, again to
cry out, "Who is there?"
- Something gurgled and moaned. Ere long, steps retreated up the
gallery towards the third-storey staircase: a door had lately been
made to shut in that staircase; I heard it open and close, and all
- "Was that Grace Poole? and is she possessed with a devil?" thought
I. Impossible now to remain longer by myself: I must go to Mrs.
Fairfax. I hurried on my frock and a shawl; I withdrew the bolt and
opened the door with a trembling hand. There was a candle burning
just outside, and on the matting in the gallery. I was surprised at
this circumstance: but still more was I amazed to perceive the air
quite dim, as if filled with smoke; and, while looking to the right
hand and left, to find whence these blue wreaths issued, I became
further--> aware of a strong smell of burning.
- Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr.
Rochester's, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I thought
no more of Mrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Poole, or the
laugh: in an instant, I was within the chamber. Tongues of flame
darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire. In the midst of
blaze and vapour, Mr. Rochester lay stretched motionless, in deep
- "Wake! wake!" I cried. I shook him, but he only murmured and
turned: the smoke had stupefied him. Not a moment could be lost:
the very sheets were kindling, I rushed to his basin and ewer;
fortunately, one was wide and the other deep, and both were filled
with water. I heaved them up, deluged the bed and its occupant,
flew back to my own room, brought my own water-jug, baptized the
couch afresh, and, by God's aid, succeeded in extinguishing the
flames which were devouring it.
- The hiss of the quenched element, the breakage of a pitcher which I
flung from my hand when I had emptied it, and, above all, the splash
of the shower-bath I had liberally bestowed, roused Mr. Rochester at
last. Though it was now dark, I knew he was awake; because I heard
him fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool
- "Is there a flood?" he cried.
- "No, sir," I answered; "but there has been a fire: get up, do; you
are quenched now; I will fetch you a candle."
- "In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre?" he
demanded. "What have you done with me, witch, sorceress? Who is in
the room besides you? Have you plotted to drown me?"
- "I will fetch you a candle, sir; and, in Heaven's name, get up.
Somebody has plotted something: you cannot too soon find out who
and what it is."
- "There! I am up now; but at your peril you fetch a candle yet:
wait two minutes till I get into some dry garments, if any dry there
be -- yes, here is my dressing-gown. Now run!"
- I did run; I brought the candle which still remained in the gallery.
He took it from my hand, held it up, and surveyed the bed, all
blackened and scorched, the sheets drenched, the carpet round
swimming in water.
- "What is it? and who did it?" he asked.
- I briefly related to him
what had transpired: the strange laugh I had heard in the gallery:
the step ascending to the third storey; the smoke, -- the smell of
fire which had conducted me to his room; in what state I had found
matters there, and how I had deluged him with all the water I could
lay hands on.
- He listened very gravely; his face, as I went on, expressed more
concern than astonishment; he did not immediately speak when I had
- "Shall I call Mrs. Fairfax?" I asked.
- "Mrs. Fairfax? No; what the deuce would you call her for? What can
she do? Let her sleep unmolested."
- "Then I will fetch Leah, and wake John and his wife."
- "Not at all: just be still. You have a shawl on. If you are not
warm enough, you may take my cloak yonder; wrap it about you, and
sit down in the arm-chair: there, -- I will put it on. Now place
your feet on the stool, to keep them out of the wet. I am going to
leave you a few minutes. I shall take the candle. Remain where you
are till I return; be as still as a mouse. I must pay a visit to
the second storey. Don't move, remember, or call any one."
- He went: I watched the light withdraw. He passed up the gallery
very softly, unclosed the staircase door with as little noise as
possible, shut it after him, and the last ray vanished. I was left
in total darkness. I listened for some noise, but heard nothing. A
very long time elapsed. I grew weary: it was cold, in spite of the
cloak; and then I did not see the use of staying, as I was not to
rouse the house. I was on the point of risking Mr. Rochester's
displeasure by disobeying his orders, when the light once more
gleamed dimly on the gallery wall, and I heard his unshod feet tread
the matting. "I hope it is he," thought I, "and not something
- He re-entered, pale and very gloomy. "I have found it all out,"
said he, setting his candle down on the washstand; "it is as I
- "How, sir?"
- He made no reply, but stood with his arms folded, looking on the
ground. At the end of a few minutes he inquired in rather a
peculiar tone: --
- "I forget whether you said you saw anything when you opened your
- "No, sir, only the candlestick on the ground."
- "But you heard an odd laugh? You have heard that laugh before, I
should think, or something like it?"
- "Yes, sir: there is a woman who sews here, called Grace Poole, -- she
laughs in that way. She is a singular person."
- "Just so. Grace Poole -- you have guessed it. She is, as you say,
singular -- very. Well, I shall reflect on the subject. Meantime, I
am glad that you are the only person, besides myself, acquainted
with the precise details of to-night's incident. You are no talking
fool: say nothing about it. I will account for this state of
affairs" (pointing to the bed): "and now return to your own room.
I shall do very well on the sofa in the library for the rest of the
night. It is near four: -- in two hours the servants will be up."
- "Good-night, then, sir," said I, departing.
- He seemed surprised -- very inconsistently so, as he had just told me
- "What!" he exclaimed, "are you quitting me already, and in that
- "You said I might go, sir."
- "But not without taking leave; not without a word or two of
acknowledgment and good-will: not, in short, in that brief, dry
fashion. Why, you have saved my life! -- snatched me from a horrible
and excruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutual
strangers! At least shake hands."
- He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one,
them in both his own.
- "You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense
a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have
been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an
obligation: but you: it is different; -- I feel your benefits no
- He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips, -- but his voice was checked.
- "Good-night again, sir. There is no debt, benefit, burden,
obligation, in the case."
- "I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some
time; -- I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their
expression and smile did not" -- (again he stopped) -- "did not" (he
proceeded hastily) "strike delight to my very inmost heart so for
nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good
genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My
cherished preserver, goodnight!"
- Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look.
- "I am glad I happened to be awake," I said: and then I was going.
- "What! you will go?"
- "I am cold, sir."
- "Cold? Yes, -- and standing in a pool! Go, then, Jane; go!" But he
still retained my hand, and I could not free it. I bethought myself
of an expedient.
- "I think I hear Mrs. Fairfax move, sir," said I.
- "Well, leave me:" he relaxed his fingers, and I was gone.
- I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning
dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of
trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw
beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and
now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit
triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in
fancy -- a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove
me back. Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion.
Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.
- I BOTH wished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day which
followed this sleepless night: I wanted to hear his voice again,
yet feared to meet his eye. During the early part of the morning, I
momentarily expected his coming; he was not in the frequent habit of
entering the schoolroom, but he did step in for a few minutes
sometimes, and I had the impression that he was sure to visit it
- But the morning passed just as usual: nothing happened to interrupt
the quiet course of Adèle's studies; only soon after breakfast, I
heard some bustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester's chamber,
Mrs. Fairfax's voice, and Leah's, and the cook's -- that is, John's
wife -- and even John's own gruff tones. There were exclamations of
"What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!" "It is always
dangerous to keep a candle lit at night." "How providential that he
had presence of mind to think of the water-jug!" "I wonder he waked
nobody!" "It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping on
the library sofa," etc.
- To much confabulation succeeded a sound of scrubbing and setting to
rights; and when I passed the room, in going downstairs to dinner, I
saw through the open door that all was again restored to complete
order; only the bed was stripped of its hangings. Leah stood up in
the window-seat, rubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke. I
was about to address her, for I wished to know what account had been
given of the affair: but, on advancing, I saw a second person in
the chamber -- a woman sitting on a chair by the bedside, and sewing
rings to new curtains. That woman was no other than Grace Poole.
- There she sat, staid and taciturn-looking, as usual, in her brown
stuff gown, her check apron, white handkerchief, and cap. She was
intent on her work, in which her whole thoughts seemed absorbed: on
her hard forehead, and in her commonplace features, was nothing
either of the paleness or desperation one would have expected to see
marking the countenance of a woman who had attempted murder, and
whose intended victim had followed her last night to her lair, and
(as I believed), charged her with the crime she wished to
perpetrate. I was amazed -- confounded. She looked up, while I still
gazed at her: no start, no increase or failure of colour betrayed
emotion, consciousness of guilt, or fear of detection. She said
"Good morning, Miss," in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; and
taking up another ring and more tape, went on with her sewing.
- "I will put her to some test," thought I: "such absolute
impenetrability is past comprehension."
- "Good morning, Grace," I said. "Has anything happened here? I
thought I heard the servants all talking together a while ago."
- "Only master had been reading in his bed last night; he fell asleep
with his candle lit, and the curtains got on fire; but, fortunately,
he awoke before the bed-clothes or the wood-work caught, and
contrived to quench the flames with the water in the ewer.
- "A strange affair!" I said, in a low voice: then, looking at her
fixedly -- "Did Mr. Rochester wake nobody? Did no one hear him move?"
- She again raised her eyes to me, and this time there was something
of consciousness in their expression. She seemed to examine me
warily; then she answered, --
- "The servants sleep so far off, you know, Miss, they would not be
likely to hear. Mrs. Fairfax's room and yours are the nearest to
master's; but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing: when people get
elderly, they often sleep heavy." She paused, and then added, with
a sort of assumed indifference, but still in a marked and
significant tone -- "But you are young, Miss; and I should say a light
sleeper: perhaps you may have heard a noise?"
- "I did," said I, dropping my voice, so that Leah, who was still
polishing the panes, could not hear me, "and at first I thought it
was Pilot: but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard a
laugh, and a strange one."
- She took a new needleful of thread, waxed it carefully, threaded her
needle with a steady hand, and then observed, with perfect composure, --
- "It is hardly likely master would laugh, I should think, Miss, when
he was in such danger: You must have been dreaming."
- "I was not dreaming," I said, with some warmth, for her brazen
coolness provoked me. Again she looked at me; and with the same
scrutinising and conscious eye.
- "Have you told master that you heard a laugh?" she inquired.
- "I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning."
- "You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the
gallery?" she further--> asked.
- She appeared to be cross-questioning me, attempting to draw from me
information unawares. The idea struck me that if she discovered I
knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing of some of her
malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.
- "On the contrary," said I, "I bolted my door."
- "Then you are not in the habit of bolting your door every night
before you get into bed?"
- "Fiend! she wants to know my habits, that she may lay her plans
accordingly!" Indignation again prevailed over prudence: I replied
sharply, "Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt: I did
not think it necessary. I was not aware any danger or annoyance was
to be dreaded at Thornfield Hall: but in future" (and I laid marked
stress on the words) "I shall take good care to make all secure
before I venture to lie down."
- "It will be wise so to do," was her answer: "this neighbourhood is
as quiet as any I know, and I never heard of the hall being
attempted by robbers since it was a house; though there are hundreds
of pounds' worth of plate in the plate-closet, as is well known.
And you see, for such a large house, there are very few servants,
because master has never lived here much; and when he does come,
being a bachelor, he needs little waiting on: but I always think it
best to err on the safe side; a door is soon fastened, and it is as
well to have a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may be
about. A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence;
but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He
often blesses them when they are used discreetly." And here she
closed her harangue: a long one for her, and uttered with the
demureness of a Quakeress.
- I still stood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me her
miraculous self-possession and most inscrutable hypocrisy, when the
- "Mrs. Poole," said she, addressing Grace, "the servants' dinner will
soon be ready: will you come down?"
- "No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and
I'll carry it upstairs."
- "You'll have some meat?"
- "Just a morsel, and a taste of cheese, that's all."
- "And the sago?"
- "Never mind it at present: I shall be coming down before teatime:
I'll make it myself."
- The cook here turned to me, saying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for
me: so I departed.
- I hardly heard Mrs. Fairfax's account of the curtain conflagration
during dinner, so much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over the
enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and still more in pondering
the problem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why she
had not been given into custody that morning, or, at the very least,
dismissed from her master's service. He had almost as much as
declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what
mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her? Why had he
enjoined me, too, to secrecy? It was strange: a bold, vindictive,
and haughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of the
meanest of his dependants; so much in her power, that even when she
lifted her hand against his life, he dared not openly charge her
with the attempt, much less punish her for it.
- Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to
think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr.
Rochester in her behalf; but, hard-favoured and matronly as she was,
the idea could not be admitted. "Yet," I reflected, "she has been
young once; her youth would be contemporary with her master's: Mrs.
Fairfax told me once, she had lived here many years. I don't think
she can ever have been pretty; but, for aught I know, she may
possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the
want of personal advantages. Mr. Rochester is an amateur of the
decided and eccentric: Grace is eccentric at least. What if a
former caprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden and
headstrong as his) has delivered him into her power, and she now
exercises over his actions a secret influence, the result of his own
indiscretion, which he cannot shake off, and dare not disregard?"
But, having reached this point of conjecture, Mrs. Poole's square,
flat figure, and uncomely, dry, even coarse face, recurred so
distinctly to my mind's eye, that I thought, "No; impossible! my
supposition cannot be correct. Yet," suggested the secret voice
which talks to us in our own hearts, "you are not beautiful either,
and perhaps Mr. Rochester approves you: at any rate, you have often
felt as if he did; and last night -- remember his words; remember his
look; remember his voice!"
- I well remembered all; language, glance, and tone seemed at the
moment vividly renewed. I was now in the schoolroom; Adèle was
drawing; I bent over her and directed her pencil. She looked up
with a sort of start.
- "Qu' avez-vous, mademoiselle?" said she. "Vos doigts tremblent
comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des
- "I am hot, Adèle, with stooping!" She went on sketching; I went on
- I hastened to drive from my mind the hateful notion I had been
conceiving respecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me. I compared
myself with her, and found we were different. Bessie Leaven had
said I was quite a lady; and she spoke truth -- I was a lady. And now
I looked much better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had more
colour and more flesh, more life, more vivacity, because I had
brighter hopes and keener enjoyments.
- "Evening approaches," said I, as I looked towards the window. "I
have never heard Mr. Rochester's voice or step in the house to-day;
but surely I shall see him before night: I feared the meeting in
the morning; now I desire it, because expectation has been so long
baffled that it is grown impatient."
- When dusk actually closed, and when Adèle left me to go and play in
the nursery with Sophie, I did most keenly desire it. I listened
for the bell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with a
message; I fancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester's own tread, and
I turned to the door, expecting it to open and admit him. The door
remained shut; darkness only came in through the window. Still it
was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o'clock, and
it was yet but six. Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-night, when I had so many things to say to him! I wanted again to
introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would
answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she
who had made last night's hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept
her wickedness a secret. It little mattered whether my curiosity
irritated him; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by
turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always
prevented me from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation I
never ventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.
Retaining every minute form of respect, every propriety of my
station, I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy
restraint; this suited both him and me.
- A tread creaked on the stairs at last. Leah made her appearance;
but it was only to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax's
room. Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that
brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester's presence.
- "You must want your tea," said the good lady, as I joined her; "you
ate so little at dinner. I am afraid," she continued, "you are not
well to-day: you look flushed and feverish."
- "Oh, quite well! I never felt better."
- "Then you must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fill
the teapot while I knit off this needle?" Having completed her
task, she rose to draw down the blind, which she had hitherto kept
up, by way, I suppose, of making the most of daylight, though dusk
was now fast deepening into total obscurity.
- "It is fair to-night," said she, as she looked through the panes,
"though not starlight; Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a
favourable day for his journey."
- "Journey! -- Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere? I did not know he was
- "Oh, he set of the moment he had breakfasted! He is gone to the
Leas, Mr. Eshton's place, ten miles on the other side Millcote. I
believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir
George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others."
- "Do you expect him back to-night?"
- "No -- nor to-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay
a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together,
they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with
all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate.
Gentlemen especially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr.
Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he
is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; though you
would not think his appearance calculated to recommend him
particularly in their eyes: but I suppose his acquirements and
abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any
little fault of look."
- "Are there ladies at the Leas?"
- "There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters -- very elegant young
ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingram,
most beautiful women, I suppose: indeed I have seen Blanche, six or
seven years since, when she was a girl of eighteen. She came here
to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have
seen the dining-room that day -- how richly it was decorated, how
brilliantly lit up! I should think there were fifty ladies and
gentlemen present -- all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram
was considered the belle of the evening."
- "You saw her, you say, Mrs. Fairfax: what was she like?"
- "Yes, I saw her. The dining-room doors were thrown open; and, as it
was Christmas-time, the servants were allowed to assemble in the
hall, to hear some of the ladies sing and play. Mr. Rochester would
have me to come in, and I sat down in a quiet corner and watched
them. I never saw a more splendid scene: the ladies were
magnificently dressed; most of them -- at least most of the younger
ones -- looked handsome; but Miss Ingram was certainly the queen."
- "And what was she like?"
- "Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive
complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr.
Rochester's: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And
then she had such a fine head of hair; raven-black and so becomingly
arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest,
the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an
amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her
breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below
her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it
contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls."
- "She was greatly admired, of course?"
- "Yes, indeed: and not only for her beauty, but for her
accomplishments. She was one of the ladies who sang: a gentleman
accompanied her on the piano. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet."
- "Mr. Rochester? I was not aware he could sing."
- "Oh! he has a fine bass voice, and an excellent taste for music."
- "And Miss Ingram: what sort of a voice had she?"
- "A very rich and powerful one: she sang delightfully; it was a
treat to listen to her; -- and she played afterwards. I am no judge
of music, but Mr. Rochester is; and I heard him say her execution
was remarkably good."
- "And this beautiful and accomplished lady, she is not yet married?"
- "It appears not: I fancy neither she nor her sister have very large
fortunes. Old Lord Ingram's estates were chiefly entailed, and the
eldest son came in for everything almost."
- "But I wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy to
her: Mr. Rochester, for instance. He is rich, is he not?"
- "Oh! yes. But you see there is a considerable difference in age:
Mr. Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five."
- "What of that? More unequal matches are made every day."
- "True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain an
idea of the sort. But you eat nothing: you have scarcely tasted
since you began tea."
- "No: I am too thirsty to eat. Will you let me have another cup?"
- I was about again to revert to the probability of a union between
Mr. Rochester and the beautiful Blanche; but Adèle came in, and the
conversation was turned into another channel.
- When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked
into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured
to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through
imagination's boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of
- Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the
hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night -- of
the general state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly a
fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told, in her own
quiet way a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the
real, and rabidly devoured the ideal; -- I pronounced judgment to this
- That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of
life; that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on
sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.
- "You," I said, "a favourite with Mr. Rochester? You gifted with the
power of pleasing him? You of importance to him in any way? Go!
your folly sickens me. And you have derived pleasure from
occasional tokens of preference -- equivocal tokens shown by a
gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependent and a
novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe! -- Could not even self-interest make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the
brief scene of last night? -- Cover your face and be ashamed! He said
something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their
bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! It does
good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot
possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let
a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown,
must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded
to, must lead, ignis-fatus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no
- "Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the
glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully,
without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no
displeasing irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess,
disconnected, poor, and plain.'
- "Afterwards, take a piece of smooth ivory -- you have one prepared in
your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest,
clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils;
delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in
your softest shades and sweetest lines, according to the description
given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven
ringlets, the oriental eye; -- What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as a
model! Order! No snivel! -- no sentiment! -- no regret! I will endure
only sense and resolution. Recall the august yet harmonious
lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling
arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor
gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and
glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blanche,
an accomplished lady of rank.'
- "Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester
thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them:
say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he
chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious
thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"
- "I'll do it," I resolved: and having framed this determination, I
grew calm, and fell asleep.
- I kept my word. An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait
in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory
miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face
enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast
was as great as self-control could desire. I derived benefit from
the task: it had kept my head and hands employed, and had given
force and fixedness to the new impressions I wished to stamp
indelibly on my heart.
- Ere long, I had reason to congratulate myself on the course of
wholesome discipline to which I had thus forced my feelings to
submit. Thanks to it, I was able to meet subsequent occurrences
with a decent calm, which, had they found me unprepared, I should
probably have been unequal to maintain, even externally.
- A WEEK passed, and no news arrived of Mr. Rochester: ten days, and
still he did not come. Mrs. Fairfax said she should not be
surprised if he were to go straight from the Leas to London, and
thence to the Continent, and not show his face again at Thornfield
for a year to come; he had not unfrequently quitted it in a manner
quite as abrupt and unexpected. When I heard this, I was beginning
to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually
permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment;
but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once
called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over
the temporary blunder -- how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr.
Rochester's movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a
vital interest. Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of
inferiority: on the contrary, I just said --
- "You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further--> than
to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protégée, and to
be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do
your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands. Be sure that is
the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don't
make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies,
and so forth. He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be
too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and
strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised."
- I went on with my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vague
suggestions kept wandering across my brain of reasons why I should
quit Thornfield; and I kept involuntarily framing advertisements and
pondering conjectures about new situations: these thoughts I did
not think check; they might germinate and bear fruit if they could.
- Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight, when the post
brought Mrs. Fairfax a letter.
- "It is from the master," said she, as she looked at the direction.
"Now I suppose we shall know whether we are to expect his return or
- And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on
taking my coffee (we were at breakfast): it was hot, and I
attributed to that circumstance a fiery glow which suddenly rose to
my face. Why my hand shook, and why I involuntarily spilt half the
contents of my cup into my saucer, I did not choose to consider.
- "Well, I sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance of
being busy enough now: for a little while at least," said Mrs.
Fairfax, still holding the note before her spectacles.
- Ere I permitted myself to request an explanation, I tied the string
of Adèle's pinafore, which happened to be loose: having helped her
also to another bun and refilled her mug with milk, I said,
- "Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?"
- "Indeed he is -- in three days, he says: that will be next Thursday;
and not alone either. I don't know how many of the fine people at
the Leas are coming with him: he sends directions for all the best
bedrooms to be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms are to be
cleaned out; I am to get more kitchen hands from the George Inn, at
Millcote, and from wherever else I can; and the ladies will bring
their maids and the gentlemen their valets: so we shall have a full
house of it." And Mrs. Fairfax swallowed her breakfast and hastened
away to commence operations.
- The three days were, as she had foretold, busy enough. I had
thought all the rooms at Thornfield beautifully clean and well
arranged; but it appears I was mistaken. Three women were got to
help; and such scrubbing, such brushing, such washing of paint and
beating of carpets, such taking down and putting up of pictures,
such polishing of mirrors and lustres, such lighting of fires in
bedrooms, such airing of sheets and feather-beds on hearths, I never
beheld, either before or since. Adèle ran quite wild in the midst
of it: the preparations for company and the prospect of their
arrival, seemed to throw her into ecstasies. She would have Sophie
to look over all her "toilettes," as she called frocks; to furbish
up any that were "passées," and to air and arrange the new. For
herself, she did nothing but caper about in the front chambers, jump
on and off the bedsteads, and lie on the mattresses and piled-up
bolsters and pillows before the enormous fires roaring in the
chimneys. From school duties she was exonerated: Mrs. Fairfax had
pressed me into her service, and I was all day in the storeroom,
helping (or hindering) her and the cook; learning to make custards
and cheese-cakes and French pastry, to truss game and garnish
- The party were expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon, in time for
dinner at six. During the intervening period I had no time to nurse
chimeras; and I believe I was as active and gay as anybody -- Adèle
excepted. Still, now and then, I received a damping check to my
cheerfulness; and was, in spite of myself, thrown back on the region
of doubts and portents, and dark conjectures. This was when I
chanced to see the third-storey staircase door (which of late had
always been kept locked) open slowly, and give passage to the form
of Grace Poole, in prim cap, white apron, and handkerchief; when I
watched her glide along the gallery, her quiet tread muffled in a
list slipper; when I saw her look into the bustling, topsy-turvy
bedrooms, -- just say a word, perhaps, to the charwoman about the
proper way to polish a grate, or clean a marble mantelpiece, or take
stains from papered walls, and then pass on. She would thus descend
to the kitchen once a day, eat her dinner, smoke a moderate pipe on
the hearth, and go back, carrying her pot of porter with her, for
her private solace, in her own gloomy, upper haunt. Only one hour
in the twenty-four did she pass with her fellow-servants below; all
the rest of her time was spent in some low-ceiled, oaken chamber of
the second storey: there she sat and sewed -- and probably laughed
drearily to herself, -- as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.
- The strangest thing of all was, that not a soul in the house, except
me, noticed her habits, or seemed to marvel at them: no one
discussed her position or employment; no one pitied her solitude or
isolation. I once, indeed, overheard part of a dialogue between
Leah and one of the charwomen, of which Grace formed the subject.
Leah had been saying something I had not caught, and the charwoman
- "She gets good wages, I guess?"
- "Yes," said Leah; "I wish I had as good; not that mine are to
complain of, -- there's no stinginess at Thornfield; but they're not
one fifth of the sum Mrs. Poole receives. And she is laying by:
she goes every quarter to the bank at Millcote. I should not wonder
but she has saved enough to keep her independent if she liked to
leave; but I suppose she's got used to the place; and then she's not
forty yet, and strong and able for anything. It is too soon for her
to give up business."
- "She is a good hand, I daresay," said the charwoman.
- "Ah! -- she understands what she has to do, -- nobody better," rejoined
Leah significantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes --
not for all the money she gets."
- "That it is not!" was the reply. "I wonder whether the master" ----
- The charwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived me,
and she instantly gave her companion a nudge.
- "Doesn't she know?" I heard the woman whisper.
- Leah shook her head, and the conversation was of course dropped.
All I had gathered from it amounted to this, -- that there was a
mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I
was purposely excluded.
- Thursday came: all work had been completed the previous evening;
carpets were laid down, bed-hangings festooned, radiant white
counterpanes spread, toilet tables arranged, furniture rubbed,
flowers piled in vases: both chambers and saloons looked as fresh
and bright as hands could make them. The hall, too, was scoured;
and the great carved clock, as well as the steps and banisters of
the staircase, were polished to the brightness of glass; in the
dining-room, the sideboard flashed resplendent with plate; in the
drawing-room and boudoir, vases of exotics bloomed on all sides.
- Afternoon arrived: Mrs. Fairfax assumed her best black satin gown,
her gloves, and her gold watch; for it was her part to receive the
company, -- to conduct the ladies to their rooms, etc. Adèle, too,
would be dressed: though I thought she had little chance of being
introduced to the party that day at least. However, to please her,
I allowed Sophie to apparel her in one of her short, full muslin
frocks. For myself, I had no need to make any change; I should not
be called upon to quit my sanctum of the schoolroom; for a sanctum
it was now become to me, -- "a very pleasant refuge in time of
- It had been a mild, serene spring day -- one of those days which,
towards the end of March or the beginning of April, rise shining
over the earth as heralds of summer. It was drawing to an end now;
but the evening was even warm, and I sat at work in the schoolroom
with the window open.
- "It gets late," said Mrs. Fairfax, entering in rustling state. "I
am glad I ordered dinner an hour after the time Mr. Rochester
mentioned; for it is past six now. I have sent John down to the
gates to see if there is anything on the road: one can see a long
way from thence in the direction of Millcote." She went to the
window. "Here he is!" said she. "Well, John" (leaning out), "any
- "They're coming, ma'am," was the answer. "They'll be here in ten
- Adèle flew to the window. I followed, taking care to stand on one
side, so that, screened by the curtain, I could see without being
- The ten minutes John had given seemed very long, but at last wheels
were heard; four equestrians galloped up the drive, and after them
came two open carriages. Fluttering veils and waving plumes filled
the vehicles; two of the cavaliers were young, dashing-looking
gentlemen; the third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse, Mesrour,
Pilot bounding before him; at his side rode a lady, and he and she
were the first of the party. Her purple riding-habit almost swept
the ground, her veil streamed long on the breeze; mingling with its
transparent folds, and gleaming through them, shone rich raven
- "Miss Ingram!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax, and away she hurried to her
- The cavalcade, following the sweep of the drive, quickly turned the
angle of the house, and I lost sight of it. Adèle now petitioned to
go down; but I took her on my knee, and gave her to understand that
she must not on any account think of venturing in sight of the
ladies, either now or at any other time, unless expressly sent for:
that Mr. Rochester would be very angry, etc. "Some natural tears she
shed" on being told this; but as I began to look very grave, she
consented at last to wipe them.
- A joyous stir was now audible in the hall: gentlemen's deep tones
and ladies' silvery accents blent harmoniously together, and
distinguishable above all, though not loud, was the sonorous voice
of the master of Thornfield Hall, welcoming his fair and gallant
guests under its roof. Then light steps ascended the stairs; and
there was a tripping through the gallery, and soft cheerful laughs,
and opening and closing doors, and, for a time, a hush.
- "Elles changent de toilettes," said Adèle; who, listening
attentively, had followed every movement; and she sighed.
- "Chez maman," said she, "quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais
partout, au salon et à leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les
femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c'était si
amusant: comme cela on apprend."
- "Don't you feel hungry, Adèle?"
- "Mais oui, mademoiselle: voilà cinq ou six heures que nous n'avons
- "Well now, while the ladies are in their rooms, I will venture down
and get you something to eat."
- And issuing from my asylum with precaution, I sought a back-stairs
which conducted directly to the kitchen. All in that region was
fire and commotion; the soup and fish were in the last stage of
projection, and the cook hung over her crucibles in a frame of mind
and body threatening spontaneous combustion. In the servants' hall
two coachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat round the
fire; the abigails, I suppose, were upstairs with their mistresses;
the new servants, that had been hired from Millcote, were bustling
about everywhere. Threading this chaos, I at last reached the
larder; there I took possession of a cold chicken, a roll of bread,
some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with this booty I
made a hasty retreat. I had regained the gallery, and was just
shutting the back-door behind me, when an accelerated hum warned me
that the ladies were about to issue from their chambers. I could
not proceed to the schoolroom without passing some of their doors,
and running the risk of being surprised with my cargo of victualage;
so I stood still at this end, which, being windowless, was dark:
quite dark now, for the sun was set and twilight gathering.
- Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another:
each came out gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous
through the dusk. For a moment they stood grouped together at the
other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet subdued
vivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly
as a bright mist rolls down a hill. Their collective appearance had
left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never
- I found Adèle peeping through the schoolroom door, which she held
ajar. "What beautiful ladies!" cried she in English. "Oh, I wish I
might go to them! Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us by-and-bye, after dinner?"
- "No, indeed, I don't; Mr. Rochester has something else to think
about. Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see them
to-morrow: here is your dinner."
- She was really hungry, so the chicken and tarts served to divert her
attention for a time. It was well I secured this forage, or both
she, I, and Sophie, to whom I conveyed a share of our repast, would
have run a chance of getting no dinner at all: every one downstairs
was too much engaged to think of us. The dessert was not carried
out till after nine and at ten footmen were still running to and fro
with trays and coffee-cups. I allowed Adèle to sit up much later
than usual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleep
while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people bustling
about. Besides, she added, a message might possibly come from Mr.
Rochester when she was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"
- I told her stories as long as she would listen to them; and then for
a change I took her out into the gallery. The hall lamp was now
lit, and it amused her to look over the balustrade and watch the
servants passing backwards and forwards. When the evening was far
advanced, a sound of music issued from the drawing-room, whither the
piano had been removed; Adèle and I sat down on the top step of the
stairs to listen. Presently a voice blent with the rich tones of
the instrument; it was a lady who sang, and very sweet her notes
were. The solo over, a duet followed, and then a glee: a joyous
conversational murmur filled up the intervals. I listened long:
suddenly I discovered that my ear was wholly intent on analysing the
mingled sounds, and trying to discriminate amidst the confusion of
accents those of Mr. Rochester; and when it caught them, which it
soon did, it found a further--> task in framing the tones, rendered by
distance inarticulate, into words.
- The clock struck eleven. I looked at Adèle, whose head leant
against my shoulder; her eyes were waxing heavy, so I took her up in
my arms and carried her off to bed. It was near one before the
gentlemen and ladies sought their chambers.
- The next day was as fine as its predecessor: it was devoted by the
party to an excursion to some site in the neighbourhood. They set
out early in the forenoon, some on horseback, the rest in carriages;
I witnessed both the departure and the return. Miss Ingram, as
before, was the only lady equestrian; and, as before, Mr. Rochester
galloped at her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest. I
pointed out this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfax, who was standing at
the window with me: --
- "You said it was not likely they should think of being married,"
said I, "but you see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any of
the other ladies."
- "Yes, I daresay: no doubt he admires her."
- "And she him," I added; "look how she leans her head towards him as
if she were conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face;
I have never had a glimpse of it yet."
- "You will see her this evening," answered Mrs. Fairfax. "I happened
to remark to Mr. Rochester how much Adèle wished to be introduced to
the ladies, and he said: 'Oh! let her come into the drawing-room
after dinner; and request Miss Eyre to accompany her.'"
- "Yes; he said that from mere politeness: I need not go, I am sure,"
- "Well, I observed to him that as you were unused to company, I did
not think you would like appearing before so gay a party -- all
strangers; and he replied, in his quick way -- 'Nonsense! If she
objects, tell her it is my particular wish; and if she resists, say
I shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.'"
- "I will not give him that trouble," I answered. "I will go, if no
better may be; but I don't like it. Shall you be there, Mrs.
- "No; I pleaded off, and he admitted my plea. I'll tell you how to
manage so as to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal entrance,
which is the most disagreeable part of the business. You must go
into the drawing-room while it is empty, before the ladies leave the
dinner-table; choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you need
not stay long after the gentlemen come in, unless you please: just
let Mr. Rochester see you are there and then slip away -- nobody will
- "Will these people remain long, do you think?"
- "Perhaps two or three weeks, certainly not more. After the Easter
recess, Sir George Lynn, who was lately elected member for Millcote,
will have to go up to town and take his seat; I daresay Mr.
Rochester will accompany him: it surprises me that he has already
made so protracted a stay at Thornfield."
- It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when
I was to repair with my charge to the drawing-room. Adèle had been
in a state of ecstasy all day, after hearing she was to be presented
to the ladies in the evening; and it was not till Sophie commenced
the operation of dressing her that she sobered down. Then the
importance of the process quickly steadied her, and by the time she
had her curls arranged in well-smoothed, drooping clusters, her pink
satin frock put on, her long sash tied, and her lace mittens
adjusted, she looked as grave as any judge. No need to warn her not
to disarrange her attire: when she was dressed, she sat demurely
down in her little chair, taking care previously to lift up the
satin skirt for fear she should crease it, and assured me she would
not stir thence till I was ready. This I quickly was: my best
dress (the silver-grey one, purchased for Miss Temple's wedding, and
never worn since) was soon put on; my hair was soon smoothed; my
sole ornament, the pearl brooch, soon assumed. We descended.
- Fortunately there was another entrance to the drawing-room than that
through the saloon where they were all seated at dinner. We found
the apartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marble
hearth, and wax candles shining in bright solitude, amid the
exquisite flowers with which the tables were adorned. The crimson
curtain hung before the arch: slight as was the separation this
drapery formed from the party in the adjoining saloon, they spoke in
so low a key that nothing of their conversation could be
distinguished beyond a soothing murmur.
- Adèle, who appeared to be still under the influence of a most
solemnising impression, sat down, without a word, on the footstool I
pointed out to her. I retired to a window-seat, and taking a book
from a table near, endeavoured to read. Adèle brought her stool to
my feet; ere long she touched my knee.
- "What is it, Adèle?"
- "Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendrie une seule de ces fleurs
magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette."
- "You think too much of your 'toilette,' Adèle: but you may have a
flower." And I took a rose from a vase and fastened it in her sash.
She sighed a sigh of ineffable satisfaction, as if her cup of
happiness were now full. I turned my face away to conceal a smile I
could not suppress: there was something ludicrous as well as
painful in the little Parisienne's earnest and innate devotion to
matters of dress.
- A soft sound of rising now became audible; the curtain was swept
back from the arch; through it appeared the dining-room, with its
lit lustre pouring down light on the silver and glass of a
magnificent dessert-service covering a long table; a band of ladies
stood in the opening; they entered, and the curtain fell behind
- There were but eight; yet, somehow, as they flocked in, they gave
the impression of a much larger number. Some of them were very
tall; many were dressed in white; and all had a sweeping amplitude
of array that seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifies
the moon. I rose and curtseyed to them: one or two bent their
heads in return, the others only stared at me.
- They dispersed about the room, reminding me, by the lightness and
buoyancy of their movements, of a flock of white plumy birds. Some
of them threw themselves in half-reclining positions on the sofas
and ottomans: some bent over the tables and examined the flowers
and books: the rest gathered in a group round the fire: all talked
in a low but clear tone which seemed habitual to them. I knew their
names afterwards, and may as well mention them now.
- First, there was Mrs. Eshton and two of her daughters. She had
evidently been a handsome woman, and was well preserved still. Of
her daughters, the eldest, Amy, was rather little: naive, and
child-like in face and manner, and piquant in form; her white muslin
dress and blue sash became her well. The second, Louisa, was taller
and more elegant in figure; with a very pretty face, of that order
the French term minois chiffone: both sisters were fair as lilies.
- Lady Lynn was a large and stout personage of about forty, very
erect, very haughty-looking, richly dressed in a satin robe of
changeful sheen: her dark hair shone glossily under the shade of an
azure plume, and within the circlet of a band of gems.
- Mrs. Colonel Dent was less showy; but, I thought, more lady-like.
She had a slight figure, a pale, gentle face, and fair hair. Her
black satin dress, her scarf of rich foreign lace, and her pearl
ornaments, pleased me better than the rainbow radiance of the titled
- But the three most distinguished -- partly, perhaps, because the
tallest figures of the band -- were the Dowager Lady Ingram and her
daughters, Blanche and Mary. They were all three of the loftiest
stature of women. The Dowager might be between forty and fifty:
her shape was still fine; her hair (by candle-light at least) still
black; her teeth, too, were still apparently perfect. Most people
would have termed her a splendid woman of her age: and so she was,
no doubt, physically speaking; but then there was an expression of
almost insupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance.
She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat
like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only inflated and
darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained
by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural
erectness. She had, likewise, a fierce and a hard eye: it reminded
me of Mrs. Reed's; she mouthed her words in speaking; her voice was
deep, its inflections very pompous, very dogmatical, -- very
intolerable, in short. A crimson velvet robe, and a shawl turban of
some gold-wrought Indian fabric, invested her (I suppose she
thought) with a truly imperial dignity.
- Blanche and Mary were of equal stature, -- straight and tall as
poplars. Mary was too slim for her height, but Blanche was moulded
like a Dian. I regarded her, of course, with special interest.
First, I wished to see whether her appearance accorded with Mrs.
Fairfax's description; secondly, whether it at all resembled the
fancy miniature I had painted of her; and thirdly -- it will out! --
whether it were such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr.
- As far as person went, she answered point for point, both to my
picture and Mrs. Fairfax's description. The noble bust, the sloping
shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and black ringlets were
all there; -- but her face? Her face was like her mother's; a
youthful unfurrowed likeness: the same low brow, the same high
features, the same pride. It was not, however, so saturnine a
pride! she laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so was
the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.
- Genius is said to be self-conscious. I cannot tell whether Miss
Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious -- remarkably self-conscious indeed. She entered into a discourse on botany with the
gentle Mrs. Dent. It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science:
though, as she said, she liked flowers, "especially wild ones;" Miss
Ingram had, and she ran over its vocabulary with an air. I
presently perceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) trailing
Mrs. Dent; that is, playing on her ignorance -- her trail might be
clever, but it was decidedly not good-natured. She played: her
execution was brilliant; she sang: her voice was fine; she talked
French apart to her mamma; and she talked it well, with fluency and
with a good accent.
- Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer
features too, and a skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark as
a Spaniard) -- but Mary was deficient in life: her face lacked
expression, her eye lustre; she had nothing to say, and having once
taken her seat, remained fixed like a statue in its niche. The
sisters were both attired in spotless white.
- And did I now think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester would
be likely to make? I could not tell -- I did not know his taste in
female beauty. If he liked the majestic, she was the very type of
majesty: then she was accomplished, sprightly. Most gentlemen
would admire her, I thought; and that he did admire her, I already
seemed to have obtained proof: to remove the last shade of doubt,
it remained but to see them together.
- You are not to suppose, reader, that Adèle has all this time been
sitting motionless on the stool at my feet: no; when the ladies
entered, she rose, advanced to meet them, made a stately reverence,
and said with gravity, --
- "Bon jour, mesdames."
- And Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and
exclaimed, "Oh, what a little puppet!"
- Lady Lynn had remarked, "It is Mr. Rochester's ward, I suppose -- the
little French girl he was speaking of."
- Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand, and given her a kiss.
- Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously --
- "What a love of
- And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced
between them, chattering alternately in French and broken English;
absorbing not only the young ladies' attention, but that of Mrs.
Eshton and Lady Lynn, and getting spoilt to her heart's content.
- At last coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen are summoned. I sit
in the shade -- if any shade there be in this brilliantly-lit
apartment; the window-curtain half hides me. Again the arch yawns;
they come. The collective appearance of the gentlemen, like that of
the ladies, is very imposing: they are all costumed in black; most
of them are tall, some young. Henry and Frederick Lynn are very
dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly man.
Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, is gentleman-like: his
hair is quite white, his eyebrows and whiskers still dark, which
gives him something of the appearance of a "père noble de théâtre."
Lord Ingram, like his sisters, is very tall; like them, also, he is
handsome; but he shares Mary's apathetic and listless look: he
seems to have more length of limb than vivacity of blood or vigour
- And where is Mr. Rochester?
- He comes in last: I am not looking at the arch, yet I see him
enter. I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles,
on the meshes of the purse I am forming -- I wish to think only of the
work I have in my hands, to see only the silver beads and silk
threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure,
and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I
had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and he,
holding my hand, and looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes
that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions
I had a part. How near had I approached him at that moment! What
had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative
positions? Yet now, how distant, how far estranged we were! So far
estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me. I did
not wonder, when, without looking at me, he took a seat at the other
side of the room, and began conversing with some of the ladies.
- No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and that
I might gaze without being observed, than my eyes were drawn
involuntarily to his face; I could not keep their lids under
control: they would rise, and the irids would fix on him. I
looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking, -- a precious yet
poignant pleasure; pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a
pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the
well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine
- Most true is it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer." My
master's colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and
jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth, -- all
energy, decision, will, -- were not beautiful, according to rule; but
they were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest,
an influence that quite mastered me, -- that took my feelings from my
own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him;
the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the
germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of
him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me love
him without looking at me.
- I compared him with his guests. What was the gallant grace of the
Lynns, the languid elegance of Lord Ingram, -- even the military
distinction of Colonel Dent, contrasted with his look of native pith
and genuine power? I had no sympathy in their appearance, their
expression: yet I could imagine that most observers would call them
attractive, handsome, imposing; while they would pronounce Mr.
Rochester at once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking. I saw them
smile, laugh -- it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much
soul in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as much
significance as their laugh. I saw Mr. Rochester smile: -- his stern
features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle, its ray
both searching and sweet. He was talking, at the moment, to Louisa
and Amy Eshton. I wondered to see them receive with calm that look
which seemed to me so penetrating: I expected their eyes to fall,
their colour to rise under it; yet I was glad when I found they were
in no sense moved. "He is not to them what he is to me," I thought:
"he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine; -- I am sure he
is -- I feel akin to him -- I understand the language of his countenance
and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have
something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that
assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I
had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands?
Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a
paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true, vigorous
feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal
my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot
care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not
mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I
mean only that I have certain tastes and feelings in common with
him. I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever
sundered: -- and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him."
- Coffee is handed. The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have
become lively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry. Colonel
Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen. The two
proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.
Sir George -- whom, by-the-bye, I have forgotten to describe, -- a very
big, and very fresh-looking country gentleman, stands before their
sofa, coffee-cup in hand, and occasionally puts in a word. Mr.
Frederick Lynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingram, and is showing
her the engravings of a splendid volume: she looks, smiles now and
then, but apparently says little. The tall and phlegmatic Lord
Ingram leans with folded arms on the chair-back of the little and
lively Amy Eshton; she glances up at him, and chatters like a wren:
she likes him better than she does Mr. Rochester. Henry Lynn has
taken possession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa: Adèle shares
it with him: he is trying to talk French with her, and Louisa
laughs at his blunders. With whom will Blanche Ingram pair? She is
standing alone at the table, bending gracefully over an album. She
seems waiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long: she
herself selects a mate.
- Mr. Rochester, having quitted the Eshtons, stands on the hearth as
solitary as she stands by the table: she confronts him, taking her
station on the opposite side of the mantelpiece.
- "Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?"
- "Nor am I."
- "Then, what induced you to take charge of such a little doll as
that?" (pointing to Adèle). "Where did you pick her up?"
- "I did not pick her up; she was left on my hands."
- "You should have sent her to school."
- "I could not afford it: schools are so dear."
- "Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with
her just now -- is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still, behind the
window-curtain. You pay her, of course; I should think it quite as
expensive, -- more so; for you have them both to keep in addition."
- I feared -- or should I say, hoped? -- the allusion to me would make Mr.
Rochester glance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther into the
shade: but he never turned his eyes.
- "I have not considered the subject," said he indifferently, looking
straight before him.
- "No, you men never do consider economy and common sense. You should
hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I
should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable
and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi -- were they not, mama?"
- "Did you speak, my own?"
- The young lady thus claimed as the dowager's special property,
reiterated her question with an explanation.
- "My dearest, don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.
I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice. I
thank Heaven I have now done with them!"
- Mrs. Dent here bent over to the pious lady and whispered something
in her ear; I suppose, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder
that one of the anathematised race was present.
- "Tant pis!" said her Ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!" Then,
in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed
her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults
of her class."
- "What are they, madam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.
- "I will tell you in your private ear," replied she, wagging her
turban three times with portentous significancy.
- "But my curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."
- "Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I."
- "Oh, don't refer him to me, mama! I have just one word to say of
the whole tribe; they are a nuisance. Not that I ever suffered much
from them; I took care to turn the tables. What tricks Theodore and
I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and Madame
Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with spirit.
The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was a poor sickly
thing, lachrymose and low-spirited, not worth the trouble of
vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and insensible; no
blow took effect on her. But poor Madame Joubert! I see her yet in
her raging passions, when we had driven her to extremities -- spilt
our tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed our books up to the
ceiling, and played a charivari with the ruler and desk, the fender
and fire-irons. Theodore, do you remember those merry days?"
- "Yaas, to be sure I do," drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor old
stick used to cry out 'Oh you villains childs!' -- and then we
sermonised her on the presumption of attempting to teach such clever
blades as we were, when she was herself so ignorant."
- "We did; and, Tedo, you know, I helped you in prosecuting (or
persecuting) your tutor, whey-faced Mr. Vining -- the parson in the
pip, as we used to call him. He and Miss Wilson took the liberty of
falling in love with each other -- at least Tedo and I thought so; we
surprised sundry tender glances and sighs which we interpreted as
tokens of 'la belle passion,' and I promise you the public soon had
the benefit of our discovery; we employed it as a sort of lever to
hoist our dead-weights from the house. Dear mama, there, as soon as
she got an inkling of the business, found out that it was of an
immoral tendency. Did you not, my lady-mother?"
- "Certainly, my best. And I was quite right: depend on that: there
are a thousand reasons why liaisons between governesses and tutors
should never be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated house;
- "Oh, gracious, mama! Spare us the enumeration! Au reste, we all
know them: danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;
distractions and consequent neglect of duty on the part of the
attached -- mutual alliance and reliance; confidence thence resulting -- insolence accompanying -- mutiny and general blow-up. Am I right,
Baroness Ingram, of Ingram Park?"
- "My lily-flower, you are right now, as always."
- "Then no more need be said: change the subject."
- Amy Eshton, not hearing or not heeding this dictum, joined in with
her soft, infantine tone: "Louisa and I used to quiz our governess
too; but she was such a good creature, she would bear anything:
nothing put her out. She was never cross with us; was she, Louisa?"
- "No, never: we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and her
workbox, and turn her drawers inside out; and she was so good-natured, she would give as anything we asked for."
- "I suppose, now," said Miss Ingram, curling her lip sarcastically,
"we shall have an abstract of the memoirs of all the governesses
extant: in order to avert such a visitation, I again move the
introduction of a new topic. Mr. Rochester, do you second my
- "Madam, I support you on this point, as on every other."
- "Then on me be the onus of bringing it forward. Signior Eduardo,
are you in voice to-night?"
- "Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be."
- "Then, signior, I lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up your
lungs and other vocal organs, as they will be wanted on my royal
- "Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"
- "A fig for Rizzio!" cried she, tossing her head with all its curls,
as she moved to the piano. "It is my opinion the fiddler David must
have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell better:
to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him; and
history may say what it will of James Hepburn, but I have a notion,
he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero whom I could have
consented to gift with my hand."
- "Gentlemen, you hear! Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?"
cried Mr. Rochester.
- "I should say the preference lies with you," responded Colonel Dent.
- "On my honour, I am much obliged to you," was the reply.
- Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself with proud grace at the
piano, spreading out her snowy robes in queenly amplitude, commenced
a brilliant prelude; talking meantime. She appeared to be on her
high horse to-night; both her words and her air seemed intended to
excite not only the admiration, but the amazement of her auditors:
she was evidently bent on striking them as something very dashing
and daring indeed.
- "Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed
she, rattling away at the instrument. "Poor, puny things, not fit
to stir a step beyond papa's park gates: nor to go even so far
without mama's permission and guardianship! Creatures so absorbed
in care about their pretty faces, and their white hands, and their
small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty! As if
loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman -- her legitimate
appanage and heritage! I grant an ugly woman is a blot on the fair
face of creation; but as to the gentlemen, let them be solicitous to
possess only strength and valour: let their motto be: -- Hunt, shoot,
and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such should be my
device, were I a man."
- "Whenever I marry," she continued after a pause which none
interrupted, "I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a
foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall
exact an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared
between me and the shape he sees in his mirror. Mr. Rochester, now
sing, and I will play for you."
- "I am all obedience," was the response.
- "Here then is a Corsair-song. Know that I doat on Corsairs; and for
that reason, sing it con spirito."
- "Commands from Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug of
milk and water."
- "Take care, then: if you don't please me, I will shame you by
showing how such things should be done."
- "That is offering a premium on incapacity: I shall now endeavour to
- "Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a
- "Miss Ingram ought to be clement, for she has it in her power to
inflict a chastisement beyond mortal endurance."
- "Ha! explain!" commanded the lady.
- "Pardon me, madam: no need of explanation; your own fine sense must
inform you that one of your frowns would be a sufficient substitute
for capital punishment."
- "Sing!" said she, and again touching the piano, she commenced an
accompaniment in spirited style.
- "Now is my time to slip away," thought I: but the tones that then
severed the air arrested me. Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochester
possessed a fine voice: he did -- a mellow, powerful bass, into which
he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way through the
ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely. I waited
till the last deep and full vibration had expired -- till the tide of
talk, checked an instant, had resumed its flow; I then quitted my
sheltered corner and made my exit by the side-door, which was
fortunately near. Thence a narrow passage led into the hall: in
crossing it, I perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped to tie it,
kneeling down for that purpose on the mat at the foot of the
staircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman came
out; rising hastily, I stood face to face with him: it was Mr.
- "How do you do?" he asked.
- "I am very well, sir."
- "Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?"
- I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but
I would not take that freedom. I answered: --
- "I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir."
- "What have you been doing during my absence?"
- "Nothing particular; teaching Adèle as usual."
- "And getting a good deal paler than you were -- as I saw at first
sight. What is the matter?"
- "Nothing at all, sir."
- "Did you take any cold that night you half drowned me?"
- "Not the least."
- "Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early."
- "I am tired, sir."
- He looked at me for a minute.
- "And a little depressed," he said. "What about? Tell me."
- "Nothing -- nothing, sir. I am not depressed."
- "But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words
would bring tears to your eyes -- indeed, they are there now, shining
and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to
the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some
prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means.
Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my
visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every
evening; it is my wish; don't neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie
for Adèle. Good-night, my" ---- He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly
- MERRY days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how
different from the first three months of stillness, monotony, and
solitude I had passed beneath its roof! All sad feelings seemed now
driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten: there was
life everywhere, movement all day long. You could not now traverse
the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front chambers, once so
tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a dandy
- The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance
hall, were equally alive; and the saloons were only left void and
still when the blue sky and halcyon sunshine of the genial spring
weather called their occupants out into the grounds. Even when that
weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days, no
damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became more
lively and varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.
- I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change of
entertainment was proposed: they spoke of "playing charades," but
in my ignorance I did not understand the term. The servants were
called in, the dining-room tables wheeled away, the lights otherwise
disposed, the chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the arch.
While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen directed these
alterations, the ladies were running up and down stairs ringing for
their maids. Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information
respecting the resources of the house in shawls, dresses, draperies
of any kind; and certain wardrobes of the third storey were
ransacked, and their contents, in the shape of brocaded and hooped
petticoats, satin sacques, black modes, lace lappets, etc., were
brought down in armfuls by the abigails; then a selection was made,
and such things as were chosen were carried to the boudoir within
- Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him, and
was selecting certain of their number to be of his party. "Miss
Ingram is mine, of course," said he: afterwards he named the two
Misses Eshton, and Mrs. Dent. He looked at me: I happened to be
near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs. Dent's bracelet,
which had got loose.
- "Will you play?" he asked. I shook my head. He did not insist,
which I rather feared he would have done; he allowed me to return
quietly to my usual seat.
- He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party,
which was headed by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of
chairs. One of the gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to
propose that I should be asked to join them; but Lady Ingram
instantly negatived the notion.
- "No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the
- Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up. Within the arch,
the bulky figure of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had likewise
chosen, was seen enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on a
table, lay open a large book; and at his side stood Amy Eshton,
draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book in her hand.
Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adèle (who had
insisted on being one of her guardian's party), bounded forward,
scattering round her the contents of a basket of flowers she carried
on her arm. Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingram,
clad in white, a long veil on her head, and a wreath of roses round
her brow; by her side walked Mr. Rochester, and together they drew
near the table. They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshton,
dressed also in white, took up their stations behind them. A
ceremony followed, in dumb show, in which it was easy to recognise
the pantomime of a marriage. At its termination, Colonel Dent and
his party consulted in whispers for two minutes, then the Colonel
called out, --
- "Bride!" Mr. Rochester bowed, and the curtain fell.
- A considerable interval elapsed before it again rose. Its second
rising displayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.
The drawing-room, as I have before observed, was raised two steps
above the dining-room, and on the top of the upper step, placed a
yard or two back within the room, appeared a large marble basin --
which I recognised as an ornament of the conservatory -- where it
usually stood, surrounded by exotics, and tenanted by gold fish -- and
whence it must have been transported with some trouble, on account
of its size and weight.
- Seated on the carpet, by the side of this basin, was seen Mr.
Rochester, costumed in shawls, with a turban on his head. His dark
eyes and swarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costume
exactly: he looked the very model of an Eastern emir, an agent or a
victim of the bowstring. Presently advanced into view Miss Ingram.
She, too, was attired in oriental fashion: a crimson scarf tied
sash-like round the waist: an embroidered handkerchief knotted
about her temples; her beautifully-moulded arms bare, one of them
upraised in the act of supporting a pitcher, poised gracefully on
her head. Both her cast of form and feature, her complexion and her
general air, suggested the idea of some Israelitish princess of the
patriarchal days; and such was doubtless the character she intended
- She approached the basin, and bent over it as if to fill her
pitcher; she again lifted it to her head. The personage on the
well-brink now seemed to accost her; to make some request: -- "She
hasted, let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink."
From the bosom of his robe he then produced a casket, opened it and
showed magnificent bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishment
and admiration; kneeling, he laid the treasure at her feet;
incredulity and delight were expressed by her looks and gestures;
the stranger fastened the bracelets on her arms and the rings in her
ears. It was Eliezer and Rebecca: the camels only were wanting.
- The divining party again laid their heads together: apparently they
could not agree about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.
Colonel Dent, their spokesman, demanded "the tableau of the whole;"
whereupon the curtain again descended.
- On its third rising only a portion of the drawing-room was
disclosed; the rest being concealed by a screen, hung with some sort
of dark and coarse drapery. The marble basin was removed; in its
place, stood a deal table and a kitchen chair: these objects were
visible by a very dim light proceeding from a horn lantern, the wax
candles being all extinguished.
- Amidst this sordid scene, sat a man with his clenched hands resting
on his knees, and his eyes bent on the ground. I knew Mr.
Rochester; though the begrimed face, the disordered dress (his coat
hanging loose from one arm, as if it had been almost torn from his
back in a scuffle), the desperate and scowling countenance, the
rough, bristling hair might well have disguised him. As he moved, a
chain clanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.
- "Bridewell!" exclaimed Colonel Dent, and the charade was solved.
- A sufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resume
their ordinary costume, they re-entered the dining-room. Mr.
Rochester led in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on his
- "Do you know," said she, "that, of the three characters, I liked you
in the last best? Oh, had you but lived a few years earlier, what a
gallant gentleman-highwayman you would have made!"
- "Is all the soot washed from my face?" he asked, turning it towards
- "Alas! yes: the more's the pity! Nothing could be more becoming to
your complexion than that ruffian's rouge."
- "You would like a hero of the road then?"
- "An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an
Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine
- "Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an
hour since, in the presence of all these witnesses." She giggled,
and her colour rose.
- "Now, Dent," continued Mr. Rochester, "it is your turn." And as the
other party withdrew, he and his band took the vacated seats. Miss
Ingram placed herself at her leader's right hand; the other diviners
filled the chairs on each side of him and her. I did not now watch
the actors; I no longer waited with interest for the curtain to
rise; my attention was absorbed by the spectators; my eyes, erewhile
fixed on the arch, were now irresistibly attracted to the semicircle
of chairs. What charade Colonel Dent and his party played, what
word they chose, how they acquitted themselves, I no longer
remember; but I still see the consultation which followed each
scene: I see Mr. Rochester turn to Miss Ingram, and Miss Ingram to
him; I see her incline her head towards him, till the jetty curls
almost touch his shoulder and wave against his cheek; I hear their
mutual whisperings; I recall their interchanged glances; and
something even of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns in
memory at this moment.
- I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I
could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased
to notice me -- because I might pass hours in his presence, and he
would never once turn his eyes in my direction -- because I saw all
his attentions appropriated by a great lady, who scorned to touch me
with the hem of her robes as she passed; who, if ever her dark and
imperious eye fell on me by chance, would withdraw it instantly as
from an object too mean to merit observation. I could not unlove
him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady -- because
I read daily in her a proud security in his intentions respecting
her -- because I witnessed hourly in him a style of courtship which,
if careless and choosing rather to be sought than to seek, was yet,
in its very carelessness, captivating, and in its very pride,
- There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances,
though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader, to
engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume to be
jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram's. But I was not jealous: or
very rarely; -- the nature of the pain I suffered could not be
explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:
she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming
paradox; I mean what I say. She was very showy, but she was not
genuine: she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments; but her
mind was poor, her heart barren by nature: nothing bloomed
spontaneously on that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted by
its freshness. She was not good; she was not original: she used to
repeat sounding phrases from books: she never offered, nor had, an
opinion of her own. She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but she
did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and
truth were not in her. Too often she betrayed this, by the undue
vent she gave to a spiteful antipathy she had conceived against
little Adèle: pushing her away with some contumelious epithet if
she happened to approach her; sometimes ordering her from the room,
and always treating her with coldness and acrimony. Other eyes
besides mine watched these manifestations of character -- watched them
closely, keenly, shrewdly. Yes; the future bridegroom, Mr.
Rochester himself, exercised over his intended a ceaseless
surveillance; and it was from this sagacity -- this guardedness of
his -- this perfect, clear consciousness of his fair one's defects --
this obvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards her, that
my ever-torturing pain arose.
- I saw he was going to marry her, for family, perhaps political
reasons, because her rank and connections suited him; I felt he had
not given her his love, and that her qualifications were ill adapted
to win from him that treasure. This was the point -- this was where
the nerve was touched and teased -- this was where the fever was
sustained and fed: she could not charm him.
- If she had managed the victory at once, and he had yielded and
sincerely laid his heart at her feet, I should have covered my face,
turned to the wall, and (figuratively) have died to them. If Miss
Ingram had been a good and noble woman, endowed with force, fervour,
kindness, sense, I should have had one vital struggle with two
tigers -- jealousy and despair: then, my heart torn out and devoured,
I should have admired her -- acknowledged her excellence, and been
quiet for the rest of my days: and the more absolute her
superiority, the deeper would have been my admiration -- the more
truly tranquil my quiescence. But as matters really stood, to watch
Miss Ingram's efforts at fascinating Mr. Rochester, to witness their
repeated failure -- herself unconscious that they did fail; vainly
fancying that each shaft launched hit the mark, and infatuatedly
pluming herself on success, when her pride and self-complacency
repelled further--> and further--> what she wished to allure -- to witness
this, was to be at once under ceaseless excitation and ruthless
- Because, when she failed, I saw how she might have succeeded.
Arrows that continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast and
fell harmless at his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand,
have quivered keen in his proud heart -- have called love into his
stern eye, and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still,
without weapons a silent conquest might have been won.
- "Why can she not influence him more, when she is privileged to draw
so near to him?" I asked myself. "Surely she cannot truly like him,
or not like him with true affection! If she did, she need not coin
her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly,
manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous. It seems to
me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying
little and looking less, get nigher his heart. I have seen in his
face a far different expression from that which hardens it now while
she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it
was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; and
one had but to accept it -- to answer what he asked without
pretension, to address him when needful without grimace -- and it
increased and grew kinder and more genial, and warmed one like a
fostering sunbeam. How will she manage to please him when they are
married? I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might be
managed; and his wife might, I verily believe, be the very happiest
woman the sun shines on."
- I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's project
of marrying for interest and connections. It surprised me when I
first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a
man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his
choice of a wife; but the longer I considered the position,
education, etc., of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging
and blaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to
ideas and principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their
childhood. All their class held these principles: I supposed,
then, they had reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom.
It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to
my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness
of the advantages to the husband's own happiness offered by this
plan convinced me that there must be arguments against its general
adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all
the world would act as I wished to act.
- But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to
my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once
kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly been my endeavour to study
all sides of his character: to take the bad with the good; and from
the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgment. Now I saw
no bad. The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that had
startled me once, were only like keen condiments in a choice dish:
their presence was pungent, but their absence would be felt as
comparatively insipid. And as for the vague something -- was it a
sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression? --
that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye, and
closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially
disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink, as
if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had
suddenly felt the ground quiver and seen it gape: that something,
I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not
with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to
dare -- to divine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because one day
she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore its secrets
and analyse their nature.
- Meantime, while I thought only of my master and his future bride --
saw only them, heard only their discourse, and considered only their
movements of importance -- the rest of the party were occupied with
their own separate interests and pleasures. The Ladies Lynn and
Ingram continued to consort in solemn conferences, where they nodded
their two turbans at each other, and held up their four hands in
confronting gestures of surprise, or mystery, or horror, according
to the theme on which their gossip ran, like a pair of magnified
puppets. Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs. Eshton; and
the two sometimes bestowed a courteous word or smile on me. Sir
George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and Mr. Eshton discussed politics, or
county affairs, or justice business. Lord Ingram flirted with Amy
Eshton; Louisa played and sang to and with one of the Messrs. Lynn;
and Mary Ingram listened languidly to the gallant speeches of the
other. Sometimes all, as with one consent, suspended their by-play
to observe and listen to the principal actors: for, after all, Mr.
Rochester and -- because closely connected with him -- Miss Ingram were
the life and soul of the party. If he was absent from the room an
hour, a perceptible dulness seemed to steal over the spirits of his
guests; and his re-entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse to the
vivacity of conversation.
- The want of his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly felt
one day that he had been summoned to Millcote on business, and was
not likely to return till late. The afternoon was wet: a walk the
party had proposed to take to see a gipsy camp, lately pitched on a
common beyond Hay, was consequently deferred. Some of the gentlemen
were gone to the stables: the younger ones, together with the
younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard-room. The
dowagers Ingram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.
Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity,
some efforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into
conversation, had first murmured over some sentimental tunes and
airs on the piano, and then, having fetched a novel from the
library, had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa, and
prepared to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the tedious hours of
absence. The room and the house were silent: only now and then the
merriment of the billiard-players was heard from above.
- It was verging on dusk, and the clock had already given warning of
the hour to dress for dinner, when little Adèle, who knelt by me in
the drawing-room window-seat, suddenly exclaimed: --
- "Voilà, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"
- I turned, and Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa: the
others, too, looked up from their several occupations; for at the
same time a crunching of wheels and a splashing tramp of horse-hoofs
became audible on the wet gravel. A post-chaise was approaching.
- "What can possess him to come home in that style?" said Miss Ingram.
"He rode Mesrour (the black horse), did he not, when he went out?
and Pilot was with him: -- what has he done with the animals?"
- As she said this, she approached her tall person and ample garments
so near the window, that I was obliged to bend back almost to the
breaking of my spine: in her eagerness she did not observe me at
first, but when she did, she curled her lip and moved to another
casement. The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-bell,
and a gentleman alighted attired in travelling garb; but it was not
Mr. Rochester; it was a tall, fashionable-looking man, a stranger.
- "Provoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram: "you tiresome monkey!"
(apostrophising Adèle), "who perched you up in the window to give
false intelligence?" and she cast on me an angry glance, as if I
were in fault.
- Some parleying was audible in the hall, and soon the new-comer
entered. He bowed to Lady Ingram, as deeming her the eldest lady
- "It appears I come at an inopportune time, madam," said he, "when my
friend, Mr. Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very long
journey, and I think I may presume so far on old and intimate
acquaintance as to instal myself here till he returns."
- His manner was polite; his accent, in speaking, struck me as being
somewhat unusual, -- not precisely foreign, but still not altogether
English: his age might be about Mr. Rochester's, -- between thirty
and forty; his complexion was singularly sallow: otherwise he was a
fine-looking man, at first sight especially. On closer examination,
you detected something in his face that displeased, or rather that
failed to please. His features were regular, but too relaxed: his
eye was large and well cut, but the life looking out of it was a
tame, vacant life -- at least so I thought.
- The sound of the dressing-bell dispersed the party. It was not till
after dinner that I saw him again: he then seemed quite at his
ease. But I liked his physiognomy even less than before: it struck
me as being at the same time unsettled and inanimate. His eye
wandered, and had no meaning in its wandering: this gave him an odd
look, such as I never remembered to have seen. For a handsome and
not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there was
no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape: no
firmness in that aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there was no
thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank, brown
- As I sat in my usual nook, and looked at him with the light of the
girandoles on the mantelpiece beaming full over him -- for he occupied
an arm-chair drawn close to the fire, and kept shrinking still
nearer, as if he were cold, I compared him with Mr. Rochester. I
think (with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be much
greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek
sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian.
- He had spoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend. A curious
friendship theirs must have been: a pointed illustration, indeed,
of the old adage that "extremes meet."
- Two or three of the gentlemen sat near him, and I caught at times
scraps of their conversation across the room. At first I could not
make much sense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa Eshton
and Mary Ingram, who sat nearer to me, confused the fragmentary
sentences that reached me at intervals. These last were discussing
the stranger; they both called him "a beautiful man." Louisa said
he was "a love of a creature," and she "adored him;" and Mary
instanced his "pretty little mouth, and nice nose," as her ideal of
- "And what a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa, -- "so
smooth -- none of those frowning irregularities I dislike so much; and
such a placid eye and smile!"
- And then, to my great relief, Mr. Henry Lynn summoned them to the
other side of the room, to settle some point about the deferred
excursion to Hay Common.
- I was now able to concentrate my attention on the group by the fire,
and I presently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason;
then I learned that he was but just arrived in England, and that he
came from some hot country: which was the reason, doubtless, his
face was so sallow, and that he sat so near the hearth, and wore a
surtout in the house. Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston,
Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies as his residence; and it was
with no little surprise I gathered, ere long, that he had there
first seen and become acquainted with Mr. Rochester. He spoke of
his friend's dislike of the burning heats, the hurricanes, and rainy
seasons of that region. I knew Mr. Rochester had been a traveller:
Mrs. Fairfax had said so; but I thought the continent of Europe had
bounded his wanderings; till now I had never heard a hint given of
visits to more distant shores.
- I was pondering these things, when an incident, and a somewhat
unexpected one, broke the thread of my musings. Mr. Mason,
shivering as some one chanced to open the door, asked for more coal
to be put on the fire, which had burnt out its flame, though its
mass of cinder still shone hot and red. The footman who brought the
coal, in going out, stopped near Mr. Eshton's chair, and said
something to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the words,
"old woman," -- "quite troublesome."
- "Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take
herself off," replied the magistrate.
- "No -- stop!" interrupted Colonel Dent. "Don't send her away, Eshton;
we might turn the thing to account; better consult the ladies." And
speaking aloud, he continued -- "Ladies, you talked of going to Hay
Common to visit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that one of the old
Mother Bunches is in the servants' hall at this moment, and insists
upon being brought in before 'the quality,' to tell them their
fortunes. Would you like to see her?"
- "Surely, colonel," cried Lady Ingram, "you would not encourage such
a low impostor? Dismiss her, by all means, at once!"
- "But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady," said the footman;
"nor can any of the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just now,
entreating her to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the chimney-comer, and says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leave
to come in here."
- "What does she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.
- "'To tell the gentry their fortunes,' she says, ma'am; and she
swears she must and will do it."
- "What is she like?" inquired the Misses Eshton, in a breath.
- "A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a crock."
- "Why, she's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn. "Let us have
her in, of course."
- "To be sure," rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousand pities
to throw away such a chance of fun."
- "My dear boys, what are you thinking about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.
- "I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding,"
chimed in the Dowager Ingram.
- "Indeed, mama, but you can -- and will," pronounced the haughty voice
of Blanche, as she turned round on the piano-stool; where till now
she had sat silent, apparently examining sundry sheets of music. "I
have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore, Sam, order the
- "My darling Blanche! recollect" ----
- "I do -- I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will --
- "Yes -- yes -- yes!" cried all the juveniles, both ladies and gentlemen.
"Let her come -- it will be excellent sport!"
- The footman still lingered. "She looks such a rough one," said he.
- "Go!" ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.
- Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of
raillery and jests was proceeding when Sam returned.
- "She won't come now," said he. "She says it's not her mission to
appear before the 'vulgar herd' (them's her words). I must show her
into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her must
go to her one by one."
- "You see now, my queenly Blanche," began Lady Ingram, "she
encroaches. Be advised, my angel girl -- and" ----
- "Show her into the library, of course," cut in the "angel girl."
"It is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd
either: I mean to have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the
- "Yes, ma'am -- but she looks such a tinkler."
- "Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding."
- Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose to full
flow once more.
- "She's ready now," said the footman, as he reappeared. "She wishes
to know who will be her first visitor."
- "I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies
go," said Colonel Dent.
- "Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."
- Sam went and returned.
- "She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not trouble
themselves to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty
suppressing a titter, "any ladies either, except the young, and
- "By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.
- Miss Ingram rose solemnly: "I go first," she said, in a tone which
might have befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach
in the van of his men.
- "Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause -- reflect!" was her mama's cry;
but she swept past her in stately silence, passed through the door
which Colonel Dent held open, and we heard her enter the library.
- A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to
wring her hands: which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared she
felt, for her part, she never dared venture. Amy and Louisa Eshton
tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.
- The minutes passed very slowly: fifteen were counted before the
library-door again opened. Miss Ingram returned to us through the
- Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke? All eyes met her
with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of
rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry: she
walked stiffly to her seat, and took it in silence.
- "Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram.
- "What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.
- "What did you think? How do you feel? -- Is she a real fortune-teller?" demanded the Misses Eshton.
- "Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon me.
Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited: you
seem, by the importance of you all -- my good mama included -- ascribe
to this matter, absolutely to believe we have a genuine witch in the
house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman. I have seen
a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science
of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell. My whim is
gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag in
the stocks to-morrow morning, as he threatened."
- Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined
further--> conversation. I watched her for nearly half-an-hour:
during all that time she never turned a page, and her face grew
momently darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly expressive of
disappointment. She had obviously not heard anything to her
advantage: and it seemed to me, from her prolonged fit of gloom and
taciturnity, that she herself, notwithstanding her professed
indifference, attached undue importance to whatever revelations had
been made her.
- Meantime, Mary Ingram, Amy and Louisa Eshton, declared they dared
not go alone; and yet they all wished to go. A negotiation was
opened through the medium of the ambassador, Sam; and after much
pacing to and fro, till, I think, the said Sam's calves must have
ached with the exercise, permission was at last, with great
difficulty, extorted from the rigorous Sibyl, for the three to wait
upon her in a body.
- Their visit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been: we heard
hysterical giggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library;
and at the end of about twenty minutes they burst the door open, and
came running across the hall, as if they were half-scared out of
- "I'm sure she is something not right!" they cried, one and all.
"She told us such things! She knows all about us!" and they sank
breathless into the various seats the gentlemen hastened to bring
- Pressed for further--> explanation, they declared she had told them of
things they had said and done when they were mere children;
described books and ornaments they had in their boudoirs at home:
keepsakes that different relations had presented to them. They
affirmed that she had even divined their thoughts, and had whispered
in the ear of each the name of the person she liked best in the
world, and informed them of what they most wished for.
- Here the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be further
enlightened on these two last-named points; but they got only
blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and titters, in return for their
importunity. The matrons, meantime, offered vinaigrettes and
wielded fans; and again and again reiterated the expression of their
concern that their warning had not been taken in time; and the elder
gentlemen laughed, and the younger urged their services on the
agitated fair ones.
- In the midst of the tumult, and while my eyes and ears were fully
engaged in the scene before me, I heard a hem close at my elbow: I
turned, and saw Sam.
- "If you please, miss, the gipsy declares that there is another young
single lady in the room who has not been to her yet, and she swears
she will not go till she has seen all. I thought it must be you:
there is no one else for it. What shall I tell her?"
- "Oh, I will go by all means," I answered: and I was glad of the
unexpected opportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity. I
slipped out of the room, unobserved by any eye -- for the company were
gathered in one mass about the trembling trio just returned -- and I
closed the door quietly behind me.
- "If you like, miss," said Sam, "I'll wait in the hall for you; and
if she frightens you, just call and I'll come in."
- "No, Sam, return to the kitchen: I am not in the least afraid."
Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited.
- THE library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl --
if Sibyl she were -- was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at the
chimney-corner. She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet: or
rather, a broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied down with a striped
handkerchief under her chin. An extinguished candle stood on the
table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed reading in a little
black book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze: she
muttered the words to herself, as most old women do, while she read;
she did not desist immediately on my entrance: it appeared she
wished to finish a paragraph.
- I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with
sitting at a distance from the drawing-room fire. I felt now as
composed as ever I did in my life: there was nothing indeed in the
gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm. She shut her book and
slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I
could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one. It looked
all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white
band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or
rather jaws: her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and direct
- "Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as
decided as her glance, as harsh as her features.
- "I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I
ought to warn you, I have no faith."
- "It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard
it in your step as you crossed the threshold."
- "Did you? You've a quick ear."
- "I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."
- "You need them all in your trade."
- "I do; especially when I've customers like you to deal with. Why
don't you tremble?"
- "I'm not cold."
- "Why don't you turn pale?"
- "I am not sick."
- "Why don't you consult my art?"
- "I'm not silly."
- The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; she
then drew out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke.
Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body,
took the pipe from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire,
said very deliberately: --
- "You are cold; you are sick; and you are
- "Prove it," I rejoined.
- "I will, in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no
contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick;
because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to
man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you
may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor will you stir one step
to meet it where it waits you."
- She again put her short black pipe to her lips, and renewed her
smoking with vigour.
- "You might say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as a
solitary dependent in a great house."
- "I might say it to almost any one: but would it be true of almost
- "In my circumstances."
- "Yes; just so, in your circumstances: but find me another precisely
placed as you are."
- "It would be easy to find you thousands."
- "You could scarcely find me one. If you knew it, you are peculiarly
situated: very near happiness; yes, within reach of it. The
materials are all prepared; there only wants a movement to combine
them. Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approached
and bliss results."
- "I don't understand enigmas. I never could guess a riddle in my
- "If you wish me to speak more plainly, show me your palm."
- "And I must cross it with silver, I suppose?"
- "To be sure."
- I gave her a shilling: she put it into an old stocking-foot which
she took out of her pocket, and having tied it round and returned
it, she told me to hold out my hand. I did. She ached her face to
the palm, and pored over it without touching it.
- "It is too fine," said she. "I can make nothing of such a hand as
that; almost without lines: besides, what is in a palm? Destiny is
not written there."
- "I believe you," said I.
- "No," she continued, "it is in the face: on the forehead, about the
eyes, in the lines of the mouth. Kneel, and lift up your head."
- "Ah! now you are coming to reality," I said, as I obeyed her. "I
shall begin to put some faith in you presently."
- I knelt within half a yard of her. She stirred the fire, so that a
ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the glare, however,
as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine, it
- "I wonder with what feelings you came to me to-night," she said,
when she had examined me a while. "I wonder what thoughts are busy
in your heart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with the
fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:
just as little sympathetic communion passing between you and them as
if they were really mere shadows of human forms, and not the actual
- "I feel tired often, sleepy sometimes, but seldom sad."
- "Then you have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you with
whispers of the future?"
- "Not I. The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my
earnings to set up a school some day in a little house rented by
- "A mean nutriment for the spirit to exist on: and sitting in that
window-seat (you see I know your habits)" ----
- "You have learned them from the servants."
- "Ah! you think yourself sharp. Well, perhaps I have: to speak
truth, I have an acquaintance with one of them, Mrs. Poole" ----
- I started to my feet when I heard the name.
- "You have -- have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in the business
after all, then!"
- "Don't be alarmed," continued the strange being; "she's a safe hand
is Mrs. Poole: close and quiet; any one may repose confidence in
her. But, as I was saying: sitting in that window-seat, do you
think of nothing but your future school? Have you no present
interest in any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairs
before you? Is there not one face you study? one figure whose
movements you follow with at least curiosity?"
- "I like to observe all the faces and all the figures."
- "But do you never single one from the rest -- or it may be, two?"
- "I do frequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem telling
a tale: it amuses me to watch them."
- "What tale do you like best to hear?"
- "Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme -- courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe -- marriage."
- "And do you like that monotonous theme?"
- "Positively, I don't care about it: it is nothing to me."
- "Nothing to you? When a lady, young and full of life and health,
charming with beauty and endowed with the gifts of rank and fortune,
sits and smiles in the eyes of a gentleman you" ----
- "I what?"
- "You know -- and perhaps think well of."
- "I don't know the gentlemen here. I have scarcely interchanged a
syllable with one of them; and as to thinking well of them, I
consider some respectable, and stately, and middle-aged, and others
young, dashing, handsome, and lively: but certainly they are all at
liberty to be the recipients of whose smiles they please, without my
feeling disposed to consider the transaction of any moment to me."
- "You don't know the gentlemen here? You have not exchanged a
syllable with one of them? Will you say that of the master of the
- "He is not at home."
- "A profound remark! A most ingenious quibble! He went to Millcote
this morning, and will be back here to-night or to-morrow: does
that circumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance --
blot him, as it were, out of existence?"
- "No; but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with the
theme you had introduced."
- "I was talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and of
late so many smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes that
they overflow like two cups filled above the brim: have you never
- "Mr. Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."
- "No question about his right: but have you never observed that, of
all the tales told here about matrimony, Mr. Rochester has been
favoured with the most lively and the most continuous?"
- "The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator." I
said this rather to myself than to the gipsy, whose strange talk,
voice, manner, had by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream. One
unexpected sentence came from her lips after another, till I got
involved in a web of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirit
had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and
taking record of every pulse.
- "Eagerness of a listener!" repeated she: "yes; Mr. Rochester has
sat by the hour, his ear inclined to the fascinating lips that took
such delight in their task of communicating; and Mr. Rochester was
so willing to receive and looked so grateful for the pastime given
him; you have noticed this?"
- "Grateful! I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."
- "Detecting! You have analysed, then. And what did you detect, if
- I said nothing.
- "You have seen love: have you not? -- and, looking forward, you have
seen him married, and beheld his bride happy?"
- "Humph! Not exactly. Your witch's skill is rather at fault
- "What the devil have you seen, then?"
- "Never mind: I came here to inquire, not to confess. Is it known
that Mr. Rochester is to be married?"
- "Yes; and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."
- "Appearances would warrant that conclusion: and, no doubt (though,
with an audacity that wants chastising out of you, you seem to
question it), they will be a superlatively happy pair. He must love
such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably she
loves him, or, if not his person, at least his purse. I know she
considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree; though
(God pardon me!) I told her something on that point about an hour
ago which made her look wondrous grave: the corners of her mouth
fell half an inch. I would advise her blackaviced suitor to look
out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll, -- he's
- "But, mother, I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I
came to hear my own; and you have told me nothing of it."
- "Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait
contradicted another. Chance has meted you a measure of happiness:
that I know. I knew it before I came here this evening. She has
laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends
on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether
you will do so, is the problem I study. Kneel again on the rug."
- "Don't keep me long; the fire scorches me."
- I knelt. She did not stoop towards me, but only gazed, leaning back
in her chair. She began muttering, --
- "The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks
soft and full of feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is
susceptible; impression follows impression through its clear sphere;
where it ceases to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs
on the lid: that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness.
It turns from me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems to
deny, by a mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have
already made, -- to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:
its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinion. The eye is
- "As to the mouth, it delights at times in laughter; it is disposed
to impart all that the brain conceives; though I daresay it would be
silent on much the heart experiences. Mobile and flexible, it was
never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of solitude:
it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often, and have
human affection for its interlocutor. That feature too is
- "I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that brow
professes to say, -- 'I can live alone, if self-respect, and
circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy
bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me
alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only
at a price I cannot afford to give.' The forehead declares, 'Reason
sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings
burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage
furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may
imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the
last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.
Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall
follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the
dictates of conscience.'
- "Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected. I have
formed my plans -- right plans I deem them -- and in them I have
attended to the claims of conscience, the counsels of reason. I
know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of
bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were
detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution -- such is
not my taste. I wish to foster, not to blight -- to earn gratitude,
not to wring tears of blood -- no, nor of brine: my harvest must be
in smiles, in endearments, in sweet -- That will do. I think I rave
in a kind of exquisite delirium. I should wish now to protract this
moment ad infinitum; but I dare not. So far I have governed myself
thoroughly. I have acted as I inwardly swore I would act; but
further might try me beyond my strength. Rise, Miss Eyre: leave
me; the play is played out'."
- Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I
dream still? The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her
gesture, and all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass -- as
the speech of my own tongue. I got up, but did not go. I looked; I
stirred the fire, and I looked again: but she drew her bonnet and
her bandage closer about her face, and again beckoned me to depart.
The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused now, and on
the alert for discoveries, I at once noticed that hand. It was no
more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supple
member, with smooth fingers, symmetrically turned; a broad ring
flashed on the little finger, and stooping forward, I looked at it,
and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before. Again I looked at
the face; which was no longer turned from me -- on the contrary, the
bonnet was doffed, the bandage displaced, the head advanced.
- "Well, Jane, do you know me?" asked the familiar voice.
- "Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then" ----
- "But the string is in a knot -- help me."
- "Break it, sir."
- "There, then -- 'Off, ye lendings!'" And Mr. Rochester stepped out of
- "Now, sir, what a strange idea!"
- "But well carried out, eh? Don't you think so?"
- "With the ladies you must have managed well."
- "But not with you?"
- "You did not act the character of a gipsy with me."
- "What character did I act? My own?"
- "No; some unaccountable one. In short, I believe you have been
trying to draw me out -- or in; you have been talking nonsense to make
me talk nonsense. It is scarcely fair, sir."
- "Do you forgive me, Jane?"
- "I cannot tell till I have thought it all over. If, on reflection,
I find I have fallen into no great absurdity, I shall try to forgive
you; but it was not right."
- "Oh, you have been very correct -- very careful, very sensible."
- I reflected, and thought, on the whole, I had. It was a comfort;
but, indeed, I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of the
interview. Something of masquerade I suspected. I knew gipsies and
fortune-tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old woman
had expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice, her
anxiety to conceal her features. But my mind had been running on
Grace Poole -- that living enigma, that mystery of mysteries, as I
considered her. I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.
- "Well," said he, "what are you musing about? What does that grave
- "Wonder and self-congratulation, sir. I have your permission to
retire now, I suppose?"
- "No; stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-room
yonder are doing."
- "Discussing the gipsy, I daresay."
- "Sit down! -- Let me hear what they said about me."
- "I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near eleven o'clock.
Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here
since you left this morning?"
- "A stranger! -- no; who can it be? I expected no one; is he gone?"
- "No; he said he had known you long, and that he could take the
liberty of installing himself here till you returned."
- "The devil he did! Did he give his name?"
- "His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies; from
Spanish Town, in Jamaica, I think."
- Mr. Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my hand, as if to
lead me to a chair. As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive grip;
the smile on his lips froze: apparently a spasm caught his breath.
- "Mason! -- the West Indies!" he said, in the tone one might fancy a
speaking automaton to enounce its single words; "Mason! -- the West
Indies!" he reiterated; and he went over the syllables three times,
growing, in the intervals of speaking, whiter than ashes: he hardly
seemed to know what he was doing.
- "Do you feel ill, sir?" I inquired.
- "Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!" He staggered.
- "Oh, lean on me, sir."
- "Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it
- "Yes, sir, yes; and my arm."
- He sat down, and made me sit beside him. Holding my hand in both
his own, he chafed it; gazing on me, at the same time, with the most
troubled and dreary look.
- "My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island with
only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed
- "Can I help you, sir? -- I'd give my life to serve you."
- "Jane, if aid is wanted, I'll seek it at your hands; I promise you
- "Thank you, sir. Tell me what to do, -- I'll try, at least, to do
- "Fetch me now, Jane, a glass of wine from the dining-room: they
will be at supper there; and tell me if Mason is with them, and what
he is doing."
- I went. I found all the party in the dining-room at supper, as Mr.
Rochester had said; they were not seated at table, -- the supper was
arranged on the sideboard; each had taken what he chose, and they
stood about here and there in groups, their plates and glasses in
their hands. Every one seemed in high glee; laughter and
conversation were general and animated. Mr. Mason stood near the
fire, talking to Colonel and Mrs. Dent, and appeared as merry as any
of them. I filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch me
frowningly as I did so: she thought I was taking a liberty, I
daresay), and I returned to the library.
- Mr. Rochester's extreme pallor had disappeared, and he looked once
more firm and stern. He took the glass from my hand.
- "Here is to your health, ministrant spirit!" he said. He swallowed
the contents and returned it to me. "What are they doing, Jane?"
- "Laughing and talking, sir."
- "They don't look grave and mysterious, as if they had heard
- "Not at all: they are full of jests and gaiety."
- "And Mason?"
- "He was laughing too."
- "If all these people came in a body and spat at me, what would you
- "Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could."
- He half smiled. "But if I were to go to them, and they only looked
at me coldly, and whispered sneeringly amongst each other, and then
dropped off and left me one by one, what then? Would you go with
- "I rather think not, sir: I should have more pleasure in staying
- "To comfort me?"
- "Yes, sir, to comfort you, as well as I could."
- "And if they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"
- "I, probably, should know nothing about their ban; and if I did, I
should care nothing about it."
- "Then, you could dare censure for my sake?"
- "I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my
adherence; as you, I am sure, do."
- "Go back now into the room; step quietly up to Mason, and whisper in
his ear that Mr. Rochester is come and wishes to see him: show him
in here and then leave me."
- "Yes, sir."
- I did his behest. The company all stared at me as I passed straight
among them. I sought Mr. Mason, delivered the message, and preceded
him from the room: I ushered him into the library, and then I went
- At a late hour, after I had been in bed some time, I heard the
visitors repair to their chambers: I distinguished Mr. Rochester's
voice, and heard him say, "This way, Mason; this is your room."
- He spoke cheerfully: the gay tones set my heart at ease. I was
- I HAD forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to
let down my window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon,
which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in her
course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in
at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.
Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk -- silver-white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half
rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.
- Good God! What a cry!
- The night -- its silence -- its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a
sharp, a shrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.
- My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was
paralysed. The cry died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever
being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it: not the
widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession, send
out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie. The thing
delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.
- It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And
overhead -- yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling -- I now
heard a struggle: a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and a
half-smothered voice shouted --
- "Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.
- "Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and
stamping went on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster: --
- "Rochester! Rochester! for God's sake, come!"
- A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery.
Another step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and
there was silence.
- I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I
issued from my apartment. The sleepers were all aroused:
ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room; door after
door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the gallery
filled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh!
what is it?" -- "Who is hurt?" -- "What has happened?" -- "Fetch a
light!" -- "Is it fire?" -- "Are there robbers?" -- "Where shall we run?"
was demanded confusedly on all hands. But for the moonlight they
would have been in complete darkness. They ran to and fro; they
crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion was
- "Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent. "I cannot find
him in his bed."
- "Here! here!" was shouted in return. "Be composed, all of you: I'm
- And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester
advanced with a candle: he had just descended from the upper
storey. One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm:
it was Miss Ingram.
- "What awful event has taken place?" said she. "Speak! let us know
the worst at once!"
- "But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses
Eshton were clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast
white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.
- "All's right! -- all's right!" he cried. "It's a mere rehearsal of
Much Ado about Nothing. Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax
- And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks. Calming
himself by an effort, he added: --
- "A servant has had the nightmare; that is all. She's an excitable,
nervous person: she construed her dream into an apparition, or
something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.
Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the
house is settled, she cannot be looked after. Gentlemen, have the
goodness to set the ladies the example. Miss Ingram, I am sure you
will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors. Amy and
Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.
Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead
certainty, if you stay in this chill gallery any longer."
- And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to
get them all once more enclosed in their separate dormitories. I
did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as
unnoticed I had left it.
- Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed
myself carefully. The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the
words that had been uttered, had probably been heard only by me; for
they had proceeded from the room above mine: but they assured me
that it was not a servant's dream which had thus struck horror
through the house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had given
was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests. I dressed,
then, to be ready for emergencies. When dressed, I sat a long time
by the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered
fields and waiting for I knew not what. It seemed to me that some
event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.
- No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually,
and in about an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a
desert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
Meantime the moon declined: she was about to set. Not liking to
sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,
dressed as I was. I left the window, and moved with little noise
across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautious
hand tapped low at the door.
- "Am I wanted?" I asked.
- "Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master's.
- "Yes, sir."
- "And dressed?"
- "Come out, then, quietly."
- I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.
- "I want you," he said: "come this way: take your time, and make no
- My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as a
cat. He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the
dark, low corridor of the fateful third storey: I had followed and
stood at his side.
- "Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.
- "Yes, sir."
- "Have you any salts -- volatile salts?"
- "Go back and fetch both."
- I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my
drawer, and once more retraced my steps. He still waited; he held a
key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors, he put
it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.
- "You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"
- "I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet."
- I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no
- "Just give me your hand," he said: "it will not do to risk a
- I put my fingers into his. "Warm and steady," was his remark: he
turned the key and opened the door.
- I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax
showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the
tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door
apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open; a
light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling,
snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling. Mr. Rochester,
putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went
forward to the inner apartment. A shout of laughter greeted his
entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace Poole's own
goblin ha! ha! She then was there. He made some sort of
arrangement without speaking, though I heard a low voice address
him: he came out and closed the door behind him.
- "Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a
large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable
portion of the chamber. An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man
sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his
head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the
candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifeless
face -- the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side,
and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.
- "Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched a
basin of water from the washstand: "Hold that," said he. I obeyed.
He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like
face; he asked for my smelling-bottle, and applied it to the
nostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned. Mr.
Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and
shoulder were bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fast down.
- "Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.
- "Pooh! No -- a mere scratch. Don't be so overcome, man: bear up!
I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself: you'll be able to be
removed by morning, I hope. Jane," he continued.
- "I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an
hour, or perhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I do when
it returns: if he feels faint, you will put the glass of water on
that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose. You will not
speak to him on any pretext -- and -- Richard, it will be at the peril
of your life if you speak to her: open your lips -- agitate yourself -- and I'll not answer for the consequences."
- Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear,
either of death or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse
him. Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I
proceeded to use it as he had done. He watched me a second, then
saying, "Remember! -- No conversation," he left the room. I
experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the
sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.
- Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic
cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes
and hands; a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:
yes -- that was appalling -- the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at
the thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.
- I must keep to my post, however. I must watch this ghastly
countenance -- these blue, still lips forbidden to unclose -- these eyes
now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room, now fixing on
me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror. I must dip my hand
again and again in the basin of blood and water, and wipe away the
trickling gore. I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle wane
on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought, antique
tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of the vast old
bed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinet
opposite -- whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore, in grim
design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its
separate panel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose an
ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.
- According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered
here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that
bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon the
devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed
gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor -- of
Satan himself -- in his subordinate's form.
- Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for
the movements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.
But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound: all the night
I heard but three sounds at three long intervals, -- a step creak, a
momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a deep human
- Then my own thoughts worried me. What crime was this that lived
incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled
nor subdued by the owner? -- what mystery, that broke out now in fire
and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature was
it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the
voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of
- And this man I bent over -- this commonplace, quiet stranger -- how had
he become involved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown
at him? What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimely
season, when he should have been asleep in bed? I had heard Mr.
Rochester assign him an apartment below -- what brought him here! And
why, now, was he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?
Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochester
enforced? Why did Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment? His
guest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been
hideously plotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy
and sank in oblivion! Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr.
Rochester; that the impetuous will of the latter held complete sway
over the inertness of the former: the few words which had passed
between them assured me of this. It was evident that in their
former intercourse, the passive disposition of the one had been
habitually influenced by the active energy of the other: whence
then had arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason's
arrival? Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual -- whom
his word now sufficed to control like a child -- fallen on him, a few
hours since, as a thunderbolt might fall on an oak?
- Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:
"Jane, I have got a blow -- I have got a blow, Jane." I could not
forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder: and
it was no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit and
thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.
- "When will he come? When will he come?" I cried inwardly, as the
night lingered and lingered -- as my bleeding patient drooped, moaned,
sickened: and neither day nor aid arrived. I had, again and again,
held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again offered him
the stimulating salts: my efforts seemed ineffectual: either
bodily or mental suffering, or loss of blood, or all three combined,
were fast prostrating his strength. He moaned so, and looked so
weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; ant I might not even
speak to him.
- The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived
streaks of grey light edging the window curtains: dawn was then
approaching. Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of his
distant kennel in the courtyard: hope revived. Nor was it
unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding
lock, warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted
more than two hours: many a week has seemed shorter.
- Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to
- "Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last: "I give you
but half-an-hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages,
getting the patient downstairs and all."
- "But is he fit to move, sir?"
- "No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits
must be kept up. Come, set to work."
- Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland
blind, let in all the daylight he could; and I was surprised and
cheered to see how far dawn was advanced: what rosy streaks were
beginning to brighten the east. Then he approached Mason, whom the
surgeon was already handling.
- "Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.
- "She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.
- "Not a whit! -- courage! This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin
the worse of it: you've lost a little blood; that's all Carter,
assure him there's no danger."
- "I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone the
bandages; "only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would not
have bled so much -- but how is this? The flesh on the shoulder is
torn as well as cut. This wound was not done with a knife: there
have been teeth here!"
- "She bit me," he murmured. "She worried me like a tigress, when
Rochester got the knife from her."
- "You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at
once," said Mr. Rochester.
- "But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.
"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering. "And I did not expect
it: she looked so quiet at first."
- "I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said -- be on your guard
when you go near her. Besides, you might have waited till to-morrow, and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the
interview to-night, and alone."
- "I thought I could have done some good."
- "You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you:
but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for
not taking my advice; so I'll say no more. Carter -- hurry! -- hurry!
The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."
- "Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this
other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."
- "She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.
- I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of
disgust, horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to
distortion; but he only said: --
- "Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don't
- "I wish I could forget it," was the answer.
- "You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to
Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried -- or rather,
you need not think of her at all."
- "Impossible to forget this night!"
- "It is not impossible: have some energy, man. You thought you were
as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive and
talking now. There! -- Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'll
make you decent in a trice. Jane" (he turned to me for the first
time since his re-entrance), "take this key: go down into my
bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open the
top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neck-handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble."
- I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles
named, and returned with them.
- "Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his
toilet; but don't leave the room: you may be wanted again."
- I retired as directed.
- "Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired Mr.
- "No, sir; all was very still."
- "We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both
for your sake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder. I have
striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come at
last. Here, Carter, help him on with his waist-coat. Where did you
leave your furred cloak? You can't travel a mile without that, I
know, in this damned cold climate. In your room? -- Jane, run down to
Mr. Mason's room, -- the one next mine, -- and fetch a cloak you will
- Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined and
edged with fur.
- "Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you
must away to my room again. What a mercy you are shod with velvet,
Jane! -- a clod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.
You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a
little phial and a little glass you will find there, -- quick!"
- I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.
- "That's well! Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of
administering a dose myself, on my own responsibility. I got this
cordial at Rome, of an Italian charlatan -- a fellow you would have
kicked, Carter. It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but
it is good upon occasion: as now, for instance. Jane, a little
- He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-bottle on the washstand.
- "That will do; -- now wet the lip of the phial."
- I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and
presented it to Mason.
- "Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour
- "But will it hurt me? -- is it inflammatory?"
- "Drink! drink! drink!"
- Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist. He
was dressed now: he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory
and sullied. Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had
swallowed the liquid; he then took his arm: --
- "Now I am sure you can get on your feet," he said -- "try."
- The patient rose.
- "Carter, take him under the other shoulder. Be of good cheer,
Richard; step out -- that's it!"
- "I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.
- "I am sure you do. Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the
backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of the
post-chaise you will see in the yard -- or just outside, for I told
him not to drive his rattling wheels over the pavement -- to be ready;
we are coming: and, Jane, if any one is about, come to the foot of
the stairs and hem."
- It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of
rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent. The side-passage door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as
possible: all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open,
and there was a post-chaise, with horses ready harnessed, and driver
seated on the box, stationed outside. I approached him, and said
the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looked carefully round
and listened. The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;
the curtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;
little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard
trees, whose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wall
enclosing one side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped from
time to time in their closed stables: all else was still.
- The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and
the surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted him
into the chaise; Carter followed.
- "Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep him
at your house till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a day or
two to see how he gets on. Richard, how is it with you?"
- "The fresh air revives me, Fairfax."
- "Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind -- good-bye, Dick."
- "Fairfax" ----
- "Well what is it?"
- "Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be:
let her" ---- he stopped and burst into tears.
- "I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer:
he shut up the chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.
- "Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr.
Rochester, as he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.
- This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door
in the wall bordering the orchard. I, supposing he had done with
me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I heard him
call "Jane!" He had opened feel portal and stood at it, waiting for
- "Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said;
"that house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?"
- "It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."
- "The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and
you see it through a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the
gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is
sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly
bark. Now here" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)
"all is real, sweet, and pure."
- He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees,
and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all
sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses,
pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various
fragrant herbs. They were fresh now as a succession of April
showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make
them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light
illumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the
quiet walks under them.
- "Jane, will you have a flower?"
- He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it
- "Thank you, sir."
- "Do you like this sunrise, Jane? That sky with its high and light
clouds which are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm -- this
placid and balmly atmosphere?"
- "I do, very much."
- "You have passed a strange night, Jane."
- "Yes, sir."
- "And it has made you look pale -- were you afraid when I left you
alone with Mason?"
- "I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."
- "But I had fastened the door -- I had the key in my pocket: I should
have been a careless shepherd if I had left a lamb -- my pet lamb -- so
near a wolf's den, unguarded: you were safe."
- "Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?"
- "Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her -- put the thing out of
- "Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."
- "Never fear -- I will take care of myself."
- "Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?"
- "I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England: nor even
then. To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which
may crack and spue fire any day."
- "But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led. Your influence, sir, is
evidently potent with him: he will never set you at defiance or
wilfully injure you."
- "Oh, no! Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me --
but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless word,
deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of happiness."
- "Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and show
him how to avert the danger."
- He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw
it from him.
- "If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be?
Annihilated in a moment. Ever since I have known Mason, I have only
had to say to him 'Do that,' and the thing has been done. But I
cannot give him orders in this case: I cannot say 'Beware of
harming me, Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him
ignorant that harm to me is possible. Now you look puzzled; and I
will puzzle you further. You are my little friend, are you not?"
- "I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right."
- "Precisely: I see you do. I see genuine contentment in your gait
and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing
me -- working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically say,
'all that is right:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrong,
there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed alacrity, no
lively glance and animated complexion. My friend would then turn to
me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is impossible: I
cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable as a
fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me:
yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and
friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once."
- "If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me,
sir, you are very safe."
- "God grant it may be so! Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."
- The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a
rustic seat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me:
but I stood before him.
- "Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two. You don't
hesitate to take a place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?"
- I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been
- "Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew -- while all the
flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch
their young ones' breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early
bees do their first spell of work -- I'll put a case to you, which you
must endeavour to suppose your own: but first, look at me, and tell
me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in detaining you, or
that you err in staying."
- "No, sir; I am content."
- "Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy: -- suppose you were no
longer a girl well reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged
from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;
conceive that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what
nature or from what motives, but one whose consequences must follow
you through life and taint all your existence. Mind, I don't say a
crime; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guilty
act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word
is error. The results of what you have done become in time to you
utterly insupportable; you take measures to obtain relief: unusual
measures, but neither unlawful nor culpable. Still you are
miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:
your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not
leave it till the time of setting. Bitter and base associations
have become the sole food of your memory: you wander here and
there, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure -- I mean in
heartless, sensual pleasure -- such as dulls intellect and blights
feeling. Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years
of voluntary banishment: you make a new acquaintance -- how or where
no matter: you find in this stranger much of the good and bright
qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and never before
encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil and
without taint. Such society revives, regenerates: you feel better
days come back -- higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to
recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days in a
way more worthy of an immortal being. To attain this end, are you
justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom -- a mere conventional
impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your
- He paused for an answer: and what was I to say? Oh, for some good
spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain
aspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no
gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech: the birds
sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however sweet, was
- Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:
- "Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant,
man justified in daring the world's opinion, in order to attach to
him for ever this gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby
securing his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"
- "Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation
should never depend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die;
philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any
one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his
equals for strength to amend and solace to heal."
- "But the instrument -- the instrument! God, who does the work,
ordains the instrument. I have myself -- I tell it you without
parable -- been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I
have found the instrument for my cure in" ----
- He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly
rustling. I almost wondered they did not check their songs and
whispers to catch the suspended revelation; but they would have had
to wait many minutes -- so long was the silence protracted. At last I
looked up at the tardy speaker: he was looking eagerly at me.
- "Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone -- while his face
changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh
and sarcastic -- "you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:
don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me with a
- He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and
when he came back he was humming a tune.
- "Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with
your vigils: don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"
- "Curse you? No, sir."
- "Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers! They
were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the
mysterious chamber. Jane, when will you watch with me again?"
- "Whenever I can be useful, sir."
- "For instance, the night before I am married! I am sure I shall not
be able to sleep. Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me
company? To you I can talk of my lovely one: for now you have seen
her and know her."
- "Yes, sir."
- "She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "A strapper -- a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with
hair just such as the ladies of Carthage must have had. Bless me!
there's Dent and Lynn in the stables! Go in by the shrubbery,
through that wicket."
- As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard,
saying cheerfully: --
- "Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before
sunrise: I rose at four to see him off."
- PRESENTIMENTS are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life, because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies, I believe, exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly
estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the
unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose workings
baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be
but the sympathies of Nature with man.
- When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard
Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a
little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of
trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying might have
worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately followed
which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was
sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.
- Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for
during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that
had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes
hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched
playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in
running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing
one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me;
but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore,
it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I
entered the land of slumber.
- I did not like this iteration of one idea -- this strange recurrence
of one image, and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour
of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this baby-phantom I had been roused on that moonlight night when I heard the
cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned
downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax's
room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having
the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep
mourning, and the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with a
- "I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I
entered; "but my name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed
when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine years since, and I live
- "Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used to
give me a ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony. And how is
Bessie? You are married to Bessie?"
- "Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank you; she brought me
another little one about two months since -- we have three now -- and
both mother and child are thriving."
- "And are the family well at the house, Robert?"
- "I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are
very badly at present -- in great trouble."
- "I hope no one is dead," I said, glancing at his black dress. He
too looked down at the crape round his hat and replied, --
- "Mr. John died yesterday was a week, at his chambers in London."
- "Mr. John?"
- "And how does his mother bear it?"
- "Why, you see, Miss Eyre, it is not a common mishap: his life has
been very wild: these last three years he gave himself up to
strange ways, and his death was shocking."
- "I heard from Bessie he was not doing well."
- "Doing well! He could not do worse: he ruined his health and his
estate amongst the worst men and the worst women. He got into debt
and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon as he
was free he returned to his old companions and habits. His head was
not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anything
I ever heard. He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago and
wanted missis to give up all to him. Missis refused: her means
have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he went back
again, and the next news was that he was dead. How he died, God
knows! -- they say he killed himself."
- I was silent: the things were frightful. Robert Leaven resumed: --
- "Missis had been out of health herself for some time: she had got
very stout, but was not strong with it; and the loss of money and
fear of poverty were quite breaking her down. The information about
Mr. John's death and the manner of it came too suddenly: it brought
on a stroke. She was three days without speaking; but last Tuesday
she seemed rather better: she appeared as if she wanted to say
something, and kept making signs to my wife and mumbling. It was
only yesterday morning, however, that Bessie understood she was
pronouncing your name; and at last she made out the words, 'Bring
Jane -- fetch Jane Eyre: I want to speak to her.' Bessie is not sure
whether she is in her right mind, or means anything by the words;
but she told Miss Reed and Miss Georgiana, and advised them to send
for you. The young ladies put it off at first; but their mother
grew so restless, and said, 'Jane, Jane,' so many times, that at
last they consented. I left Gateshead yesterday: and if you can
get ready, Miss, I should like to take you back with me early to-morrow morning."
- "Yes, Robert, I shall be ready: it seems to me that I ought to go."
- "I think so too, Miss. Bessie said she was sure you would not
refuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can get
- "Yes; and I will do it now;" and having directed him to the
servants' hall, and recommended him to the care of John's wife, and
the attentions of John himself, I went in search of Mr. Rochester.
- He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the
stables, or the grounds. I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him; -- yes: she believed he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram. To
the billiard-room I hastened: the click of balls and the hum of
voices resounded thence; Mr. Rochester, Miss Ingram, the two Misses
Eshton, and their admirers, were all busied in the game. It
required some courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errand,
however, was one I could not defer, so I approached the master where
he stood at Miss Ingram's side. She turned as I drew near, and
looked at me haughtily: her eyes seemed to demand, "What can the
creeping creature want now?" and when I said, in a low voice, "Mr.
Rochester," she made a movement as if tempted to order me away. I
remember her appearance at the moment -- it was very graceful and very
striking: she wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy azure
scarf was twisted in her hair. She had been all animation with the
game, and irritated pride did not lower the expression of her
- "Does that person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and Mr.
Rochester turned to see who the "person" was. He made a curious
grimace -- one of his strange and equivocal demonstrations -- threw down
his cue and followed me from the room.
- "Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the schoolroom
door, which he had shut.
- "If you please, sir, I want leave of absence for a week or two."
- "What to do? -- where to go?"
- "To see a sick lady who has sent for me."
- "What sick lady? -- where does she live?"
- "At Gateshead; in ----shire."
- "----shire? That is a hundred miles off! Who may she be that sends
for people to see her that distance?"
- "Her name is Reed, sir -- Mrs. Reed."
- "Reed of Gateshead? There was a Reed of Gateshead, a magistrate."
- "It is his widow, sir."
- "And what have you to do with her? How do you know her?"
- "Mr. Reed was my uncle -- my mother's brother."
- "The deuce he was! You never told me that before: you always said
you had no relations."
- "None that would own me, sir. Mr. Reed is dead, and his wife cast
- "Because I was poor, and burdensome, and she disliked me."
- "But Reed left children? -- you must have cousins? Sir George Lynn
was talking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterday, who, he said, was one
of the veriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning a
Georgiana Reed of the same place, who was much admired for her
beauty a season or two ago in London."
- "John Reed is dead, too, sir: he ruined himself and half-ruined his
family, and is supposed to have committed suicide. The news so
shocked his mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."
- "And what good can you do her? Nonsense, Jane! I would never think
of running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps, be
dead before you reach her: besides, you say she cast you off."
- "Yes, sir, but that is long ago; and when her circumstances were
very different: I could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."
- "How long will you stay?"
- "As short a time as possible, sir."
- "Promise me only to stay a week" ----
- "I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it."
- "At all events you will come back: you will not be induced under
any pretext to take up a permanent residence with her?"
- "Oh, no! I shall certainly return if all be well."
- "And who goes with you? You don't travel a hundred miles alone."
- "No, sir, she has sent her coachman."
- "A person to be trusted?"
- "Yes, sir, he has lived ten years in the family."
- Mr. Rochester meditated. "When do you wish to go?"
- "Early to-morrow morning, sir."
- "Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money, and
I daresay you have not much: I have given you no salary yet. How
much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling.
- I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, sir."
He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over
it as if its scantiness amused him. Soon he produced his pocket-book: "Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds, and
he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change.
- "I don't want change; you know that. Take your wages."
- I declined accepting more than was my due. He scowled at first;
then, as if recollecting something, he said: --
- "Right, right! Better not give you all now: you would, perhaps,
stay away three months if you had fifty pounds. There are ten; is
it not plenty?"
- "Yes, sir, but now you owe me five."
- "Come back for it, then; I am your banker for forty pounds."
- "Mr. Rochester, I may as well mention another matter of business to
you while I have the opportunity."
- "Matter of business? I am curious to hear it."
- "You have as good as informed me, sir, that you are going shortly to
- "Yes; what then?"
- "In that case, sir, Adèle ought to go to school: I am sure you will
perceive the necessity of it."
- "To get her out of my bride's way, who might otherwise walk over her
rather too emphatically? There's sense in the suggestion; not a
doubt of it. Adèle, as you say, must go to school; and you, of
course, must march straight to -- the devil?"
- "I hope not, sir; but I must seek another situation somewhere."
- "In course!" he exclaimed, with a twang of voice and a distortion of
features equally fantastic and ludicrous. He looked at me some
- "And old Madam Reed, or the Misses, her daughters, will be solicited
by you to seek a place, I suppose?"
- "No, sir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justify
me in asking favours of them -- but I shall advertise."
- "You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled. "At your
peril you advertise! I wish I had only offered you a sovereign
instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use
- "And so have I, sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse
behind me. "I could not spare the money on any account."
- "Little niggard!" said he, "refusing me a pecuniary request! Give
me five pounds, Jane."
- "Not five shillings, sir; nor five pence."
- "Just let me look at the cash."
- "No, sir; you are not to be trusted."
- "Promise me one thing."
- "I'll promise you anything, sir, that I think I am likely to
- "Not to advertise: and to trust this quest of a situation to me.
I'll find you one in time."
- "I shall be glad so to do, sir, if you, in your turn, will promise
that I and Adèle shall be both safe out of the house before your
bride enters it."
- "Very well! very well! I'll pledge my word on it. You go to-morrow, then?"
- "Yes, sir; early."
- "Shall you come down to the drawing-room after dinner?"
- "No, sir, I must prepare for the journey."
- "Then you and I must bid good-bye for a little while?"
- "I suppose so, sir."
- "And how do people perform that ceremony of parting, Jane? Teach
me; I'm not quite up to it."
- "They say, Farewell, or any other form they prefer."
- "Then say it."
- "Farewell, Mr. Rochester, for the present."
- "What must I say?"
- "The same, if you like, sir."
- "Farewell, Miss Eyre, for the present; is that all?"
- "It seems stingy, to my notions, and dry, and unfriendly. I should
like something else: a little addition to the rite. If one shook
hands, for instance; but no -- that would not content me either. So
you'll do no more than say Farewell, Jane?"
- "It is enough, sir: as much good-will may be conveyed in one hearty
word as in many."
- "Very likely; but it is blank and cool -- 'Farewell.'"
- "How long is he going to stand with his back against that door?" I
asked myself; "I want to commence my packing." The dinner-bell
rang, and suddenly away he bolted, without another syllable: I saw
him no more during the day, and was off before he had risen in the
- I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoon
of the first of May: I stepped in there before going up to the
hall. It was very clean and neat: the ornamental windows were hung
with little white curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate and
fire-irons were burnished bright, and the fire burnt clear. Bessie
sat on the hearth, nursing her last-born, and Robert and his sister
played quietly in a corner.
- "Bless you! -- I knew you would come!" exclaimed Mrs. Leaven, as I
- "Yes, Bessie," said I, after I had kissed her; "and I trust I am not
too late. How is Mrs. Reed? -- Alive still, I hope."
- "Yes, she is alive; and more sensible and collected than she was.
The doctor says she may linger a week or two yet; but he hardly
thinks she will finally recover."
- "Has she mentioned me lately?"
- "She was talking of you only this morning, and wishing you would
come, but she is sleeping now, or was ten minutes ago, when I was up
at the house. She generally lies in a kind of lethargy all the
afternoon, and wakes up about six or seven. Will you rest yourself
here an hour, Miss, and then I will go up with you?"
- Robert here entered, and Bessie laid her sleeping child in the
cradle and went to welcome him: afterwards she insisted on my
taking off my bonnet and having some tea; for she said I looked pale
and tired. I was glad to accept her hospitality; and I submitted to
be relieved of my travelling garb just as passively as I used to let
her undress me when a child.
- Old times crowded fast back on me as I watched her bustling about --
setting out the tea-tray with her best china, cutting bread and
butter, toasting a tea-cake, and, between whiles, giving little
Robert or Jane an occasional tap or push, just as she used to give
me in former days. Bessie had retained her quick temper as well as
her light foot and good looks.
- Tea ready, I was going to approach the table; but she desired me to
sit still, quite in her old peremptory tones. I must be served at
the fireside, she said; and she placed before me a little round
stand with my cup and a plate of toast, absolutely as she used to
accommodate me with some privately purloined dainty on a nursery
chair: and I smiled and obeyed her as in bygone days.
- She wanted to know if I was happy at Thornfield Hall, and what sort
of a person the mistress was; and when I told her there was only a
master, whether he was a nice gentleman, and if I liked him. I told
her he rather an ugly man, but quite a gentleman; and that he
treated me kindly, and I was content. Then I went on to describe to
her the gay company that had lately been staying at the house; and
to these details Bessie listened with interest: they were precisely
of the kind she relished.
- In such conversation an hour was soon gone: Bessie restored to me
my bonnet, etc., and, accompanied by her, I quitted the lodge for the
hall. It was also accompanied by her that I had, nearly nine years
ago, walked down the path I was now ascending. On a dark, misty,
raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate
and embittered heart -- a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation -- to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that bourne so far away
and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again rose before me: my
prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still
felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced
firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread
of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs, too, was now quite
healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished.
- "You shall go into the breakfast-room first," said Bessie, as she
preceded me through the hall; "the young ladies will be there."
- In another moment I was within that apartment. There was every
article of furniture looking just as it did on the morning I was
first introduced to Mr. Brocklehurst: the very rug he had stood
upon still covered the hearth. Glancing at the bookcases, I thought
I could distinguish the two volumes of Bewick's British Birds
occupying their old place on the third shelf, and Gulliver's Travels
and the Arabian Nights ranged just above. The inanimate objects
were not changed; but the living things had altered past
- Two young ladies appeared before me; one very tall, almost as tall
as Miss Ingram -- very thin too, with a sallow face and severe mien.
There was something ascetic in her look, which was augmented by the
extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress, a
starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and the
nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix. This I
felt sure was Eliza, though I could trace little resemblance to her
former self in that elongated and colourless visage.
- The other was as certainly Georgiana: but not the Georgiana I
remembered -- the slim and fairy-like girl of eleven. This was a
full-blown, very plump damsel, fair as waxwork, with handsome and
regular features, languishing blue eyes, and ringleted yellow hair.
The hue of her dress was black too; but its fashion was so different
from her sister's -- so much more flowing and becoming -- it looked as
stylish as the other's looked puritanical.
- In each of the sisters there was one trait of the mother -- and only
one; the thin and pallid elder daughter had her parent's Cairngorm
eye: the blooming and luxuriant younger girl had her contour of jaw
and chin -- perhaps a little softened, but still imparting an
indescribable hardness to the countenance otherwise so voluptuous
- Both ladies, as I advanced, rose to welcome me, and both addressed
me by the name of "Miss Eyre." Eliza's greeting was delivered in a
short, abrupt voice, without a smile; and then she sat down again,
fixed her eyes on the fire, and seemed to forget me. Georgiana
added to her "How d'ye do?" several commonplaces about my journey,
the weather, and so on, uttered in rather a drawling tone: and
accompanied by sundry side-glances that measured me from head to
foot -- now traversing the folds of my drab merino pelisse, and now
lingering on the plain trimming of my cottage bonnet. Young ladies
have a remarkable way of letting you know that they think you a
"quiz" without actually saying the words. A certain
superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone,
express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing them
by any positive rudeness in word or deed.
- A sneer, however, whether covert or open, had now no longer that
power over me it once possessed: as I sat between my cousins, I was
surprised to find how easy I felt under the total neglect of the one
and the semi-sarcastic attentions of the other -- Eliza did not
mortify, nor Georgiana ruffle me. The fact was, I had other things
to think about; within the last few months feelings had been stirred
in me so much more potent than any they could raise -- pains and
pleasures so much more acute and exquisite had been excited than any
it was in their power to inflict or bestow -- that their airs gave me
no concern either for good or bad.
- "How is Mrs. Reed?" I asked soon, looking calmly at Georgiana, who
thought fit to bridle at the direct address, as if it were an
- "Mrs. Reed? Ah! mama, you mean; she is extremely poorly: I doubt
if you can see her to-night."
- "If," said I, "you would just step upstairs and tell her I am come,
I should be much obliged to you."
- Georgiana almost started, and she opened her blue eyes wild and
wide. "I know she had a particular wish to see me," I added, "and I
would not defer attending to her desire longer than is absolutely
- "Mama dislikes being disturbed in an evening," remarked Eliza. I
soon rose, quietly took off my bonnet and gloves, uninvited, and
said I would just step out to Bessie -- who was, I dared say, in the
kitchen -- and ask her to ascertain whether Mrs. Reed was disposed to
receive me or not to-night. I went, and having found Bessie and
despatched her on my errand, I proceeded to take further--> measures.
It had heretofore been my habit always to shrink from arrogance:
received as I had been to-day, I should, a year ago, have resolved
to quit Gateshead the very next morning; now, it was disclosed to me
all at once that that would be a foolish plan. I had taken a
journey of a hundred miles to see my aunt, and I must stay with her
till she was better -- or dead: as to her daughters' pride or folly,
I must put it on one side, make myself independent of it. So I
addressed the housekeeper; asked her to show me a room, told her I
should probably be a visitor here for a week or two, had my trunk
conveyed to my chamber, and followed it thither myself: I met
Bessie on the landing.
- "Missis is awake," said she; "I have told her you are here: come
and let us see if she will know you."
- I did not need to be guided to the well-known room, to which I had
so often been summoned for chastisement or reprimand in former days.
I hastened before Bessie; I softly opened the door: a shaded light
stood on the table, for it was now getting dark. There was the
great four-post bed with amber hangings as of old; there the toilet-table, the armchair, and the footstool, at which I had a hundred
times been sentenced to kneel, to ask pardon for offences by me
uncommitted. I looked into a certain corner near, half-expecting to
see the slim outline of a once dreaded switch which used to lurk
there, waiting to leap out imp-like and lace my quivering palm or
shrinking neck. I approached the bed; I opened the curtains and
leant over the high-piled pillows.
- Well did I remember Mrs. Reed's face, and I eagerly sought the
familiar image. It is a happy thing that time quells the longings
of vengeance and hushes the promptings of rage and aversion. I had
left this woman in bitterness and hate, and I came back to her now
with no other emotion than a sort of ruth for her great sufferings,
and a strong yearning to forget and forgive all injuries -- to be
reconciled and clasp hands in amity.
- The well-known face was there: stern, relentless as ever -- there was
that peculiar eye which nothing could melt, and the somewhat raised,
imperious, despotic eyebrow. How often had it lowered on me menace
and hate! and how the recollection of childhood's terrors and
sorrows revived as I traced its harsh line now! And yet I stooped
down and kissed her: she looked at me.
- "Is this Jane Eyre?" she said.
- "Yes, Aunt Reed. How are you, dear aunt?"
- I had once vowed that I would never call her aunt again: I thought
it no sin to forget and break that vow now. My fingers had fastened
on her hand which lay outside the sheet: had she pressed mine
kindly, I should at that moment have experienced true pleasure. But
unimpressionable natures are not so soon softened, nor are natural
antipathies so readily eradicated. Mrs. Reed took her hand away,
and, turning her face rather from me, she remarked that the night
was warm. Again she regarded me so icily, I felt at once that her
opinion of me -- her feeling towards me -- was unchanged and
unchangeable. I knew by her stony eye -- opaque to tenderness,
indissoluble to tears -- that she was resolved to consider me bad to
the last; because to believe me good would give her no generous
pleasure: only a sense of mortification.
- I felt pain, and then I felt ire; and then I felt a determination to
subdue her -- to be her mistress in spite both of her nature and her
will. My tears had risen, just as in childhood: I ordered them
back to their source. I brought a chair to the bed-head: I sat
down and leaned over the pillow.
- "You sent for me," I said, "and I am here; and it is my intention to
stay till I see how you get on."
- "Oh, of course! You have seen my daughters?"
- "Well, you may tell them I wish you to stay till I can talk some
things over with you I have on my mind: to-night it is too late,
and I have a difficulty in recalling them. But there was something
I wished to say -- let me see" ----
- The wandering look and changed utterance told what wreck had taken
place in her once vigorous frame. Turning restlessly, she drew the
bedclothes round her; my elbow, resting on a corner of the quilt,
fixed it down: she was at once irritated.
- "Sit up!" said she; "don't annoy me with holding the clothes fast.
Are you Jane Eyre?"
- "I am Jane Eyre."
- "I have had more trouble with that child than any one would believe.
Such a burden to be left on my hands -- and so much annoyance as she
caused me, daily and hourly, with her incomprehensible disposition,
and her sudden starts of temper, and her continual, unnatural
watchings of one's movements! I declare she talked to me once like
something mad, or like a fiend -- no child ever spoke or looked as she
did; I was glad to get her away from the house. What did they do
with her at Lowood? The fever broke out there, and many of the
pupils died. She, however, did not die: but I said she did -- I wish
she had died!"
- "A strange wish, Mrs. Reed; why do you hate her so?"
- "I had a dislike to her mother always; for she was my husband's only
sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family's
disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of
her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby;
though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its
maintenance. I hated it the first time I set my eyes on it -- a
sickly, whining, pining thing! It would wail in its cradle all
night long -- not screaming heartily like any other child, but
whimpering and moaning. Reed pitied it; and he used to nurse it and
notice it as if it had been his own: more, indeed, than he ever
noticed his own at that age. He would try to make my children
friendly to the little beggar: the darlings could not bear it, and
he was angry with them when they showed their dislike. In his last
illness, he had it brought continually to his bedside; and but an
hour before he died, he bound me by vow to keep the creature. I
would as soon have been charged with a pauper brat out of a
workhouse: but he was weak, naturally weak. John does not at all
resemble his father, and I am glad of it: John is like me and like
my brothers -- he is quite a Gibson. Oh, I wish he would cease
tormenting me with letters for money? I have no more money to give
him: we are getting poor. I must send away half the servants and
shut up part of the house; or let it off. I can never submit to do
that -- yet how are we to get on? Two-thirds of my income goes in
paying the interest of mortgages. John gambles dreadfully, and
always loses -- poor boy! He is beset by sharpers: John is sunk and
degraded -- his look is frightful -- I feel ashamed for him when I see
- She was getting much excited. "I think I had better leave her now,"
said I to Bessie, who stood on the other side of the bed.
- "Perhaps you had, Miss: but she often talks in this way towards
night -- in the morning she is calmer."
- I rose. "Stop!" exclaimed Mrs. Reed, "there is another thing I
wished to say. He threatens me -- he continually threatens me with
his own death, or mine: and I dream sometimes that I see him laid
out with a great wound in his throat, or with a swollen and
blackened face. I am come to a strange pass: I have heavy
troubles. What is to be done? How is the money to be had?"
- Bessie now endeavoured to persuade her to take a sedative draught:
she succeeded with difficulty. Soon after, Mrs. Reed grew more
composed, and sank into a dozing state. I then left her.
- More than ten days elapsed before I had again any conversation with
her. She continued either delirious or lethargic; and the doctor
forbade everything which could painfully excite her. Meantime, I
got on as well as I could with Georgiana and Eliza. They were very
cold, indeed, at first. Eliza would sit half the day sewing,
reading, or writing, and scarcely utter a word either to me or her
sister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by the
hour, and take no notice of me. But I was determined not to seem at
a loss for occupation or amusement: I had brought my drawing
materials with me, and they served me for both.
- Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used to
take a seat apart from them, near the window, and busy myself in
sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened
momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of
imagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moon,
and a ship crossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flags, and
a naiad's head, crowned with lotus-flowers, rising out of them; an
elf sitting in a hedge-sparrow's nest, under a wreath of hawthorn-bloom
- One morning I fell to sketching a face: what sort of a face it was
to be, I did not care or know. I took a soft black pencil, gave it
a broad point, and worked away. Soon I had traced on the paper a
broad and prominent forehead and a square lower outline of visage:
that contour gave me pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to fill
it with features. Strongly-marked horizontal eyebrows must be
traced under that brow; then followed, naturally, a well-defined
nose, with a straight ridge and full nostrils; then a flexible-looking mouth, by no means narrow; then a firm chin, with a decided
cleft down the middle of it: of course, some black whiskers were
wanted, and some jetty hair, tufted on the temples, and waved above
the forehead. Now for the eyes: I had left them to the last,
because they required the most careful working. I drew them large;
I shaped them well: the eyelashes I traced long and sombre; the
irids lustrous and large. "Good! but not quite the thing," I
thought, as I surveyed the effect: "they want more force and
spirit;" and I wrought the shades blacker, that the lights might
flash more brilliantly -- a happy touch or two secured success.
There, I had a friend's face under my gaze; and what did it signify
that those young ladies turned their backs on me? I looked at it; I
smiled at the speaking likeness: I was absorbed and content.
- "Is that a portrait of some one you know?" asked Eliza, who had
approached me unnoticed. I responded that it was merely a fancy
head, and hurried it beneath the other sheets. Of course, I lied:
it was, in fact, a very faithful representation of Mr. Rochester.
But what was that to her, or to any one but myself? Georgiana also
advanced to look. The other drawings pleased her much, but she
called that "an ugly man." They both seemed surprised at my skill.
I offered to sketch their portraits; and each, in turn, sat for a
pencil outline. Then Georgiana produced her album. I promised to
contribute a water-colour drawing: this put her at once into good
humour. She proposed a walk in the grounds. Before we had been out
two hours, we were deep in a confidential conversation: she had
favoured me with a description of the brilliant winter she had spent
in London two seasons ago -- of the admiration she had there excited --
the attention she had received; and I even got hints of the titled
conquest she had made. In the course of the afternoon and evening
these hints were enlarged on: various soft conversations were
reported, and sentimental scenes represented; and, in short, a
volume of a novel of fashionable life was that day improvised by her
for my benefit. The communications were renewed from day to day:
they always ran on the same theme -- herself, her loves, and woes. It
was strange she never once adverted either to her mother's illness,
or her brother's death, or the present gloomy state of the family
prospects. Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of
past gaiety, and aspirations after dissipations to come. She passed
about five minutes each day in her mother's sick-room, and no more.
- Eliza still spoke little: she had evidently no time to talk. I
never saw a busier person than she seemed to be; yet it was
difficult to say what she did: or rather, to discover any result of
her diligence. She had an alarm to call her up early. I know not
how she occupied herself before breakfast, but after that meal she
divided her time into regular portions, and each hour had its
allotted task. Three times a day she studied a little book, which I
found, on inspection, was a Common Prayer Book. I asked her once
what was the great attraction of that volume, and she said, "the
Rubric." Three hours she gave to stitching, with gold thread, the
border of a square crimson cloth, almost large enough for a carpet.
In answer to my inquiries after the use of this article, she
informed me it was a covering for the altar of a new church lately
erected near Gateshead. Two hours she devoted to her diary; two to
working by herself in the kitchen-garden; and one to the regulation
of her accounts. She seemed to want no company; no conversation. I
believe she was happy in her way: this routine sufficed for her;
and nothing annoyed her so much as the occurrence of any incident
which forced her to vary its clockwork regularity.
- She told me one evening, when more disposed to be communicative than
usual, that John's conduct, and the threatened ruin of the family,
had been a source of profound affliction to her: but she had now,
she said, settled her mind, and formed her resolution. Her own
fortune she had taken care to secure; and when her mother died -- and
it was wholly improbable, she tranquilly remarked, that she should
either recover or linger long -- she would execute a long-cherished
project: seek a retirement where punctual habits would be
permanently secured from disturbance, and place safe barriers
between herself and a frivolous world. I asked if Georgiana would
- "Of course not. Georgiana and she had nothing in common: they
never had had. She would not be burdened with her society for any
consideration. Georgiana should take her own course; and she,
Eliza, would take hers."
- Georgiana, when not unburdening her heart to me, spent most of her
time in lying on the sofa, fretting about the dulness of the house,
and wishing over and over again that her aunt Gibson would send her
an invitation up to town. "It would be so much better," she said,
"if she could only get out of the way for a month or two, till all
was over." I did not ask what she meant by "all being over," but I
suppose she referred to the expected decease of her mother and the
gloomy sequel of funeral rites. Eliza generally took no more notice
of her sister's indolence and complaints than if no such murmuring,
lounging object had been before her. One day, however, as she put
away her account-book and unfolded her embroidery, she suddenly took
her up thus: --
- "Georgiana, a more vain and absurd animal than you was certainly
never allowed to cumber the earth. You had no right to be born, for
you make no use of life. Instead of living for, in, and with
yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten your
feebleness on some other person's strength: if no one can be found
willing to burden her or himself with such a fat, weak, puffy,
useless thing, you cry out that you are ill-treated, neglected,
miserable. Then, too, existence for you must be a scene of
continual change and excitement, or else the world is a dungeon:
you must be admired, you must be courted, you must be flattered -- you
must have music, dancing, and society -- or you languish, you die
away. Have you no sense to devise a system which will make you
independent of all efforts, and all wills, but your own? Take one
day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its task:
leave no stray unemployed quarters of an hour, ten minutes, five
minutes -- include all; do each piece of business in its turn with
method, with rigid regularity. The day will close almost before you
are aware it has begun; and you are indebted to no one for helping
you to get rid of one vacant moment: you have had to seek no one's
company, conversation, sympathy, forbearance; you have lived, in
short, as an independent being ought to do. Take this advice: the
first and last I shall offer you; then you will not want me or any
one else, happen what may. Neglect it -- go on as heretofore,
craving, whining, and idling -- and suffer the results of your idiocy,
however bad and insuperable they may be. I tell you this plainly;
and listen: for though I shall no more repeat what I am now about
to say, I shall steadily act on it. After my mother's death, I wash
my hands of you: from the day her coffin is carried to the vault in
Gateshead Church, you and I will be as separate as if we had never
known each other. You need not think that because we chanced to be
born of the same parents, I shall suffer you to fasten me down by
even the feeblest claim: I can tell you this -- if the whole human
race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and we two stood alone on
the earth, I would leave you in the old world, and betake myself to
- She closed her lips.
- "You might have spared yourself the trouble of delivering that
tirade," answered Georgiana. "Everybody knows you are the most
selfish, heartless creature in existence: and I know your spiteful
hatred towards me: I have had a specimen of it before in the trick
you played me about Lord Edwin Vere: you could not bear me to be
raised above you, to have a title, to be received into circles where
you dare not show your face, and so you acted the spy and informer,
and ruined my prospects for ever." Georgiana took out her
handkerchief and blew her nose for an hour afterwards; Eliza sat
cold, impassable, and assiduously industrious.
- True, generous feeling is made small account of by some, but here
were two natures rendered, the one intolerably acrid, the other
despicably savourless for the want of it. Feeling without judgment
is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too
bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.
- It was a wet and windy afternoon: Georgiana had fallen asleep on
the sofa over the perusal of a novel; Eliza was gone to attend a
saint's-day service at the new church -- for in matters of religion
she was a rigid formalist: no weather ever prevented the punctual
discharge of what she considered her devotional duties; fair or
foul, she went to church thrice every Sunday, and as often on week-days as there were prayers.
- I bethought myself to go upstairs and see how the dying woman sped,
who lay there almost unheeded: the very servants paid her but a
remittent attention: the hired nurse, being little looked after,
would slip out of the room whenever she could. Bessie was faithful;
but she had her own family to mind, and could only come occasionally
to the hall. I found the sick-room unwatched, as I had expected:
no nurse was there; the patient lay still, and seemingly lethargic;
her livid face sunk in the pillows: the fire was dying in the
grate. I renewed the fuel, re-arranged the bedclothes, gazed awhile
on her who could not now gaze on me, and then I moved away to the
- The rain beat strongly against the panes, the wind blew
tempestuously: "One lies there," I thought, "who will soon be
beyond the war of earthly elements. Whither will that spirit -- now
struggling to quit its material tenement -- flit when at length
- In pondering the great mystery, I thought of Helen Burns, recalled
her dying words -- her faith -- her doctrine of the equality of
disembodied souls. I was still listening in thought to her well-remembered tones -- still picturing her pale and spiritual aspect, her
wasted face and sublime gaze, as she lay on her placid deathbed, and
whispered her longing to be restored to her divine Father's bosom --
when a feeble voice murmured from the couch behind: "Who is that?"
- I knew Mrs. Reed had not spoken for days: was she reviving? I went
up to her.
- "It is I, Aunt Reed."
- "Who -- I?" was her answer. "Who are you?" looking at me with
surprise and a sort of alarm, but still not wildly. "You are quite
a stranger to me -- where is Bessie?"
- "She is at the lodge, aunt."
- "Aunt," she repeated. "Who calls me aunt? You are not one of the
Gibsons; and yet I know you -- that face, and the eyes and forehead,
are quiet familiar to me: you are like -- why, you are like Jane
- I said nothing: I was afraid of occasioning some shock by declaring
- "Yet," said she, "I am afraid it is a mistake: my thoughts deceive
me. I wished to see Jane Eyre, and I fancy a likeness where none
exists: besides, in eight years she must be so changed." I now
gently assured her that I was the person she supposed and desired me
to be: and seeing that I was understood, and that her senses were
quite collected, I explained how Bessie had sent her husband to
fetch me from Thornfield.
- "I am very ill, I know," she said ere long. "I was trying to turn
myself a few minutes since, and find I cannot move a limb. It is as
well I should ease my mind before I die: what we think little of in
health, burdens us at such an hour as the present is to me. Is the
nurse here? or is there no one in the room but you?"
- I assured her we were alone.
- "Well, I have twice done you a wrong which I regret now. One was in
breaking the promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as my
own child; the other -- " she stopped. "After all, it is of no great
importance, perhaps," she murmured to herself: "and then I may get
better; and to humble myself so to her is painful."
- She made an effort to alter her position, but failed: her face
changed; she seemed to experience some inward sensation -- the
precursor, perhaps, of the last pang.
- "Well, I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better
tell her. -- Go to my dressing-case, open it, and take out a letter
you will see there."
- I obeyed her directions. "Read the letter," she said. It was short, and thus conceived: --
"MADAM, -- Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my
niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to
write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence
has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am
unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and
bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.
"I am, Madam, etc., etc.
"JOHN EYRE, Madeira."
It was dated three years back.
- "Why did I never hear of this?" I asked.
- "Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a
hand in lifting you to prosperity. I could not forget your conduct
to me, Jane -- the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone in
which you declared you abhorred me the worst of anybody in the
world; the unchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed that
the very thought of me made you sick, and asserted that I had
treated you with miserable cruelty. I could not forget my own
sensations when you thus started up and poured out the venom of your
mind: I felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed had
looked up at me with human eyes and cursed me in a man's voice. --
Bring me some water! Oh, make haste!"
- "Dear Mrs. Reed," said I, as I offered her the draught she required,
"think no more of all this, let it pass away from your mind.
Forgive me for my passionate language: I was a child then; eight,
nine years have passed since that day."
- She heeded nothing of what I said; but when she had tasted the water
and drawn breath, she went on thus: --
- "I tell you I could not forget it; and I took my revenge: for you
to be adopted by your uncle, and placed in a state of ease and
comfort, was what I could not endure. I wrote to him; I said I was
sorry for his disappointment, but Jane Eyre was dead: she had died
of typhus fever at Lowood. Now act as you please: write and
contradict my assertion -- expose my falsehood as soon as you like.
You were born, I think, to be my torment: my last hour is racked by
the recollection of a deed which, but for you, I should never have
been tempted to commit."
- "If you could but be persuaded to think no more of it, aunt, and to
regard me with kindness and forgiveness" ----
- "You have a very bad disposition," said she, "and one to this day I
feel it impossible to understand: how for nine years you could be
patient and quiescent under any treatment, and in the tenth break
out all fire and violence, I can never comprehend."
- "My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but
not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been
glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to
be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt."
- I approached my cheek to her lips: she would not touch it. She
said I oppressed her by leaning over the bed, and again demanded
water. As I laid her down -- for I raised her and supported her on my
arm while she drank -- I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand with
mine: the feeble fingers shrank from my touch -- the glazing eyes
shunned my gaze.
- "Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have
my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's, and be at peace."
- Poor, suffering woman! it was too late for her to make now the
effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever
hated me -- dying, she must hate me still.
- The nurse now entered, and Bessie followed. I yet lingered half-an-hour longer, hoping to see some sign of amity: but she gave none.
She was fast relapsing into stupor; nor did her mind again rally:
at twelve o'clock that night she died. I was not present to close
her eyes, nor were either of her daughters. They came to tell us
the next morning that all was over. She was by that time laid out.
Eliza and I went to look at her: Georgiana, who had burst out into
loud weeping, said she dared not go. There was stretched Sarah
Reed's once robust and active frame, rigid and still: her eye of
flint was covered with its cold lid; her brow and strong traits wore
yet the impress of her inexorable soul. A strange and solemn object
was that corpse to me. I gazed on it with gloom and pain: nothing
soft, nothing sweet, nothing pitying, or hopeful, or subduing did it
inspire; only a grating anguish for her woes -- not my loss -- and a
sombre tearless dismay at the fearfulness of death in such a form.
- Eliza surveyed her parent calmly. After a silence of some minutes
she observed, --
- "With her constitution she should have lived to a good old age: her
life was shortened by trouble." And then a spasm constricted her
mouth for an instant: as it passed away she turned and left the
room, and so did I. Neither of us had dropt a tear.
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