- THE more I knew of the inmates of Moor House, the better I liked
them. In a few days I had so far recovered my health that I could
sit up all day, and walk out sometimes. I could join with Diana and
Mary in all their occupations; converse with them as much as they
wished, and aid them when and where they would allow me. There was
a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me
for the first time-the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality of
tastes, sentiments, and principles.
- I liked to read what they liked to read: what they enjoyed,
delighted me; what they approved, I reverenced. They loved their
sequestered home. I, too, in the grey, small, antique structure,
with its low roof, its latticed casements, its mouldering walls, its
avenue of aged firs -- all grown aslant under the stress of mountain
winds; its garden, dark with yew and holly -- and where no flowers but
of the hardiest species would bloom -- found a charm both potent and
permanent. They clung to the purple moors behind and around their
dwelling -- to the hollow vale into which the pebbly bridle-path
leading from their gate descended, and which wound between fern-banks first, and then amongst a few of the wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of heath, or gave sustenance
to a flock of grey moorland sheep, with their little mossy-faced
lambs: -- they clung to this scene, I say, with a perfect enthusiasm
of attachment. I could comprehend the feeling, and share both its
strength and truth. I saw the fascination of the locality. I felt
the consecration of its loneliness: my eye feasted on the outline
of swell and sweep -- on the wild colouring communicated to ridge and
dell by moss, by heath-bell, by flower-sprinkled turf, by brilliant
bracken, and mellow granite crag. These details were just to me
what they were to them -- so many pure and sweet sources of pleasure.
The strong blast and the soft breeze; the rough and the halcyon day;
the hours of sunrise and sunset; the moonlight and the clouded
night, developed for me, in these regions, the same attraction as
for them -- wound round my faculties the same spell that entranced
- Indoors we agreed equally well. They were both more accomplished
and better read than I was; but with eagerness I followed in the
path of knowledge they had trodden before me. I devoured the books
they lent me: then it was full satisfaction to discuss with them in
the evening what I had perused during the day. Thought fitted
thought; opinion met opinion: we coincided, in short, perfectly.
- If in our trio there was a superior and a leader, it was Diana.
Physically, she far excelled me: she was handsome; she was
vigorous. In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life and
certainty of flow, such as excited my wonder, while it baffled my
comprehension. I could talk a while when the evening commenced, but
the first gush of vivacity and fluency gone, I was fain to sit on a
stool at Diana's feet, to rest my head on her knee, and listen
alternately to her and Mary, while they sounded thoroughly the topic
on which I had but touched. Diana offered to teach me German. I
liked to learn of her: I saw the part of instructress pleased and
suited her; that of scholar pleased and suited me no less. Our
natures dovetailed: mutual affection -- of the strongest kind -- was
the result. They discovered I could draw: their pencils and
colour-boxes were immediately at my service. My skill, greater in
this one point than theirs, surprised and charmed them. Mary would
sit and watch me by the hour together: then she would take lessons;
and a docile, intelligent, assiduous pupil she made. Thus occupied,
and mutually entertained, days passed like hours, and weeks like
- As to Mr. St John, the intimacy which had arisen so naturally and
rapidly between me and his sisters did not extend to him. One
reason of the distance yet observed between us was, that he was
comparatively seldom at home: a large proportion of his time
appeared devoted to visiting the sick and poor among the scattered
population of his parish.
- No weather seemed to hinder him in these pastoral excursions: rain
or fair, he would, when his hours of morning study were over, take
his hat, and, followed by his father's old pointer, Carlo, go out on
his mission of love or duty -- I scarcely know in which light he
regarded it. Sometimes, when the day was very unfavourable, his
sisters would expostulate. He would then say, with a peculiar
smile, more solemn than cheerful, --
- "And if I let a gust of wind or a sprinkling of rain turn me aside
from these easy tasks, what preparation would such sloth be for the
future I propose to myself?"
- Diana and Mary's general answer to this question was a sigh, and
some minutes of apparently mournful meditation.
- But besides his frequent absences, there was another barrier to
friendship with him: he seemed of a reserved, an abstracted, and
even of a brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labours,
blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy
that mental serenity, that inward content, which should bet he
reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist.
Often, of an evening, when he sat at the window, his desk and papers
before him, he would cease reading or writing, rest his chin on his
hand, and deliver himself up to I know not what course of thought;
but that it was perturbed and exciting might be seen in the frequent
flash and changeful dilation of his eye.
- I think, moreover, that Nature was not to him that treasury of
delight it was to his sisters. He expressed once, and but once in
my hearing, a strong sense of the rugged charm of the hills, and an
inborn affection for the dark roof and hoary walls he called his
home; but there was more of gloom than pleasure in the tone and
words in which the sentiment was manifested; and never did he seem
to roam the moors for the sake of their soothing silence -- never seek
out or dwell upon the thousand peaceful delights they could yield.
- Incommunicative as he was, some time elapsed before I had an
opportunity of gauging his mind. I first got an idea of its calibre
when I heard him preach in his own church at Morton. I wish I could
describe that sermon: but it is past my power. I cannot even
render faithfully the effect it produced on me.
- It began calm -- and indeed, as far as delivery and pitch of voice
went, it was calm to the end: an earnestly felt, yet strictly
restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents, and prompted
the nervous language. This grew to force -- compressed, condensed,
controlled. The heart was thrilled, the mind astonished, by the
power of the preacher: neither were softened. Throughout there was
a strange bitterness; an absence of consolatory gentleness; stern
allusions to Calvinistic doctrines -- election, predestination,
reprobation -- were frequent; and each reference to these points
sounded like a sentence pronounced for doom. When he had done,
instead of feeling better, calmer, more enlightened by his
discourse, I experienced an inexpressible sadness; for it seemed to
me -- I know not whether equally so to others -- that the eloquence to
which I had been listening had sprung from a depth where lay turbid
dregs of disappointment -- where moved troubling impulses of insatiate
yearnings and disquieting aspirations. I was sure St. John Rivers --
pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was -- had not yet found that
peace of God which passeth all understanding: he had no more found
it, I thought, than had I with my concealed and racking regrets for
my broken idol and lost elysium -- regrets to which I have latterly
avoided referring, but which possessed me and tyrannised over me
- Meantime a month was gone. Diana and Mary were soon to leave Moor
House, and return to the far different life and scene which awaited
them, as governesses in a large, fashionable, south-of-England city,
where each held a situation in families by whose wealthy and haughty
members they were regarded only as humble dependants, and who
neither knew nor sought out their innate excellences, and
appreciated only their acquired accomplishments as they appreciated
the skill of their cook or the taste of their waiting-woman. Mr.
St. John had said nothing to me yet about the employment he had
promised to obtain for me; yet it became urgent that I should have a
vocation of some kind. One morning, being left alone with him a few
minutes in the parlour, I ventured to approach the window-recess --
which his table, chair, and desk consecrated as a kind of study -- and
I was going to speak, though not very well knowing in what words to
frame my inquiry -- for it is at all times difficult to break the ice
of reserve glassing over such natures as his -- when he saved me the
trouble by being the first to commence a dialogue.
- Looking up as I drew near -- "You have a question to ask of me?" he
- "Yes; I wish to know whether you have heard of any service I can
offer myself to undertake?"
- "I found or devised something for you three weeks ago; but as you
seemed both useful and happy here -- as my sisters had evidently
become attached to you, and your society gave them unusual pleasure -- I deemed it inexpedient to break in on your mutual comfort till
their approaching departure from Marsh End should render yours
- "And they will go in three days now?" I said.
- "Yes; and when they go, I shall return to the parsonage at Morton:
Hannah will accompany me; and this old house will be shut up."
- I waited a few moments, expecting he would go on with the subject
first broached: but he seemed to have entered another train of
reflection: his look denoted abstraction from me and my business.
I was obliged to recall him to a theme which was of necessity one of
close and anxious interest to me.
- "What is the employment you had in view, Mr. Rivers? I hope this
delay will not have increased the difficulty of securing it."
- "Oh, no; since it is in employment which depends only on me to give,
and you to accept."
- He again paused: there seemed a reluctance to continue. I grew
impatient: a restless movement or two, and an eager and exacting
glance fastened on his face, conveyed the feeling to him as
effectually as words could have done, and with less trouble.
- "You need be in no hurry to hear," he said: "let me frankly tell
you, I have nothing eligible or profitable to suggest. Before I
explain, recall, if you please, my notice, clearly given, that if I
helped you, it must be as the blind man would help the lame. I am
poor; for I find that, when I have paid my father's debts, all the
patrimony remaining to me will be this crumbling grange, the row of
scathed firs behind, and the patch of moorish soil, with the yew-trees and holly-bushes in front. I am obscure: Rivers is an old
name; but of the three sole descendants of the race, two earn the
dependant's crust among strangers, and the third considers himself
an alien from his native country -- not only for life, but in death.
Yes, and deems, and is bound to deem, himself honoured by the lot,
and aspires but after the day when the cross of separation from
fleshly ties shall be laid on his shoulders, and when the Head of
that church-militant of whose humblest members he is one, shall give
the word, 'Rise, follow Me!'"
- St. John said these words as he pronounced his sermons, with a
quiet, deep voice; with an unflushed cheek, and a coruscating
radiance of glance. He resumed: --
- "And since I am myself poor and obscure, I can offer you but a
service of poverty and obscurity. You may even think it degrading --
for I see now your habits have been what the world calls refined:
your tastes lean to the ideal, and your society has at least been
amongst the educated; but I consider that no service degrades which
can better our race. I hold that the more arid and unreclaimed the
soil where the Christian labourer's task of tillage is appointed
him -- the scantier the meed his toil brings -- the higher the honour.
His, under such circumstances, is the destiny of the pioneer; and
the first pioneers of the Gospel were the Apostles -- their captain
was Jesus, the Redeemer, Himself."
- "Well?" I said, as he again paused -- "proceed."
- He looked at me before he proceeded: indeed, he seemed leisurely to
read my face, as if its features and lines were characters on a
page. The conclusions drawn from this scrutiny he partially
expressed in his succeeding observations.
- "I believe you will accept the post I offer you," said he, "and hold
it for a while: not permanently, though: any more than I could
permanently keep the narrow and narrowing -- the tranquil, hidden
office of English country incumbent; for in your nature is an alloy
as detrimental to repose as that in mine, though of a different
- "Do explain," I urged, when he halted once more.
- "I will; and you shall hear how poor the proposal is, -- how trivial --
how cramping. I shall not stay long at Morton, now that my father
is dead, and that I am my own master. I shall leave the place
probably in the course of a twelve-month; but while I do stay, I
will exert myself to the utmost for its improvement. Morton, when I
came to it two years ago, had no school: the children of the poor
were excluded from every hope of progress. I established one for
boys: I mean now to open a second school for girls. I have hired a
building for the purpose, with a cottage of two rooms attached to it
for the mistress's house. Her salary will be thirty pounds a year:
her house is already furnished, very simply, but sufficiently, by
the kindness of a lady, Miss Oliver; the only daughter of the sole
rich man in my parish -- Mr. Oliver, the proprietor of a needle-factory and iron-foundry in the valley. The same lady pays for the
education and clothing of an orphan from the workhouse, on condition
that she shall aid the mistress in such menial offices connected
with her own house and the school as her occupation of teaching will
prevent her having time to discharge in person. Will you be this
- He put the question rather hurriedly; he seemed half to expect an
indignant, or at least a disdainful rejection of the offer: not
knowing all my thoughts and feelings, though guessing some, he could
not tell in what light the lot would appear to me. In truth it was
humble -- but then it was sheltered, and I wanted a safe asylum: it
was plodding -- but then, compared with that of a governess in a rich
house, it was independent; and the fear of servitude with strangers
entered my soul like iron: it was not ignoble -- not unworthy -- not
mentally degrading, I made my decision.
- "I thank you for the proposal, Mr. Rivers, and I accept it with all
- "But you comprehend me?" he said. "It is a village school: your
scholars will be only poor girls -- cottagers' children -- at the best,
farmers' daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing, ciphering,
will be all you will have to teach. What will you do with your
accomplishments? What, with the largest portion of your mind --
sentiments -- tastes?"
- "Save them till they are wanted. They will keep."
- "You know what you undertake, then?"
- "I do."
- He now smiled: and not a bitter or a sad smile, but one well
pleased and deeply gratified.
- "And when will you commence the exercise of your function?"
- "I will go to my house to-morrow, and open the school, if you like,
- "Very well: so be it."
- He rose and walked through the room. Standing still, he again
looked at me. He shook his head.
- "What do you disapprove of, Mr. Rivers?" I asked.
- "You will not stay at Morton long: no, no!"
- "Why? What is your reason for saying so?"
- "I read it in your eye; it is not of that description which promises
the maintenance of an even tenor in life."
- "I am not ambitious."
- He started at the word "ambitious." He repeated, "No. What made
you think of ambition? Who is ambitious? I know I am: but how did
you find it out?"
- "I was speaking of myself."
- "Well, if you are not ambitious, you are" ---- He paused.
- "I was going to say, impassioned: but perhaps you would have
misunderstood the word, and been displeased. I mean, that human
affections and sympathies have a most powerful hold on you. I am
sure you cannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitude,
and to devote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly void
of stimulus: any more than I can be content," he added, with
emphasis, "to live here buried in morass, pent in with mountains -- my
nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties, heaven-bestowed, paralysed -- made useless. You hear now how I contradict
myself. I, who preached contentment with a humble lot, and
justified the vocation even of hewers of wood and drawers of water
in God's service -- I, His ordained minister, almost rave in my
restlessness. Well, propensities and principles must be reconciled
by some means."
- He left the room. In this brief hour I had learnt more of him than
in the whole previous month: yet still he puzzled me.
- Diana and Mary Rivers became more sad and silent as the day
approached for leaving their brother and their home. They both
tried to appear as usual; bat the sorrow they had to struggle
against was one that could not be entirely conquered or concealed.
Diana intimated that this would be a different parting from any they
had ever yet known. It would probably, as far as St. John was
concerned, be a parting for years: it might be a parting for life.
- "He will sacrifice all to his long-framed resolves," she said:
"natural affection and feelings more potent still. St. John looks
quiet, Jane; but he hides a fever in his vitals. You would think
him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death; and the
worst of it is, my conscience will hardly permit me to dissuade him
from his severe decision: certainly, I cannot for a moment blame
him for it. It is right, noble, Christian: yet it breaks my
heart!" And the tears gushed to her fine eyes. Mary bent her head
low over her work.
- "We are now without father: we shall soon be without home and
brother," she murmured,
- At that moment a little accident supervened, which seemed decreed by
fate purposely to prove the truth of the adage, that "misfortunes
never come singly," and to add to their distresses the vexing one of
the slip between the cup and the lip. St. John passed the window
reading a letter. He entered.
- "Our uncle John is dead," said he.
- Both the sisters seemed struck: not shocked or appalled; the
tidings appeared in their eyes rather momentous than afflicting.
- "Dead?" repeated Diana.
- She riveted a searching gaze on her brother's face. "And what
then?" she demanded, in a low voice.
- "What then, Die?" he replied, maintaining a marble immobility of
feature. "What then? Why -- nothing. Read."
- He threw the letter into her lap. She glanced over it, and handed
it to Mary. Mary perused it in silence, and returned it to her
brother. All three looked at each other, and all three smiled -- a
dreary, pensive smile enough.
- "Amen! We can yet live," said Diana at last.
- "At any rate, it makes us no worse off than we were before,"
- "Only it forces rather strongly on the mind the picture of what
might have been," said Mr. Rivers, "and contrasts it somewhat too
vividly with what IS."
- He folded the letter, locked it in his desk, and again went out.
- For some minutes no one spoke. Diana then turned to me.
- "Jane, you will wonder at us and our mysteries," she said, "and
think us hard-hearted beings not to be more moved at the death of so
near a relation as an uncle; but we have never seen him or known
him. He was my mother's brother. My father and he quarrelled long
ago. It was by his advice that my father risked most of his
property in the speculation that ruined him. Mutual recrimination
passed between them: they parted in anger, and were never
reconciled. My uncle engaged afterwards in more prosperous
undertakings: it appears he realised a fortune of twenty thousand
pounds. He was never married, and had no near kindred but ourselves
and one other person, not more closely related than we. My father
always cherished the idea that he would atone for his error by
leaving his possessions to us; that letter informs us that he has
bequeathed every penny to the other relation, with the exception of
thirty guineas, to be divided between St. John, Diana, and Mary
Rivers, for the purchase of three mourning rings. He had a right,
of course, to do as he pleased: and yet a momentary damp is cast on
the spirits by the receipt of such news. Mary and I would have
esteemed ourselves rich with a thousand pounds each; and to St. John
such a sum would have been valuable, for the good it would have
enabled him to do."
- This explanation given, the subject was dropped, and no further
reference made to it by either Mr. Rivers or his sisters. The next
day I left Marsh End for Morton. The day after, Diana and Mary
quitted it for distant B----. In a week, Mr. Rivers and Hannah
repaired to the parsonage: and so the old grange was abandoned.
- MY home, then, when I at last find a home, -- is a cottage; a little
room with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four
painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, with two or three
plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things in delf. Above, a
chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead
and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my
scanty wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous
friends has increased that, by a modest stock of such things as are
- It is evening. I have dismissed, with the fee of an orange, the
little orphan who serves me as a handmaid. I am sitting alone on
the hearth. This morning, the village school opened. I had twenty
scholars. But three of the number can read: none write or cipher.
Several knit, and a few sew a little. They speak with the broadest
accent of the district. At present, they and I have a difficulty in
understanding each other's language. Some of them are unmannered,
rough, intractable, as well as ignorant; but others are docile, have
a wish to learn, and evince a disposition that pleases me. I must
not forget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of flesh and
blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and that the
germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling,
are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born.
My duty will be to develop these germs: surely I shall find some
happiness in discharging that office. Much enjoyment I do not
expect in the life opening before me: yet it will, doubtless, if I
regulate my mind, and exert my powers as I ought, yield me enough to
live on from day to day.
- Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in
yonder bare, humble schoolroom this morning and afternoon? Not to
deceive myself, I must reply -- No: I felt desolate to a degree. I
felt -- yes, idiot that I am -- I felt degraded. I doubted I had taken
a step which sank instead of raising me in the scale of social
existence. I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty, the
coarseness of all I heard and saw round me. But let me not hate and
despise myself too much for these feelings; I know them to be wrong -- that is a great step gained; I shall strive to overcome them. To-morrow, I trust, I shall get the better of them partially; and in a
few weeks, perhaps, they will be quite subdued. In a few months, it
is possible, the happiness of seeing progress, and a change for the
better in my scholars may substitute gratification for disgust.
- Meantime, let me ask myself one question -- Which is better? -- To have
surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful
effort -- no struggle; -- but to have sunk down in the silken snare;
fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern
clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been now
living in France, Mr. Rochester's mistress; delirious with his love
half my time -- for he would -- oh, yes, he would have loved me well for
a while. He did love me -- no one will ever love me so again. I
shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty, youth, and
grace -- for never to any one else shall I seem to possess these
charms. He was fond and proud of me -- it is what no man besides will
ever be. -- But where am I wandering, and what am I saying, and above
all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a
fool's paradise at Marseilles -- fevered with delusive bliss one hour -- suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next -- or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest, in a breezy
mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?
- Yes; I feel now that I was right when I adhered to principle and
law, and scorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied
moment. God directed me to a correct choice: I thank His
providence for the guidance!
- Having brought my eventide musings to this point, I rose, went to my
door, and looked at the sunset of the harvest-day, and at the quiet
fields before my cottage, which, with the school, was distant half a
mile from the village. The birds were singing their last strains --
"The air was mild, the dew was balm."
While I looked, I thought myself happy, and was surprised to find
myself ere long weeping -- and why? For the doom which had reft me
from adhesion to my master: for him I was no more to see; for the
desperate grief and fatal fury -- consequences of my departure -- which
might now, perhaps, be dragging him from the path of right, too far
to leave hope of ultimate restoration thither. At this thought, I
turned my face aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonely vale of
Morton -- I say lonely, for in that bend of it visible to me there was
no building apparent save the church and the parsonage, half-hid in
trees, and, quite at the extremity, the roof of Vale Hall, where the
rich Mr. Oliver and his daughter lived. I hid my eyes, and leant my
head against the stone frame of my door; but soon a slight noise
near the wicket which shut in my tiny garden from the meadow beyond
it made me look up. A dog -- old Carlo, Mr. Rivers' pointer, as I saw
in a moment -- was pushing the gate with his nose, and St. John
himself leant upon it with folded arms; his brow knit, his gaze,
grave almost to displeasure, fixed on me. I asked him to come in.
- "No, I cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel my
sisters left for you. I think it contains a colour-box, pencils,
- I approached to take it: a welcome gift it was. He examined my
face, I thought, with austerity, as I came near: the traces of
tears were doubtless very visible upon it.
- "Have you found your first day's work harder than you expected?" he
- "Oh, no! On the contrary, I think in time I shall get on with my
scholars very well."
- "But perhaps your accommodations -- your cottage -- your furniture -- have
disappointed your expectations? They are, in truth, scanty enough;
but" ---- I interrupted:
- "My cottage is clean and weather-proof; my furniture sufficient and
commodious. All I see has made me thankful, not despondent. I am
not absolutely such a fool and sensualist as to regret the absence
of a carpet, a sofa, and silver plate; besides, five weeks ago I had
nothing -- I was an outcast, a beggar, a vagrant; now I have
acquaintance, a home, a business. I wonder at the goodness of God;
the generosity of my friends; the bounty of my lot. I do not
- "But you feel solitude an oppression? The little house there behind
you is dark and empty."
- "I have hardly had time yet to enjoy a sense of tranquillity, much
less to grow impatient under one of loneliness."
- "Very well; I hope you feel the content you express: at any rate,
your good sense will tell you that it is too soon yet to yield to
the vacillating fears of Lot's wife. What you had left before I saw
you, of course I do not know; but I counsel you to resist firmly
every temptation which would incline you to look back: pursue your
present career steadily, for some months at least."
- "It is what I mean to do," I answered. St. John continued --
- "It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the
bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience.
God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate; and
when our energies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get -- when
our will strains after a path we may not follow -- we need neither
starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we have but to
seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden
food it longed to taste -- and perhaps purer; and to hew out for the
adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has
blocked up against us, if rougher than it.
- "A year ago I was myself intensely miserable, because I thought I
had made a mistake in entering the ministry: its uniform duties
wearied me to death. I burnt for the more active life of the world -- for the more exciting toils of a literary career -- for the destiny
of an artist, author, orator; anything rather than that of a priest:
yes, the heart of a politician, of a soldier, of a votary of glory,
a lover of renown, a luster after power, beat under my curate's
surplice. I considered; my life was so wretched, it must be
changed, or I must die. After a season of darkness and struggling,
light broke and relief fell: my cramped existence all at once
spread out to a plain without bounds -- my powers heard a call from
heaven to rise, gather their full strength, spread their wings, and
mount beyond ken. God had an errand for me; to bear which afar, to
deliver it well, skill and strength, courage and eloquence, the best
qualifications of soldier, statesman, and orator, were all needed:
for these all centre in the good missionary.
- "A missionary I resolved to be. From that moment my state of mind
changed; the fetters dissolved and dropped from every faculty,
leaving nothing of bondage but its galling soreness -- which time only
can heal. My father, indeed, imposed the determination, but since
his death, I have not a legitimate obstacle to contend with; some
affairs settled, a successor for Morton provided, an entanglement or
two of the feelings broken through or cut asunder -- a last conflict
with human weakness, in which I know I shall overcome, because I
have vowed that I will overcome -- and I leave Europe for the East."
- He said this, in his peculiar, subdued, yet emphatic voice; looking,
when he had ceased speaking, not at me, but at the setting sun, at
which I looked too. Both he and I had our backs towards the path
leading up the field to the wicket. We had heard no step on that
grass-grown track; the water running in the vale was the one lulling
sound of the hour and scene; we might well then start when a gay
voice, sweet as a silver bell, exclaimed: --
- "Good evening, Mr. Rivers. And good evening, old Carlo. Your dog
is quicker to recognise his friends than you are, sir; he pricked
his ears and wagged his tail when I was at the bottom of the field,
and you have your back towards me now."
- It was true. Though Mr. Rivers had started at the first of those
musical accents, as if a thunderbolt had split a cloud over his
head, he stood yet, at the close of the sentence, in the same
attitude in which the speaker had surprised him -- his arm resting on
the gate, his face directed towards the west. He turned at last,
with measured deliberation. A vision, as it seemed to me, had risen
at his side. There appeared, within three feet of him, a form clad
in pure white -- a youthful, graceful form: full, yet fine in
contour; and when, after bending to caress Carlo, it lifted up its
head, and threw back a long veil, there bloomed under his glance a
face of perfect beauty. Perfect beauty is a strong expression; but
I do not retrace or qualify it: as sweet features as ever the
temperate clime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lily as
ever her humid gales and vapoury skies generated and screened,
justified, in this instance, the term. No charm was wanting, no
defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate
lineaments; eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovely
pictures, large, and dark, and full; the long and shadowy eyelash
which encircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; the pencilled
brow which gives such clearness; the white smooth forehead, which
adds such repose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the cheek
oval, fresh, and smooth; the lips, fresh too, ruddy, healthy,
sweetly formed; the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the small
dimpled chin; the ornament of rich, plenteous tresses -- all
advantages, in short, which, combined, realise the ideal of beauty,
were fully hers. I wondered, as I looked at this fair creature: I
admired her with my whole heart. Nature had surely formed her in a
partial mood; and, forgetting her usual stinted step-mother dole of
gifts, had endowed this, her darling, with a grand-dame's bounty.
- What did St. John Rivers think of this earthly angel? I naturally
asked myself that question as I saw him turn to her and look at her;
and, as naturally, I sought the answer to the inquiry in his
countenance. He had already withdrawn his eye from the Peri, and
was looking at a humble tuft of daisies which grew by the wicket.
- "A lovely evening, but late for you to be out alone," he said, as he
crushed the snowy heads of the closed flowers with his foot.
- "Oh, I only came home from S----" (she mentioned the name of a large
town some twenty miles distant) "this afternoon. Papa told me you
had opened your school, and that the new mistress was come; and so I
put on my bonnet after tea, and ran up the valley to see her: this
is she?" pointing to me.
- "It is," said St. John.
- "Do you think you shall like Morton?" she asked of me, with a direct
and naive simplicity of tone and manner, pleasing, if child-like.
- "I hope I shall. I have many inducements to do so."
- "Did you find your scholars as attentive as you expected?"
- "Do you like your house?"
- "Very much."
- "Have I furnished it nicely?"
- "Very nicely, indeed."
- "And made a good choice of an attendant for you in Alice Wood?"
- "You have indeed. She is teachable and handy." (This then, I
thought, is Miss Oliver, the heiress; favoured, it seems, in the
gifts of fortune, as well as in those of nature! What happy
combination of the planets presided over her birth, I wonder?)
- "I shall come up and help you to teach sometimes," she added. "It
will be a change for me to visit you now and then; and I like a
change. Mr. Rivers, I have been so gay during my stay at S----. Last
night, or rather this morning, I was dancing till two o'clock. The
-th regiment are stationed there since the riots; and the officers
are the most agreeable men in the world: they put all our young
knife-grinders and scissor merchants to shame."
- It seemed to me that Mr. St. John's under lip protruded, and his
upper lip curled a moment. His mouth certainly looked a good deal
compressed, and the lower part of his face unusually stern and
square, as the laughing girl gave him this information. He lifted
his gaze, too, from the daisies, and turned it on her. An
unsmiling, a searching, a meaning gaze it was. She answered it with
a second laugh, and laughter well became her youth, her roses, her
dimples, her bright eyes.
- As he stood, mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo.
"Poor Carlo loves me," said she. "He is not stern and distant to
his friends; and if he could speak, he would not be silent."
- As she patted the dog's head, bending with native grace before his
young and austere master, I saw a glow rise to that master's face.
I saw his solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with
resistless emotion. Flushed and kindled thus, he looked nearly as
beautiful for a man as she for a woman. His chest heaved once, as
if his large heart, weary of despotic constriction, had expanded,
despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of
liberty. But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb
a rearing steed. He responded neither by word nor movement to the
gentle advances made him.
- "Papa says you never come to see us now," continued Miss Oliver,
looking up. "You are quite a stranger at Vale Hall. He is alone
this evening, and not very well: will you return with me and visit
- "It is not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver," answered St.
- "Not a seasonable hour! But I declare it is. It is just the hour
when papa most wants company: when the works are closed and he has
no business to occupy him. Now, Mr. Rivers, do come. Why are you
so very shy, and so very sombre?" She filled up the hiatus his
silence left by a reply of her own.
- "I forgot!" she exclaimed, shaking her beautiful curled head, as if
shocked at herself. "I am so giddy and thoughtless! Do excuse me.
It had slipped my memory that you have good reasons to be indisposed
for joining in my chatter. Diana and Mary have left you, and Moor
House is shut up, and you are so lonely. I am sure I pity you. Do
come and see papa."
- "Not to-night, Miss Rosamond, not to-night."
- Mr. St. John spoke almost like an automaton: himself only knew the
effort it cost him thus to refuse.
- "Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not
stay any longer: the dew begins to fall. Good evening!"
- She held out her hand. He just touched it. "Good evening!" he
repeated, in a voice low and hollow as an echo. She turned, but in
a moment returned.
- "Are you well?" she asked. Well might she put the question: his
face was blanched as her gown.
- "Quite well," he enunciated; and, with a bow, he left the gate. She
went one way; he another. She turned twice to gaze after him as she
tripped fairy-like down the field; he, as he strode firmly across,
never turned at all.
- This spectacle of another's suffering and sacrifice rapt my thoughts
from exclusive meditation on my own. Diana Rivers had designated
her brother "inexorable as death." She had not exaggerated.
- I CONTINUED the labours of the village-school as actively and
faithfully as I could. It was truly hard work at first. Some time
elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars
and their nature. Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid,
they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull
alike: but I soon found I was mistaken. There was a difference
amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them,
and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself. Their
amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided, I
found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into
sharp-witted girls enough. Many showed themselves obliging, and
amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of
natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent
capacity, that won both my goodwill and my admiration. These soon
took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons
neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and
orderly manners. The rapidity of their progress, in some instances,
was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it:
besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they
liked me. I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters:
young women grown, almost. These could already read, write, and
sew; and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography,
history, and the finer kinds of needlework. I found estimable
characters amongst them -- characters desirous of information and
disposed for improvement -- with whom I passed many a pleasant evening
hour in their own homes. Their parents then (the farmer and his
wife) loaded me with attentions. There was an enjoyment in
accepting their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a
consideration -- a scrupulous regard to their feelings -- to which they
were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed
and benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own
eyes, it made them emulous to merit the deferential treatment they
- I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood. Whenever I went
out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with
friendly smiles. To live amidst general regard, though it be but
the regard of working people, is like "sitting in sunshine, calm and
sweet;" serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray. At this
period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with thankfulness
than sank with dejection: and yet, reader, to tell you all, in the
midst of this calm, this useful existence -- after a day passed in
honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening spent in drawing
or reading contentedly alone -- I used to rush into strange dreams at
night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the
stirring, the stormy -- dreams where, amidst unusual scenes, charged
with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic chance, I still
again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some exciting crisis;
and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing his voice, meeting
his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving him, being loved by
him -- the hope of passing a lifetime at his side, would be renewed,
with all its first force and fire. Then I awoke. Then I recalled
where I was, and how situated. Then I rose up on my curtainless
bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night
witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion.
By nine o'clock the next morning I was punctually opening the
school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the
- Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me. Her call at
the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride.
She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted
livery servant. Anything more exquisite than her appearance, in her
purple habit, with her Amazon's cap of black velvet placed
gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated to
her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined: and it was thus she would
enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks of
the village children. She generally came at the hour when Mr.
Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson. Keenly,
I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor's
heart. A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even
when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the
door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed
indescribably, and in their very quiescence became expressive of a
repressed fervour, stronger than working muscle or darting glance
- Of course, she knew her power: indeed, he did not, because he could
not, conceal it from her. In spite of his Christian stoicism, when
she went up and addressed him, and smiled gaily, encouragingly, even
fondly in his face, his hand would tremble and his eye burn. He
seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look, if he did not say it
with his lips, "I love you, and I know you prefer me. It is not
despair of success that keeps me dumb. If I offered my heart, I
believe you would accept it. But that heart is already laid on a
sacred altar: the fire is arranged round it. It will soon be no
more than a sacrifice consumed."
- And then she would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloud
would soften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her hand
hastily from his, and turn in transient petulance from his aspect,
at once so heroic and so martyr-like. St. John, no doubt, would
have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus
left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor
relinquish, for the elysium of her love, one hope of the true,
eternal Paradise. Besides, he could not bind all that he had in his
nature -- the rover, the aspirant, the poet, the priest -- in the limits
of a single passion. He could not -- he would not -- renounce his wild
field of mission warfare for the parlours and the peace of Vale
Hall. I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I once, despite
his reserve, had the daring to make on his confidence.
- Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage.
I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or
disguise: she was coquettish but not heartless; exacting, but not
worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was
not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she
could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a
flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent of
the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay,
lively, and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to a
cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly
interesting or thoroughly impressive. A very different sort of mind
was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John.
Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adèle; except that,
for a child whom we have watched over and taught, a closer affection
is engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult
- She had taken an amiable caprice to me. She said I was like Mr.
Rivers, only, certainly, she allowed, "not one-tenth so handsome,
though I was a nice neat little soul enough, but he was an angel."
I was, however, good, clever, composed, and firm, like him. I was a
lusus naturoe, she affirmed, as a village schoolmistress: she was
sure my previous history, if known, would make a delightful romance.
- One evening, while, with her usual child-like activity, and
thoughtless yet not offensive inquisitiveness, she was rummaging the
cupboard and the table-drawer of my little kitchen, she discovered
first two French books, a volume of Schiller, a German grammar and
dictionary, and then my drawing-materials and some sketches,
including a pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girl, one of
my scholars, and sundry views from nature, taken in the Vale of
Morton and on the surrounding moors. She was first transfixed with
surprise, and then electrified with delight.
- "Had I done these pictures? Did I know French and German? What a
love -- what a miracle I was! I drew better than her master in the
first school in S----. Would I sketch a portrait of her, to show to
- "With pleasure," I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist -- delight
at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model. She had
then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; her
only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over her
shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls. I took a sheet
of fine card-board, and drew a careful outline. I promised myself
the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late then, I
told her she must come and sit another day.
- She made such a report of me to her father, that Mr. Oliver himself
accompanied her next evening -- a tall, massive-featured, middle-aged,
and grey-headed man, at whose side his lovely daughter looked like a
bright flower near a hoary turret. He appeared a taciturn, and
perhaps a proud personage; but he was very kind to me. The sketch
of Rosamond's portrait pleased him highly: he said I must make a
finished picture of it. He insisted, too, on my coming the next day
to spend the evening at Vale Hall.
- I went. I found it a large, handsome residence, showing abundant
evidences of wealth in the proprietor. Rosamond was full of glee
and pleasure all the time I stayed. Her father was affable; and
when he entered into conversation with me after tea, he expressed in
strong terms his approbation of what I had done in Morton school,
and said he only feared, from what he saw and heard, I was too good
for the place, and would soon quit it for one more suitable.
- "Indeed," cried Rosamond, "she is clever enough to be a governess in
a high family, papa."
- I thought I would far rather be where I am than in any high family
in the land. Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers -- of the Rivers family --
with great respect. He said it was a very old name in that
neighbourhood; that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; that
all Morton had once belonged to them; that even now he considered
the representative of that house might, if he liked, make an
alliance with the best. He accounted it a pity that so fine and
talented a young man should have formed the design of going out as a
missionary; it was quite throwing a valuable life away. It
appeared, then, that her father would throw no obstacle in the way
of Rosamond's union with St. John. Mr. Oliver evidently regarded
the young clergyman's good birth, old name, and sacred profession as
sufficient compensation for the want of fortune.
- It was the 5th of November, and a holiday. My little servant, after
helping me to clean my house, was gone, well satisfied with the fee
of a penny for her aid. All about me was spotless and bright --
scoured floor, polished grate, and well-rubbed chairs. I had also
made myself neat, and had now the afternoon before me to spend as I
- The translation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then I
got my palette and pencils, and fell to the more soothing, because
easier occupation, of completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature. The
head was finished already: there was but the background to tint and
the drapery to shade off; a touch of carmine, too, to add to the
ripe lips -- a soft curl here and there to the tresses -- a deeper tinge
to the shadow of the lash under the azured eyelid. I was absorbed
in the execution of these nice details, when, after one rapid tap,
my door unclosed, admitting St. John Rivers.
- "I am come to see how you are spending your holiday," he said.
"Not, I hope, in thought? No, that is well: while you draw you
will not feel lonely. You see, I mistrust you still, though you
have borne up wonderfully so far. I have brought you a book for
evening solace," and he laid on the table a new publication -- a poem:
one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the
fortunate public of those days -- the golden age of modern literature.
Alas! the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage! I
will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not
dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to
bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their
presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful
angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and
feeble ones weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius
banished? No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the
thought. No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without
their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell -- the
hell of your own meanness.
- While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of "Marmion" (for
"Marmion" it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing. His tall
figure sprang erect again with a start: he said nothing. I looked
up at him: he shunned my eye. I knew his thoughts well, and could
read his heart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and cooler than
he: I had then temporarily the advantage of him, and I conceived an
inclination to do him some good, if I could.
- "With all his firmness and self-control," thought I, "he tasks
himself too far: locks every feeling and pang within -- expresses,
confesses, imparts nothing. I am sure it would benefit him to talk
a little about this sweet Rosamond, whom he thinks he ought not to
marry: I will make him talk."
- I said first, "Take a chair, Mr. Rivers." But he answered, as he
always did, that he could not stay. "Very well," I responded,
mentally, "stand if you like; but you shall not go just yet, I am
determined: solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me.
I'll try if I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidence,
and find an aperture in that marble breast through which I can shed
one drop of the balm of sympathy."
- "Is this portrait like?" I asked bluntly.
- "Like! Like whom? I did not observe it closely."
- "You did, Mr. Rivers."
- He almost started at my sudden and strange abruptness: he looked at
me astonished. "Oh, that is nothing yet," I muttered within. "I
don't mean to be baffled by a little stiffness on your part; I'm
prepared to go to considerable lengths." I continued, "You observed
it closely and distinctly; but I have no objection to your looking
at it again," and I rose and placed it in his hand.
- "A well-executed picture," he said; "very soft, clear colouring;
very graceful and correct drawing."
- "Yes, yes; I know all that. But what of the resemblance? Who is it
- Mastering some hesitation, he answered, "Miss Oliver, I presume."
- "Of course. And now, sir, to reward you for the accurate guess, I
will promise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of this
very picture, provided you admit that the gift would be acceptable
to you. I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on an
offering you would deem worthless."
- He continued to gaze at the picture: the longer he looked, the
firmer he held it, the more he seemed to covet it. "It is like!" he
murmured; "the eye is well managed: the colour, light, expression,
are perfect. It smiles!"
- "Would it comfort, or would it wound you to have a similar painting?
Tell me that. When you are at Madagascar, or at the Cape, or in
India, would it be a consolation to have that memento in your
possession? or would the sight of it bring recollections calculated
to enervate and distress?"
- He now furtively raised his eyes: he glanced at me, irresolute,
disturbed: he again surveyed the picture.
- "That I should like to have it is certain: whether it would be
judicious or wise is another question."
- Since I had ascertained that Rosamond really preferred him, and that
her father was not likely to oppose the match, I -- less exalted in my
views than St. John -- had been strongly disposed in my own heart to
advocate their union. It seemed to me that, should he become the
possessor of Mr. Oliver's large fortune, he might do as much good
with it as if he went and laid his genius out to wither, and his
strength to waste, under a tropical sun. With this persuasion I now
- "As far as I can see, it would be wiser and more judicious if you
were to take to yourself the original at once."
- By this time he had sat down: he had laid the picture on the table
before him, and with his brow supported on both hands, hung fondly
over it. I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at my
audacity. I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subject
he had deemed unapproachable -- to hear it thus freely handled -- was
beginning to be felt by him as a new pleasure -- an unhoped-for
relief. Reserved people often really need the frank discussion of
their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive. The sternest-seeming stoic is human after all; and to "burst" with boldness and
good-will into "the silent sea" of their souls is often to confer on
them the first of obligations.
- "She likes you, I am sure," said I, as I stood behind his chair,
"and her father respects you. Moreover, she is a sweet girl -- rather
thoughtless; but you would have sufficient thought for both yourself
and her. You ought to marry her."
- "Does she like me?" he asked.
- "Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you
continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches upon
- "It is very pleasant to hear this," he said -- "very: go on for
another quarter of an hour." And he actually took out his watch and
laid it upon the table to measure the time.
- "But where is the use of going on," I asked, "when you are probably
preparing some iron blow of contradiction, or forging a fresh chain
to fetter your heart?"
- "Don't imagine such hard things. Fancy me yielding and melting, as
I am doing: human love rising like a freshly opened fountain in my
mind and overflowing with sweet inundation all the field I have so
carefully and with such labour prepared -- so assiduously sown with
the seeds of good intentions, of self-denying plans. And now it is
deluged with a nectarous flood -- the young germs swamped -- delicious
poison cankering them: now I see myself stretched on an ottoman in
the drawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond Oliver's feet:
she is talking to me with her sweet voice -- gazing down on me with
those eyes your skilful hand has copied so well -- smiling at me with
these coral lips. She is mine -- I am hers -- this present life and
passing world suffice to me. Hush! say nothing -- my heart is full of
delight -- my senses are entranced -- let the time I marked pass in
- I humoured him: the watch ticked on: he breathed fast and low: I
stood silent. Amidst this hush the quartet sped; he replaced the
watch, laid the picture down, rose, and stood on the hearth.
- "Now," said he, "that little space was given to delirium and
delusion. I rested my temples on the breast of temptation, and put
my neck voluntarily under her yoke of flowers. I tasted her cup.
The pillow was burning: there is an asp in the garland: the wine
has a bitter taste: her promises are hollow -- her offers false: I
see and know all this."
- I gazed at him in wonder.
- "It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so
wildly -- with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the
object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, fascinating -- I
experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she
would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to
me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage; and
that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret.
This I know."
- "Strange indeed!" I could not help ejaculating.
- "While something in me," he went on, "is acutely sensible to her
charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects:
they are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to -- co-operate in nothing I undertook. Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer, a
female apostle? Rosamond a missionary's wife? No!"
- "But you need not be a missionary. You might relinquish that
- "Relinquish! What! my vocation? My great work? My foundation laid
on earth for a mansion in heaven? My hopes of being numbered in the
band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of bettering
their race -- of carrying knowledge into the realms of ignorance -- of
substituting peace for war -- freedom for bondage -- religion for
superstition -- the hope of heaven for the fear of hell? Must I
relinquish that? It is dearer than the blood in my veins. It is
what I have to look forward to, and to live for."
- After a considerable pause, I said -- "And Miss Oliver? Are her
disappointment and sorrow of no interest to you?"
- "Miss Oliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers: in less
than a month, my image will be effaced from her heart. She will
forget me; and will marry, probably, some one who will make her far
happier than I should do."
- "You speak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict. You are
- "No. If I get a little thin, it is with anxiety about my prospects,
yet unsettled -- my departure, continually procrastinated. Only this
morning, I received intelligence that the successor, whose arrival I
have been so long expecting, cannot be ready to replace me for three
months to come yet; and perhaps the three months may extend to six."
- "You tremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters the
- Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not
imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I
felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in
communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male
or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve,
and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their
heart's very hearthstone.
- "You are original," said he, "and not timid. There is something
brave in your spirit, as well as penetrating in your eye; but allow
me to assure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions. You
think them more profound and potent than they are. You give me a
larger allowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to. When I
colour, and when I shade before Miss Oliver, I do not pity myself.
I scorn the weakness. I know it is ignoble: a mere fever of the
flesh: not, I declare, the convulsion of the soul. That is just as
fixed as a rock, firm set in the depths of a restless sea. Know me
to be what I am -- a cold hard man."
- I smiled incredulously.
- "You have taken my confidence by storm," he continued, "and now it
is much at your service. I am simply, in my original state --
stripped of that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covers
human deformity -- a cold, hard, ambitious man. Natural affection
only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me. Reason,
and not feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited: my desire
to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable. I honour
endurance, perseverance, industry, talent; because these are the
means by which men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence.
I watch your career with interest, because I consider you a specimen
of a diligent, orderly, energetic woman: not because I deeply
compassionate what you have gone through, or what you still suffer."
- "You would describe yourself as a mere pagan philosopher," I said.
- "No. There is this difference between me and deistic philosophers:
I believe; and I believe the Gospel. You missed your epithet. I am
not a pagan, but a Christian philosopher -- a follower of the sect of
Jesus. As His disciple I adopt His pure, His merciful, His
benignant doctrines. I advocate them: I am sworn to spread them.
Won in youth to religion, she has cultivated my original qualities
thus: -- From the minute germ, natural affection, she has developed
the overshadowing tree, philanthropy. From the wild stringy root of
human uprightness, she has reared a due sense of the Divine justice.
Of the ambition to win power and renown for my wretched self, she
has formed the ambition to spread my Master's kingdom; to achieve
victories for the standard of the cross. So much has religion done
for me; turning the original materials to the best account; pruning
and training nature. But she could not eradicate nature: nor will
it be eradicated 'till this mortal shall put on immortality.'"
- Having said this, he took his hat, which lay on the table beside my
palette. Once more he looked at the portrait.
- "She is lovely," he murmured. "She is well named the Rose of the
- "And may I not paint one like it for you?"
- "Cui bono? No."
- He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I was
accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the cardboard
from being sullied. What he suddenly saw on this blank paper, it
was impossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye. He
took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a glance
at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite incomprehensible: a glance
that seemed to take and make note of every point in my shape, face,
and dress; for it traversed all, quick, keen as lightning. His lips
parted, as if to speak: but he checked the coming sentence,
whatever it was.
- "What is the matter?" I asked.
- "Nothing in the world," was the reply; and, replacing the paper, I
saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin. It
disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty nod and "good-afternoon," he vanished.
- "Well!" I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, "that caps
the globe, however!"
- I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save a
few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil.
I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvable,
and being certain it could not be of much moment, I dismissed, and
soon forgot it.
- WHEN Mr. St. John went, it was beginning to snow; the whirling storm
continued all night. The next day a keen wind brought fresh and
blinding falls; by twilight the valley was drifted up and almost
impassable. I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to
prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and
after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled
fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, took down "Marmion," and
- "Day set on Norham's castled steep,
- And Tweed's fair river broad and deep,
- And Cheviot's mountains lone;
- The massive towers, the donjon keep,
- The flanking walls that round them sweep,
- In yellow lustre shone" --
I soon forgot storm in music.
- I heard a noise: the wind, I thought, shook the door. No; it was
St. John Rivers, who, lifting the latch, came in out of the frozen
hurricane -- the howling darkness -- and stood before me: the cloak
that covered his tall figure all white as a glacier. I was almost
in consternation, so little had I expected any guest from the
blocked-up vale that night.
- "Any ill news?" I demanded. "Has anything happened?"
- "No. How very easily alarmed you are?" he answered, removing his
cloak and hanging it up against the door, towards which he again
coolly pushed the mat which his entrance had deranged. He stamped
the snow from his boots.
- "I shall sully the purity of your floor," said he, "but you must
excuse me for once." Then he approached the fire. "I have had hard
work to get here, I assure you," he observed, as he warmed his hands
over the flame. "One drift took me up to the waist; happily the
snow is quite soft yet."
- "But why are you come?" I could not forbear saying.
- "Rather an inhospitable question to put to a visitor; but since you
ask it, I answer simply to have a little talk with you; I got tired
of my mute books and empty rooms. Besides, since yesterday I have
experienced the excitement of a person to whom a tale has been half-told, and who is impatient to hear the sequel."
- He sat down. I recalled his singular conduct of yesterday, and
really I began to fear his wits were touched. If he were insane,
however, his was a very cool and collected insanity: I had never
seen that handsome-featured face of his look more like chiselled
marble than it did just now, as he put aside his snow-wet hair from
his forehead and let the firelight shine free on his pale brow and
cheek as pale, where it grieved me to discover the hollow trace of
care or sorrow now so plainly graved. I waited, expecting he would
say something I could at least comprehend; but his hand was now at
his chin, his finger on his lip: he was thinking. It struck me
that his hand looked wasted like his face. A perhaps uncalled-for
gush of pity came over my heart: I was moved to say: --
- "I wish Diana or Mary would come and live with you: it is too bad
that you should be quite alone; and you are recklessly rash about
your own health."
- "Not at all," said he: "I care for myself when necessary. I am
well now. What do you see amiss in me?"
- This was said with a careless, abstracted indifference, which showed
that my solicitude was, at least in his opinion, wholly superfluous.
I was silenced.
- He still slowly moved his finger over his upper lip, and still his
eye dwelt dreamily on the glowing grate; thinking it urgent to say
something, I asked him presently if he felt any cold draught from
the door, which was behind him.
- "No, no!" he responded shortly and somewhat testily.
- "Well," I reflected, "if you won't talk, you may be still; I'll let
you alone now, and return to my book."
- So I snuffed the candle and resumed the perusal of "Marmion." He
soon stirred; my eye was instantly drawn to his movements; he only
took out a morocco pocket-book, thence produced a letter, which he
read in silence, folded it, put it back, relapsed into meditation.
It was vain to try to read with such an inscrutable fixture before
me; nor could I, in impatience, consent to be dumb; he might rebuff
me if my he liked, but talk I would.
- "Have you heard from Diana and Mary lately?"
- "Not since the letter I showed you a week ago."
- "There has not been any change made about your own arrangements?
You will not be summoned to leave England sooner than you expected?"
- "I fear not, indeed: such chance is too good to befall me."
Baffled so far, I changed my ground. I bethought myself to talk
about the school and my scholars.
- "Mary Garrett's mother is better, and Mary came back to the school
this morning, and I shall have four new girls next week from the
Foundry Close -- they would have come to-day but for the snow."
- "Mr. Oliver pays for two."
- "Does he?"
- "He means to give the whole school a treat at Christmas."
- "I know."
- "Was it your suggestion?"
- "Whose, then?"
- "His daughter's, I think."
- "It is like her: she is so good-natured."
- Again came the blank of a pause: the clock struck eight strokes.
It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me.
- "Leave your book a moment, and come a little nearer the fire," he
- Wondering, and of my wonder finding no end, I complied.
- "Half-an-hour ago," he pursued, "I spoke of my impatience to hear
the sequel of a tale: on reflection, I find the matter will be
better managed by my assuming the narrator's part, and converting
you into a listener. Before commencing, it is but fair to warn you
that the story will sound somewhat hackneyed in your ears; but stale
details often regain a degree of freshness when they pass through
new lips. For the rest, whether trite or novel, it is short.
- "Twenty years ago, a poor curate -- never mind his name at this
moment -- fell in love with a rich man's daughter; she fell in love
with him, and married him, against the advice of all her friends,
who consequently disowned her immediately after the wedding. Before
two years passed, the rash pair were both dead, and laid quietly
side by side under one slab. (I have seen their grave; it formed
part of the pavement of a huge churchyard surrounding the grim,
soot-black old cathedral of an overgrown manufacturing town in ----shire.) They left a daughter, which, at its very birth, Charity
received in her lap -- cold as that of the snow-drift I almost stuck
fast in to-night. Charity carried the friendless thing to the house
of its rich maternal relations; it was reared by an aunt-in-law,
called (I come to names now) Mrs. Reed of Gateshead. You start -- did
you hear a noise? I daresay it is only a rat scrambling along the
rafters of the adjoining schoolroom: it was a barn before I had it
repaired and altered, and barns are generally haunted by rats. -- To
proceed. Mrs. Reed kept the orphan ten years: whether it was happy
or not with her, I cannot say, never having been told; but at the
end of that time she transferred it to a place you know -- being no
other than Lowood School, where you so long resided yourself. It
seems her career there was very honourable: from a pupil, she
became a teacher, like yourself -- really it strikes me there are
parallel points in her history and yours -- she left it to be a
governess: there, again, your fates were analogous; she undertook
the education of the ward of a certain Mr. Rochester."
- "Mr. Rivers!" I interrupted.
- "I can guess your feelings," he said, "but restrain them for a
while: I have nearly finished; hear me to the end. Of Mr.
Rochester's character I know nothing, but the one fact that he
professed to offer honourable marriage to this young girl, and that
at the very altar she discovered he had a wife yet alive, though a
lunatic. What his subsequent conduct and proposals were is a matter
of pure conjecture; but when an event transpired which rendered
inquiry after the governess necessary, it was discovered she was
gone -- no one could tell when, where, or how. She had left
Thornfield Hall in the night; every research after her course had
been vain: the country had been scoured far and wide; no vestige of
information could be gathered respecting her. Yet that she should
be found is become a matter of serious urgency: advertisements have
been put in all the papers; I myself have received a letter from one
Mr. Briggs, a solicitor, communicating the details I have just
imparted. Is it not an odd tale?"
- "Just tell me this," said I, "and since you know so much, you surely
can tell it me -- what of Mr. Rochester? How and where is he? What
is he doing? Is he well?"
- "I am ignorant of all concerning Mr. Rochester: the letter never
mentions him but to narrate the fraudulent and illegal attempt I
have adverted to. You should rather ask the name of the governess --
the nature of the event which requires her appearance."
- "Did no one go to Thornfield Hall, then? Did no one see Mr.
- "I suppose not."
- "But they wrote to him?"
- "Of course."
- "And what did he say? Who has his letters?"
- "Mr. Briggs intimates that the answer to his application was not
from Mr. Rochester, but from a lady: it is signed 'Alice Fairfax.'"
- I felt cold and dismayed: my worst fears then were probably true:
he had in all probability left England and rushed in reckless
desperation to some former haunt on the Continent. And what opiate
for his severe sufferings -- what object for his strong passions -- had
he sought there? I dared not answer the question. Oh, my poor
master -- once almost my husband -- whom I had often called "my dear
- "He must have been a bad man," observed Mr. Rivers.
- "You don't know him -- don't pronounce an opinion upon him," I said,
- "Very well," he answered quietly: "and indeed my head is otherwise
occupied than with him: I have my tale to finish. Since you won't
ask the governess's name, I must tell it of my own accord. Stay! I
have it here -- it is always more satisfactory to see important points
written down, fairly committed to black and white."
- And the pocket-book was again deliberately produced, opened, sought
through; from one of its compartments was extracted a shabby slip of
paper, hastily torn off: I recognised in its texture and its stains
of ultra-marine, and lake, and vermillion, the ravished margin of
the portrait-cover. He got up, held it close to my eyes: and I
read, traced in Indian ink, in my own handwriting, the words "JANE
EYRE" -- the work doubtless of some moment of abstraction.
- "Briggs wrote to me of a Jane Eyre:" he said, "the advertisements
demanded a Jane Eyre: I knew a Jane Elliott. -- I confess I had my
suspicions, but it was only yesterday afternoon they were at once
resolved into certainty. You own the name and renounce the alias?"
- "Yes -- yes; but where is Mr. Briggs? He perhaps knows more of Mr.
Rochester than you do."
- "Briggs is in London. I should doubt his knowing anything at all
about Mr. Rochester; it is not in Mr. Rochester he is interested.
Meantime, you forget essential points in pursuing trifles: you do
not inquire why Mr. Briggs sought after you -- what he wanted with
- "Well, what did he want?"
- "Merely to tell you that your uncle, Mr. Eyre of Madeira, is dead;
that he has left you all his property, and that you are now rich --
merely that -- nothing more."
- "I! rich?"
- "Yes, you, rich -- quite an heiress."
- Silence succeeded.
- "You must prove your identity of course," resumed St. John
presently: "a step which will offer no difficulties; you can then
enter on immediate possession. Your fortune is vested in the
English funds; Briggs has the will and the necessary documents."
- Here was a new card turned up! It is a fine thing, reader, to be
lifted in a moment from indigence to wealth -- a very fine thing; but
not a matter one can comprehend, or consequently enjoy, all at once.
And then there are other chances in life far more thrilling and
rapture-giving: this is solid, an affair of the actual world,
nothing ideal about it: all its associations are solid and sober,
and its manifestations are the same. One does not jump, and spring,
and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins to
consider responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base of
steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares, and we contain
ourselves, and blood over our bliss with a solemn brow.
- Besides, the words Legacy, Bequest, go side by side with the words,
Death, Funeral. My uncle I had heard was dead -- my only relative;
ever since being made aware of his existence, I had cherished the
hope of one day seeing him: now, I never should. And then this
money came only to me: not to me and a rejoicing family, but to my
isolated self. It was a grand boon doubtless; and independence
would be glorious -- yes, I felt that -- that thought swelled my heart.
- "You unbend your forehead at last," said Mr. Rivers. "I thought
Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone.
Perhaps now you will ask how much you are worth?"
- "How much am I worth?"
- "Oh, a trifle! Nothing of course to speak of -- twenty thousand
pounds, I think they say -- but what is that?"
- "Twenty thousand pounds?"
- Here was a new stunner -- I had been calculating on four or five
thousand. This news actually took my breath for a moment: Mr. St.
John, whom I had never heard laugh before, laughed now.
- "Well," said he, "if you had committed a murder, and I had told you
your crime was discovered, you could scarcely look more aghast."
- "It is a large sum -- don't you think there is a mistake?"
- "No mistake at all."
- "Perhaps you have read the figures wrong -- it may be two thousand!"
- "It is written in letters, not figures, -- twenty thousand."
- I again felt rather like an individual of but average gastronomical
powers sitting down to feast alone at a table spread with provisions
for a hundred. Mr. Rivers rose now and put his cloak on.
- "If it were not such a very wild night," he said, "I would send
Hannah down to keep you company: you look too desperately miserable
to be left alone. But Hannah, poor woman! could not stride the
drifts so well as I: her legs are not quite so long: so I must
e'en leave you to your sorrows. Good-night."
- He was lifting the latch: a sudden thought occurred to me.
- "Stop one minute!" I cried.
- "It puzzles me to know why Mr. Briggs wrote to you about me; or how
he knew you, or could fancy that you, living in such an out-of-the-way place, had the power to aid in my discovery."
- "Oh! I am a clergyman," he said; "and the clergy are often appealed
to about odd matters." Again the latch rattled.
- "No; that does not satisfy me!" I exclaimed: and indeed there was
something in the hasty and unexplanatory reply which, instead of
allaying, piqued my curiosity more than ever.
- "It is a very strange piece of business," I added; "I must know more
- "Another time."
- "No; to-night! -- to-night!" and as he turned from the door, I placed
myself between it and him. He looked rather embarrassed.
- "You certainly shall not go till you have told me all," I said.
- "I would rather not just now."
- "You shall! -- you must!"
- "I would rather Diana or Mary informed you."
- Of course these objections wrought my eagerness to a climax:
gratified it must be, and that without delay; and I told him so.
- "But I apprised you that I was a hard man," said he, "difficult to
- "And I am a hard woman, -- impossible to put off."
- "And then," he pursued, "I am cold: no fervour infects me."
- "Whereas I am hot, and fire dissolves ice. The blaze there has
thawed all the snow from your cloak; by the same token, it has
streamed on to my floor, and made it like a trampled street. As you
hope ever to be forgiven, Mr. Rivers, the high crime and
misdemeanour of spoiling a sanded kitchen, tell me what I wish to
- "Well, then," he said, "I yield; if not to your earnestness, to your
perseverance: as stone is worn by continual dropping. Besides, you
must know some day, -- as well now as later. Your name is Jane Eyre?"
- "Of course: that was all settled before."
- "You are not, perhaps, aware that I am your namesake? -- that I was
christened St. John Eyre Rivers?"
- "No, indeed! I remember now seeing the letter E. comprised in your
initials written in books you have at different times lent me; but I
never asked for what name it stood. But what then? Surely" ----
- I stopped: I could not trust myself to entertain, much less to
express, the thought that rushed upon me -- that embodied itself, --
that, in a second, stood out a strong, solid probability.
Circumstances knit themselves, fitted themselves, shot into order:
the chain that had been lying hitherto a formless lump of links was
drawn out straight, -- every ring was perfect, the connection
complete. I knew, by instinct, how the matter stood, before St.
John had said another word; but I cannot expect the reader to have
the same intuitive perception, so I must repeat his explanation.
- "My mother's name was Eyre; she had two brothers; one a clergyman,
who married Miss Jane Reed, of Gateshead; the other, John Eyre,
Esq., merchant, late of Funchal, Madeira. Mr. Briggs, being Mr.
Eyre's solicitor, wrote to us last August to inform us of our
uncle's death, and to say that he had left his property to his
brother the clergyman's orphan daughter, overlooking us, in
consequence of a quarrel, never forgiven, between him and my father.
He wrote again a few weeks since, to intimate that the heiress was
lost, and asking if we knew anything of her. A name casually
written on a slip of paper has enabled me to find her out. You know
the rest." Again he was going, but I set my back against the door.
- "Do let me speak," I said; "let me have one moment to draw breath
and reflect." I paused -- he stood before me, hat in hand, looking
composed enough. I resumed --
- "Your mother was my father's sister?"
- "My aunt, consequently?"
- He bowed.
- "My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and Mary are his
sister's children, as I am his brother's child?"
- "You three, then, are my cousins; half our blood on each side flows
from the same source?"
- "We are cousins; yes."
- I surveyed him. It seemed I had found a brother: one I could be
proud of, -- one I could love; and two sisters, whose qualities were
such, that, when I knew them but as mere strangers, they had
inspired me with genuine affection and admiration. The two girls,
on whom, kneeling down on the wet ground, and looking through the
low, latticed window of Moor House kitchen, I had gazed with so
bitter a mixture of interest and despair, were my near kinswomen;
and the young and stately gentleman who had found me almost dying at
his threshold was my blood relation. Glorious discovery to a lonely
wretch! This was wealth indeed! -- wealth to the heart! -- a mine of
pure, genial affections. This was a blessing, bright, vivid, and
exhilarating; -- not like the ponderous gift of gold: rich and
welcome enough in its way, but sobering from its weight. I now
clapped my hands in sudden joy -- my pulse bounded, my veins thrilled.
- "Oh, I am glad! -- I am glad!" I exclaimed.
- St. John smiled. "Did I not say you neglected essential points to
pursue trifles?" he asked. "You were serious when I told you you
had got a fortune; and now, for a matter of no moment, you are
- "What can you mean? It may be of no moment to you; you have sisters
and don't care for a cousin; but I had nobody; and now three
relations, -- or two, if you don't choose to be counted, -- are born
into my world full-grown. I say again, I am glad!"
- I walked fast through the room: I stopped, half suffocated with the
thoughts that rose faster than I could receive, comprehend, settle
them: -- thoughts of what might, could, would, and should be, and that
ere long. I looked at the blank wall: it seemed a sky thick with
ascending stars, -- every one lit me to a purpose or delight. Those
who had saved my life, whom, till this hour, I had loved barrenly, I
could now benefit. They were under a yoke, -- I could free them:
they were scattered, -- I could reunite them: the independence, the
affluence which was mine, might be theirs too. Were we not four?
Twenty thousand pounds shared equally would be five thousand each,
justice -- enough and to spare: justice would be done, -- mutual
happiness secured. Now the wealth did not weigh on me: now it was
not a mere bequest of coin, -- it was a legacy of life, hope,
- How I looked while these ideas were taking my spirit by storm, I
cannot tell; but I perceived soon that Mr. Rivers had placed a chair
behind me, and was gently attempting to make me sit down on it. He
also advised me to be composed; I scorned the insinuation of
helplessness and distraction, shook off his hand, and began to walk
- "Write to Diana and Mary to-morrow," I said, "and tell them to come
home directly. Diana said they would both consider themselves rich
with a thousand pounds, so with five thousand they will do very
- "Tell me where I can get you a glass of water," said St. John; "you
must really make an effort to tranquillise your feelings."
- "Nonsense! and what sort of an effect will the bequest have on you?
Will it keep you in England, induce you to marry Miss Oliver, and
settle down like an ordinary mortal?"
- "You wander: your head becomes confused. I have been too abrupt in
communicating the news; it has excited you beyond your strength."
- "Mr. Rivers! you quite put me out of patience: I am rational
enough; it is you who misunderstand, or rather who affect to
- "Perhaps, if you explained yourself a little more fully, I should
- "Explain! What is there to explain? You cannot fail to see that
twenty thousand pounds, the sum in question, divided equally between
the nephew and three nieces of our uncle, will give five thousand to
each? What I want is, that you should write to your sisters and
tell them of the fortune that has accrued to them."
- "To you, you mean."
- "I have intimated my view of the case: I am incapable of taking any
other. I am not brutally selfish, blindly unjust, or fiendishly
ungrateful. Besides, I am resolved I will have a home and
connections. I like Moor House, and I will live at Moor House; I
like Diana and Mary, and I will attach myself for life to Diana and
Mary. It would please and benefit me to have five thousand pounds;
it would torment and oppress me to have twenty thousand; which,
moreover, could never be mine in justice, though it might in law. I
abandon to you, then, what is absolutely superfluous to me. Let
there be no opposition, and no discussion about it; let us agree
amongst each other, and decide the point at once."
- "This is acting on first impulses; you must take days to consider
such a matter, ere your word can be regarded as valid."
- "Oh! if all you doubt is my sincerity, I am easy: you see the
justice of the case?"
- "I do see a certain justice; but it is contrary to all custom.
Besides, the entire fortune is your right: my uncle gained it by
his own efforts; he was free to leave it to whom he would: he left
it to you. After all, justice permits you to keep it: you may,
with a clear conscience, consider it absolutely your own."
- "With me," said I, "it is fully as much a matter of feeling as of
conscience: I must indulge my feelings; I so seldom have had an
opportunity of doing so. Were you to argue, object, and annoy me
for a year, I could not forego the delicious pleasure of which I
have caught a glimpse -- that of repaying, in part, a mighty
obligation, and winning to myself lifelong friends."
- "You think so now," rejoined St. John, "because you do not know what
it is to possess, nor consequently to enjoy wealth: you cannot form
a notion of the importance twenty thousand pounds would give you; of
the place it would enable you to take in society; of the prospects
it would open to you: you cannot" ----
- "And you," I interrupted, "cannot at all imagine the craving I have
for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had
brothers or sisters; I must and will have them now: you are not
reluctant to admit me and own me, are you?"
- "Jane, I will be your brother -- my sisters will be your sisters --
without stipulating for this sacrifice of your just rights."
- "Brother? Yes; at the distance of a thousand leagues! Sisters?
Yes; slaving amongst strangers! I, wealthy -- gorged with gold I
never earned and do not merit! You, penniless! Famous equality and
fraternisation! Close union! Intimate attachment!"
- "But, Jane, your aspirations after family ties and domestic
happiness may be realised otherwise than by the means you
contemplate: you may marry."
- "Nonsense, again! Marry! I don't want to marry, and never shall
- "That is saying too much: such hazardous affirmations are a proof
of the excitement under which you labour."
- "It is not saying too much: I know what I feel, and how averse are
my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage. No one would take
me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere money
speculation. And I do not want a stranger -- unsympathising, alien,
different from me; I want my kindred: those with whom I have full
fellow-feeling. Say again you will be my brother: when you uttered
the words I was satisfied, happy; repeat them, if you can, repeat
- "I think I can. I know I have always loved my own sisters; and I
know on what my affection for them is grounded, -- respect for their
worth and admiration of their talents. You too have principle and
mind: your tastes and habits resemble Diana's and Mary's; your
presence is always agreeable to me; in your conversation I have
already for some time found a salutary solace. I feel I can easily
and naturally make room in my heart for you, as my third and
- "Thank you: that contents me for to-night. Now you had better go;
for if you stay longer, you will perhaps irritate me afresh by some
- "And the school, Miss Eyre? It must now be shut up, I suppose?"
- "No. I will retain my post of mistress till you get a substitute."
- He smiled approbation: we shook hands, and he took leave.
- I need not narrate in detail the further struggles I had, and
arguments I used, to get matters regarding the legacy settled as I
wished. My task was a very hard one; but, as I was absolutely
resolved -- as my cousins saw at length that my mind was really and
immutably fixed on making a just division of the property -- as they
must in their own hearts have felt the equity of the intention; and
must, besides, have been innately conscious that in my place they
would have done precisely what I wished to do -- they yielded at
length so far as to consent to put the affair to arbitration. The
judges chosen were Mr. Oliver and an able lawyer: both coincided in
my opinion: I carried my point. The instruments of transfer were
drawn out: St. John, Diana, Mary, and I, each became possessed of a
- IT WAS near Christmas by the time all was settled: the season of
general holiday approached. I now closed Morton school, taking care
that the parting should not be barren on my side. Good fortune
opens the hand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to give
somewhat when we have largely received, is but to afford a vent to
the unusual ebullition of the sensations. I had long felt with
pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we
parted, that consciousness was confirmed: they manifested their
affection plainly and strongly. Deep was my gratification to find I
had really a place in their unsophisticated hearts: I promised them
that never a week should pass in future that I did not visit them,
and give them an hour's teaching in their school.
- Mr. Rivers came up as, having seen the classes, now numbering sixty
girls, file out before me, and locked the door, I stood with the key
in my hand, exchanging a few words of special farewell with some
half-dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest, and
well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of the
British peasantry. And that is saying a great deal; for after all,
the British peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most self-respecting of any in Europe: since those days I have seen paysannes
and Bäuerinnen; and the best of them seemed to me ignorant, coarse,
and besotted, compared with my Morton girls.
- "Do you consider you have got your reward for a season of exertion?"
asked Mr. Rivers, when they were gone. "Does not the consciousness
of having done some real good in your day and generation give
- "And you have only toiled a few months! Would not a life devoted to
the task of regenerating your race be well spent?"
- "Yes," I said; "but I could not go on for ever so: I want to enjoy
my own faculties as well as to cultivate those of other people. I
must enjoy them now; don't recall either my mind or body to the
school; I am out of it and disposed for full holiday."
- He looked grave. "What now? What sudden eagerness is this you
evince? What are you going to do?"
- "To be active: as active as I can. And first I must beg you to set
Hannah at liberty, and get somebody else to wait on you."
- "Do you want her?"
- "Yes, to go with me to Moor House. Diana and Mary will be at home
in a week, and I want to have everything in order against their
- "I understand. I thought you were for flying off on some excursion.
It is better so: Hannah shall go with you."
- "Tell her to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the schoolroom
key: I will give you the key of my cottage in the morning."
- He took it. "You give it up very gleefully," said he; "I don't
quite understand your light-heartedness, because I cannot tell what
employment you propose to yourself as a substitute for the one you
are relinquishing. What aim, what purpose, what ambition in life
have you now?"
- "My first aim will be to clean down (do you comprehend the full
force of the expression?) -- to clean down Moor House from chamber to
cellar; my next to rub it up with bees-wax, oil, and an indefinite
number of cloths, till it glitters again; my third, to arrange every
chair, table, bed, carpet, with mathematical precision; afterwards I
shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in
every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your
sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a
beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding
of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and
solemnising of other culinary rites, as words can convey but an
inadequate notion of to the uninitiated like you. My purpose, in
short, is to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of
readiness for Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambition
is to give them a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come."
- St. John smiled slightly: still he was dissatisfied.
- "It is all very well for the present," said he; "but seriously, I
trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a
little higher than domestic endearments and household joys."
- "The best things the world has!" I interrupted.
- "No, Jane, no: this world is not the scene of fruition; do not
attempt to make it so: nor of rest; do not turn slothful."
- "I mean, on the contrary, to be busy."
- "Jane, I excuse you for the present: two months' grace I allow you
for the full enjoyment of your new position, and for pleasing
yourself with this late-found charm of relationship; but then, I
hope you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and
sisterly society, and the selfish calm and sensual comfort of
civilised affluence. I hope your energies will then once more
trouble you with their strength."
- I looked at him with surprise. "St. John," I said, "I think you are
almost wicked to talk so. I am disposed to be as content as a
queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness! To what end?"
- "To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed
to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict
account. Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously -- I warn you
of that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with
which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures. Don't
cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy and
ardour for an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite
transient objects. Do you hear, Jane?"
- "Yes; just as if you were speaking Greek. I feel I have adequate
cause to be happy, and I will be happy. Goodbye!"
- Happy at Moor House I was, and hard I worked; and so did Hannah:
she was charmed to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle of a
house turned topsy-turvy -- how I could brush, and dust, and clean,
and cook. And really, after a day or two of confusion worse
confounded, it was delightful by degrees to invoke order from the
chaos ourselves had made. I had previously taken a journey to S---- to
purchase some new furniture: my cousins having given me CARTE
BLANCHE TO effect what alterations I pleased, and a sum having been
set aside for that purpose. The ordinary sitting-room and bedrooms
I left much as they were: for I knew Diana and Mary would derive
more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and chairs,
and beds, than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations.
Still some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the
piquancy with which I wished it to be invested. Dark handsome new
carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected
antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and
mirrors, and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the
end: they looked fresh without being glaring. A spare parlour and
bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson
upholstery: I laid canvas on the passage, and carpets on the
stairs. When all was finished, I thought Moor House as complete a
model of bright modest snugness within, as it was, at this season, a
specimen of wintry waste and desert dreariness without.
- The eventful Thursday at length came. They were expected about
dark, and ere dusk fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchen
was in perfect trim; Hannah and I were dressed, and all was in
- St. John arrived first. I had entreated him to keep quite clear of
the house till everything was arranged: and, indeed, the bare idea
of the commotion, at once sordid and trivial, going on within its
walls sufficed to scare him to estrangement. He found me in the
kitchen, watching the progress of certain cakes for tea, then
baking. Approaching the hearth, he asked, "If I was at last
satisfied with housemaid's work?" I answered by inviting him to
accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my labours.
With some difficulty, I got him to make the tour of the house. He
just looked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wandered
upstairs and downstairs, he said I must have gone through a great
deal of fatigue and trouble to have effected such considerable
changes in so short a time: but not a syllable did he utter
indicating pleasure in the improved aspect of his abode.
- This silence damped me. I thought perhaps the alterations had
disturbed some old associations he valued. I inquired whether this
was the case: no doubt in a somewhat crest-fallen tone.
- "Not at all; he had, on the contrary, remarked that I had
scrupulously respected every association: he feared, indeed, I must
have bestowed more thought on the matter than it was worth. How
many minutes, for instance, had I devoted to studying the
arrangement of this very room? -- By-the-bye, could I tell him where
such a book was?"
- I showed him the volume on the shelf: he took it down, and
withdrawing to his accustomed window recess, he began to read it.
- Now, I did not like this, reader. St. John was a good man; but I
began to feel he had spoken truth of himself when he said he was
hard and cold. The humanities and amenities of life had no
attraction for him -- its peaceful enjoyments no charm. Literally, he
lived only to aspire -- after what was good and great, certainly; but
still he would never rest, nor approve of others resting round him.
As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone --
at his fine lineaments fixed in study -- I comprehended all at once
that he would hardly make a good husband: that it would be a trying
thing to be his wife. I understood, as by inspiration, the nature
of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it was but a
love of the senses. I comprehended how he should despise himself
for the feverish influence it exercised over him; how he should wish
to stifle and destroy it; how he should mistrust its ever conducting
permanently to his happiness or hers. I saw he was of the material
from which nature hews her heroes -- Christian and Pagan -- her
lawgivers, her statesmen, her conquerors: a steadfast bulwark for
great interests to rest upon; but, at the fireside, too often a cold
cumbrous column, gloomy and out of place.
- "This parlour is not his sphere," I reflected: "the Himalayan ridge
or Caffre bush, even the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp would suit
him better. Well may he eschew the calm of domestic life; it is not
his element: there his faculties stagnate -- they cannot develop or
appear to advantage. It is in scenes of strife and danger -- where
courage is proved, and energy exercised, and fortitude tasked -- that
he will speak and move, the leader and superior. A merry child
would have the advantage of him on this hearth. He is right to
choose a missionary's career -- I see it now."
- "They are coming! they are coming!" cried Hannah, throwing open the
parlour door. At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully. Out I
ran. It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible. Hannah
soon had a lantern lit. The vehicle had stopped at the wicket; the
driver opened the door: first one well-known form, then another,
stepped out. In a minute I had my face under their bonnets, in
contact first with Mary's soft cheek, then with Diana's flowing
curls. They laughed -- kissed me -- then Hannah: patted Carlo, who was
half wild with delight; asked eagerly if all was well; and being
assured in the affirmative, hastened into the house.
- They were stiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcross,
and chilled with the frosty night air; but their pleasant
countenances expanded to the cheerful firelight. While the driver
and Hannah brought in the boxes, they demanded St. John. At this
moment he advanced from the parlour. They both threw their arms
round his neck at once. He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low
tone a few words of welcome, stood a while to be talked to, and
then, intimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in the
parlour, withdrew there as to a place of refuge.
- I had lit their candles to go upstairs, but Diana had first to give
hospitable orders respecting the driver; this done, both followed
me. They were delighted with the renovation and decorations of
their rooms; with the new drapery, and fresh carpets, and rich
tinted china vases: they expressed their gratification
ungrudgingly. I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangements
met their wishes exactly, and that what I had done added a vivid
charm to their joyous return home.
- Sweet was that evening. My cousins, full of exhilaration, were so
eloquent in narrative and comment, that their fluency covered St.
John's taciturnity: he was sincerely glad to see his sisters; but
in their glow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise.
The event of the day -- that is, the return of Diana and Mary -- pleased
him; but the accompaniments of that event, the glad tumult, the
garrulous glee of reception irked him: I saw he wished the calmer
morrow was come. In the very meridian of the night's enjoyment,
about an hour after tea, a rap was heard at the door. Hannah
entered with the intimation that "a poor lad was come, at that
unlikely time, to fetch Mr. Rivers to see his mother, who was
- "Where does she live, Hannah?"
- "Clear up at Whitcross Brow, almost four miles off, and moor and
moss all the way."
- "Tell him I will go."
- "I'm sure, sir, you had better not. It's the worst road to travel
after dark that can be: there's no track at all over the bog. And
then it is such a bitter night -- the keenest wind you ever felt. You
had better send word, sir, that you will be there in the morning."
- But he was already in the passage, putting on his cloak; and without
one objection, one murmur, he departed. It was then nine o'clock:
he did not return till midnight. Starved and tired enough he was:
but he looked happier than when he set out. He had performed an act
of duty; made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and deny, and
was on better terms with himself.
- I am afraid the whole of the ensuing week tried his patience. It
was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent it
in a sort of merry domestic dissipation. The air of the moors, the
freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and Mary's
spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from morning
till noon, and from noon till night. They could always talk; and
their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such charms for me,
that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing anything
else. St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped from it:
he was seldom in the house; his parish was large, the population
scattered, and he found daily business in visiting the sick and poor
in its different districts.
- One morning at breakfast, Diana, after looking a little pensive for
some minutes, asked him, "If his plans were yet unchanged."
- "Unchanged and unchangeable," was the reply. And he proceeded to
inform us that his departure from England was now definitively fixed
for the ensuing year.
- "And Rosamond Oliver?" suggested Mary, the words seeming to escape
her lips involuntarily: for no sooner had she uttered them, than
she made a gesture as if wishing to recall them. St. John had a
book in his hand -- it was his unsocial custom to read at meals -- he
closed it, and looked up,
- "Rosamond Oliver," said he, "is about to be married to Mr. Granby,
one of the best connected and most estimable residents in S----,
grandson and heir to Sir Frederic Granby: I had the intelligence
from her father yesterday."
- His sisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked at
him: he was serene as glass.
- "The match must have been got up hastily," said Diana: "they cannot
have known each other long."
- "But two months: they met in October at the county ball at S----. But
where there are no obstacles to a union, as in the present case,
where the connection is in every point desirable, delays are
unnecessary: they will be married as soon as S---- Place, which Sir
Frederic gives up to them, can he refitted for their reception."
- The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I
felt tempted to inquire if the event distressed him: but he seemed
so little to need sympathy, that, so far from venturing to offer him
more, I experienced some shame at the recollection of what I had
already hazarded. Besides, I was out of practice in talking to him:
his reserve was again frozen over, and my frankness was congealed
beneath it. He had not kept his promise of treating me like his
sisters; he continually made little chilling differences between us,
which did not at all tend to the development of cordiality: in
short, now that I was acknowledged his kinswoman, and lived under
the same roof with him, I felt the distance between us to be far
greater than when he had known me only as the village
schoolmistress. When I remembered how far I had once been admitted
to his confidence, I could hardly comprehend his present frigidity.
- Such being the case, I felt not a little surprised when he raised
his head suddenly from the desk over which he was stooping, and said: --
- "You see, Jane, the battle is fought and the victory won."
- Startled at being thus addressed, I did not immediately reply:
after a moment's hesitation I answered: --
- "But are you sure you are not in the position of those conquerors
whose triumphs have cost them too dear? Would not such another ruin
- "I think not; and if I were, it does not much signify; I shall never
be called upon to contend for such another. The event of the
conflict is decisive: my way is now clear; I thank God for it!" So
saying, he returned to his papers and his silence.
- As our mutual happiness (i.e., Diana's, Mary's, and mine) settled
into a quieter character, and we resumed our usual habits and
regular studies, St. John stayed more at home: he sat with us in
the same room, sometimes for hours together. While Mary drew, Diana
pursued a course of encyclopaedic reading she had (to my awe and
amazement) undertaken, and I fagged away at German, he pondered a
mystic lore of his own: that of some Eastern tongue, the
acquisition of which he thought necessary to his plans.
- Thus engaged, he appeared, sitting in his own recess, quiet and
absorbed enough; but that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving the
outlandish-looking grammar, and wandering over, and sometimes fixing
upon us, his fellow-students, with a curious intensity of
observation: if caught, it would be instantly withdrawn; yet ever
and anon, it returned searchingly to our table. I wondered what it
meant: I wondered, too, at the punctual satisfaction he never
failed to exhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small moment,
namely, my weekly visit to Morton school; and still more was I
puzzled when, if the day was unfavourable, if there was snow, or
rain, or high wind, and his sisters urged me not to go, he would
invariably make light of their solicitude, and encourage me to
accomplish the task without regard to the elements.
- "Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her," he would say:
"she can bear a mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of
snow, as well as any of us. Her constitution is both sound and
elastic: -- better calculated to endure variations of climate than
many more robust."
- And when I returned, sometimes a good deal tired, and not a little
weather-beaten, I never dared complain, because I saw that to murmur
would be to vex him: on all occasions fortitude pleased him; the
reverse was a special annoyance.
- One afternoon, however, I got leave to stay at home, because I
really had a cold. His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead: I
sat reading Schiller; he, deciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls.
As I exchanged a translation for an exercise, I happened to look his
way: there I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchful
blue eye. How long it had been searching me through and through,
and over and over, I cannot tell: so keen was it, and yet so cold,
I felt for the moment superstitious -- as if I were sitting in the
room with something uncanny.
- "Jane, what are you doing?"
- "Learning German."
- "I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."
- "You are not in earnest?"
- "In such earnest that I must have it so: and I will tell you why."
- He then went on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he was
himself at present studying; that, as he advanced, he was apt to
forget the commencement; that it would assist him greatly to have a
pupil with whom he might again and again go over the elements, and
so fix them thoroughly in his mind; that his choice had hovered for
some time between me and his sisters; but that he had fixed on me
because he saw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.
Would I do him this favour? I should not, perhaps, have to make the
sacrifice long, as it wanted now barely three months to his
- St. John was not a man to be lightly refused: you felt that every
impression made on him, either for pain or pleasure, was deep-graved
and permanent. I consented. When Diana and Mary returned, the
former found her scholar transferred from her to her brother: she
laughed, and both she and Mary agreed that St. John should never
have persuaded them to such a step. He answered quietly: --
- "I know it."
- I found him a very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting
master: he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his
expectations, he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation.
By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away
my liberty of mind: his praise and notice were more restraining
than his indifference. I could no longer talk or laugh freely when
he was by, because a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me
that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him. I was so
fully aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable,
that in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other
became vain: I fell under a freezing spell. When he said "go," I
went; "come," I came; "do this," I did it. But I did not love my
servitude: I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect me.
- One evening when, at bedtime, his sisters and I stood round him,
bidding him good-night, he kissed each of them, as was his custom;
and, as was equally his custom, he gave me his hand. Diana, who
chanced to be in a frolicsome humour (she was not painfully
controlled by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong),
- "St. John! you used to call Jane your third sister, but you don't
treat her as such: you should kiss her too."
- She pushed me towards him. I thought Diana very provoking, and felt
uncomfortably confused; and while I was thus thinking and feeling,
St. John bent his head; his Greek face was brought to a level with
mine, his eyes questioned my eyes piercingly -- he kissed me. There
are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say
my ecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes;
but there may be experiment kisses, and his was an experiment kiss.
When given, he viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking:
I am sure I did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a little
pale, for I felt as if this kiss were a seal affixed to my fetters.
He never omitted the ceremony afterwards, and the gravity and
quiescence with which I underwent it, seemed to invest it for him
with a certain charm.
- As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt
daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half
my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself
to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation. He
wanted to train me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked me
hourly to aspire to the standard he uplifted. The thing was as
impossible as to mould my irregular features to his correct and
classic pattern, to give to my changeable green eyes the sea-blue
tint and solemn lustre of his own.
- Not his ascendancy alone, however, held me in thrall at present. Of
late it had been easy enough for me to look sad: a cankering evil
sat at my heart and drained my happiness at its source -- the evil of
- Perhaps you think I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst
these changes of place and fortune. Not for a moment. His idea was
still with me, because it was not a vapour sunshine could disperse,
nor a sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a name
graven on a tablet, fated to last as long as the marble it
inscribed. The craving to know what had become of him followed me
everywhere; when I was at Morton, I re-entered my cottage every
evening to think of that; and now at Moor House, I sought my bedroom
each night to brood over it.
- In the course of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs about
the will, I had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester's
present residence and state of health; but, as St. John had
conjectured, he was quite ignorant of all concerning him. I then
wrote to Mrs. Fairfax, entreating information on the subject. I had
calculated with certainty on this step answering my end: I felt
sure it would elicit an early answer. I was astonished when a
fortnight passed without reply; but when two months wore away, and
day after day the post arrived and brought nothing for me, I fell a
prey to the keenest anxiety.
- I wrote again: there was a chance of my first letter having missed.
Renewed hope followed renewed effort: it shone like the former for
some weeks, then, like it, it faded, flickered: not a line, not a
word reached me. When half a year wasted in vain expectancy, my
hope died out, and then I felt dark indeed.
- A fine spring shone round me, which I could not enjoy. Summer
approached; Diana tried to cheer me: she said I looked ill, and
wished to accompany me to the sea-side. This St. John opposed; he
said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my present
life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose, by way
of supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still further my lessons in
Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment:
and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him -- I could not
- One day I had come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; the
ebb was occasioned by a poignantly felt disappointment. Hannah had
told me in the morning there was a letter for me, and when I went
down to take it, almost certain that the long-looked for tidings
were vouchsafed me at last, I found only an unimportant note from
Mr. Briggs on business. The bitter check had wrung from me some
tears; and now, as I sat poring over the crabbed characters and
flourishing tropes of an Indian scribe, my eyes filled again.
- St. John called me to his side to read; in attempting to do this my
voice failed me: words were lost in sobs. He and I were the only
occupants of the parlour: Diana was practising her music in the
drawing-room, Mary was gardening -- it was a very fine May day, clear,
sunny, and breezy. My companion expressed no surprise at this
emotion, nor did he question me as to its cause; he only said: --
- "We will wait a few minutes, Jane, till you are more composed." And
while I smothered the paroxysm with all haste, he sat calm and
patient, leaning on his desk, and looking like a physician watching
with the eye of science an expected and fully understood crisis in a
patient's malady. Having stifled my sobs, wiped my eyes, and
muttered something about not being very well that morning, I resumed
my task, and succeeded in completing it. St. John put away my books
and his, locked his desk, and said: --
- "Now, Jane, you shall take a walk; and with me."
- "I will call Diana and Mary."
- "No; I want only one companion this morning, and that must be you.
Put on your things; go out by the kitchen-door: take the road
towards the head of Marsh Glen: I will join you in a moment."
- I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my
dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own,
between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always
faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting,
sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other; and as neither
present circumstances warranted, nor my present mood inclined me to
mutiny, I observed careful obedience to St. John's directions; and
in ten minutes I was treading the wild track of the glen, side by
side with him.
- The breeze was from the west: it came over the hills, sweet with
scents of heath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream
descending the ravine, swelled with past spring rains, poured along
plentiful and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun, and
sapphire tints from the firmament. As we advanced and left the
track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and emerald green, minutely
enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like
yellow blossom: the hills, meantime, shut us quite in; for the
glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.
- "Let us rest here," said St. John, as we reached the first
stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond
which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little
farther, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for
raiment and crag for gem -- where it exaggerated the wild to the
savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning -- where it guarded
the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.
- I took a seat: St. John stood near me. He looked up the pass and
down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream, and
returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it: he
removed his hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow. He
seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt: with his eye he
bade farewell to something.
- "And I shall see it again," he said aloud, "in dreams when I sleep
by the Ganges: and again in a more remote hour -- when another
slumber overcomes me -- on the shore of a darker stream!"
- Strange words of a strange love! An austere patriot's passion for
his fatherland! He sat down; for half-an-hour we never spoke;
neither he to me nor I to him: that interval past, he recommenced: --
- "Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman
which sails on the 20th of June."
- "God will protect you; for you have undertaken His work," I
- "Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of an
infallible Master. I am not going out under human guidance, subject
to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms:
my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect. It seems
strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same
banner, -- to join in the same enterprise."
- "All have not your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to
wish to march with the strong."
- "I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only
such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it."
- "Those are few in number, and difficult to discover."
- "You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up -- to urge
and exhort them to the effort -- to show them what their gifts are,
and why they were given -- to speak Heaven's message in their ear, -- to
offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen."
- "If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own
hearts be the first to inform them of it?"
- I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me:
I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once
declare and rivet the spell.
- "And what does your heart say?" demanded St. John.
- "My heart is mute, -- my heart is mute," I answered, struck and
- "Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice.
"Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer."
- The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved! It was as if I had
heard a summons from Heaven -- as if a visionary messenger, like him
of Macedonia, had enounced, "Come over and help us!" But I was no
apostle, -- I could not behold the herald, -- I could not receive his
- "Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"
- I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed his
duty, knew neither mercy nor remorse. He continued: --
- "God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife. It is not
personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed
for labour, not for love. A missionary's wife you must -- shall be.
You shall be mine: I claim you -- not for my pleasure, but for my
- "I am not fit for it: I have no vocation," I said.
- He had calculated on these first objections: he was not irritated
by them. Indeed, as he leaned back against the crag behind him,
folded his arms on his chest, and fixed his countenance, I saw he
was prepared for a long and trying opposition, and had taken in a
stock of patience to last him to its close -- resolved, however, that
that close should be conquest for him.
- "Humility, Jane," said he, "is the groundwork of Christian virtues:
you say right that you are not fit for the work. Who is fit for it?
Or who, that ever was truly called, believed himself worthy of the
summons? I, for instance, am but dust and ashes. With St. Paul, I
acknowledge myself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not suffer this
sense of my personal vileness to daunt me. I know my Leader: that
He is just as well as mighty; and while He has chosen a feeble
instrument to perform a great task, He will, from the boundless
stores of His providence, supply the inadequacy of the means to the
end. Think like me, Jane -- trust like me. It is the Rock of Ages I
ask you to lean on: do not doubt but it will bear the weight of
your human weakness."
- "I do not understand a missionary life: I have never studied
- "There I, humble as I am, can give you the aid you want: I can set
you your task from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you from
moment to moment. This I could do in the beginning: soon (for I
know your powers) you would be as strong and apt as myself, and
would not require my help."
- "But my powers -- where are they for this undertaking? I do not feel
them. Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you talk. I am sensible
of no light kindling -- no life quickening -- no voice counselling or
cheering. Oh, I wish I could make you see how much my mind is at
this moment like a rayless dungeon, with one shrinking fear fettered
in its depths -- the fear of being persuaded by you to attempt what I
- "I have an answer for you -- hear it. I have watched you ever since
we first met: I have made you my study for ten months. I have
proved you in that time by sundry tests: and what have I seen and
elicited? In the village school I found you could perform well,
punctually, uprightly, labour uncongenial to your habits and
inclinations; I saw you could perform it with capacity and tact:
you could win while you controlled. In the calm with which you
learnt you had become suddenly rich, I read a mind clear of the vice
of Demas: -- lucre had no undue power over you. In the resolute
readiness with which you cut your wealth into four shares, keeping
but one to yourself, and relinquishing the three others to the claim
of abstract justice, I recognised a soul that revelled in the flame
and excitement of sacrifice. In the tractability with which, at my
wish, you forsook a study in which you were interested, and adopted
another because it interested me; in the untiring assiduity with
which you have since persevered in it -- in the unflagging energy and
unshaken temper with which you have met its difficulties -- I
acknowledge the complement of the qualities I seek. Jane, you are
docile, diligent, disinterested, faithful, constant, and courageous;
very gentle, and very heroic: cease to mistrust yourself -- I can
trust you unreservedly. As a conductress of Indian schools, and a
helper amongst Indian women, your assistance will be to me
- My iron shroud contracted round me; persuasion advanced with slow
sure step. Shut my eyes as I would, these last words of his
succeeded in making the way, which had seemed blocked up,
comparatively clear. My work, which had appeared so vague, so
hopelessly diffuse, condensed itself as he proceeded, and assumed a
definite form under his shaping hand. He waited for an answer. I
demanded a quarter of an hour to think, before I again hazarded a
- "Very willingly," he rejoined; and rising, he strode a little
distance up the pass, threw himself down on a swell of heath, and
there lay still.
- "I can do what he wants me to do: I am forced to see and
acknowledge that," I meditated, -- "that is, if life be spared me.
But I feel mine is not the existence to be long protracted under an
Indian sun. What then? He does not care for that: when my time
came to die, he would resign me, in all serenity and sanctity, to
the God who gave me. The case is very plain before me. In leaving
England, I should leave a loved but empty land -- Mr. Rochester is not
there; and if he were, what is, what can that ever be to me? My
business is to live without him now: nothing so absurd, so weak as
to drag on from day to day, as if I were waiting some impossible
change in circumstances, which might reunite me to him. Of course
(as St. John once said) I must seek another interest in life to
replace the one lost: is not the occupation he now offers me truly
the most glorious man can adopt or God assign? Is it not, by its
noble cares and sublime results, the one best calculated to fill the
void left by uptorn affections and demolished hopes? I believe I
must say, Yes -- and yet I shudder. Alas! If I join St. John, I
abandon half myself: if I go to India, I go to premature death.
And how will the interval between leaving England for India, and
India for the grave, be filled? Oh, I know well! That, too, is
very clear to my vision. By straining to satisfy St. John till my
sinews ache, I shall satisfy him -- to the finest central point and
farthest outward circle of his expectations. If I do go with him --
if I do make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it absolutely: I
will throw all on the altar -- heart, vitals, the entire victim. He
will never love me; but he shall approve me; I will show him
energies he has not yet seen, resources he has never suspected.
Yes, I can work as hard as he can, and with as little grudging.
- "Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item -- one
dreadful item. It is -- that he asks me to be his wife, and has no
more of a husband's heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock,
down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge. He prizes me as a
soldier would a good weapon; and that is all. Unmarried to him,
this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his
calculations -- coolly put into practice his plans -- go through the
wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure
all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously
observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the
consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made
on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I will
never undergo it. As his sister, I might accompany him -- not as his
wife: I will tell him so."
- I looked towards the knoll: there he lay, still as a prostrate
column; his face turned to me: his eye beaming watchful and keen.
He started to his feet and approached me.
- "I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."
- "Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."
- "You have hitherto been my adopted brother -- I, your adopted sister:
let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry."
- He shook his head. "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case.
If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take
you, and seek no wife. But as it is, either our union must be
consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist: practical
obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan. Do you not see it,
Jane? Consider a moment -- your strong sense will guide you."
- I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me only
to the fact that we did not love each other as man and wife should:
and therefore it inferred we ought not to marry. I said so. "St.
John," I returned, "I regard you as a brother -- you, me as a sister:
so let us continue."
- "We cannot -- we cannot," he answered, with short, sharp
determination: "it would not do. You have said you will go with me
to India: remember -- you have said that."
- "Well -- well. To the main point -- the departure with me from England,
the co-operation with me in my future labours -- you do not object.
You have already as good as put your hand to the plough: you are
too consistent to withdraw it. You have but one end to keep in
view -- how the work you have undertaken can best be done. Simplify
your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge
all considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling with effect --
with power -- the mission of your great Master. To do so, you must
have a coadjutor: not a brother -- that is a loose tie -- but a
husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister might any day be
taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence
efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death."
- I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow -- his
hold on my limbs.
- "Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John: seek one fitted to you."
- "One fitted to my purpose, you mean -- fitted to my vocation. Again I
tell you it is not the insignificant private individual -- the mere
man, with the man's selfish senses -- I wish to mate: it is the
- "And I will give the missionary my energies -- it is all he wants -- but
not myself: that would be only adding the husk and shell to the
kernel. For them he has no use: I retain them."
- "You cannot -- you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied with
half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice? It is the
cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist you. I
cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be
- "Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said. "You do not want it."
- I will not swear, reader, that there was not something of repressed
sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence, and in
the feeling that accompanied it. I had silently feared St. John
till now, because I had not understood him. He had held me in awe,
because he had held me in doubt. How much of him was saint, how
much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but revelations were
being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was
proceeding before my eyes. I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended
them. I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of
heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a
man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism.
Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his
imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal -- one with whom I
might argue -- one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.
- He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently
risked an upward glance at his countenance. His eye, bent on me, expressed at once stern surprise and keen
inquiry. "Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic to me!" it seemed to say.
- "What does this signify?"
- "Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere
long; "one of which we may neither think nor talk lightly without
sin. I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will serve
your heart to God: it is all I want. Once wrench your heart from
man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that Maker's
spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour;
you will be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end. You
will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by our
physical and mental union in marriage: the only union that gives a
character of permanent conformity to the destinies and designs of
human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices -- all trivial
difficulties and delicacies of feeling -- all scruple about the
degree, kind, strength or tenderness of mere personal inclination --
you will hasten to enter into that union at once."
- "Shall I?" I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful
in their harmony, but strangely formidable in their still severity;
at his brow, commanding but not open; at his eyes, bright and deep
and searching, but never soft; at his tall imposing figure; and
fancied myself in idea his wife. Oh! it would never do! As his
curate, his comrade, all would be right: I would cross oceans with
him in that capacity; toil under Eastern suns, in Asian deserts with
him in that office; admire and emulate his courage and devotion and
vigour; accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed at
his ineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the man:
profoundly esteem the one, and freely forgive the other. I should
suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity: my
body would be under rather a stringent yoke, but my heart and mind
would be free. I should still have my unblighted self to turn to:
my natural unenslaved feelings with which to communicate in moments
of loneliness. There would be recesses in my mind which would be
only mine, to which he never came, and sentiments growing there
fresh and sheltered which his austerity could never blight, nor his
measured warrior-march trample down: but as his wife -- at his side
always, and always restrained, and always checked -- forced to keep
the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly
and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital
after vital -- this would be unendurable.
- "St. John!" I exclaimed, when I had got so far in my meditation.
- "Well?" he answered icily.
- "I repeat I freely consent to go with you as your fellow-missionary,
but not as your wife; I cannot marry you and become part of you."
- "A part of me you must become," he answered steadily; "otherwise the
whole bargain is void. How can I, a man not yet thirty, take out
with me to India a girl of nineteen, unless she be married to me?
How can we be for ever together -- sometimes in solitudes, sometimes
amidst savage tribes -- and unwed?"
- "Very well," I said shortly; "under the circumstances, quite as well
as if I were either your real sister, or a man and a clergyman like
- "It is known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you as
such: to attempt it would be to fasten injurious suspicions on us
both. And for the rest, though you have a man's vigorous brain, you
have a woman's heart and -- it would not do."
- "It would do," I affirmed with some disdain, "perfectly well. I
have a woman's heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I
have only a comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's frankness,
fidelity, fraternity, if you like; a neophyte's respect and
submission to his hierophant: nothing more -- don't fear."
- "It is what I want," he said, speaking to himself; "it is just what
I want. And there are obstacles in the way: they must be hewn
down. Jane, you would not repent marrying me -- be certain of that;
we must be married. I repeat it: there is no other way; and
undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render the
union right even in your eyes."
- "I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up
and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. "I scorn
the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you
when you offer it."
- He looked at me fixedly, compressing his well-cut lips while he did
so. Whether he was incensed or surprised, or what, it was not easy
to tell: he could command his countenance thoroughly.
- "I scarcely expected to hear that expression from you," he said: "I
think I have done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."
- I was touched by his gentle tone, and overawed by his high, calm
- "Forgive me the words, St. John; but it is your own fault that I
have been roused to speak so unguardedly. You have introduced a
topic on which our natures are at variance -- a topic we should never
discuss: the very name of love is an apple of discord between us.
If the reality were required, what should we do? How should we
feel? My dear cousin, abandon your scheme of marriage -- forget it."
- "No," said he; "it is a long-cherished scheme, and the only one
which can secure my great end: but I shall urge you no further at
present. To-morrow, I leave home for Cambridge: I have many
friends there to whom I should wish to say farewell. I shall be
absent a fortnight -- take that space of time to consider my offer:
and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but
God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife
only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit
yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.
Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have
denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"
- He had done. Turning from me, he once more --
"Looked to river, looked to hill."
But this time his feelings were all pent in his heart: I was not
worthy to hear them uttered. As I walked by his side homeward, I
read well in his iron silence all he felt towards me: the
disappointment of an austere and despotic nature, which has met
resistance where it expected submission -- the disapprobation of a
cool, inflexible judgment, which has detected in another feelings
and views in which it has no power to sympathise: in short, as a
man, he would have wished to coerce me into obedience: it was only
as a sincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversity, and
allowed so long a space for reflection and repentance.
- That night, after he had kissed his sisters, he thought proper to
forget even to shake hands with me, but left the room in silence.
I -- who, though I had no love, had much friendship for him -- was hurt
by the marked omission: so much hurt that tears started to my eyes.
- "I see you and St. John have been quarrelling, Jane," said Diana,
"during your walk on the moor. But go after him; he is now
lingering in the passage expecting you -- he will make it up."
- I have not much pride under such circumstances: I would always
rather be happy than dignified; and I ran after him -- he stood at the
foot of the stairs.
- "Good-night, St. John," said I.
- "Good-night, Jane," he replied calmly.
- "Then shake hands," I added.
- What a cold, loose touch, he impressed on my fingers! He was deeply
displeased by what had occurred that day; cordiality would not warm,
nor tears move him. No happy reconciliation was to be had with him -- no cheering smile or generous word: but still the Christian was
patient and placid; and when I asked him if he forgave me, he
answered that he was not in the habit of cherishing the remembrance
of vexation; that he had nothing to forgive, not having been
- And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked
- HE did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he
would. He deferred his departure a whole week, and during that time
he made me feel what severe punishment a good yet stern, a
conscientious yet implacable man can inflict on one who has offended
him. Without one overt act of hostility, one upbraiding word, he
contrived to impress me momently with the conviction that I was put
beyond the pale of his favour.
- Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness --
not that he would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been
fully in his power to do so. Both by nature and principle, he was
superior to the mean gratification of vengeance: he had forgiven me
for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had not forgotten the
words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget them. I
saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were always written
on the air between me and him; whenever I spoke, they sounded in my
voice to his ear, and their echo toned every answer he gave me.
- He did not abstain from conversing with me: he even called me as
usual each morning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt
man within him had a pleasure unimparted to, and unshared by, the
pure Christian, in evincing with what skill he could, while acting
and speaking apparently just as usual, extract from every deed and
every phrase the spirit of interest and approval which had formerly
communicated a certain austere charm to his language and manner. To
me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye
was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument --
- All this was torture to me -- refined, lingering torture. It kept up
a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which
harassed and crushed me altogether. I felt how -- if I were his wife,
this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me,
without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving
on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him.
No ruth met my ruth. HE experienced no suffering from estrangement -- no yearning after reconciliation; and though, more than once, my
fast falling tears blistered the page over which we both bent, they
produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been really a
matter of stone or metal. To his sisters, meantime, he was somewhat
kinder than usual: as if afraid that mere coldness would not
sufficiently convince me how completely I was banished and banned,
he added the force of contrast; and this I am sure he did not by
force, but on principle.
- The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the
garden about sunset, and remembering, as I looked at him, that this
man, alienated as he now was, had once saved my life, and that we
were near relations, I was moved to make a last attempt to regain
his friendship. I went out and approached him as he stood leaning
over the little gate; I spoke to the point at once.
- "St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me. Let us
- "I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still
watched the rising of the moon, which he had been contemplating as I
- "No, St. John, we are not friends as we were. You know that."
- "Are we not? That is wrong. For my part, I wish you no ill and all
- "I believe you, St. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishing
any one ill; but, as I am your kinswoman, I should desire somewhat
more of affection than that sort of general philanthropy you extend
to mere strangers."
- "Of course," he said. "Your wish is reasonable, and I am far from
regarding you as a stranger."
- This, spoken in a cool, tranquil tone, was mortifying and baffling
enough. Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ire, I
should immediately have left him; but something worked within me
more strongly than those feelings could. I deeply venerated my
cousin's talent and principle. His friendship was of value to me:
to lose it tried me severely. I would not so soon relinquish the
attempt to reconquer it.
- "Must we part in this way, St. John? And when you go to India, will
you leave me so, without a kinder word than you have yet spoken?"
- He now turned quite from the moon and faced me.
- "When I go to India, Jane, will I leave you! What! do you not go to
- "You said I could not unless I married you."
- "And you will not marry me! You adhere to that resolution?"
- Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put
into the ice of their questions? How much of the fall of the
avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in
- "No. St. John, I will not marry you. I adhere to my resolution."
- The avalanche had shaken and slid a little forward, but it did not
yet crash down.
- "Once more, why this refusal?" he asked.
- "Formerly," I answered, "because you did not love me; now, I reply,
because you almost hate me. If I were to marry you, you would kill
me. You are killing me now."
- His lips and cheeks turned white -- quite white.
- "I should kill you -- I am killing you? Your words are such as ought
not to be used: violent, unfeminine, and untrue. They betray an
unfortunate state of mind: they merit severe reproof: they would
seem inexcusable, but that it is the duty of man to forgive his
fellow even until seventy-and-seven times."
- I had finished the business now. While earnestly wishing to erase
from his mind the trace of my former offence, I had stamped on that
tenacious surface another and far deeper impression, I had burnt it
- "Now you will indeed hate me," I said. "It is useless to attempt to
conciliate you: I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."
- A fresh wrong did these words inflict: the worse, because they
touched on the truth. That bloodless lip quivered to a temporary
spasm. I knew the steely ire I had whetted. I was heart-wrung.
- "You utterly misinterpret my words," I said, at once seizing his
hand: "I have no intention to grieve or pain you -- indeed, I have
- Most bitterly he smiled -- most decidedly he withdrew his hand from
mine. "And now you recall your promise, and will not go to India at
all, I presume?" said he, after a considerable pause.
- "Yes, I will, as your assistant," I answered.
- A very long silence succeeded. What struggle there was in him
between Nature and Grace in this interval, I cannot tell: only
singular gleams scintillated in his eyes, and strange shadows passed
over his face. He spoke at last.
- "I before proved to you the absurdity of a single woman of your age
proposing to accompany abroad a single man of mine. I proved it to
you in such terms as, I should have thought, would have prevented
your ever again alluding to the plan. That you have done so, I
regret -- for your sake."
- I interrupted him. Anything like a tangible reproach gave me
courage at once. "Keep to common sense, St. John: you are verging
on nonsense. You pretend to be shocked by what I have said. You
are not really shocked: for, with your superior mind, you cannot be
either so dull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning. I
say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your wife."
- Again he turned lividly pale; but, as before, controlled his passion
perfectly. He answered emphatically but calmly --
- "A female curate, who is not my wife, would never suit me. With me,
then, it seems, you cannot go: but if you are sincere in your
offer, I will, while in town, speak to a married missionary, whose
wife needs a coadjutor. Your own fortune will make you independent
of the Society's aid; and thus you may still be spared the dishonour
of breaking your promise and deserting the band you engaged to
- Now I never had, as the reader knows, either given any formal
promise or entered into any engagement; and this language was all
much too hard and much too despotic for the occasion. I replied: --
- "There is no dishonour, no breach of promise, no desertion in the
case. I am not under the slightest obligation to go to India,
especially with strangers. With you I would have ventured much,
because I admire, confide in, and, as a sister, I love you; but I am
convinced that, go when and with whom I would, I should not live
long in that climate."
- "Ah! you are afraid of yourself," he said, curling his lip.
- "I am. God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you
wish me would, I begin to think, be almost equivalent to committing
suicide. Moreover, before I definitively resolve on quitting
England, I will know for certain whether I cannot be of greater use
by remaining in it than by leaving it."
- "What do you mean?"
- "It would be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a point
on which I have long endured painful doubt, and I can go nowhere
till by some means that doubt is removed."
- "I know where your heart turns and to what it clings. The interest
you cherish is lawless and unconsecrated. Long since you ought to have crushed it: now you should blush to allude to it. You think of Mr. Rochester?"
- It was true. I confessed it by silence.
- "Are you going to seek Mr. Rochester?"
- "I must find out what is become of him."
- "It remains for me, then," he said, "to remember you in my prayers,
and to entreat God for you, in all earnestness, that you may not
indeed become a castaway. I had thought I recognised in you one of
the chosen. But God sees not as man sees: His will be done."
- He opened the gate, passed through it, and strayed away down the
glen. He was soon out of sight.
- On re-entering the parlour, I found Diana standing at the window,
looking very thoughtful. Diana was a great deal taller than I: she
put her hand on my shoulder, and, stooping, examined my face.
- "Jane," she said, "you are always agitated and pale now. I am sure
there is something the matter. Tell me what business St. John and
you have on hands. I have watched you this half hour from the
window; you must forgive my being such a spy, but for a long time I
have fancied I hardly know what. St. John is a strange being" ----
- She paused -- I did not speak: soon she resumed: --
- "That brother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sort
respecting you, I am sure: he has long distinguished you by a
notice and interest he never showed to any one else -- to what end? I
wish he loved you -- does he, Jane?"
- I put her cool hand to my hot forehead; "No, Die, not one whit."
- "Then why does he follow you so with his eyes, and get you so
frequently alone with him, and keep you so continually at his side?
Mary and I had both concluded he wished you to marry him."
- "He does -- he has asked me to be his wife."
- Diana clapped her hands. "That is just what we hoped and thought!
And you will marry him, Jane, won't you? And then he will stay in
- "Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to
procure a fitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."
- "What! He wishes you to go to India?"
- "Madness!" she exclaimed. "You would not live three months there, I
am certain. You never shall go: you have not consented, have you,
- "I have refused to marry him" ----
- "And have consequently displeased him?" she suggested.
- "Deeply: he will never forgive me, I fear: yet I offered to
accompany him as his sister."
- "It was frantic folly to do so, Jane. Think of the task you
undertook -- one of incessant fatigue, where fatigue kills even the
strong, and you are weak. St. John -- you know him -- would urge you to
impossibilities: with him there would be no permission to rest
during the hot hours; and unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever he
exacts, you force yourself to perform. I am astonished you found
courage to refuse his hand. You do not love him then, Jane?"
- "Not as a husband."
- "Yet he is a handsome fellow."
- "And I am so plain, you see, Die. We should never suit."
- "Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too
good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta." And again she earnestly
conjured me to give up all thoughts of going out with her brother.
- "I must indeed," I said; "for when just now I repeated the offer of
serving him for a deacon, he expressed himself shocked at my want of
decency. He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in
proposing to accompany him unmarried: as if I had not from the
first hoped to find in him a brother, and habitually regarded him as
- "What makes you say he does not love you, Jane?"
- "You should hear himself on the subject. He has again and again
explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to mate.
He has told me I am formed for labour -- not for love: which is true,
no doubt. But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it
follows that I am not formed for marriage. Would it not be strange,
Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but as a
- "Insupportable -- unnatural -- out of the question!"
- "And then," I continued, "though I have only sisterly affection for
him now, yet, if forced to be his wife, I can imagine the
possibility of conceiving an inevitable, strange, torturing kind of
love for him, because he is so talented; and there is often a
certain heroic grandeur in his look, manner, and conversation. In
that case, my lot would become unspeakably wretched. He would not
want me to love him; and if I showed the feeling, he would make me
sensible that it was a superfluity, unrequired by him, unbecoming in
me. I know he would."
- "And yet St. John is a good man," said Diana.
- "He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the
feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large
views. It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out
of his way, lest, in his progress, he should trample them down.
Here he comes! I will leave you, Diana." And I hastened upstairs
as I saw him entering the garden.
- But I was forced to meet him again at supper. During that meal he
appeared just as composed as usual. I had thought he would hardly
speak to me, and I was certain he had given up the pursuit of his
matrimonial scheme: the sequel showed I was mistaken on both
points. He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manner, or what
had, of late, been his ordinary manner -- one scrupulously polite. No
doubt he had invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the anger
I had roused in him, and now believed he had forgiven me once more.
- For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first
chapter of Revelation. It was at all times pleasant to listen while
from his lips fell the words of the Bible: never did his fine voice
sound at once so sweet and full -- never did his manner become so
impressive in its noble simplicity, as when he delivered the oracles
of God: and to-night that voice took a more solemn tone -- that
manner a more thrilling meaning -- as he sat in the midst of his
household circle (the May moon shining in through the uncurtained
window, and rendering almost unnecessary the light of the candle on
the table): as he sat there, bending over the great old Bible, and
described from its page the vision of the new heaven and the new
earth -- told how God would come to dwell with men, how He would wipe
away all tears from their eyes, and promised that there should be no
more death, neither sorrow nor crying, nor any more pain, because
the former things were passed away.
- The succeeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them:
especially as I felt, by the slight, indescribable alteration in
sound, that in uttering them, his eye had turned on me.
- "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God,
and he shall be my son. But," was slowly, distinctly read, "the
fearful, the unbelieving, etc., shall have their part in the lake
which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
- Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.
- A calm, subdued triumph, blent with a longing earnestness, marked
his enunciation of the last glorious verses of that chapter. The
reader believed his name was already written in the Lamb's book of
life, and he yearned after the hour which should admit him to the
city to which the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour;
which has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, because the glory
of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
- In the prayer following the chapter, all his energy gathered -- all
his stern zeal woke: he was in deep earnest, wrestling with God,
and resolved on a conquest. He supplicated strength for the weak-hearted; guidance for wanderers from the fold: a return, even at
the eleventh hour, for those whom the temptations of the world and
the flesh were luring from the narrow path. He asked, he urged, he
claimed the boon of a brand snatched from the burning. Earnestness
is ever deeply solemn: first, as I listened to that prayer, I
wondered at his; then, when it continued and rose, I was touched by
it, and at last awed. He felt the greatness and goodness of his
purpose so sincerely: others who heard him plead for it, could not
but feel it too.
- The prayer over, we took leave of him: he was to go at a very early
hour in the morning. Diana and Mary having kissed him, left the
room -- in compliance, I think, with a whispered hint from him: I
tendered my hand, and wished him a pleasant journey.
- "Thank you, Jane. As I said, I shall return from Cambridge in a
fortnight: that space, then, is yet left you for reflection. If I
listened to human pride, I should say no more to you of marriage
with me; but I listen to my duty, and keep steadily in view my first
aim -- to do all things to the glory of God. My Master was long-suffering: so will I be. I cannot give you up to perdition as a
vessel of wrath: repent -- resolve, while there is yet time.
Remember, we are bid to work while it is day -- warned that 'the night
cometh when no man shall work.' Remember the fate of Dives, who had
his good things in this life. God give you strength to choose that
better part which shall not be taken from you!"
- He laid his hand on my head as he uttered the last words. He had
spoken earnestly, mildly: his look was not, indeed, that of a lover
beholding his mistress, but it was that of a pastor recalling his
wandering sheep -- or better, of a guardian angel watching the soul
for which he is responsible. All men of talent, whether they be men
of feeling or not; whether they be zealots, or aspirants, or
despots -- provided only they be sincere -- have their sublime moments,
when they subdue and rule. I felt veneration for St. John --
veneration so strong that its impetus thrust me at once to the point
I had so long shunned. I was tempted to cease struggling with him --
to rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existence,
and there lose my own. I was almost as hard beset by him now as I
had been once before, in a different way, by another. I was a fool
both times. To have yielded then would have been an error of
principle; to have yielded now would have been an error of judgment.
So I think at this hour, when I look back to the crisis through the
quiet medium of time: I was unconscious of folly at the instant.
- I stood motionless under my hierophant's touch. My refusals were
forgotten -- my fears overcome -- my wrestlings paralysed. The
Impossible -- i.e. my marriage with St. John -- was fast becoming the
Possible. All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep. Religion
called -- Angels beckoned -- God commanded -- life rolled together like a
scroll -- death's gates opening, showed eternity beyond: it seemed,
that for safety and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a
second. The dim room was full of visions.
- "Could you decide now?" asked the missionary. The inquiry was put
in gentle tones: he drew me to him as gently. Oh, that gentleness!
how far more potent is it than force! I could resist St. John's
wrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness. Yet I knew all
the time, if I yielded now, I should not the less be made to repent,
some day, of my former rebellion. His nature was not changed by one
hour of solemn prayer: it was only elevated.
- "I could decide if I were but certain," I answered: "were I but
convinced that it is God's will I should marry you, I could vow to
marry you here and now -- come afterwards what would!"
- "My prayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John. He pressed his hand
firmer on my head, as if he claimed me: he surrounded me with his
arm, almost as if he loved me (I say almost -- I knew the difference --
for I had felt what it was to be loved; but, like him, I had now put
love out of the question, and thought only of duty). I contended
with my inward dimness of vision, before which clouds yet rolled. I
sincerely, deeply, fervently longed to do what was right; and only
that. "Show me, show me the path!" I entreated of Heaven. I was
excited more than I had ever been; and whether what followed was the
effect of excitement the reader shall judge.
- All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and
myself, were now retired to rest. The one candle was dying out:
the room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I
heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible
feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and
extremities. The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was
quite as sharp, as strange, as startling: it acted on my senses as
if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which
they were now summoned and forced to wake. They rose expectant:
eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.
- "What have you heard? What do you see?" asked St. John. I saw
nothing, but I heard a voice somewhere cry --
- "Jane! Jane! Jane!" -- nothing more.
- "O God! what is it?" I gasped.
- I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room --
nor in the house -- nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air -- nor from under the earth -- nor from overhead. I had heard it --
where, or whence, for ever impossible to know! And it was the voice
of a human being -- a known, loved, well-remembered voice -- that of
Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly,
- "I am coming!" I cried. "Wait for me! Oh, I will come!" I flew to
the door and looked into the passage: it was dark. I ran out into
the garden: it was void.
- "Where are you?" I exclaimed.
- The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back -- "Where are
you?" I listened. The wind sighed low in the firs: all was
moorland loneliness and midnight hush.
- "Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by
the black yew at the gate. "This is not thy deception, nor thy
witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did -- no
miracle -- but her best."
- I broke from St. John, who had followed, and would have detained me.
It was my time to assume ascendency. My powers were in play and in
force. I told him to forbear question or remark; I desired him to
leave me: I must and would be alone. He obeyed at once. Where
there is energy to command well enough, obedience never fails. I
mounted to my chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; and
prayed in my way -- a different way to St. John's, but effective in
its own fashion. I seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit;
and my soul rushed out in gratitude at His feet. I rose from the
thanksgiving -- took a resolve -- and lay down, unscared, enlightened --
eager but for the daylight.
- THE daylight came. I rose at dawn. I busied myself for an hour or
two with arranging my things in my chamber, drawers, and wardrobe,
in the order wherein I should wish to leave them during a brief
absence. Meantime, I heard St. John quit his room. He stopped at
my door: I feared he would knock -- no, but a slip of paper was
passed under the door. I took it up. It bore these words --
- "You left me too suddenly last night. Had you stayed but a little
longer, you would have laid your hand on the Christian's cross and
the angel's crown. I shall expect your clear decision when I return
this day fortnight. Meantime, watch and pray that you enter not
into temptation: the spirit, I trust, is willing, but the flesh, I
see, is weak. I shall pray for you hourly. -- Yours, ST. JOHN."
- "My spirit," I answered mentally, "is willing to do what is right;
and my flesh, I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of
Heaven, when once that will is distinctly known to me. At any rate,
it shall be strong enough to search -- inquire -- to grope an outlet
from this cloud of doubt, and find the open day of certainty."
- It was the first of June; yet the morning was overcast and chilly:
rain beat fast on my casement. I heard the front-door open, and St.
John pass out. Looking through the window, I saw him traverse the
garden. He took the way over the misty moors in the direction of
Whitcross -- there he would meet the coach.
- "In a few more hours I shall succeed you in that track, cousin,"
thought I: "I too have a coach to meet at Whitcross. I too have
some to see and ask after in England, before I depart for ever."
- It wanted yet two hours of breakfast-time. I filled the interval in
walking softly about my room, and pondering the visitation which had
given my plans their present bent. I recalled that inward sensation
I had experienced: for I could recall it, with all its unspeakable
strangeness. I recalled the voice I had heard; again I questioned
whence it came, as vainly as before: it seemed in me -- not in the
external world. I asked was it a mere nervous impression -- a
delusion? I could not conceive or believe: it was more like an
inspiration. The wondrous shock of feeling had come like the
earthquake which shook the foundations of Paul and Silas's prison;
it had opened the doors of the soul's cell and loosed its bands -- it
had wakened it out of its sleep, whence it sprang trembling,
listening, aghast; then vibrated thrice a cry on my startled ear,
and in my quaking heart and through my spirit, which neither feared
nor shook, but exulted as if in joy over the success of one effort
it had been privileged to make, independent of the cumbrous body.
- "Ere many days," I said, as I terminated my musings, "I will know
something of him whose voice seemed last night to summon me.
Letters have proved of no avail -- personal inquiry shall replace
- At breakfast I announced to Diana and Mary that I was going a
journey, and should be absent at least four days.
- "Alone, Jane?" they asked.
- "Yes; it was to see or hear news of a friend about whom I had for
some time been uneasy."
- They might have said, as I have no doubt they thought, that they had
believed me to be without any friends save them: for, indeed, I had
often said so; but, with their true natural delicacy, they abstained
from comment, except that Diana asked me if I was sure I was well
enough to travel. I looked very pale, she observed. I replied,
that nothing ailed me save anxiety of mind, which I hoped soon to
- It was easy to make my further arrangements; for I was troubled with
no inquiries -- no surmises. Having once explained to them that I
could not now be explicit about my plans, they kindly and wisely
acquiesced in the silence with which I pursued them, according to me
the privilege of free action I should under similar circumstances
have accorded them.
- I left Moor House at three o'clock P.M., and soon after four I stood
at the foot of the sign-post of Whitcross, waiting the arrival of
the coach which was to take me to distant Thornfield. Amidst the
silence of those solitary roads and desert hills, I heard it
approach from a great distance. It was the same vehicle whence, a
year ago, I had alighted one summer evening on this very spot -- how
desolate, and hopeless, and objectless! It stopped as I beckoned.
I entered -- not now obliged to part with my whole fortune as the
price of its accommodation. Once more on the road to Thornfield, I
felt like the messenger-pigeon flying home.
- It was a journey of six-and-thirty hours. I had set out from
Whitcross on a Tuesday afternoon, and early on the succeeding
Thursday morning the coach stopped to water the horses at a wayside
inn, situated in the midst of scenery whose green hedges and large
fields and low pastoral hills (how mild of feature and verdant of
hue compared with the stern North-Midland moors of Morton!) met my
eye like the lineaments of a once familiar face. Yes, I knew the
character of this landscape: I was sure we were near my bourne.
- "How far is Thornfield Hall from here?" I asked of the ostler.
- "Just two miles, ma'am, across the fields."
- "My journey is closed," I thought to myself. I got out of the
coach, gave a box I had into the ostler's charge, to be kept till I
called for it; paid my fare; satisfied the coachman, and was going:
the brightening day gleamed on the sign of the inn, and I read in
gilt letters, "The Rochester Arms." My heart leapt up: I was
already on my master's very lands. It fell again: the thought
struck it: --
- "Your master himself may be beyond the British Channel, for aught
you know: and then, if he is at Thornfield Hall, towards which you
hasten, who besides him is there? His lunatic wife: and you have
nothing to do with him: you dare not speak to him or seek his
presence. You have lost your labour -- you had better go no farther,"
urged the monitor. "Ask information of the people at the inn; they
can give you all you seek: they can solve your doubts at once. Go
up to that man, and inquire if Mr. Rochester be at home."
- The suggestion was sensible, and yet I could not force myself to act
on it. I so dreaded a reply that would crush me with despair. To
prolong doubt was to prolong hope. I might yet once more see the
Hall under the ray of her star. There was the stile before me -- the
very fields through which I had hurried, blind, deaf, distracted
with a revengeful fury tracking and scourging me, on the morning I
fled from Thornfield: ere I well knew what course I had resolved to
take, I was in the midst of them. How fast I walked! How I ran
sometimes! How I looked forward to catch the first view of the
well-known woods! With what feelings I welcomed single trees I
knew, and familiar glimpses of meadow and hill between them!
- At last the woods rose; the rookery clustered dark; a loud cawing
broke the morning stillness. Strange delight inspired me: on I
hastened. Another field crossed -- a lane threaded -- and there were
the courtyard walls -- the back offices: the house itself, the
rookery still hid. "My first view of it shall be in front," I
determined, "where its bold battlements will strike the eye nobly at
once, and where I can single out my master's very window: perhaps
he will be standing at it -- he rises early: perhaps he is now
walking in the orchard, or on the pavement in front. Could I but
see him! -- but a moment! Surely, in that case, I should not be so
mad as to run to him? I cannot tell -- I am not certain. And if I
did -- what then? God bless him! What then? Who would be hurt by my
once more tasting the life his glance can give me? I rave: perhaps
at this moment he is watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees, or on
the tideless sea of the south."
- I had coasted along the lower wall of the orchard -- turned its angle:
there was a gate just there, opening into the meadow, between two
stone pillars crowned by stone balls. From behind one pillar I
could peep round quietly at the full front of the mansion. I
advanced my head with precaution, desirous to ascertain if any
bedroom window-blinds were yet drawn up: battlements, windows, long
front -- all from this sheltered station were at my command.
- The crows sailing overhead perhaps watched me while I took this
survey. I wonder what they thought. They must have considered I
was very careful and timid at first, and that gradually I grew very
bold and reckless. A peep, and then a long stare; and then a
departure from my niche and a straying out into the meadow; and a
sudden stop full in front of the great mansion, and a protracted,
hardy gaze towards it. "What affectation of diffidence was this at
first?" they might have demanded; "what stupid regardlessness now?"
- Hear an illustration, reader.
- A lover finds his mistress asleep on a mossy bank; he wishes to
catch a glimpse of her fair face without waking her. He steals
softly over the grass, careful to make no sound; he pauses -- fancying
she has stirred: he withdraws: not for worlds would he be seen.
All is still: he again advances: he bends above her; a light veil
rests on her features: he lifts it, bends lower; now his eyes
anticipate the vision of beauty -- warm, and blooming, and lovely, in
rest. How hurried was their first glance! But how they fix! How
he starts! How he suddenly and vehemently clasps in both arms the
form he dared not, a moment since, touch with his finger! How he
calls aloud a name, and drops his burden, and gazes on it wildly!
He thus grasps and cries, and gazes, because he no longer fears to
waken by any sound he can utter -- by any movement he can make. He
thought his love slept sweetly: he finds she is stone dead.
- I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house: I saw a
- No need to cower behind a gate-post, indeed! -- to peep up at chamber
lattices, fearing life was astir behind them! No need to listen for
doors opening -- to fancy steps on the pavement or the gravel-walk!
The lawn, the grounds were trodden and waste: the portal yawned
void. The front was, as I had once seen it in a dream, but a well-like wall, very high and very fragile-looking, perforated with
paneless windows: no roof, no battlements, no chimneys -- all had
- And there was the silence of death about it: the solitude of a
lonesome wild. No wonder that letters addressed to people here had
never received an answer: as well despatch epistles to a vault in a
church aisle. The grim blackness of the stones told by what fate
the Hall had fallen -- by conflagration: but how kindled? What story
belonged to this disaster? What loss, besides mortar and marble and
wood-work had followed upon it? Had life been wrecked as well as
property? If so, whose? Dreadful question: there was no one here
to answer it -- not even dumb sign, mute token.
- In wandering round the shattered walls and through the devastated
interior, I gathered evidence that the calamity was not of late
occurrence. Winter snows, I thought, had drifted through that void
arch, winter rains beaten in at those hollow casements; for, amidst
the drenched piles of rubbish, spring had cherished vegetation:
grass and weed grew here and there between the stones and fallen
rafters. And oh! where meantime was the hapless owner of this
wreck? In what land? Under what auspices? My eye involuntarily
wandered to the grey church tower near the gates, and I asked, "Is
he with Damer de Rochester, sharing the shelter of his narrow marble
- Some answer must be had to these questions. I could find it nowhere
but at the inn, and thither, ere long, I returned. The host himself
brought my breakfast into the parlour. I requested him to shut the
door and sit down: I had some questions to ask him. But when he
complied, I scarcely knew how to begin; such horror had I of the
possible answers. And yet the spectacle of desolation I had just
left prepared me in a measure for a tale of misery. The host was a
respectable-looking, middle-aged man.
- "You know Thornfield Hall, of course?" I managed to say at last.
- "Yes, ma'am; I lived there once."
- "Did you?" Not in my time, I thought: you are a stranger to me.
- "I was the late Mr. Rochester's butler," he added.
- The late! I seem to have received, with full force, the blow I had
been trying to evade.
- "The late!" gasped. "Is he dead?"
- "I mean the present gentleman, Mr. Edward's father," he explained.
I breathed again: my blood resumed its flow. Fully assured by
these words that Mr. Edward -- my Mr. Rochester (God bless him,
wherever he was!) -- was at least alive: was, in short, "the present
gentleman." Gladdening words! It seemed I could hear all that was
to come -- whatever the disclosures might be -- with comparative
tranquillity. Since he was not in the grave, I could bear, I
thought, to learn that he was at the Antipodes.
- "Is Mr. Rochester living at Thornfield Hall now?" I asked, knowing,
of course, what the answer would be, but yet desirous of deferring
the direct question as to where he really was.
- "No, ma'am -- oh, no! No one is living there. I suppose you are a
stranger in these parts, or you would have heard what happened last
autumn, -- Thornfield Hall is quite a ruin: it was burnt down just
about harvest-time. A dreadful calamity! such an immense quantity
of valuable property destroyed: hardly any of the furniture could
be saved. The fire broke out at dead of night, and before the
engines arrived from Millcote, the building was one mass of flame.
It was a terrible spectacle: I witnessed it myself."
- "At dead of night!" I muttered. Yes, that was ever the hour of
fatality at Thornfield. "Was it known how it originated?" I
- "They guessed, ma'am: they guessed. Indeed, I should say it was
ascertained beyond a doubt. You are not perhaps aware," he
continued, edging his chair a little nearer the table, and speaking
low, "that there was a lady -- a -- a lunatic, kept in the house?"
- "I have heard something of it."
- "She was kept in very close confinement, ma'am: people even for
some years was not absolutely certain of her existence. No one saw
her: they only knew by rumour that such a person was at the Hall;
and who or what she was it was difficult to conjecture. They said
Mr. Edward had brought her from abroad, and some believed she had
been his mistress. But a queer thing happened a year since -- a very
- I feared now to hear my own story. I endeavoured to recall him to
the main fact.
- "And this lady?"
- "This lady, ma'am," he answered, "turned out to be Mr. Rochester's
wife! The discovery was brought about in the strangest way. There
was a young lady, a governess at the Hall, that Mr. Rochester fell
- "But the fire," I suggested.
- "I'm coming to that, ma'am -- that Mr. Edward fell in love with. The
servants say they never saw anybody so much in love as he was: he
was after her continually. They used to watch him -- servants will,
you know, ma'am -- and he set store on her past everything: for all,
nobody but him thought her so very handsome. She was a little small
thing, they say, almost like a child. I never saw her myself; but
I've heard Leah, the house-maid, tell of her. Leah liked her well
enough. Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not
twenty; and you see, when gentlemen of his age fall in love with
girls, they are often like as if they were bewitched. Well, he
would marry her."
- "You shall tell me this part of the story another time," I said;
"but now I have a particular reason for wishing to hear all about
the fire. Was it suspected that this lunatic, Mrs. Rochester, had
any hand in it?"
- "You've hit it, ma'am: it's quite certain that it was her, and
nobody but her, that set it going. She had a woman to take care of
her called Mrs. Poole -- an able woman in her line, and very
trustworthy, but for one fault -- a fault common to a deal of them
nurses and matrons -- she kept a private bottle of gin by her, and now
and then took a drop over-much. It is excusable, for she had a hard
life of it: but still it was dangerous; for when Mrs. Poole was
fast asleep after the gin and water, the mad lady, who was as
cunning as a witch, would take the keys out of her pocket, let
herself out of her chamber, and go roaming about the house, doing
any wild mischief that came into her head. They say she had nearly
burnt her husband in his bed once: but I don't know about that.
However, on this night, she set fire first to the hangings of the
room next her own, and then she got down to a lower storey, and made
her way to the chamber that had been the governess's -- (she was like
as if she knew somehow how matters had gone on, and had a spite at
her) -- and she kindled the bed there; but there was nobody sleeping
in it, fortunately. The governess had run away two months before;
and for all Mr. Rochester sought her as if she had been the most
precious thing he had in the world, he never could hear a word of
her; and he grew savage -- quite savage on his disappointment: he
never was a wild man, but he got dangerous after he lost her. He
would be alone, too. He sent Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, away to
her friends at a distance; but he did it handsomely, for he settled
an annuity on her for life: and she deserved it -- she was a very
good woman. Miss Adèle, a ward he had, was put to school. He broke
off acquaintance with all the gentry, and shut himself up like a
hermit at the Hall."
- "What! did he not leave England?"
- "Leave England? Bless you, no! He would not cross the door-stones
of the house, except at night, when he walked just like a ghost
about the grounds and in the orchard as if he had lost his senses --
which it is my opinion he had; for a more spirited, bolder, keener
gentleman than he was before that midge of a governess crossed him,
you never saw, ma'am. He was not a man given to wine, or cards, or
racing, as some are, and he was not so very handsome; but he had a
courage and a will of his own, if ever man had. I knew him from a
boy, you see: and for my part, I have often wished that Miss Eyre
had been sunk in the sea before she came to Thornfield Hall."
- "Then Mr. Rochester was at home when the fire broke out?"
- "Yes, indeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all was
burning above and below, and got the servants out of their beds and
helped them down himself, and went back to get his mad wife out of
her cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roof,
where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and
shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and
heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black
hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I
witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through
the sky-light on to the roof; we heard him call 'Bertha!' We saw
him approach her; and then, ma'am, she yelled and gave a spring, and
the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement."
- "Dead! Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were
- "Good God!"
- "You may well say so, ma'am: it was frightful!"
- He shuddered.
- "And afterwards?" I urged.
- "Well, ma'am, afterwards the house was burnt to the ground: there
are only some bits of walls standing now."
- "Were any other lives lost?"
- "No -- perhaps it would have been better if there had."
- "What do you mean?"
- "Poor Mr. Edward!" he ejaculated, "I little thought ever to have
seen it! Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping his
first marriage secret, and wanting to take another wife while he had
one living: but I pity him, for my part."
- "You said he was alive?" I exclaimed.
- "Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he had better he dead."
- "Why? How?" My blood was again running cold.
- "Where is he?" I
demanded. "Is he in England?"
- "Ay -- ay -- he's in England; he can't get out of England, I fancy -- he's
a fixture now."
- What agony was this! And the man seemed resolved to protract it.
- "He is stone-blind," he said at last. "Yes, he is stone-blind, is
- I had dreaded worse. I had dreaded he was mad. I summoned strength
to ask what had caused this calamity.
- "It was all his own courage, and a body may say, his kindness, in a
way, ma'am: he wouldn't leave the house till every one else was out
before him. As he came down the great staircase at last, after Mrs.
Rochester had flung herself from the battlements, there was a great
crash -- all fell. He was taken out from under the ruins, alive, but
sadly hurt: a beam had fallen in such a way as to protect him
partly; but one eye was knocked out, and one hand so crushed that
Mr. Carter, the surgeon, had to amputate it directly. The other eye
inflamed: he lost the sight of that also. He is now helpless,
indeed -- blind and a cripple."
- "Where is he? Where does he now live?"
- "At Ferndean, a manor-house on a farm he has, about thirty miles
off: quite a desolate spot."
- "Who is with him?"
- "Old John and his wife: he would have none else. He is quite
broken down, they say."
- "Have you any sort of conveyance?"
- "We have a chaise, ma'am, a very handsome chaise."
- "Let it be got ready instantly; and if your post-boy can drive me to
Ferndean before dark this day, I'll pay both you and him twice the
hire you usually demand."
- THE manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable
antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep
buried in a wood. I had heard of it before. Mr. Rochester often
spoke of it, and sometimes went there. His father had purchased the
estate for the sake of the game covers. He would have let the
house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible
and insalubrious site. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and
unfurnished, with the exception of some two or three rooms fitted up
for the accommodation of the squire when he went there in the season
- To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the
characteristics of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small
penetrating rain. The last mile I performed on foot, having
dismissed the chaise and driver with the double remuneration I had
promised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the
timber of the gloomy wood about it. Iron gates between granite
pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through them, I found
myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees. There was a
grass-grown track descending the forest aisle between hoar and
knotty shafts and under branched arches. I followed it, expecting
soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it would far
and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
- I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The
darkness of natural as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I
looked round in search of another road. There was none: all was
interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage -- no opening
- I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little;
presently I beheld a railing, then the house -- scarce, by this dim
light, distinguishable from the trees; so dank and green were its
decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a latch, I
stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the wood swept
away in a semicircle. There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a
broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy
frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its
front; the windows were latticed and narrow: the front door was
narrow too, one step led up to it. The whole looked, as the host of
the Rochester Arms had said, "quite a desolate spot." It was as
still as a church on a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest
leaves was the only sound audible in its vicinage.
- "Can there be life here?" I asked.
- Yes, life of some kind there was; for I heard a movement -- that
narrow front-door was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue
from the grange.
- It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on
the step; a man without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to
feel whether it rained. Dusk as it was, I had recognised him -- it
was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester, and no other.
- I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him -- to
examine him, myself unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a
sudden meeting, and one in which rapture was kept well in check by
pain. I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from exclamation,
my step from hasty advance.
- His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his
port was still erect, his heir was still raven black; nor were his
features altered or sunk: not in one year's space, by any sorrow,
could his athletic strength be quelled or his vigorous prime
blighted. But in his countenance I saw a change: that looked
desperate and brooding -- that reminded me of some wronged and
fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to approach in his sullen
woe. The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has
extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson.
- And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity? -- if
you do, you little know me. A soft hope blest with my sorrow that
soon I should dare to drop a kiss on that brow of rock, and on those
lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet. I would not accost
- He descended the one step, and advanced slowly and gropingly towards
the grass-plat. Where was his daring stride now? Then he paused,
as if he knew not which way to turn. He lifted his hand and opened
his eyelids; gazed blank, and with a straining effort, on the sky,
and toward the amphitheatre of trees: one saw that all to him was
void darkness. He stretched his right hand (the left arm, the
mutilated one, he kept hidden in his bosom); he seemed to wish by
touch to gain an idea of what lay around him: he met but vacancy
still; for the trees were some yards off where he stood. He
relinquished the endeavour, folded his arms, and stood quiet and
mute in the rain, now falling fast on his uncovered head. At this
moment John approached him from some quarter.
- "Will you take my arm, sir?" he said; "there is a heavy shower
coming on: had you not better go in?"
- "Let me alone," was the answer.
- John withdrew without having observed me. Mr. Rochester now tried
to walk about: vainly, -- all was too uncertain. He groped his way
back to the house, and, re-entering it, closed the door.
- I now drew near and knocked: John's wife opened for me. "Mary," I
said, "how are you?"
- She started as if she had seen a ghost: I calmed her. To her
hurried "Is it really you, miss, come at this late hour to this
lonely place?" I answered by taking her hand; and then I followed
her into the kitchen, where John now sat by a good fire. I
explained to them, in few words, that I had heard all which had
happened since I left Thornfield, and that I was come to see Mr.
Rochester. I asked John to go down to the turn-pike-house, where I
had dismissed the chaise, and bring my trunk, which I had left
there: and then, while I removed my bonnet and shawl, I questioned
Mary as to whether I could be accommodated at the Manor House for
the night; and finding that arrangements to that effect, though
difficult, would not be impossible, I informed her I should stay.
Just at this moment the parlour-bell rang.
- "When you go in," said I, "tell your master that a person wishes to
speak to him, but do not give my name."
- "I don't think he will see you," she answered; "he refuses
- When she returned, I inquired what he had said.
- "You are to send in
your name and your business," she replied. She then proceeded to
fill a glass with water, and place it on a tray, together with
- "Is that what he rang for?" I asked.
- "Yes: he always has candles brought in at dark, though he is
- "Give the tray to me; I will carry it in."
- I took it from her hand: she pointed me out the parlour door. The
tray shook as I held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heart
struck my ribs loud and fast. Mary opened the door for me, and shut
it behind me.
- This parlour looked gloomy: a neglected handful of fire burnt low
in the grate; and, leaning over it, with his head supported against
the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece, appeared the blind tenant of
the room. His old dog, Pilot, lay on one side, removed out of the
way, and coiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon.
Pilot pricked up his ears when I came in: then he jumped up with a
yelp and a whine, and bounded towards me: he almost knocked the
tray from my hands. I set it on the table; then patted him, and
said softly, "Lie down!" Mr. Rochester turned mechanically to see
what the commotion was: but as he saw nothing, he returned and
- "Give me the water, Mary," he said.
- I approached him with the now only half-filled glass; Pilot followed
me, still excited.
- "What is the matter?" he inquired.
- "Down, Pilot!" I again said. He checked the water on its way to his
lips, and seemed to listen: he drank, and put the glass down.
"This is you, Mary, is it not?"
- "Mary is in the kitchen," I answered.
- He put out his hand with a quick gesture, but not seeing where I
stood, he did not touch me. "Who is this? Who is this?" he
demanded, trying, as it seemed, to SEE with those sightless eyes --
unavailing and distressing attempt! "Answer me -- speak again!" he
ordered, imperiously and aloud.
- "Will you have a little more water, sir? I spilt half of what was
in the glass," I said.
- "Who is it? What is it? Who speaks?"
- "Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I am here. I came only this
evening," I answered.
- "Great God! -- what delusion has come over me? What sweet madness has
- "No delusion -- no madness: your mind, sir, is too strong for
delusion, your health too sound for frenzy."
- "And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see,
but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst.
Whatever -- whoever you are -- be perceptible to the touch or I cannot
- He groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both
- "Her very fingers!" he cried; "her small, slight fingers! If so
there must be more of her."
- The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my
shoulder -- neck -- waist -- I was entwined and gathered to him.
- "Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape -- this is her size" ----
- "And this her voice," I added. "She is all here: her heart, too.
God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again."
- "Jane Eyre! -- Jane Eyre," was all he said.
- "My dear master," I answered, "I am Jane Eyre: I have found you
out -- I am come back to you."
- "In truth? -- in the flesh? My living Jane?"
- "You touch me, sir, -- you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold
like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?"
- "My living darling! These are certainly her limbs, and these her
features; but I cannot be so blest, after all my misery. It is a
dream; such dreams as I have had at night when I have clasped her
once more to my heart, as I do now; and kissed her, as thus -- and
felt that she loved me, and trusted that she would not leave me."
- "Which I never will, sir, from this day."
- "Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an
empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned -- my life dark,
lonely, hopeless -- my soul athirst and forbidden to drink -- my heart
famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my
arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before
you: but kiss me before you go -- embrace me, Jane."
- "There, sir -- and there!"'
- I pressed my lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes -- I
swept his hair from his brow, and kissed that too. He suddenly
seemed to arouse himself: the conviction of the reality of all this
- "It is you -- is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?"
- "I am."
- "And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you
are not a pining outcast amongst strangers?"
- "No, sir! I am an independent woman now."
- "Independent! What do you mean, Jane?"
- "My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds."
- "Ah! this is practical -- this is real!" he cried: "I should never
dream that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so
animating and piquant, as well as soft: it cheers my withered
heart; it puts life into it. -- What, Janet! Are you an independent
woman? A rich woman?"
- "Quite rich, sir. If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own
close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when
you want company of an evening."
- "But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will
look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind
lameter like me?"
- "I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own
- "And you will stay with me?"
- "Certainly -- unless you object. I will be your neighbour, your
nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your
companion -- to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to
wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so
melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long
as I live."
- He replied not: he seemed serious -- abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened his lips as if to speak: he closed them again. I felt a
little embarrassed. Perhaps I had too rashly over-leaped
conventionalities; and he, like St. John, saw impropriety in my
inconsiderateness. I had indeed made my proposal from the idea that
he wished and would ask me to be his wife: an expectation, not the
less certain because unexpressed, had buoyed me up, that he would
claim me at once as his own. But no hint to that effect escaping
him and his countenance becoming more overcast, I suddenly
remembered that I might have been all wrong, and was perhaps playing
the fool unwittingly; and I began gently to withdraw myself from his
arms -- but he eagerly snatched me closer.
- "No -- no -- Jane; you must not go. No -- I have touched you, heard you,
felt the comfort of your presence -- the sweetness of your
consolation: I cannot give up these joys. I have little left in
myself -- I must have you. The world may laugh -- may call me absurd,
selfish -- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it
will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame."
- "Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have said so."
- "Yes -- but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I
understand another. You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be
about my hand and chair -- to wait on me as a kind little nurse (for
you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit, which prompt
you to make sacrifices for those you pity), and that ought to
suffice for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but
fatherly feelings for you: do you think so? Come -- tell me."
- "I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your
nurse, if you think it better."
- "But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young -- you must
marry one day."
- "I don't care about being married."
- "You should care, Janet: if I were what I once was, I would try to
make you care -- but -- a sightless block!"
- He relapsed again into gloom. I, on the contrary, became more
cheerful, and took fresh courage: these last words gave me an
insight as to where the difficulty lay; and as it was no difficulty
with me, I felt quite relieved from my previous embarrassment. I
resumed a livelier vein of conversation.
- "It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you," said I, parting
his thick and long uncut locks; "for I see you are being
metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort. You have a
'faux air' of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about you, that is
certain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your
nails are grown like birds' claws or not, I have not yet noticed."
- "On this arm, I have neither hand nor nails," he said, drawing the
mutilated limb from his breast, and showing it to me. "It is a mere
stump -- a ghastly sight! Don't you think so, Jane?"
- "It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes -- and the scar
of fire on your forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger
of loving you too well for all this; and making too much of you."
- "I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my
- "Did you? Don't tell me so -- lest I should say something disparaging
to your judgment. Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a
better fire, and have the hearth swept up. Can you tell when there
is a good fire?"
- "Yes; with the right eye I see a glow -- a ruddy haze."
- "And you see the candles?"
- "Very dimly -- each is a luminous cloud."
- "Can you see me?"
- "No, my fairy: but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you."
- "When do you take supper?"
- "I never take supper."
- "But you shall have some to-night. I am hungry: so are you, I
daresay, only you forget."
- Summoning Mary, I soon had the room in more cheerful order: I
prepared him, likewise, a comfortable repast. My spirits were
excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper,
and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint, no
repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at
perfect ease, because I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed
either to console or revive him. Delightful consciousness! It
brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I
thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Blind as he was, smiles
played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead: his lineaments
softened and warmed.
- After supper, he began to ask me many questions, of where I had
been, what I had been doing, how I had found him out; but I gave him
only very partial replies: it was too late to enter into
particulars that night. Besides, I wished to touch no deep-thrilling chord -- to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart: my
sole present aim was to cheer him. Cheered, as I have said, he was:
and yet but by fits. If a moment's silence broke the conversation,
he would turn restless, touch me, then say, "Jane."
- "You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?"
- "I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester."
- "Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly
rise on my lone hearth? I stretched my hand to take a glass of
water from a hireling, and it was given me by you: I asked a
question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your voice spoke
at my ear."
- "Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray."
- "And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with
you. Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged
on for months past? Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night
in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go
out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow,
and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again.
Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my
lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves
me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow, I fear
I shall find her no more."
- A commonplace, practical reply, out of the train of his own
disturbed ideas, was, I was sure, the best and most reassuring for
him in this frame of mind. I passed my finger over his eyebrows,
and remarked that they were scorched, and that I would apply
something which would make them grow as broad and black as ever.
- "What is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit,
when, at some fatal moment, you will again desert me -- passing like a
shadow, whither and how to me unknown, and for me remaining
- "Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?"
- "What for, Jane?"
- "Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather
alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a
fairy, but I am sure, you are more like a brownie."
- "Am I hideous, Jane?"
- "Very, sir: you always were, you know."
- "Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you
- "Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred
times better people; possessed of ideas and views you never
entertained in your life: quite more refined and exalted."
- "Who the deuce have you been with?"
- "If you twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of your
head; and then I think you will cease to entertain doubts of my
- "Who have you been with, Jane?"
- "You shall not get it out of me to-night, sir; you must wait till
to-morrow; to leave my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of
security that I shall appear at your breakfast table to finish it.
By the bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass
of water then: I must bring an egg at the least, to say nothing of
- "You mocking changeling -- fairy-born and human-bred! You make me
feel as I have not felt these twelve months. If Saul could have had
you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised without
the aid of the harp."
- "There, sir, you are redd up and made decent. Now I'll leave you:
I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am
tired. Good night."
- "Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you
- I laughed and made my escape, still laughing as I ran upstairs. "A
good idea!" I thought with glee. "I see I have the means of
fretting him out of his melancholy for some time to come."
- Very early the next morning I heard him up and astir, wandering from
one room to another. As soon as Mary came down I heard the
question: "Is Miss Eyre here?" Then: "Which room did you put her
into? Was it dry? Is she up? Go and ask if she wants anything;
and when she will come down."
- I came down as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast.
Entering the room very softly, I had a view of him before he
discovered my presence. It was mournful, indeed, to witness the
subjugation of that vigorous spirit to a corporeal infirmity. He
sat in his chair -- still, but not at rest: expectant evidently; the
lines of now habitual sadness marking his strong features. His
countenance reminded one of a lamp quenched, waiting to be re-lit --
and alas! it was not himself that could now kindle the lustre of
animated expression: he was dependent on another for that office!
I had meant to be gay and careless, but the powerlessness of the
strong man touched my heart to the quick: still I accosted him with
what vivacity I could.
- "It is a bright, sunny morning, sir," I said. "The rain is over and
gone, and there is a tender shining after it: you shall have a walk
- I had wakened the glow: his features beamed.
- "Oh, you are indeed there, my skylark! Come to me. You are not
gone: not vanished? I heard one of your kind an hour ago, singing
high over the wood: but its song had no music for me, any more than
the rising sun had rays. All the melody on earth is concentrated in
my Jane's tongue to my ear (I am glad it is not naturally a silent
one): all the sunshine I can feel is in her presence."
- The water stood in my eyes to hear this avowal of his dependence;
just as if a royal eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to
entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor. But I would not be
lachrymose: I dashed off the salt drops, and busied myself with
- Most of the morning was spent in the open air. I led him out of the
wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him how
brilliantly green they were; how the flowers and hedges looked
refreshed; how sparklingly blue was the sky. I sought a seat for
him in a hidden and lovely spot, a dry stump of a tree; nor did I
refuse to let him, when seated, place me on his knee. Why should I,
when both he and I were happier near than apart? Pilot lay beside
us: all was quiet. He broke out suddenly while clasping me in his
- "Cruel, cruel deserter! Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered
you had fled from Thornfield, and when I could nowhere find you;
and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken
no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent! A pearl
necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your
trunks were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the
bridal tour. What could my darling do, I asked, left destitute and
penniless? And what did she do? Let me hear now."
- Thus urged, I began the narrative of my experience for the last
year. I softened considerably what related to the three days of
wandering and starvation, because to have told him all would have
been to inflict unnecessary pain: the little I did say lacerated
his faithful heart deeper than I wished.
- I should not have left him thus, he said, without any means of
making my way: I should have told him my intention. I should have
confided in him: he would never have forced me to be his mistress.
Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far
too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would
have given me half his fortune, without demanding so much as a kiss
in return, rather than I should have flung myself friendless on the
wide world. I had endured, he was certain, more than I had
confessed to him.
- "Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short," I
answered: and then I proceeded to tell him how I had been received
at Moor House; how I had obtained the office of schoolmistress, etc.
The accession of fortune, the discovery of my relations, followed in
due order. Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently in
the progress of my tale. When I had done, that name was immediately
- "This St. John, then, is your cousin?"
- "You have spoken of him often: do you like him?"
- "He was a very good man, sir; I could not help liking him."
- "A good man. Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of
fifty? Or what does it mean?"
- "St John was only twenty-nine, sir."
- "'Jeune encore,' as the French say. Is he a person of low stature,
phlegmatic, and plain. A person whose goodness consists rather in
his guiltlessness of vice, than in his prowess in virtue."
- "He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives
- "But his brain? That is probably rather soft? He means well: but
you shrug your shoulders to hear him talk?"
- "He talks little, sir: what he does say is ever to the point. His
brain is first-rate, I should think not impressible, but vigorous."
- "Is he an able man, then?"
- "Truly able."
- "A thoroughly educated man?"
- "St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar."
- "His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste? -- priggish and
- "I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste,
they must suit it; they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike."
- "His appearance, -- I forget what description you gave of his
appearance; -- a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white
neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled high-lows, eh?"
- "St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with
blue eyes, and a Grecian profile."
- (Aside.) "Damn him!" -- (To me.) "Did you like him, Jane?"
- "Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you asked me that before."
- I perceived, of course, the drift of my interlocutor. Jealousy had
got hold of him: she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it
gave him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy. I would not,
therefore, immediately charm the snake.
- "Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?"
was the next somewhat unexpected observation.
- "Why not, Mr. Rochester?"
- "The picture you have just drawn is suggestive of a rather too
overwhelming contrast. Your words have delineated very prettily a
graceful Apollo: he is present to your imagination, -- tall, fair,
blue-eyed, and with a Grecian profile. Your eyes dwell on a
Vulcan, -- a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and blind and
lame into the bargain."
- "I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like
- "Well, you can leave me, ma'am: but before you go" (and he retained
me by a firmer grasp than ever), "you will be pleased just to answer
me a question or two." He paused.
- "What questions, Mr. Rochester?"
- Then followed this cross-examination.
- "St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were
- "You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?"
- "He would approve of your plans, Jane? I know they would be clever,
for you are a talented creature!"
- "He approved of them -- yes."
- "He would discover many things in you he could not have expected to
find? Some of your accomplishments are not ordinary."
- "I don't know about that."
- "You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever
come there to see you?"
- "Now and then?"
- "Of an evening?"
- "Once or twice."
- A pause.
- "How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the
cousinship was discovered?"
- "Five months."
- "Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies of his family?"
- "Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the
window, and we by the table."
- "Did he study much?"
- "A good deal."
- "And what did you do meantime?"
- "I learnt German, at first."
- "Did he teach you?"
- "He did not understand German."
- "Did he teach you nothing?"
- "A little Hindostanee."
- "Rivers taught you Hindostanee?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "And his sisters also?"
- "Only you?"
- "Only me."
- "Did you ask to learn?"
- "He wished to teach you?"
- A second pause.
- "Why did he wish it? Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?"
- "He intended me to go with him to India."
- "Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry
- "He asked me to marry him."
- "That is a fiction -- an impudent invention to vex me."
- "I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than
once, and was as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be."
- "Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me. How often am I to say
the same thing? Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on my
knee, when I have given you notice to quit?"
- "Because I am comfortable there."
- "No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not
with me: it is with this cousin -- this St. John. Oh, till this
moment, I thought my little Jane was all mine! I had a belief she
loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of sweet in much
bitter. Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over
our separation, I never thought that while I was mourning her, she
was loving another! But it is useless grieving. Jane, leave me:
go and marry Rivers."
- "Shake me off, then, sir, -- push me away, for I'll not leave you of
my own accord."
- "Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it still renews hope, it
sounds so truthful. When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I
forget that you have formed a new tie. But I am not a fool -- go" ----
- "Where must I go, sir?"
- "Your own way -- with the husband you have chosen."
- "Who is that?"
- "You know -- this St. John Rivers."
- "He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do
not love him. He loves (as he can love, and that is not as you
love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond. He wanted to marry me
only because he thought I should make a suitable missionary's wife,
which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe;
and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, sir: I am not
happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence
for me -- no fondness. He sees nothing attractive in me; not even
youth -- only a few useful mental points. -- Then I must leave you, sir,
to go to him?"
- I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my
blind but beloved master. He smiled.
- "What, Jane! Is this true? Is such really the state of matters
between you and Rivers?"
- "Absolutely, sir! Oh, you need not be jealous! I wanted to tease
you a little to make you less sad: I thought anger would be better
than grief. But if you wish me to love you, could you but see how
much I do love you, you would be proud and content. All my heart is
yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were
fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever."
- Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.
- "My scared vision! My crippled strength!" he murmured regretfully.
- I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking,
and wanted to speak for him, but dared not. As he turned aside his
face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid, and
trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.
- "I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in
Thornfield orchard," he remarked ere long. "And what right would
that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with
- "You are no ruin, sir -- no lightning-struck tree: you are green and
vigorous. Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them
or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as
they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because
your strength offers them so safe a prop."
- Again he smiled: I gave him comfort.
- "You speak of friends, Jane?" he asked.
- "Yes, of friends," I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I
meant more than friends, but could not tell what other word to
employ. He helped me.
- "Ah! Jane. But I want a wife."
- "Do you, sir?"
- "Yes: is it news to you?"
- "Of course: you said nothing about it before."
- "Is it unwelcome news?"
- "That depends on circumstances, sir -- on your choice."
- "Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision."
- "Choose then, sir -- her who loves you best."
- "I will at least choose -- her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?"
- "Yes, sir."
- "A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to
- "Yes, sir."
- "Truly, Jane?"
- "Most truly, sir."
- "Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!"
- "Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life -- if ever I
thought a good thought -- if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless
prayer -- if ever I wished a righteous wish, -- I am rewarded now. To
be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth."
- "Because you delight in sacrifice."
- "Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for
content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value -- to
press my lips to what I love -- to repose on what I trust: is that to
make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."
- "And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my
- "Which are none, sir, to me. I love you better now, when I can
really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud
independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver
- "Hitherto I have hated to be helped -- to be led: henceforth, I feel
I shall hate it no more. I did not like to put my hand into a
hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel it circled by Jane's little
fingers. I preferred utter loneliness to the constant attendance of
servants; but Jane's soft ministry will be a perpetual joy. Jane
suits me: do I suit her?"
- "To the finest fibre of my nature, sir."
- "The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we
must be married instantly."
- He looked and spoke with eagerness: his old impetuosity was rising.
- "We must become one flesh without any delay, Jane: there is but the
licence to get -- then we marry."
- "Mr. Rochester, I have just discovered the sun is far declined from
its meridian, and Pilot is actually gone home to his dinner. Let me
look at your watch."
- "Fasten it into your girdle, Janet, and keep it henceforward: I
have no use for it."
- "It is nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, sir. Don't you feel
- "The third day from this must be our wedding-day, Jane. Never mind
fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip."
- "The sun has dried up all the rain-drops, sir. The breeze is still:
it is quite hot."
- "Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment
fastened round my bronze scrag under my cravat? I have worn it
since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her."
- "We will go home through the wood: that will be the shadiest way."
- He pursued his own thoughts without heeding me.
- "Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart
swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now.
He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges,
but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent
flower -- breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it
from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the
dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it.
Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I
was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His
chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for
ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now,
when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its
weakness? Of late, Jane -- only -- only of late -- I began to see and
acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience
remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I
began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very
- "Some days since: nay, I can number them -- four; it was last Monday
night, a singular mood came over me: one in which grief replaced
frenzy -- sorrow, sullenness. I had long had the impression that
since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead. Late that night --
perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o'clock -- ere I retired
to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to
Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that
world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane.
- "I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open:
it soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no
stars and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a
moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with
soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if
I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might
not soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I
endured, I acknowledged -- that I could scarcely endure more, I
pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart's wishes broke
involuntarily from my lips in the words -- 'Jane! Jane! Jane!'"
- "Did you speak these words aloud?"
- "I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought
me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy."
- "And it was last Monday night, somewhere near midnight?"
- "Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the
strange point. You will think me superstitious, -- some superstition
I have in my blood, and always had: nevertheless, this is true --
true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.
- "As I exclaimed 'Jane! Jane! Jane!' a voice -- I cannot tell whence
the voice came, but I know whose voice it was -- replied, 'I am
coming: wait for me;' and a moment after, went whispering on the
wind the words -- 'Where are you?'
- "I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened
to my mind: yet it is difficult to express what I want to express.
Ferndean is buried, as you see, in a heavy wood, where sound falls
dull, and dies unreverberating. 'Where are you?' seemed spoken
amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the words.
Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow:
I could have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were
meeting. In spirit, I believe we must have met. You no doubt were,
at that hour, in unconscious sleep, Jane: perhaps your soul
wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your accents -- as certain as I live -- they were yours!"
- Reader, it was on Monday night -- near midnight -- that I too had
received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which
I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester's narrative, but made
no disclosure in return. The coincidence struck me as too awful and
inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything,
my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression
on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings
too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural.
I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.
- "You cannot now wonder," continued my master, "that when you rose
upon me so unexpectedly last night, I had difficulty in believing
you any other than a mere voice and vision, something that would
melt to silence and annihilation, as the midnight whisper and
mountain echo had melted before. Now, I thank God! I know it to be
otherwise. Yes, I thank God!"
- He put me off his knee, rose, and reverently lifting his hat from
his brow, and bending his sightless eyes to the earth, he stood in
mute devotion. Only the last words of the worship were audible.
- "I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, he has remembered
mercy. I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead
henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!"
- Then he stretched his hand out to be led. I took that dear hand,
held it a moment to my lips, then let it pass round my shoulder:
being so much lower of stature than he, I served both for his prop
and guide. We entered the wood, and wended homeward.
- READER, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the
parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church,
I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking
the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said: --
- "Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning." The
housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent phlegmatic
order of people, to whom one may at any time safely communicate a
remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of having
one's ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently
stunned by a torrent of wordy wonderment. Mary did look up, and she
did stare at me: the ladle with which she was basting a pair of
chickens roasting at the fire, did for some three minutes hang
suspended in air; and for the same space of time John's knives also
had rest from the polishing process: but Mary, bending again over
the roast, said only --
- "Have you, Miss? Well, for sure!"
- A short time after she pursued -- "I seed you go out with the master,
but I didn't know you were gone to church to be wed;" and she basted
away. John, when I turned to him, was grinning from ear to ear.
- "I telled Mary how it would be," he said: "I knew what Mr. Edward"
(John was an old servant, and had known his master when he was the
cadet of the house, therefore, he often gave him his Christian
name) -- "I knew what Mr. Edward would do; and I was certain he would
not wait long neither: and he's done right, for aught I know. I
wish you joy, Miss!" and he politely pulled his forelock.
- "Thank you, John. Mr. Rochester told me to give you and Mary this."
I put into his hand a five-pound note. Without waiting to hear
more, I left the kitchen. In passing the door of that sanctum some
time after, I caught the words, --
- "She'll happen do better for him nor ony o't' grand ladies." And
again, "If she ben't one o' th' handsomest, she's noan faal and
varry good-natured; and i' his een she's fair beautiful, onybody may
- I wrote to Moor House and to Cambridge immediately, to say what I
had done: fully explaining also why I had thus acted. Diana and
Mary approved the step unreservedly. Diana announced that she would
just give me time to get over the honeymoon, and then she would come
and see me.
- "She had better not wait till then, Jane," said Mr. Rochester, when
I read her letter to him; "if she does, she will be too late, for
our honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade
over your grave or mine."
- How St. John received the news, I don't know: he never answered the
letter in which I communicated it: yet six months after he wrote to
me, without, however, mentioning Mr. Rochester's name or alluding to
my marriage. His letter was then calm, and, though very serious,
kind. He has maintained a regular, though not frequent,
correspondence ever since: he hopes I am happy, and trusts I am not
of those who live without God in the world, and only mind earthly
- You have not quite forgotten little Adèle, have you, reader? I had
not; I soon asked and obtained leave of Mr. Rochester, to go and see
her at the school where he had placed her. Her frantic joy at
beholding me again moved me much. She looked pale and thin: she
said she was not happy. I found the rules of the establishment were
too strict, its course of study too severe for a child of her age:
I took her home with me. I meant to become her governess once more,
but I soon found this impracticable; my time and cares were now
required by another -- my husband needed them all. So I sought out a
school conducted on a more indulgent system, and near enough to
permit of my visiting her often, and bringing her home sometimes. I
took care she should never want for anything that could contribute
to her comfort: she soon settled in her new abode, became very
happy there, and made fair progress in her studies. As she grew up,
a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French
defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and
obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled. By
her grateful attention to me and mine, she has long since well
repaid any little kindness I ever had it in my power to offer her.
- My tale draws to its close: one word respecting my experience of
married life, and one brief glance at the fortunes of those whose
names have most frequently recurred in this narrative, and I have
- I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live
entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself
supremely blest -- blest beyond what language can express; because I
am my husband's life as fully is he is mine. No woman was ever
nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone
and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society:
he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of
the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are
ever together. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in
solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long:
to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible
thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence
is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character -- perfect
concord is the result.
- Mr. Rochester continued blind the first two years of our union;
perhaps it was that circumstance that drew us so very near -- that
knit us so very close: for I was then his vision, as I am still his
right hand. Literally, I was (what he often called me) the apple of
his eye. He saw nature -- he saw books through me; and never did I
weary of gazing for his behalf, and of putting into words the effect
of field, tree, town, river, cloud, sunbeam -- of the landscape before
us; of the weather round us -- and impressing by sound on his ear what
light could no longer stamp on his eye. Never did I weary of
reading to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he wished
to go: of doing for him what he wished to be done. And there was a
pleasure in my services, most full, most exquisite, even though sad -- because he claimed these services without painful shame or damping
humiliation. He loved me so truly, that he knew no reluctance in
profiting by my attendance: he felt I loved him so fondly, that to
yield that attendance was to indulge my sweetest wishes.
- One morning at the end of the two years, as I was writing a letter
to his dictation, he came and bent over me, and said --
- "Jane, have
you a glittering ornament round your neck?"
- I had a gold watch-chain: I answered "Yes."
- "And have you a pale blue dress on?"
- I had. He informed me then, that for some time he had fancied the
obscurity clouding one eye was becoming less dense; and that now he
was sure of it.
- He and I went up to London. He had the advice of an eminent
oculist; and he eventually recovered the sight of that one eye. He
cannot now see very distinctly: he cannot read or write much; but
he can find his way without being led by the hand: the sky is no
longer a blank to him -- the earth no longer a void. When his first-born was put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited
his own eyes, as they once were -- large, brilliant, and black. On
that occasion, he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God
had tempered judgment with mercy.
- My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we
most love are happy likewise. Diana and Mary Rivers are both
married: alternately, once every year, they come to see us, and we
go to see them. Diana's husband is a captain in the navy, a gallant
officer and a good man. Mary's is a clergyman, a college friend of
her brother's, and, from his attainments and principles, worthy of
the connection. Both Captain Fitzjames and Mr. Wharton love their
wives, and are loved by them.
- As to St. John Rivers, he left England: he went to India. He
entered on the path he had marked for himself; he pursues it still.
A more resolute, indefatigable pioneer never wrought amidst rocks
and dangers. Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy, and zeal,
and truth, he labours for his race; he clears their painful way to
improvement; he hews down like a giant the prejudices of creed and
caste that encumber it. He may be stern; he may be exacting; he may
be ambitious yet; but his is the sternness of the warrior
Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of
Apollyon. His is the exaction of the apostle, who speaks but for
Christ, when he says -- "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross and follow me." His is the ambition
of the high master-spirit, which aims to fill a place in the first
rank of those who are redeemed from the earth -- who stand without
fault before the throne of God, who share the last mighty victories
of the Lamb, who are called, and chosen, and faithful.
- St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has
hitherto sufficed to the toil, and the toil draws near its close:
his glorious sun hastens to its setting. The last letter I received
from him drew from my eves human tears, and yet filled my heart with
divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible
crown. I know that a stranger's hand will write to me next, to say
that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into
the joy of his Lord. And why weep for this? No fear of death will
darken St. John's last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his heart
will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast. His
own words are a pledge of this: --
- "My Master," he says, "has forewarned me. Daily He announces more
distinctly, -- 'Surely I come quickly!' and hourly I more eagerly
respond, -- 'Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!'"
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