Sunday, October 21, 2007


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I

Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte
A preface to the first edition of "Jane Eyre" being unnecessary,
I gave none: this second edition demands a few words both of
acknowledgment and miscellaneous remark.
My thanks are due in three quarters.
To the Public, for the indulgent ear it has inclined to a plain tale
with few pretensions.
To the Press, for the fair field its honest suffrage has opened to
an obscure aspirant.
To my Publishers, for the aid their tact, their energy, their
practical sense and frank liberality have afforded an unknown and
unrecommended Author.
The Press and the Public are but vague personifications for me, and
I must thank them in vague terms; but my Publishers are definite:
so are certain generous critics who have encouraged me as only
large-hearted and high-minded men know how to encourage a struggling
stranger; to them, i.e., to my Publishers and the select Reviewers,
I say cordially, Gentlemen, I thank you from my heart.
Having thus acknowledged what I owe those who have aided and
approved me, I turn to another class; a small one, so far as I know,
but not, therefore, to be overlooked. I mean the timorous or
carping few who doubt the tendency of such books as "Jane Eyre:" in
whose eyes whatever is unusual is wrong; whose ears detect in each
protest against bigotry--that parent of crime--an insult to piety,
that regent of God on earth. I would suggest to such doubters
certain obvious distinctions; I would remind them of certain simple
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not
religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck
the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious
hand to the Crown of Thorns.
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as
distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they
should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for
truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a
few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of
Christ. There is--I repeat it--a difference; and it is a good, and
not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation
between them.
The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has
been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make
external show pass for sterling worth--to let white-washed walls
vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinise
and expose--to rase the gilding, and show base metal under it--to
penetrate the sepulchre, and reveal charnel relics: but hate as it
will, it is indebted to him.
Ahab did not like Micaiah, because he never prophesied good
concerning him, but evil; probably he liked the sycophant son of
Chenaannah better; yet might Ahab have escaped a bloody death, had
he but stopped his ears to flattery, and opened them to faithful
There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle
delicate ears: who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of
society, much as the son of Imlah came before the throned Kings of
Judah and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as
prophet-like and as vital--a mien as dauntless and as daring. Is
the satirist of "Vanity Fair" admired in high places? I cannot
tell; but I think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek
fire of his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levin-brand of his
denunciation, were to take his warnings in time--they or their seed
might yet escape a fatal Rimoth-Gilead.
Why have I alluded to this man? I have alluded to him, Reader,
because I think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique
than his contemporaries have yet recognised; because I regard him as
the first social regenerator of the day--as the very master of that
working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped system of
things; because I think no commentator on his writings has yet found
the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly characterise
his talent. They say he is like Fielding: they talk of his wit,
humour, comic powers. He resembles Fielding as an eagle does a
vulture: Fielding could stoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does.
His wit is bright, his humour attractive, but both bear the same
relation to his serious genius that the mere lambent sheet-lightning
playing under the edge of the summer-cloud does to the electric
death-spark hid in its womb. Finally, I have alluded to Mr.
Thackeray, because to him--if he will accept the tribute of a total
stranger--I have dedicated this second edition of "JANE EYRE."
December 21st, 1847.
I avail myself of the opportunity which a third edition of "Jane
Eyre" affords me, of again addressing a word to the Public, to
explain that my claim to the title of novelist rests on this one
work alone. If, therefore, the authorship of other works of fiction
has been attributed to me, an honour is awarded where it is not
merited; and consequently, denied where it is justly due.
This explanation will serve to rectify mistakes which may already
have been made, and to prevent future errors.
April 13th, 1848.
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been
wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning;
but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early)
the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a
rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of
the question.
I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly
afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight,
with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings
of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my
physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their
mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the
fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither
quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had
dispensed from joining the group; saying, "She regretted to be under
the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard
from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was
endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and
childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner--
something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were--she really
must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy,
little children."
"What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked.
"Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is
something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that
manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly,
remain silent."
A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It
contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking
care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the
window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk;
and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined
in double retirement.
Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the
left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating
me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over
the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter
afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a
scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping
away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.
I returned to my book--Bewick's History of British Birds: the
letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet
there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could
not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the
haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them
only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its
southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape -
"Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked, melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge
Pours in among the stormy Hebrides."
Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of
Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with
"the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of
dreary space,--that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields
of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine
heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the
multiplied rigours of extreme cold." Of these death-white realms I
formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended
notions that float dim through children's brains, but strangely
impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected
themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to
the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the
broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly
moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.
I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard,
with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low
horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent,
attesting the hour of eventide.
The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine
The fiend pinning down the thief's pack behind him, I passed over
quickly: it was an object of terror.
So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a
distant crowd surrounding a gallows.
Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped
understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly
interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated
on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when,
having brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed
us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills,
and crimped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with
passages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and other
ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of
Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.
With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way.
I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The
breakfast-room door opened.
"Boh! Madam Mope!" cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused:
he found the room apparently empty.
"Where the dickens is she!" he continued. "Lizzy! Georgy! (calling
to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the
rain--bad animal!"
"It is well I drew the curtain," thought I; and I wished fervently
he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have
found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or
conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at
once -
"She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack."
And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being
dragged forth by the said Jack.
"What do you want?" I asked, with awkward diffidence.
"Say, 'What do you want, Master Reed?'" was the answer. "I want you
to come here;" and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by
a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older
than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a
dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage,
heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at
table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye
and flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his
mama had taken him home for a month or two, "on account of his
delicate health." Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do
very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home;
but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined
rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to
over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.
John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an
antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three times
in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every
nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank
when he came near. There were moments when I was bewildered by the
terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either
his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend
their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was
blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard
him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence,
more frequently, however, behind her back.
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some
three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could
without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while
dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of
him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in
my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and
strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back
a step or two from his chair.
"That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since," said
he, "and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for
the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!"
Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to
it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow
the insult.
"What were you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.
"I was reading."
"Show the book."
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
"You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama
says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to
beg, and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat
the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama's expense. Now,
I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all
the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by
the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows."
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw
him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I
instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough,
however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my
head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was
sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
"Wicked and cruel boy!" I said. "You are like a murderer--you are
like a slave-driver--you are like the Roman emperors!"
I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of
Nero, Caligula, &c. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I
never thought thus to have declared aloud.
"What! what!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her,
Eliza and Georgiana? Won't I tell mama? but first--"
He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder:
he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant,
a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down
my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these
sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him
in frantic sort. I don't very well know what I did with my hands,
but he called me "Rat! Rat!" and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near
him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone
upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her
maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words -
"Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!"
"Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!"
Then Mrs. Reed subjoined -
"Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there." Four hands
were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.
I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance
which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot
were disposed to entertain of me. The fact is, I was a trifle
beside myself; or rather OUT of myself, as the French would say: I
was conscious that a moment's mutiny had already rendered me liable
to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt
resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.
"Hold her arms, Miss Abbot: she's like a mad cat."
"For shame! for shame!" cried the lady's-maid. "What shocking
conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman, your benefactress's
son! Your young master."
"Master! How is he my master? Am I a servant?"
"No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep.
There, sit down, and think over your wickedness."
They had got me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs.
Reed, and had thrust me upon a stool: my impulse was to rise from
it like a spring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.
"If you don't sit still, you must be tied down," said Bessie. "Miss
Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly."
Miss Abbot turned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.
This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred,
took a little of the excitement out of me.
"Don't take them off," I cried; "I will not stir."
In guarantee whereof, I attached myself to my seat by my hands.
"Mind you don't," said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that I
was really subsiding, she loosened her hold of me; then she and Miss
Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my
face, as incredulous of my sanity.
"She never did so before," at last said Bessie, turning to the
"But it was always in her," was the reply. "I've told Missis often
my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me. She's an
underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much
Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said--"You
ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs.
Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have
to go to the poorhouse."
I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my
very first recollections of existence included hints of the same
kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song
in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.
Miss Abbot joined in -
"And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses
Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought
up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will
have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make
yourself agreeable to them."
"What we tell you is for your good," added Bessie, in no harsh
voice, "you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps, you
would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude,
Missis will send you away, I am sure."
"Besides," said Miss Abbot, "God will punish her: He might strike
her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?
Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn't have her heart for
anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself;
for if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come
down the chimney and fetch you away."
They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.
The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say
never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead
Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation
it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers
in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany,
hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle
in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn
down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery;
the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered
with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush
of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of
darkly polished old mahogany. Out of these deep surrounding shades
rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of
the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less
prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the
bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I
thought, like a pale throne.
This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent,
because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was
known to be so seldom entered. The house-maid alone came here on
Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week's quiet
dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review
the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were
stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her
deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the
red-room--the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its
Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he
breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne
by the undertaker's men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary
consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.
My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me
riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed
rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe,
with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to
my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them
repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room. I was not quite
sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got
up and went to see. Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.
Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated
glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked
colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the
strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms
specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all
else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like
one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening
stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and
appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I returned to my
Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hour
for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the
revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to
stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the
dismal present.
All John Reed's violent tyrannies, all his sisters' proud
indifference, all his mother's aversion, all the servants'
partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a
turbid well. Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always
accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it
useless to try to win any one's favour? Eliza, who was headstrong
and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a
very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally
indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to
give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for
every fault. John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he
twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set
the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit,
and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory: he
called his mother "old girl," too; sometimes reviled her for her
dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not
unfrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still "her
own darling." I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every
duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking,
from morning to noon, and from noon to night.
My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received:
no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I had
turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was
loaded with general opprobrium.
"Unjust!--unjust!" said my reason, forced by the agonising stimulus
into precocious though transitory power: and Resolve, equally
wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from
insupportable oppression--as running away, or, if that could not be
effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die.
What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How
all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet
in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle
fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question--WHY I
thus suffered; now, at the distance of--I will not say how many
years, I see it clearly.
I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had
nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen
vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love
them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that
could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing,
opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a
useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to
their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation
at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment. I know that had
I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping
child--though equally dependent and friendless--Mrs. Reed would have
endured my presence more complacently; her children would have
entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the
servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat of the
Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o'clock,
and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight. I heard
the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the
wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as
a stone, and then my courage sank. My habitual mood of humiliation,
self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my
decaying ire. All said I was wicked, and perhaps I might be so;
what thought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself to
death? That certainly was a crime: and was I fit to die? Or was
the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?
In such vault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried; and led by
this thought to recall his idea, I dwelt on it with gathering dread.
I could not remember him; but I knew that he was my own uncle--my
mother's brother--that he had taken me when a parentless infant to
his house; and that in his last moments he had required a promise of
Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain me as one of her own
children. Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise;
and so she had, I dare say, as well as her nature would permit her;
but how could she really like an interloper not of her race, and
unconnected with her, after her husband's death, by any tie? It
must have been most irksome to find herself bound by a hard-wrung
pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child she
could not love, and to see an uncongenial alien permanently intruded
on her own family group.
A singular notion dawned upon me. I doubted not--never doubted--
that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly; and
now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls--
occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly
gleaning mirror--I began to recall what I had heard of dead men,
troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes,
revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the
oppressed; and I thought Mr. Reed's spirit, harassed by the wrongs
of his sister's child, might quit its abode--whether in the church
vault or in the unknown world of the departed--and rise before me in
this chamber. I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any
sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort
me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with
strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt would be
terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it-
-I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted
my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment
a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the
moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was
still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling
and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture readily that this
streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern
carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind
was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the
swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another
world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my
ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me;
I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the
door and shook the lock in desperate effort. Steps came running
along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.
"Miss Eyre, are you ill?" said Bessie.
"What a dreadful noise! it went quite through me!" exclaimed Abbot.
"Take me out! Let me go into the nursery!" was my cry.
"What for? Are you hurt? Have you seen something?" again demanded
"Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come." I had now
got hold of Bessie's hand, and she did not snatch it from me.
"She has screamed out on purpose," declared Abbot, in some disgust.
"And what a scream! If she had been in great pain one would have
excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her
naughty tricks."
"What is all this?" demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs.
Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling
stormily. "Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane Eyre
should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself."
"Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma'am," pleaded Bessie.
"Let her go," was the only answer. "Loose Bessie's hand, child:
you cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured. I
abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show you
that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour longer,
and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that
I shall liberate you then."
"O aunt! have pity! Forgive me! I cannot endure it--let me be
punished some other way! I shall be killed if--"
"Silence! This violence is all most repulsive:" and so, no doubt,
she felt it. I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely
looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and
dangerous duplicity.
Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now
frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me
in, without farther parley. I heard her sweeping away; and soon
after she was gone, I suppose I had a species of fit:
unconsciousness closed the scene.
The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had
had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red
glare, crossed with thick black bars. I heard voices, too, speaking
with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water:
agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror
confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was
handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture,
and that more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.
I rested my head against a pillow or an arm, and felt easy.
In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew
quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the
nursery fire. It was night: a candle burnt on the table; Bessie
stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand, and a gentleman sat
in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.
I felt an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection
and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in the room, an
individual not belonging to Gateshead., and not related to Mrs.
Reed. Turning from Bessie (though her presence was far less
obnoxious to me than that of Abbot, for instance, would have been),
I scrutinised the face of the gentleman: I knew him; it was Mr.
Lloyd, an apothecary, sometimes called in by Mrs. Reed when the
servants were ailing: for herself and the children she employed a
"Well, who am I?" he asked.
I pronounced his name, offering him at the same time my hand: he
took it, smiling and saying, "We shall do very well by-and-by."
Then he laid me down, and addressing Bessie, charged her to be very
careful that I was not disturbed during the night. Having given
some further directions, and intimates that he should call again the
next day, he departed; to my grief: I felt so sheltered and
befriended while he sat in the chair near my pillow; and as he
closed the door after him, all the room darkened and my heart again
sank: inexpressible sadness weighed it down.
"Do you feel as if you should sleep, Miss?" asked Bessie, rather
Scarcely dared I answer her; for I feared the next sentence might be
rough. "I will try."
"Would you like to drink, or could you eat anything?"
"No, thank you, Bessie."
"Then I think I shall go to bed, for it is past twelve o'clock; but
you may call me if you want anything in the night."
Wonderful civility this! It emboldened me to ask a question.
"Bessie, what is the matter with me? Am I ill?"
"You fell sick, I suppose, in the red-room with crying; you'll be
better soon, no doubt."
Bessie went into the housemaid's apartment, which was near. I heard
her say -
"Sarah, come and sleep with me in the nursery; I daren't for my life
be alone with that poor child to-night: she might die; it's such a
strange thing she should have that fit: I wonder if she saw
anything. Missis was rather too hard."
Sarah came back with her; they both went to bed; they were
whispering together for half-an-hour before they fell asleep. I
caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too
distinctly to infer the main subject discussed.
"Something passed her, all dressed in white, and vanished"--"A great
black dog behind him"--"Three loud raps on the chamber door"--"A
light in the churchyard just over his grave," &c. &c.
At last both slept: the fire and the candle went out. For me, the
watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strained
by dread: such dread as children only can feel.
No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the
red-room; it only gave my nerves a shock of which I feel the
reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some
fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for
you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you
thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.
Next day, by noon, I was up and dressed, and sat wrapped in a shawl
by the nursery hearth. I felt physically weak and broken down: but
my worse ailment was an unutterable wretchedness of mind: a
wretchedness which kept drawing from me silent tears; no sooner had
I wiped one salt drop from my cheek than another followed. Yet, I
thought, I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were
there, they were all gone out in the carriage with their mama.
Abbot, too, was sewing in another room, and Bessie, as she moved
hither and thither, putting away toys and arranging drawers,
addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness.
This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace,
accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless
fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state
that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.
Bessie had been down into the kitchen, and she brought up with her a
tart on a certain brightly painted china plate, whose bird of
paradise, nestling in a wreath of convolvuli and rosebuds, had been
wont to stir in me a most enthusiastic sense of admiration; and
which plate I had often petitioned to be allowed to take in my hand
in order to examine it more closely, but had always hitherto been
deemed unworthy of such a privilege. This precious vessel was now
placed on my knee, and I was cordially invited to eat the circlet of
delicate pastry upon it. Vain favour! coming, like most other
favours long deferred and often wished for, too late! I could not
eat the tart; and the plumage of the bird, the tints of the flowers,
seemed strangely faded: I put both plate and tart away. Bessie
asked if I would have a book: the word BOOK acted as a transient
stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver's Travels from the
library. This book I had again and again perused with delight. I
considered it a narrative of facts, and discovered in it a vein of
interest deeper than what I found in fairy tales: for as to the
elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells,
under mushrooms and beneath the ground-ivy mantling old wall-nooks,
I had at length made up my mind to the sad truth, that they were all
gone out of England to some savage country where the woods were
wilder and thicker, and the population more scant; whereas, Lilliput
and Brobdignag being, in my creed, solid parts of the earth's
surface, I doubted not that I might one day, by taking a long
voyage, see with my own eyes the little fields, houses, and trees,
the diminutive people, the tiny cows, sheep, and birds of the one
realm; and the corn-fields forest-high, the mighty mastiffs, the
monster cats, the tower-like men and women, of the other. Yet, when
this cherished volume was now placed in my hand--when I turned over
its leaves, and sought in its marvellous pictures the charm I had,
till now, never failed to find--all was eerie and dreary; the giants
were gaunt goblins, the pigmies malevolent and fearful imps,
Gulliver a most desolate wanderer in most dread and dangerous
regions. I closed the book, which I dared no longer peruse, and put
it on the table, beside the untasted tart.
Bessie had now finished dusting and tidying the room, and having
washed her hands, she opened a certain little drawer, full of
splendid shreds of silk and satin, and began making a new bonnet for
Georgiana's doll. Meantime she sang: her song was -
"In the days when we went gipsying,
A long time ago."
I had often heard the song before, and always with lively delight;
for Bessie had a sweet voice,--at least, I thought so. But now,
though her voice was still sweet, I found in its melody an
indescribable sadness. Sometimes, preoccupied with her work, she
sang the refrain very low, very lingeringly; "A long time ago" came
out like the saddest cadence of a funeral hymn. She passed into
another ballad, this time a really doleful one.
"My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
Over the path of the poor orphan child.
Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
Watch o'er the steps of a poor orphan child.
Yet distant and soft the night breeze is blowing,
Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,
God, in His mercy, protection is showing,
Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.
Ev'n should I fall o'er the broken bridge passing,
Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,
Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,
Take to His bosom the poor orphan child.
There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled;
Heaven is a home, and a rest will not fail me;
God is a friend to the poor orphan child."
"Come, Miss Jane, don't cry," said Bessie as she finished. She
might as well have said to the fire, "don't burn!" but how could she
divine the morbid suffering to which I was a prey? In the course of
the morning Mr. Lloyd came again.
"What, already up!" said he, as he entered the nursery. "Well,
nurse, how is she?"
Bessie answered that I was doing very well.
"Then she ought to look more cheerful. Come here, Miss Jane: your
name is Jane, is it not?"
"Yes, sir, Jane Eyre."
"Well, you have been crying, Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what
about? Have you any pain?"
"No, sir."
"Oh! I daresay she is crying because she could not go out with
Missis in the carriage," interposed Bessie.
"Surely not! why, she is too old for such pettishness."
I thought so too; and my self-esteem being wounded by the false
charge, I answered promptly, "I never cried for such a thing in my
life: I hate going out in the carriage. I cry because I am
"Oh fie, Miss!" said Bessie.
The good apothecary appeared a little puzzled. I was standing
before him; he fixed his eyes on me very steadily: his eyes were
small and grey; not very bright, but I dare say I should think them
shrewd now: he had a hard-featured yet good-natured looking face.
Having considered me at leisure, he said -
"What made you ill yesterday?"
"She had a fall," said Bessie, again putting in her word.
"Fall! why, that is like a baby again! Can't she manage to walk at
her age? She must be eight or nine years old."
"I was knocked down," was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by
another pang of mortified pride; "but that did not make me ill," I
added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.
As he was returning the box to his waistcoat pocket, a loud bell
rang for the servants' dinner; he knew what it was. "That's for
you, nurse," said he; "you can go down; I'll give Miss Jane a
lecture till you come back."
Bessie would rather have stayed, but she was obliged to go, because
punctuality at meals was rigidly enforced at Gateshead Hall.
"The fall did not make you ill; what did, then?" pursued Mr. Lloyd
when Bessie was gone.
"I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark."
I saw Mr. Lloyd smile and frown at the same time.
"Ghost! What, you are a baby after all! You are afraid of ghosts?"
"Of Mr. Reed's ghost I am: he died in that room, and was laid out
there. Neither Bessie nor any one else will go into it at night, if
they can help it; and it was cruel to shut me up alone without a
candle,--so cruel that I think I shall never forget it."
"Nonsense! And is it that makes you so miserable? Are you afraid
now in daylight?"
"No: but night will come again before long: and besides,--I am
unhappy,--very unhappy, for other things."
"What other things? Can you tell me some of them?"
How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it
was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse
their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in
thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in
words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity
of relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause,
contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true
"For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters."
"You have a kind aunt and cousins."
Again I paused; then bunglingly enounced -
"But John Reed knocked me down, and my aunt shut me up in the redroom."
Mr. Lloyd a second time produced his snuff-box.
"Don't you think Gateshead Hall a very beautiful house?" asked he.
"Are you not very thankful to have such a fine place to live at?"
"It is not my house, sir; and Abbot says I have less right to be
here than a servant."
"Pooh! you can't be silly enough to wish to leave such a splendid
"If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I
can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman."
"Perhaps you may--who knows? Have you any relations besides Mrs.
"I think not, sir."
"None belonging to your father?"
"I don't know. I asked Aunt Reed once, and she said possibly I
might have some poor, low relations called Eyre, but she knew
nothing about them."
"If you had such, would you like to go to them?"
I reflected. Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to
children: they have not much idea of industrious, working,
respectable poverty; they think of the word only as connected with
ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and
debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.
"No; I should not like to belong to poor people," was my reply.
"Not even if they were kind to you?"
I shook my head: I could not see how poor people had the means of
being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their
manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I
saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the
cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic
enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.
"But are your relatives so very poor? Are they working people?"
"I cannot tell; Aunt. Reed says if I have any, they must be a
beggarly set: I should not like to go a begging."
"Would you like to go to school?"
Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie
sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the
stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel
and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but
John Reed's tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie's accounts
of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family
where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat
appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these
same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted
of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed;
of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they
could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was
moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a
complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation
from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.
"I should indeed like to go to school," was the audible conclusion
of my musings.
"Well, well! who knows what may happen?" said Mr. Lloyd, as he got
up. "The child ought to have change of air and scene," he added,
speaking to himself; "nerves not in a good state."
Bessie now returned; at the same moment the carriage was heard
rolling up the gravel-walk.
"Is that your mistress, nurse?" asked Mr. Lloyd. "I should like to
speak to her before I go."
Bessie invited him to walk into the breakfast-room, and led the way
out. In the interview which followed between him and Mrs. Reed, I
presume, from after-occurrences, that the apothecary ventured to
recommend my being sent to school; and the recommendation was no
doubt readily enough adopted; for as Abbot said, in discussing the
subject with Bessie when both sat sewing in the nursery one night,
after I was in bed, and, as they thought, asleep, "Missis was, she
dared say, glad enough to get rid of such a tiresome, illconditioned
child, who always looked as if she were watching
everybody, and scheming plots underhand." Abbot, I think, gave me
credit for being a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes.
On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss
Abbot's communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor
clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her
friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather
Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a
shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year,
the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of
a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where
that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection
from him, and both died within a month of each other.
Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, "Poor Miss
Jane is to be pitied, too, Abbot."
"Yes," responded Abbot; "if she were a nice, pretty child, one might
compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a
little toad as that."
"Not a great deal, to be sure," agreed Bessie: "at any rate, a
beauty like Miss Georgiana would be more moving in the same
"Yes, I doat on Miss Georgiana!" cried the fervent Abbot. "Little
darling!--with her long curls and her blue eyes, and such a sweet
colour as she has; just as if she were painted!--Bessie, I could
fancy a Welsh rabbit for supper."
"So could I--with a roast onion. Come, we'll go down." They went.
From my discourse with Mr. Lloyd, and from the above reported
conference between Bessie and Abbot, I gathered enough of hope to
suffice as a motive for wishing to get well: a change seemed near,-
-I desired and waited it in silence. It tarried, however: days and
weeks passed: I had regained my normal state of health, but no new
allusion was made to the subject over which I brooded. Mrs. Reed
surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me:
since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation
than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small
closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone,
and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were
constantly in the drawing-room. Not a hint, however, did she drop
about sending me to school: still I felt an instinctive certainty
that she would not long endure me under the same roof with her; for
her glance, now more than ever, when turned on me, expressed an
insuperable and rooted aversion.
Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to
me as little as possible: John thrust his tongue in his cheek
whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I
instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep
ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he
thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations,
and vowing I had burst his nose. I had indeed levelled at that
prominent feature as hard a blow as my knuckles could inflict; and
when I saw that either that or my look daunted him, I had the
greatest inclination to follow up my advantage to purpose; but he
was already with his mama. I heard him in a blubbering tone
commence the tale of how "that nasty Jane Eyre" had flown at him
like a mad cat: he was stopped rather harshly -
"Don't talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her;
she is not worthy of notice; I do not choose that either you or your
sisters should associate with her."
Here, leaning over the banister, I cried out suddenly, and without
at all deliberating on my words -
"They are not fit to associate with me."
Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and
audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a
whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my
crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or
utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.
"What would Uncle Reed say to you, if he were alive?" was my
scarcely voluntary demand. I say scarcely voluntary, for it seemed
as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their
utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control.
"What?" said Mrs. Reed under her breath: her usually cold composed
grey eye became troubled with a look like fear; she took her hand
from my arm, and gazed at me as if she really did not know whether I
were child or fiend. I was now in for it.
"My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think; and
so can papa and mama: they know how you shut me up all day long,
and how you wish me dead."
Mrs. Reed soon rallied her spirits: she shook me most soundly, she
boxed both my ears, and then left me without a word. Bessie
supplied the hiatus by a homily of an hour's length, in which she
proved beyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned child
ever reared under a roof. I half believed her; for I felt indeed
only bad feelings surging in my breast.
November, December, and half of January passed away. Christmas and
the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive
cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties
given. From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share
of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza
and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed
out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately
ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano
or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler
and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were
handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door
opened and closed. When tired of this occupation, I would retire
from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery: there,
though somewhat sad, I was not miserable. To speak truth, I had not
the least wish to go into company, for in company I was very rarely
noticed; and if Bessie had but been kind and companionable, I should
have deemed it a treat to spend the evenings quietly with her,
instead of passing them under the formidable eye of Mrs. Reed, in a
room full of ladies and gentlemen. But Bessie, as soon as she had
dressed her young ladies, used to take herself off to the lively
regions of the kitchen and housekeeper's room, generally bearing the
candle along with her. I then sat with my doll on my knee till the
fire got low, glancing round occasionally to make sure that nothing
worse than myself haunted the shadowy room; and when the embers sank
to a dull red, I undressed hastily, tugging at knots and strings as
I best might, and sought shelter from cold and darkness in my crib.
To this crib I always took my doll; human beings must love
something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I
contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven
image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow. It puzzles me now to
remember with what absurd sincerity I doated on this little toy,
half fancying it alive and capable of sensation. I could not sleep
unless it was folded in my night-gown; and when it lay there safe
and warm, I was comparatively happy, believing it to be happy
Long did the hours seem while I waited the departure of the company,
and listened for the sound of Bessie's step on the stairs:
sometimes she would come up in the interval to seek her thimble or
her scissors, or perhaps to bring me something by way of supper--a
bun or a cheese-cake--then she would sit on the bed while I ate it,
and when I had finished, she would tuck the clothes round me, and
twice she kissed me, and said, "Good night, Miss Jane." When thus
gentle, Bessie seemed to me the best, prettiest, kindest being in
the world; and I wished most intensely that she would always be so
pleasant and amiable, and never push me about, or scold, or task me
unreasonably, as she was too often wont to do. Bessie Lee must, I
think, have been a girl of good natural capacity, for she was smart
in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative; so, at
least, I judge from the impression made on me by her nursery tales.
She was pretty too, if my recollections of her face and person are
correct. I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair,
dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she
had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of
principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to
any one else at Gateshead Hall.
It was the fifteenth of January, about nine o'clock in the morning:
Bessie was gone down to breakfast; my cousins had not yet been
summoned to their mama; Eliza was putting on her bonnet and warm
garden-coat to go and feed her poultry, an occupation of which she
was fond: and not less so of selling the eggs to the housekeeper
and hoarding up the money she thus obtained. She had a turn for
traffic, and a marked propensity for saving; shown not only in the
vending of eggs and chickens, but also in driving hard bargains with
the gardener about flower-roots, seeds, and slips of plants; that
functionary having orders from Mrs. Reed to buy of his young lady
all the products of her parterre she wished to sell: and Eliza
would have sold the hair off her head if she could have made a
handsome profit thereby. As to her money, she first secreted it in
odd corners, wrapped in a rag or an old curl-paper; but some of
these hoards having been discovered by the housemaid, Eliza, fearful
of one day losing her valued treasure, consented to intrust it to
her mother, at a usurious rate of interest--fifty or sixty per
cent.; which interest she exacted every quarter, keeping her
accounts in a little book with anxious accuracy.
Georgiana sat on a high stool, dressing her hair at the glass, and
interweaving her curls with artificial flowers and faded feathers,
of which she had found a store in a drawer in the attic. I was
making my bed, having received strict orders from Bessie to get it
arranged before she returned (for Bessie now frequently employed me
as a sort of under-nurserymaid, to tidy the room, dust the chairs,
&c.). Having spread the quilt and folded my night-dress, I went to
the window-seat to put in order some picture-books and doll's house
furniture scattered there; an abrupt command from Georgiana to let
her playthings alone (for the tiny chairs and mirrors, the fairy
plates and cups, were her property) stopped my proceedings; and
then, for lack of other occupation, I fell to breathing on the
frost-flowers with which the window was fretted, and thus clearing a
space in the glass through which I might look out on the grounds,
where all was still and petrified under the influence of a hard
From this window were visible the porter's lodge and the carriageroad,
and just as I had dissolved so much of the silver-white
foliage veiling the panes as left room to look out, I saw the gates
thrown open and a carriage roll through. I watched it ascending the
drive with indifference; carriages often came to Gateshead, but none
ever brought visitors in whom I was interested; it stopped in front
of the house, the door-bell rang loudly, the new-comer was admitted.
All this being nothing to me, my vacant attention soon found
livelier attraction in the spectacle of a little hungry robin, which
came and chirruped on the twigs of the leafless cherry-tree nailed
against the wall near the casement. The remains of my breakfast of
bread and milk stood on the table, and having crumbled a morsel of
roll, I was tugging at the sash to put out the crumbs on the windowsill,
when Bessie came running upstairs into the nursery.
"Miss Jane, take off your pinafore; what are you doing there? Have
you washed your hands and face this morning?" I gave another tug
before I answered, for I wanted the bird to be secure of its bread:
the sash yielded; I scattered the crumbs, some on the stone sill,
some on the cherry-tree bough, then, closing the window, I replied -
"No, Bessie; I have only just finished dusting."
"Troublesome, careless child! and what are you doing now? You look
quite red, as if you had been about some mischief: what were you
opening the window for?"
I was spared the trouble of answering, for Bessie seemed in too
great a hurry to listen to explanations; she hauled me to the
washstand, inflicted a merciless, but happily brief scrub on my face
and hands with soap, water, and a coarse towel; disciplined my head
with a bristly brush, denuded me of my pinafore, and then hurrying
me to the top of the stairs, bid me go down directly, as I was
wanted in the breakfast-room.
I would have asked who wanted me: I would have demanded if Mrs.
Reed was there; but Bessie was already gone, and had closed the
nursery-door upon me. I slowly descended. For nearly three months,
I had never been called to Mrs. Reed's presence; restricted so long
to the nursery, the breakfast, dining, and drawing-rooms were become
for me awful regions, on which it dismayed me to intrude.
I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room
door, and I stopped, intimidated and trembling. What a miserable
little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of
me in those days! I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to
go forward to the parlour; ten minutes I stood in agitated
hesitation; the vehement ringing of the breakfast-room bell decided
me; I MUST enter.
"Who could want me?" I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned
the stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my
efforts. "What should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?--a
man or a woman?" The handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing
through and curtseying low, I looked up at--a black pillar!--such,
at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow,
sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the
top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of
Mrs. Reed occupied her usual seat by the fireside; she made a signal
to me to approach; I did so, and she introduced me to the stony
stranger with the words: "This is the little girl respecting whom I
applied to you."
HE, for it was a man, turned his head slowly towards where I stood,
and having examined me with the two inquisitive-looking grey eyes
which twinkled under a pair of bushy brows, said solemnly, and in a
bass voice, "Her size is small: what is her age?"
"Ten years."
"So much?" was the doubtful answer; and he prolonged his scrutiny
for some minutes. Presently he addressed me--"Your name, little
"Jane Eyre, sir."
In uttering these words I looked up: he seemed to me a tall
gentleman; but then I was very little; his features were large, and
they and all the lines of his frame were equally harsh and prim.
"Well, Jane Eyre, and are you a good child?"
Impossible to reply to this in the affirmative: my little world
held a contrary opinion: I was silent. Mrs. Reed answered for me
by an expressive shake of the head, adding soon, "Perhaps the less
said on that subject the better, Mr. Brocklehurst."
"Sorry indeed to hear it! she and I must have some talk;" and
bending from the perpendicular, he installed his person in the armchair
opposite Mrs. Reed's. "Come here," he said.
I stepped across the rug; he placed me square and straight before
him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with
mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent
"No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially
a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there
for ever?"
"No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?"
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was
objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."
"How can you keep in good health? Children younger than you die
daily. I buried a little child of five years old only a day or two
since,--a good little child, whose soul is now in heaven. It is to
be feared the same could not be said of you were you to be called
Not being in a condition to remove his doubt, I only cast my eyes
down on the two large feet planted on the rug, and sighed, wishing
myself far enough away.
"I hope that sigh is from the heart, and that you repent of ever
having been the occasion of discomfort to your excellent
"Benefactress! benefactress!" said I inwardly: "they all call Mrs.
Reed my benefactress; if so, a benefactress is a disagreeable
"Do you say your prayers night and morning?" continued my
"Yes, sir."
"Do you read your Bible?"
"With pleasure? Are you fond of it?"
"I like Revelations, and the book of Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel,
and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles,
and Job and Jonah."
"And the Psalms? I hope you like them?"
"No, sir."
"No? oh, shocking! I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows
six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather
have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he
says: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I
wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in
recompense for his infant piety."
"Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.
"That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to
change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
I was about to propound a question, touching the manner in which
that operation of changing my heart was to be performed, when Mrs.
Reed interposed, telling me to sit down; she then proceeded to carry
on the conversation herself.
"Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote
to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the
character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into
Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers
were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard
against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit. I mention this in
your hearing, Jane, that you may not attempt to impose on Mr.
Well might I dread, well might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was her
nature to wound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence;
however carefully I obeyed, however strenuously I strove to please
her, my efforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences as
the above. Now, uttered before a stranger, the accusation cut me to
the heart; I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope
from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter; I
felt, though I could not have expressed the feeling, that she was
sowing aversion and unkindness along my future path; I saw myself
transformed under Mr. Brocklehurst's eye into an artful, noxious
child, and what could I do to remedy the injury?
"Nothing, indeed," thought I, as I struggled to repress a sob, and
hastily wiped away some tears, the impotent evidences of my anguish.
"Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a child," said Mr. Brocklehurst;
"it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in
the lake burning with fire and brimstone; she shall, however, be
watched, Mrs. Reed. I will speak to Miss Temple and the teachers."
"I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her
prospects," continued my benefactress; "to be made useful, to be
kept humble: as for the vacations, she will, with your permission,
spend them always at Lowood."
"Your decisions are perfectly judicious, madam," returned Mr.
Brocklehurst. "Humility is a Christian grace, and one peculiarly
appropriate to the pupils of Lowood; I, therefore, direct that
especial care shall be bestowed on its cultivation amongst them. I
have studied how best to mortify in them the worldly sentiment of
pride; and, only the other day, I had a pleasing proof of my
success. My second daughter, Augusta, went with her mama to visit
the school, and on her return she exclaimed: 'Oh, dear papa, how
quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed
behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little
holland pockets outside their frocks--they are almost like poor
people's children! and,' said she, 'they looked at my dress and
mama's, as if they had never seen a silk gown before.'"
"This is the state of things I quite approve," returned Mrs. Reed;
"had I sought all England over, I could scarcely have found a system
more exactly fitting a child like Jane Eyre. Consistency, my dear
Mr. Brocklehurst; I advocate consistency in all things."
"Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties; and it has
been observed in every arrangement connected with the establishment
of Lowood: plain fare, simple attire, unsophisticated
accommodations, hardy and active habits; such is the order of the
day in the house and its inhabitants."
"Quite right, sir. I may then depend upon this child being received
as a pupil at Lowood, and there being trained in conformity to her
position and prospects?"
"Madam, you may: she shall be placed in that nursery of chosen
plants, and I trust she will show herself grateful for the
inestimable privilege of her election."
"I will send her, then, as soon as possible, Mr. Brocklehurst; for,
I assure you, I feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility that
was becoming too irksome."
"No doubt, no doubt, madam; and now I wish you good morning. I
shall return to Brocklehurst Hall in the course of a week or two:
my good friend, the Archdeacon, will not permit me to leave him
sooner. I shall send Miss Temple notice that she is to expect a new
girl, so that there will he no difficulty about receiving her.
"Good-bye, Mr. Brocklehurst; remember me to Mrs. and Miss
Brocklehurst, and to Augusta and Theodore, and Master Broughton
"I will, madam. Little girl, here is a book entitled the 'Child's
Guide,' read it with prayer, especially that part containing 'An
account of the awfully sudden death of Martha G -, a naughty child
addicted to falsehood and deceit.'"
With these words Mr. Brocklehurst put into my hand a thin pamphlet
sewn in a cover, and having rung for his carriage, he departed.
Mrs. Reed and I were left alone: some minutes passed in silence;
she was sewing, I was watching her. Mrs. Reed might be at that time
some six or seven and thirty; she was a woman of robust frame,
square-shouldered and strong-limbed, not tall, and, though stout,
not obese: she had a somewhat large face, the under jaw being much
developed and very solid; her brow was low, her chin large and
prominent, mouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her light
eyebrows glimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark and
opaque, her hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as a
bell--illness never came near her; she was an exact, clever manager;
her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; her
children only at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn;
she dressed well, and had a presence and port calculated to set off
handsome attire.
Sitting on a low stool, a few yards from her arm-chair, I examined
her figure; I perused her features. In my hand I held the tract
containing the sudden death of the Liar, to which narrative my
attention had been pointed as to an appropriate warning. What had
just passed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr.
Brocklehurst; the whole tenor of their conversation, was recent,
raw, and stinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as I
had heard it plainly, and a passion of resentment fomented now
within me.
Mrs. Reed looked up from her work; her eye settled on mine, her
fingers at the same time suspended their nimble movements.
"Go out of the room; return to the nursery," was her mandate. My
look or something else must have struck her as offensive, for she
spoke with extreme though suppressed irritation. I got up, I went
to the door; I came back again; I walked to the window, across the
room, then close up to her.
SPEAK I must: I had been trodden on severely, and MUST turn: but
how? What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist? I
gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence -
"I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I
declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in
the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may
give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not
Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice
continued to dwell freezingly on mine.
"What more have you to say?" she asked, rather in the tone in which
a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is
ordinarily used to a child.
That eye of hers, that voice stirred every antipathy I had. Shaking
from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I
continued -
"I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt
again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am
grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you
treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and
that you treated me with miserable cruelty."
"How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?"
"How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the TRUTH. You
think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love
or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall
remember how you thrust me back--roughly and violently thrust me
back--into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day;
though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with
distress, 'Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!' And that punishment
you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me--knocked me
down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this
exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hardhearted.
YOU are deceitful!"
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult,
with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It
seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled
out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment:
Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she
was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even
twisting her face as if she would cry.
"Jane, you are under a mistake: what is the matter with you? Why
do you tremble so violently? Would you like to drink some water?"
"No, Mrs. Reed."
"Is there anything else you wish for, Jane? I assure you, I desire
to be your friend."
"Not you. You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad character, a
deceitful disposition; and I'll let everybody at Lowood know what
you are, and what you have done."
"Jane, you don't understand these things: children must be
corrected for their faults."
"Deceit is not my fault!" I cried out in a savage, high voice.
"But you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow: and now return
to the nursery--there's a dear--and lie down a little."
"I am not your dear; I cannot lie down: send me to school soon,
Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here."
"I will indeed send her to school soon," murmured Mrs. Reed sotto
voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.
I was left there alone--winner of the field. It was the hardest
battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained: I stood
awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, and I enjoyed
my conqueror's solitude. First, I smiled to myself and felt elate;
but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the
accelerated throb of my pulses. A child cannot quarrel with its
elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled
play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang
of remorse and the chill of reaction. A ridge of lighted heath,
alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind
when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed: the same ridge, black and
blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly
my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection
had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my
hated and hating position.
Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic
wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour,
metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been
poisoned. Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed's
pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct,
that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby
re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.
I would fain exercise some better faculty than that of fierce
speaking; fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling than
that of sombre indignation. I took a book--some Arabian tales; I
sat down and endeavoured to read. I could make no sense of the
subject; my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I had
usually found fascinating. I opened the glass-door in the
breakfast-room: the shrubbery was quite still: the black frost
reigned, unbroken by sun or breeze, through the grounds. I covered
my head and arms with the skirt of my frock, and went out to walk in
a part of the plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I found
no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the
congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in
heaps, and now stiffened together. I leaned against a gate, and
looked into an empty field where no sheep were feeding, where the
short grass was nipped and blanched. It was a very grey day; a most
opaque sky, "onding on snaw," canopied all; thence flakes felt it
intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea
without melting. I stood, a wretched child enough, whispering to
myself over and over again, "What shall I do?--what shall I do?"
All at once I heard a clear voice call, "Miss Jane! where are you?
Come to lunch!"
It was Bessie, I knew well enough; but I did not stir; her light
step came tripping down the path.
"You naughty little thing!" she said. "Why don't you come when you
are called?"
Bessie's presence, compared with the thoughts over which I had been
brooding, seemed cheerful; even though, as usual, she was somewhat
cross. The fact is, after my conflict with and victory over Mrs.
Reed, I was not disposed to care much for the nursemaid's transitory
anger; and I WAS disposed to bask in her youthful lightness of
heart. I just put my two arms round her and said, "Come, Bessie!
don't scold."
The action was more frank and fearless than any I was habituated to
indulge in: somehow it pleased her.
"You are a strange child, Miss Jane," she said, as she looked down
at me; "a little roving, solitary thing: and you are going to
school, I suppose?"
I nodded.
"And won't you be sorry to leave poor Bessie?"
"What does Bessie care for me? She is always scolding me."
"Because you're such a queer, frightened, shy little thing. You
should be bolder."
"What! to get more knocks?"
"Nonsense! But you are rather put upon, that's certain. My mother
said, when she came to see me last week, that she would not like a
little one of her own to be in your place.--Now, come in, and I've
some good news for you."
"I don't think you have, Bessie."
"Child! what do you mean? What sorrowful eyes you fix on me! Well,
but Missis and the young ladies and Master John are going out to tea
this afternoon, and you shall have tea with me. I'll ask cook to
bake you a little cake, and then you shall help me to look over your
drawers; for I am soon to pack your trunk. Missis intends you to
leave Gateshead in a day or two, and you shall choose what toys you
like to take with you."
"Bessie, you must promise not to scold me any more till I go."
"Well, I will; but mind you are a very good girl, and don't be
afraid of me. Don't start when I chance to speak rather sharply;
it's so provoking."
"I don't think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because
I have got used to you, and I shall soon have another set of people
to dread."
"If you dread them they'll dislike you."
"As you do, Bessie?"
"I don't dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all
the others."
"You don't show it."
"You little sharp thing! you've got quite a new way of talking.
What makes you so venturesome and hardy?"
"Why, I shall soon be away from you, and besides"--I was going to
say something about what had passed between me and Mrs. Reed, but on
second thoughts I considered it better to remain silent on that
"And so you're glad to leave me?"
"Not at all, Bessie; indeed, just now I'm rather sorry."
"Just now! and rather! How coolly my little lady says it! I dare
say now if I were to ask you for a kiss you wouldn't give it me:
you'd say you'd RATHER not."
"I'll kiss you and welcome: bend your head down." Bessie stooped;
we mutually embraced, and I followed her into the house quite
comforted. That afternoon lapsed in peace and harmony; and in the
evening Bessie told me some of her most enchaining stories, and sang
me some of her sweetest songs. Even for me life had its gleams of
Five o'clock had hardly struck on the morning of the 19th of
January, when Bessie brought a candle into my closet and found me
already up and nearly dressed. I had risen half-an-hour before her
entrance, and had washed my face, and put on my clothes by the light
of a half-moon just setting, whose rays streamed through the narrow
window near my crib. I was to leave Gateshead that day by a coach
which passed the lodge gates at six a.m. Bessie was the only person
yet risen; she had lit a fire in the nursery, where she now
proceeded to make my breakfast. Few children can eat when excited
with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I. Bessie, having pressed
me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she
had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put
them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnet,
and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery. As we
passed Mrs. Reed's bedroom, she said, "Will you go in and bid Missis
"No, Bessie: she came to my crib last night when you were gone down
to supper, and said I need not disturb her in the morning, or my
cousins either; and she told me to remember that she had always been
my best friend, and to speak of her and be grateful to her
"What did you say, Miss?"
"Nothing: I covered my face with the bedclothes, and turned from
her to the wall."
"That was wrong, Miss Jane."
"It was quite right, Bessie. Your Missis has not been my friend:
she has been my foe."
"O Miss Jane! don't say so!"
"Good-bye to Gateshead!" cried I, as we passed through the hall and
went out at the front door.
The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern,
whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent
thaw. Raw and chill was the winter morning: my teeth chattered as
I hastened down the drive. There was a light in the porter's lodge:
when we reached it, we found the porter's wife just kindling her
fire: my trunk, which had been carried down the evening before,
stood corded at the door. It wanted but a few minutes of six, and
shortly after that hour had struck, the distant roll of wheels
announced the coming coach; I went to the door and watched its lamps
approach rapidly through the gloom.
"Is she going by herself?" asked the porter's wife.
"And how far is it?"
"Fifty miles."
"What a long way! I wonder Mrs. Reed is not afraid to trust her so
far alone."
The coach drew up; there it was at the gates with its four horses
and its top laden with passengers: the guard and coachman loudly
urged haste; my trunk was hoisted up; I was taken from Bessie's
neck, to which I clung with kisses.
"Be sure and take good care of her," cried she to the guard, as he
lifted me into the inside.
"Ay, ay!" was the answer: the door was slapped to, a voice
exclaimed "All right," and on we drove. Thus was I severed from
Bessie and Gateshead; thus whirled away to unknown, and, as I then
deemed, remote and mysterious regions.
I remember but little of the journey; I only know that the day
seemed to me of a preternatural length, and that we appeared to
travel over hundreds of miles of road. We passed through several
towns, and in one, a very large one, the coach stopped; the horses
were taken out, and the passengers alighted to dine. I was carried
into an inn, where the guard wanted me to have some dinner; but, as
I had no appetite, he left me in an immense room with a fireplace at
each end, a chandelier pendent from the ceiling, and a little red
gallery high up against the wall filled with musical instruments.
Here I walked about for a long time, feeling very strange, and
mortally apprehensive of some one coming in and kidnapping me; for I
believed in kidnappers, their exploits having frequently figured in
Bessie's fireside chronicles. At last the guard returned; once more
I was stowed away in the coach, my protector mounted his own seat,
sounded his hollow horn, and away we rattled over the "stony street"
of L-.
The afternoon came on wet and somewhat misty: as it waned into
dusk, I began to feel that we were getting very far indeed from
Gateshead: we ceased to pass through towns; the country changed;
great grey hills heaved up round the horizon: as twilight deepened,
we descended a valley, dark with wood, and long after night had
overclouded the prospect, I heard a wild wind rushing amongst trees.
Lulled by the sound, I at last dropped asleep; I had not long
slumbered when the sudden cessation of motion awoke me; the coachdoor
was open, and a person like a servant was standing at it: I
saw her face and dress by the light of the lamps.
"Is there a little girl called Jane Eyre here?" she asked. I
answered "Yes," and was then lifted out; my trunk was handed down,
and the coach instantly drove away.
I was stiff with long sitting, and bewildered with the noise and
motion of the coach: Gathering my faculties, I looked about me.
Rain, wind, and darkness filled the air; nevertheless, I dimly
discerned a wall before me and a door open in it; through this door
I passed with my new guide: she shut and locked it behind her.
There was now visible a house or houses--for the building spread
far--with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a
broad pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then
the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire, where
she left me alone.
I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze, then I looked
round; there was no candle, but the uncertain light from the hearth
showed, by intervals, papered walls, carpet, curtains, shining
mahogany furniture: it was a parlour, not so spacious or splendid
as the drawing-room at Gateshead, but comfortable enough. I was
puzzling to make out the subject of a picture on the wall, when the
door opened, and an individual carrying a light entered; another
followed close behind.
The first was a tall lady with dark hair, dark eyes, and a pale and
large forehead; her figure was partly enveloped in a shawl, her
countenance was grave, her bearing erect.
"The child is very young to be sent alone," said she, putting her
candle down on the table. She considered me attentively for a
minute or two, then further added -
"She had better be put to bed soon; she looks tired: are you
tired?" she asked, placing her hand on my shoulder.
"A little, ma'am."
"And hungry too, no doubt: let her have some supper before she goes
to bed, Miss Miller. Is this the first time you have left your
parents to come to school, my little girl?"
I explained to her that I had no parents. She inquired how long
they had been dead: then how old I was, what was my name, whether I
could read, write, and sew a little: then she touched my cheek
gently with her forefinger, and saying, "She hoped I should be a
good child," dismissed me along with Miss Miller.
The lady I had left might be about twenty-nine; the one who went
with me appeared some years younger: the first impressed me by her
voice, look, and air. Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in
complexion, though of a careworn countenance; hurried in gait and
action, like one who had always a multiplicity of tasks on hand:
she looked, indeed, what I afterwards found she really was, an
under-teacher. Led by her, I passed from compartment to
compartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular
building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence
pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon
the hum of many voices, and presently entered a wide, long room,
with great deal tables, two at each end, on each of which burnt a
pair of candles, and seated all round on benches, a congregation of
girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty. Seen by the dim
light of the dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not
in reality exceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown
stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores. It was
the hour of study; they were engaged in conning over their tomorrow's
task, and the hum I had heard was the combined result of
their whispered repetitions.
Miss Miller signed to me to sit on a bench near the door, then
walking up to the top of the long room she cried out -
"Monitors, collect the lesson-books and put them away! Four tall
girls arose from different tables, and going round, gathered the
books and removed them. Miss Miller again gave the word of command
"Monitors, fetch the supper-trays!"
The tall girls went out and returned presently, each bearing a tray,
with portions of something, I knew not what, arranged thereon, and a
pitcher of water and mug in the middle of each tray. The portions
were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the
mug being common to all. When it came to my turn, I drank, for I
was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and fatigue
rendering me incapable of eating: I now saw, however, that it was a
thin oaten cake shared into fragments.
The meal over, prayers were read by Miss Miller, and the classes
filed off, two and two, upstairs. Overpowered by this time with
weariness, I scarcely noticed what sort of a place the bedroom was,
except that, like the schoolroom, I saw it was very long. To-night
I was to be Miss Miller's bed-fellow; she helped me to undress:
when laid down I glanced at the long rows of beds, each of which was
quickly filled with two occupants; in ten minutes the single light
was extinguished, and amidst silence and complete darkness I fell
The night passed rapidly. I was too tired even to dream; I only
once awoke to hear the wind rave in furious gusts, and the rain fall
in torrents, and to be sensible that Miss Miller had taken her place
by my side. When I again unclosed my eyes, a loud bell was ringing;
the girls were up and dressing; day had not yet begun to dawn, and a
rushlight or two burned in the room. I too rose reluctantly; it was
bitter cold, and I dressed as well as I could for shivering, and
washed when there was a basin at liberty, which did not occur soon,
as there was but one basin to six girls, on the stands down the
middle of the room. Again the bell rang: all formed in file, two
and two, and in that order descended the stairs and entered the cold
and dimly lit schoolroom: here prayers were read by Miss Miller;
afterwards she called out -
"Form classes!"
A great tumult succeeded for some minutes, during which Miss Miller
repeatedly exclaimed, "Silence!" and "Order!" When it subsided, I
saw them all drawn up in four semicircles, before four chairs,
placed at the four tables; all held books in their hands, and a
great book, like a Bible, lay on each table, before the vacant seat.
A pause of some seconds succeeded, filled up by the low, vague hum
of numbers; Miss Miller walked from class to class, hushing this
indefinite sound.
A distant bell tinkled: immediately three ladies entered the room,
each walked to a table and took her seat. Miss Miller assumed the
fourth vacant chair, which was that nearest the door, and around
which the smallest of the children were assembled: to this inferior
class I was called, and placed at the bottom of it.
Business now began, the day's Collect was repeated, then certain
texts of Scripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted
reading of chapters in the Bible, which lasted an hour. By the time
that exercise was terminated, day had fully dawned. The
indefatigable bell now sounded for the fourth time: the classes
were marshalled and marched into another room to breakfast: how
glad I was to behold a prospect of getting something to eat! I was
now nearly sick from inanition, having taken so little the day
The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long
tables smoked basins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay,
sent forth an odour far from inviting. I saw a universal
manifestation of discontent when the fumes of the repast met the
nostrils of those destined to swallow it; from the van of the
procession, the tall girls of the first class, rose the whispered
words -
"Disgusting! The porridge is burnt again!"
"Silence!" ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of
the upper teachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed,
but of somewhat morose aspect, who installed herself at the top of
one table, while a more buxom lady presided at the other. I looked
in vain for her I had first seen the night before; she was not
visible: Miss Miller occupied the foot of the table where I sat,
and a strange, foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as
I afterwards found, took the corresponding seat at the other board.
A long grace was said and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in
some tea for the teachers, and the meal began.
Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my
portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger
blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt
porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon
sickens over it. The spoons were moved slowly: I saw each girl
taste her food and try to swallow it; but in most cases the effort
was soon relinquished. Breakfast was over, and none had
breakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not got, and a
second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the schoolroom.
I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw
one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at
the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of
them, the stout one, whispered -
"Abominable stuff! How shameful!"
A quarter of an hour passed before lessons again began, during which
the schoolroom was in a glorious tumult; for that space of time it
seemed to be permitted to talk loud and more freely, and they used
their privilege. The whole conversation ran on the breakfast, which
one and all abused roundly. Poor things! it was the sole
consolation they had. Miss Miller was now the only teacher in the
room: a group of great girls standing about her spoke with serious
and sullen gestures. I heard the name of Mr. Brocklehurst
pronounced by some lips; at which Miss Miller shook her head
disapprovingly; but she made no great effort to cheek the general
wrath; doubtless she shared in it.
A clock in the schoolroom struck nine; Miss Miller left her circle,
and standing in the middle of the room, cried -
"Silence! To your seats!"
Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was
resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel
clamour of tongues. The upper teachers now punctually resumed their
posts: but still, all seemed to wait. Ranged on benches down the
sides of the room, the eighty girls sat motionless and erect; a
quaint assemblage they appeared, all with plain locks combed from
their faces, not a curl visible; in brown dresses, made high and
surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets
of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in
front of their frocks, and destined to serve the purpose of a workbag:
all, too, wearing woollen stockings and country-made shoes,
fastened with brass buckles. Above twenty of those clad in this
costume were full-grown girls, or rather young women; it suited them
ill, and gave an air of oddity even to the prettiest.
I was still looking at them, and also at intervals examining the
teachers--none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a
little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh
and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weatherbeaten,
and over-worked--when, as my eye wandered from face to face,
the whole school rose simultaneously, as if moved by a common
What was the matter? I had heard no order given: I was puzzled.
Ere I had gathered my wits, the classes were again seated: but as
all eyes were now turned to one point, mine followed the general
direction, and encountered the personage who had received me last
night. She stood at the bottom of the long room, on the hearth; for
there was a fire at each end; she surveyed the two rows of girls
silently and gravely. Miss Miller approaching, seemed to ask her a
question, and having received her answer, went back to her place,
and said aloud -
"Monitor of the first class, fetch the globes!"
While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved
slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of
veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my
eyes traced her steps. Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked
tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their
irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the
whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a
very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the
fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets
were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple
cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a
gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her
girdle. Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined
features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and
carriage, and he will have, at least, as clearly as words can give
it, a correct idea of the exterior of Miss Temple--Maria Temple, as
I afterwards saw the name written in a prayer-book intrusted to me
to carry to church.
The superintendent of Lowood (for such was this lady) having taken
her seat before a pair of globes placed on one of the tables,
summoned the first class round her, and commenced giving a lesson on
geography; the lower classes were called by the teachers:
repetitions in history, grammar, &c., went on for an hour; writing
and arithmetic succeeded, and music lessons were given by Miss
Temple to some of the elder girls. The duration of each lesson was
measured by the clock, which at last struck twelve. The
superintendent rose -
"I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.
The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but
it sank at her voice. She went on -
"You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must
be hungry:--I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be
served to all."
The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.
"It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an
explanatory tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.
The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to
the high delight and refreshment of the whole school. The order was
now given "To the garden!" Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with
strings of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze. I was
similarly equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into
the open air.
The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to
exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one
side, and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of
little beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to
cultivate, and each bed had an owner. When full of flowers they
would doubtless look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January,
all was wintry blight and brown decay. I shuddered as I stood and
looked round me: it was an inclement day for outdoor exercise; not
positively rainy, but darkened by a drizzling yellow fog; all under
foot was still soaking wet with the floods of yesterday. The
stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in active games, but
sundry pale and thin ones herded together for shelter and warmth in
the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist penetrated to
their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a hollow
As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice
of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I
was accustomed; it did not oppress me much. I leant against a
pillar of the verandah, drew my grey mantle close about me, and,
trying to forget the cold which nipped me without, and the
unsatisfied hunger which gnawed me within, delivered myself up to
the employment of watching and thinking. My reflections were too
undefined and fragmentary to merit record: I hardly yet knew where
I was; Gateshead and my past life seemed floated away to an
immeasurable distance; the present was vague and strange, and of the
future I could form no conjecture. I looked round the convent-like
garden, and then up at the house--a large building, half of which
seemed grey and old, the other half quite new. The new part,
containing the schoolroom and dormitory, was lit by mullioned and
latticed windows, which gave it a church-like aspect; a stone tablet
over the door bore this inscription:-
"Lowood Institution.--This portion was rebuilt A.D.--, by Naomi
Brocklehurst, of Brocklehurst Hall, in this county." "Let your
light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven."-- St. Matt. v. 16.
I read these words over and over again: I felt that an explanation
belonged to them, and was unable fully to penetrate their import. I
was still pondering the signification of "Institution," and
endeavouring to make out a connection between the first words and
the verse of Scripture, when the sound of a cough close behind me
made me turn my head. I saw a girl sitting on a stone bench near;
she was bent over a book, on the perusal of which she seemed intent:
from where I stood I could see the title--it was "Rasselas;" a name
that struck me as strange, and consequently attractive. In turning
a leaf she happened to look up, and I said to her directly -
"Is your book interesting?" I had already formed the intention of
asking her to lend it to me some day.
"I like it," she answered, after a pause of a second or two, during
which she examined me.
"What is it about?" I continued. I hardly know where I found the
hardihood thus to open a conversation with a stranger; the step was
contrary to my nature and habits: but I think her occupation
touched a chord of sympathy somewhere; for I too liked reading,
though of a frivolous and childish kind; I could not digest or
comprehend the serious or substantial.
"You may look at it," replied the girl, offering me the book.
I did so; a brief examination convinced me that the contents were
less taking than the title: "Rasselas" looked dull to my trifling
taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright
variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages. I returned it
to her; she received it quietly, and without saying anything she was
about to relapse into her former studious mood: again I ventured to
disturb her -
"Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means?
What is Lowood Institution?"
"This house where you are come to live."
"And why do they call it Institution? Is it in any way different
from other schools?"
"It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us,
are charity-children. I suppose you are an orphan: are not either
your father or your mother dead?"
"Both died before I can remember."
"Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and
this is called an institution for educating orphans."
"Do we pay no money? Do they keep us for nothing?"
"We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year for each."
"Then why do they call us charity-children?"
"Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and
the deficiency is supplied by subscription."
"Who subscribes?"
"Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this
neighbourhood and in London."
"Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?"
"The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet
records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here."
"Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment."
"Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a
watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?"
"To Miss Temple? Oh, no! I wish it did: she has to answer to Mr.
Brocklehurst for all she does. Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our food
and all our clothes."
"Does he live here?"
"No--two miles off, at a large hall."
"Is he a good man?"
"He is a clergyman, and is said to do a great deal of good."
"Did you say that tall lady was called Miss Temple?"
"And what are the other teachers called?"
"The one with red cheeks is called Miss Smith; she attends to the
work, and cuts out--for we make our own clothes, our frocks, and
pelisses, and everything; the little one with black hair is Miss
Scatcherd; she teaches history and grammar, and hears the second
class repetitions; and the one who wears a shawl, and has a pockethandkerchief
tied to her side with a yellow ribband, is Madame
Pierrot: she comes from Lisle, in France, and teaches French."
"Do you like the teachers?"
"Well enough."
"Do you like the little black one, and the Madame -?--I cannot
pronounce her name as you do."
"Miss Scatcherd is hasty--you must take care not to offend her;
Madame Pierrot is not a bad sort of person."
"But Miss Temple is the best--isn't she?"
"Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest,
because she knows far more than they do."
"Have you been long here?"
"Two years."
"Are you an orphan?"
"My mother is dead."
"Are you happy here?"
"You ask rather too many questions. I have given you answers enough
for the present: now I want to read."
But at that moment the summons sounded for dinner; all re-entered
the house. The odour which now filled the refectory was scarcely
more appetising than that which had regaled our nostrils at
breakfast: the dinner was served in two huge tin-plated vessels,
whence rose a strong steam redolent of rancid fat. I found the mess
to consist of indifferent potatoes and strange shreds of rusty meat,
mixed and cooked together. Of this preparation a tolerably abundant
plateful was apportioned to each pupil. I ate what I could, and
wondered within myself whether every day's fare would be like this.
After dinner, we immediately adjourned to the schoolroom: lessons
recommenced, and were continued till five o'clock.
The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with
whom I had conversed in the verandah dismissed in disgrace by Miss
Scatcherd from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of
the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree
ignominious, especially for so great a girl--she looked thirteen or
upwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress and
shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed: composed,
though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes. "How can she
bear it so quietly--so firmly?" I asked of myself. "Were I in her
place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and swallow me
up. She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her
punishment--beyond her situation: of something not round her nor
before her. I have heard of day-dreams--is she in a day-dream now?
Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it--
her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking
at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.
I wonder what sort of a girl she is--whether good or naughty."
Soon after five p.m. we had another meal, consisting of a small mug
of coffee, and half-a-slice of brown bread. I devoured my bread and
drank my coffee with relish; but I should have been glad of as much
more--I was still hungry. Half-an-hour's recreation succeeded, then
study; then the glass of water and the piece of oat-cake, prayers,
and bed. Such was my first day at Lowood.
The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by
rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the
ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen. A change
had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen
north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom
windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned
the contents of the ewers to ice.
Before the long hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading was
over, I felt ready to perish with cold. Breakfast-time came at
last, and this morning the porridge was not burnt; the quality was
eatable, the quantity small. How small my portion seemed! I wished
it had been doubled.
In the course of the day I was enrolled a member of the fourth
class, and regular tasks and occupations were assigned me:
hitherto, I had only been a spectator of the proceedings at Lowood;
I was now to become an actor therein. At first, being little
accustomed to learn by heart, the lessons appeared to me both long
and difficult; the frequent change from task to task, too,
bewildered me; and I was glad when, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, Miss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yards
long, together with needle, thimble, &c., and sent me to sit in a
quiet corner of the schoolroom, with directions to hem the same. At
that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class
still stood round Miss Scatcherd's chair reading, and as all was
quiet, the subject of their lessons could be heard, together with
the manner in which each girl acquitted herself, and the
animadversions or commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the
performance. It was English history: among the readers I observed
my acquaintance of the verandah: at the commencement of the lesson,
her place had been at the top of the class, but for some error of
pronunciation, or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent
to the very bottom. Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd
continued to make her an object of constant notice: she was
continually addressing to her such phrases as the following:-
"Burns" (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called
by their surnames, as boys are elsewhere), "Burns, you are standing
on the side of your shoe; turn your toes out immediately." "Burns,
you poke your chin most unpleasantly; draw it in." "Burns, I insist
on your holding your head up; I will not have you before me in that
attitude," &c. &c.
A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and
the girls examined. The lesson had comprised part of the reign of
Charles I., and there were sundry questions about tonnage and
poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to
answer; still, every little difficulty was solved instantly when it
reached Burns: her memory seemed to have retained the substance of
the whole lesson, and she was ready with answers on every point. I
kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; but,
instead of that, she suddenly cried out -
"You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails
this morning!"
Burns made no answer: I wondered at her silence. "Why," thought I,
"does she not explain that she could neither clean her nails nor
wash her face, as the water was frozen?"
My attention was now called off by Miss Smith desiring me to hold a
skein of thread: while she was winding it, she talked to me from
time to time, asking whether I had ever been at school before,
whether I could mark, stitch, knit, &c.; till she dismissed me, I
could not pursue my observations on Miss Scatcherd's movements.
When I returned to my seat, that lady was just delivering an order
of which I did not catch the import; but Burns immediately left the
class, and going into the small inner room where the books were
kept, returned in half a minute, carrying in her hand a bundle of
twigs tied together at one end. This ominous tool she presented to
Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtesy; then she quietly, and
without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly
and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of
twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns' eye; and, while I paused from my
sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a
sentiment of unavailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her
pensive face altered its ordinary expression.
"Hardened girl!" exclaimed Miss Scatcherd; "nothing can correct you
of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away."
Burns obeyed: I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the
book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her
pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek.
The play-hour in the evening I thought the pleasantest fraction of
the day at Lowood: the bit of bread, the draught of coffee
swallowed at five o'clock had revived vitality, if it had not
satisfied hunger: the long restraint of the day was slackened; the
schoolroom felt warmer than in the morning--its fires being allowed
to burn a little more brightly, to supply, in some measure, the
place of candles, not yet introduced: the ruddy gloaming, the
licensed uproar, the confusion of many voices gave one a welcome
sense of liberty.
On the evening of the day on which I had seen Miss Scatcherd flog
her pupil, Burns, I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and
laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I
passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blind, and looked out;
it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower panes;
putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from the
gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.
Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this
would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted
the separation; that wind would then have saddened my heart; this
obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace! as it was, I derived
from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished
the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and
the confusion to rise to clamour.
Jumping over forms, and creeping under tables, I made my way to one
of the fire-places; there, kneeling by the high wire fender, I found
Burns, absorbed, silent, abstracted from all round her by the
companionship of a book, which she read by the dim glare of the
"Is it still 'Rasselas'?" I asked, coming behind her.
"Yes," she said, "and I have just finished it."
And in five minutes more she shut it up. I was glad of this.
"Now," thought I, "I can perhaps get her to talk." I sat down by
her on the floor.
"What is your name besides Burns?"
"Do you come a long way from here?"
"I come from a place farther north, quite on the borders of
"Will you ever go back?"
"I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future."
"You must wish to leave Lowood?"
"No! why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it
would be of no use going away until I have attained that object."
"But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you?"
"Cruel? Not at all! She is severe: she dislikes my faults."
"And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist
her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand;
I should break it under her nose."
"Probably you would do nothing of the sort: but if you did, Mr.
Brocklehurst would expel you from the school; that would be a great
grief to your relations. It is far better to endure patiently a
smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action
whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and
besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."
"But then it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to
stand in the middle of a room full of people; and you are such a
great girl: I am far younger than you, and I could not bear it."
"Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it:
it is weak and silly to say you CANNOT BEAR what it is your fate to
be required to bear."
I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of
endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathise with the
forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that
Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I
suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the
matter deeply; like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.
"You say you have faults, Helen: what are they? To me you seem
very good."
"Then learn from me, not to judge by appearances: I am, as Miss
Scatcherd said, slatternly; I seldom put, and never keep, things, in
order; I am careless; I forget rules; I read when I should learn my
lessons; I have no method; and sometimes I say, like you, I cannot
BEAR to be subjected to systematic arrangements. This is all very
provoking to Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and
"And cross and cruel," I added; but Helen Burns would not admit my
addition: she kept silence.
"Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?"
At the utterance of Miss Temple's name, a soft smile flitted over
her grave face.
"Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any
one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me
of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me
my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective
nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have
not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though I
value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and
"That is curious," said I, "it is so easy to be careful."
"For YOU I have no doubt it is. I observed you in your class this
morning, and saw you were closely attentive: your thoughts never
seemed to wander while Miss Miller explained the lesson and
questioned you. Now, mine continually rove away; when I should be
listening to Miss Scatcherd, and collecting all she says with
assiduity, often I lose the very sound of her voice; I fall into a
sort of dream. Sometimes I think I am in Northumberland, and that
the noises I hear round me are the bubbling of a little brook which
runs through Deepden, near our house;--then, when it comes to my
turn to reply, I have to be awakened; and having heard nothing of
what was read for listening to the visionary brook, I have no answer
"Yet how well you replied this afternoon."
"It was mere chance; the subject on which we had been reading had
interested me. This afternoon, instead of dreaming of Deepden, I
was wondering how a man who wished to do right could act so unjustly
and unwisely as Charles the First sometimes did; and I thought what
a pity it was that, with his integrity and conscientiousness, he
could see no farther than the prerogatives of the crown. If he had
but been able to look to a distance, and see how what they call the
spirit of the age was tending! Still, I like Charles--I respect
him--I pity him, poor murdered king! Yes, his enemies were the
worst: they shed blood they had no right to shed. How dared they
kill him!"
Helen was talking to herself now: she had forgotten I could not
very well understand her--that I was ignorant, or nearly so, of the
subject she discussed. I recalled her to my level.
"And when Miss Temple teaches you, do your thoughts wander then?"
"No, certainly, not often; because Miss Temple has generally
something to say which is newer than my own reflections; her
language is singularly agreeable to me, and the information she
communicates is often just what I wished to gain."
"Well, then, with Miss Temple you are good?"
"Yes, in a passive way: I make no effort; I follow as inclination
guides me. There is no merit in such goodness."
"A great deal: you are good to those who are good to you. It is
all I ever desire to be. If people were always kind and obedient to
those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all
their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would
never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at
without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure
we should--so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do
it again."
"You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older: as yet you
are but a little untaught girl."
"But I feel this, Helen; I must dislike those who, whatever I do to
please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish
me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show
me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved."
"Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and
civilised nations disown it."
"How? I don't understand."
"It is not violence that best overcomes hate--nor vengeance that
most certainly heals injury."
"What then?"
"Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He
acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example."
"What does He say?"
"Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that
hate you and despitefully use you."
"Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her
son John, which is impossible."
In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded
forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings and
resentments. Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt,
without reserve or softening.
Helen heard me patiently to the end: I expected she would then make
a remark, but she said nothing.
"Well," I asked impatiently, "is not Mrs. Reed a hard-hearted, bad
"She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes
your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how
minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What a
singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your
heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you
not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with
the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to
be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and
must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the
time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting
off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from
us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the
spirit will remain,--the impalpable principle of light and thought,
pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it
came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being
higher than man--perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from
the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will
never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend?
No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever
taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and
to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a
rest--a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this
creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his
crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last:
with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never
too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live
in calm, looking to the end."
Helen's head, always drooping, sank a little lower as she finished
this sentence. I saw by her look she wished no longer to talk to
me, but rather to converse with her own thoughts. She was not
allowed much time for meditation: a monitor, a great rough girl,
presently came up, exclaiming in a strong Cumberland accent -
"Helen Burns, if you don't go and put your drawer in order, and fold
up your work this minute, I'll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look
at it!"
Helen sighed as her reverie fled, and getting up, obeyed the monitor
without reply as without delay.
My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age
either; it comprised an irksome struggle with difficulties in
habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks. The fear of
failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical
hardships of my lot; though these were no trifles.
During January, February, and part of March, the deep snows, and,
after their melting, the almost impassable roads, prevented our
stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church; but within
these limits we had to pass an hour every day in the open air. Our
clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we
had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our
ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were
our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from
this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of
thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the
morning. Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the
keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to
keep alive a delicate invalid. From this deficiency of nourishment
resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils:
whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would
coax or menace the little ones out of their portion. Many a time I
have shared between two claimants the precious morsel of brown bread
distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing to a third half the
contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an
accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of
Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season. We had to walk two
miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated. We set
out cold, we arrived at church colder: during the morning service
we became almost paralysed. It was too far to return to dinner, and
an allowance of cold meat and bread, in the same penurious
proportion observed in our ordinary meals, was served round between
the services.
At the close of the afternoon service we returned by an exposed and
hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, blowing over a range of
snowy summits to the north, almost flayed the skin from our faces.
I can remember Miss Temple walking lightly and rapidly along our
drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered,
gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and
example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said,
"like stalwart soldiers." The other teachers, poor things, were
generally themselves too much dejected to attempt the task of
cheering others.
How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing fire when we got
back! But, to the little ones at least, this was denied: each
hearth in the schoolroom was immediately surrounded by a double row
of great girls, and behind them the younger children crouched in
groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores.
A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of
bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious
addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to
which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally
contrived to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself;
but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.
The Sunday evening was spent in repeating, by heart, the Church
Catechism, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of St.
Matthew; and in listening to a long sermon, read by Miss Miller,
whose irrepressible yawns attested her weariness. A frequent
interlude of these performances was the enactment of the part of
Eutychus by some half-dozen of little girls, who, overpowered with
sleep, would fall down, if not out of the third loft, yet off the
fourth form, and be taken up half dead. The remedy was, to thrust
them forward into the centre of the schoolroom, and oblige them to
stand there till the sermon was finished. Sometimes their feet
failed them, and they sank together in a heap; they were then
propped up with the monitors' high stools.
I have not yet alluded to the visits of Mr. Brocklehurst; and indeed
that gentleman was from home during the greater part of the first
month after my arrival; perhaps prolonging his stay with his friend
the archdeacon: his absence was a relief to me. I need not say
that I had my own reasons for dreading his coming: but come he did
at last.
One afternoon (I had then been three weeks at Lowood), as I was
sitting with a slate in my hand, puzzling over a sum in long
division, my eyes, raised in abstraction to the window, caught sight
of a figure just passing: I recognised almost instinctively that
gaunt outline; and when, two minutes after, all the school, teachers
included, rose en masse, it was not necessary for me to look up in
order to ascertain whose entrance they thus greeted. A long stride
measured the schoolroom, and presently beside Miss Temple, who
herself had risen, stood the same black column which had frowned on
me so ominously from the hearthrug of Gateshead. I now glanced
sideways at this piece of architecture. Yes, I was right: it was
Mr. Brocklehurst, buttoned up in a surtout, and looking longer,
narrower, and more rigid than ever.
I had my own reasons for being dismayed at this apparition; too well
I remembered the perfidious hints given by Mrs. Reed about my
disposition, &c.; the promise pledged by Mr. Brocklehurst to apprise
Miss Temple and the teachers of my vicious nature. All along I had
been dreading the fulfilment of this promise,--I had been looking
out daily for the "Coming Man," whose information respecting my past
life and conversation was to brand me as a bad child for ever: now
there he was.
He stood at Miss Temple's side; he was speaking low in her ear: I
did not doubt he was making disclosures of my villainy; and I
watched her eye with painful anxiety, expecting every moment to see
its dark orb turn on me a glance of repugnance and contempt. I
listened too; and as I happened to be seated quite at the top of the
room, I caught most of what he said: its import relieved me from
immediate apprehension.
"I suppose, Miss Temple, the thread I bought at Lowton will do; it
struck me that it would be just of the quality for the calico
chemises, and I sorted the needles to match. You may tell Miss
Smith that I forgot to make a memorandum of the darning needles, but
she shall have some papers sent in next week; and she is not, on any
account, to give out more than one at a time to each pupil: if they
have more, they are apt to be careless and lose them. And, O ma'am!
I wish the woollen stockings were better looked to!--when I was here
last, I went into the kitchen-garden and examined the clothes drying
on the line; there was a quantity of black hose in a very bad state
of repair: from the size of the holes in them I was sure they had
not been well mended from time to time."
He paused.
"Your directions shall be attended to, sir," said Miss Temple.
"And, ma'am," he continued, "the laundress tells me some of the
girls have two clean tuckers in the week: it is too much; the rules
limit them to one."
"I think I can explain that circumstance, sir. Agnes and Catherine
Johnstone were invited to take tea with some friends at Lowton last
Thursday, and I gave them leave to put on clean tuckers for the
Mr. Brocklehurst nodded.
"Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance
occur too often. And there is another thing which surprised me; I
find, in settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch,
consisting of bread and cheese, has twice been served out to the
girls during the past fortnight. How is this? I looked over the
regulations, and I find no such meal as lunch mentioned. Who
introduced this innovation? and by what authority?"
"I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss
Temple: "the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could
not possibly eat it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting
till dinner-time."
"Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing
up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and
indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should
any little accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as
the spoiling of a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish,
the incident ought not to be neutralised by replacing with something
more delicate the comfort lost, thus pampering the body and
obviating the aim of this institution; it ought to be improved to
the spiritual edification of the pupils, by encouraging them to
evince fortitude under temporary privation. A brief address on
those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious
instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings
of the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the
exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples
to take up their cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out
of the mouth of God; to His divine consolations, "If ye suffer
hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye." Oh, madam, when you
put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these
children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you
little think how you starve their immortal souls!"
Mr. Brocklehurst again paused--perhaps overcome by his feelings.
Miss Temple had looked down when he first began to speak to her; but
she now gazed straight before her, and her face, naturally pale as
marble, appeared to be assuming also the coldness and fixity of that
material; especially her mouth, closed as if it would have required
a sculptor's chisel to open it, and her brow settled gradually into
petrified severity.
Meantime, Mr. Brocklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands
behind his back, majestically surveyed the whole school. Suddenly
his eye gave a blink, as if it had met something that either dazzled
or shocked its pupil; turning, he said in more rapid accents than he
had hitherto used -
"Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what--WHAT is that girl with curled hair?
Red hair, ma'am, curled--curled all over?" And extending his cane
he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.
"It is Julia Severn," replied Miss Temple, very quietly.
"Julia Severn, ma'am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair?
Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does
she conform to the world so openly--here in an evangelical,
charitable establishment--as to wear her hair one mass of curls?"
"Julia's hair curls naturally," returned Miss Temple, still more
"Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these
girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have
again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged
closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl's hair must be
cut off entirely; I will send a barber to-morrow: and I see others
who have far too much of the excrescence--that tall girl, tell her
to turn round. Tell all the first form to rise up and direct their
faces to the wall."
Miss Temple passed her handkerchief over her lips, as if to smooth
away the involuntary smile that curled them; she gave the order,
however, and when the first class could take in what was required of
them, they obeyed. Leaning a little back on my bench, I could see
the looks and grimaces with which they commented on this manoeuvre:
it was a pity Mr. Brocklehurst could not see them too; he would
perhaps have felt that, whatever he might do with the outside of the
cup and platter, the inside was further beyond his interference than
he imagined.
He scrutinised the reverse of these living medals some five minutes,
then pronounced sentence. These words fell like the knell of doom -
"All those top-knots must be cut off."
Miss Temple seemed to remonstrate.
"Madam," he pursued, "I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not
of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of
the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness
and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of
the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits
which vanity itself might have woven; these, I repeat, must be cut
off; think of the time wasted, of--"
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors,
ladies, now entered the room. They ought to have come a little
sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly
attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio
(fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in
fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this
graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately
curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl,
trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.
These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs. and
the Misses Brocklehurst, and conducted to seats of honour at the top
of the room. It seems they had come in the carriage with their
reverend relative, and had been conducting a rummaging scrutiny of
the room upstairs, while he transacted business with the
housekeeper, questioned the laundress, and lectured the
superintendent. They now proceeded to address divers remarks and
reproofs to Miss Smith, who was charged with the care of the linen
and the inspection of the dormitories: but I had no time to listen
to what they said; other matters called off and enchanted my
Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and
Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to
secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I
could only elude observation. To this end, I had sat well back on
the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my
slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped
notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from
my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every
eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick
up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst.
It came.
"A careless girl!" said Mr. Brocklehurst, and immediately after--"It
is the new pupil, I perceive." And before I could draw breath, "I
must not forget I have a word to say respecting her." Then aloud:
how loud it seemed to me! "Let the child who broke her slate come
Of my own accord I could not have stirred; I was paralysed: but the
two great girls who sit on each side of me, set me on my legs and
pushed me towards the dread judge, and then Miss Temple gently
assisted me to his very feet, and I caught her whispered counsel -
"Don't be afraid, Jane, I saw it was an accident; you shall not be
The kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger.
"Another minute, and she will despise me for a hypocrite," thought
I; and an impulse of fury against Reed, Brocklehurst, and Co.
bounded in my pulses at the conviction. I was no Helen Burns.
"Fetch that stool," said Mr. Brocklehurst, pointing to a very high
one from which a monitor had just risen: it was brought.
"Place the child upon it."
And I was placed there, by whom I don't know: I was in no condition
to note particulars; I was only aware that they had hoisted me up to
the height of Mr. Brocklehurst's nose, that he was within a yard of
me, and that a spread of shot orange and purple silk pelisses and a
cloud of silvery plumage extended and waved below me.
Mr. Brocklehurst hemmed.
"Ladies," said he, turning to his family, "Miss Temple, teachers,
and children, you all see this girl?"
Of course they did; for I felt their eyes directed like burningglasses
against my scorched skin.
"You see she is yet young; you observe she possesses the ordinary
form of childhood; God has graciously given her the shape that He
has given to all of us; no signal deformity points her out as a
marked character. Who would think that the Evil One had already
found a servant and agent in her? Yet such, I grieve to say, is the
A pause--in which I began to steady the palsy of my nerves, and to
feel that the Rubicon was passed; and that the trial, no longer to
be shirked, must be firmly sustained.
"My dear children," pursued the black marble clergyman, with pathos,
"this is a sad, a melancholy occasion; for it becomes my duty to
warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God's own lambs, is a
little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an
interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you
must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her
from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers,
you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her
words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul:
if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while
I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land,
worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and
kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!"
Now came a pause of ten minutes, during which I, by this time in
perfect possession of my wits, observed all the female Brocklehursts
produce their pocket-handkerchiefs and apply them to their optics,
while the elderly lady swayed herself to and fro, and the two
younger ones whispered, "How shocking!" Mr. Brocklehurst resumed.
"This I learned from her benefactress; from the pious and charitable
lady who adopted her in her orphan state, reared her as her own
daughter, and whose kindness, whose generosity the unhappy girl
repaid by an ingratitude so bad, so dreadful, that at last her
excellent patroness was obliged to separate her from her own young
ones, fearful lest her vicious example should contaminate their
purity: she has sent her here to be healed, even as the Jews of old
sent their diseased to the troubled pool of Bethesda; and, teachers,
superintendent, I beg of you not to allow the waters to stagnate
round her."
With this sublime conclusion, Mr. Brocklehurst adjusted the top
button of his surtout, muttered something to his family, who rose,
bowed to Miss Temple, and then all the great people sailed in state
from the room. Turning at the door, my judge said -
"Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one
speak to her during the remainder of the day."
There was I, then, mounted aloft; I, who had said I could not bear
the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room,
was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy. What my
sensations were no language can describe; but just as they all rose,
stifling my breath and constricting my throat, a girl came up and
passed me: in passing, she lifted her eyes. What a strange light
inspired them! What an extraordinary sensation that ray sent
through me! How the new feeling bore me up! It was as if a martyr,
a hero, had passed a slave or victim, and imparted strength in the
transit. I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head, and
took a firm stand on the stool. Helen Burns asked some slight
question about her work of Miss Smith, was chidden for the
triviality of the inquiry, returned to her place, and smiled at me
as she again went by. What a smile! I remember it now, and I know
that it was the effluence of fine intellect, of true courage; it lit
up her marked lineaments, her thin face, her sunken grey eye, like a
reflection from the aspect of an angel. Yet at that moment Helen
Burns wore on her arm "the untidy badge;" scarcely an hour ago I had
heard her condemned by Miss Scatcherd to a dinner of bread and water
on the morrow because she had blotted an exercise in copying it out.
Such is the imperfect nature of man! such spots are there on the
disc of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's can only
see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of
the orb.
Ere the half-hour ended, five o'clock struck; school was dismissed,
and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I now ventured to
descend: it was deep dusk; I retired into a corner and sat down on
the floor. The spell by which I had been so far supported began to
dissolve; reaction took place, and soon, so overwhelming was the
grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground.
Now I wept: Helen Burns was not here; nothing sustained me; left to
myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards. I had
meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood: to make so many
friends, to earn respect and win affection. Already I had made
visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my
class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiled
approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to let me
learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two months
longer: and then I was well received by my fellow-pupils; treated
as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by any; now,
here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?
"Never," I thought; and ardently I wished to die. While sobbing out
this wish in broken accents, some one approached: I started up--
again Helen Burns was near me; the fading fires just showed her
coming up the long, vacant room; she brought my coffee and bread.
"Come, eat something," she said; but I put both away from me,
feeling as if a drop or a crumb would have choked me in my present
condition. Helen regarded me, probably with surprise: I could not
now abate my agitation, though I tried hard; I continued to weep
aloud. She sat down on the ground near me, embraced her knees with
her arms, and rested her head upon them; in that attitude she
remained silent as an Indian. I was the first who spoke -
"Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a
"Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard
you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions."
"But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise
"Jane, you are mistaken: probably not one in the school either
despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you much."
"How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?"
"Mr. Brocklehurst is not a god: nor is he even a great and admired
man: he is little liked here; he never took steps to make himself
liked. Had he treated you as an especial favourite, you would have
found enemies, declared or covert, all around you; as it is, the
greater number would offer you sympathy if they dared. Teachers and
pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly
feelings are concealed in their hearts; and if you persevere in
doing well, these feelings will ere long appear so much the more
evidently for their temporary suppression. Besides, Jane"--she
"Well, Helen?" said I, putting my hand into hers: she chafed my
fingers gently to warm them, and went on -
"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own
conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not
be without friends."
"No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough:
if others don't love me I would rather die than live--I cannot bear
to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look here; to gain some real
affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love,
I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to
let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it
dash its hoof at my chest--"
"Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are
too impulsive, too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your
frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources
than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides
this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world
and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is
everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to
guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us
on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures,
recognise our innocence (if innocent we be: as I know you are of
this charge which Mr. Brocklehurst has weakly and pompously repeated
at second-hand from Mrs. Reed; for I read a sincere nature in your
ardent eyes and on your clear front), and God waits only the
separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward.
Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life
is so soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness--
to glory?"
I was silent; Helen had calmed me; but in the tranquillity she
imparted there was an alloy of inexpressible sadness. I felt the
impression of woe as she spoke, but I could not tell whence it came;
and when, having done speaking, she breathed a little fast and
coughed a short cough, I momentarily forgot my own sorrows to yield
to a vague concern for her.
Resting my head on Helen's shoulder, I put my arms round her waist;
she drew me to her, and we reposed in silence. We had not sat long
thus, when another person came in. Some heavy clouds, swept from
the sky by a rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light,
streaming in through a window near, shone full both on us and on the
approaching figure, which we at once recognised as Miss Temple.
"I came on purpose to find you, Jane Eyre," said she; "I want you in
my room; and as Helen Burns is with you, she may come too."
We went; following the superintendent's guidance, we had to thread
some intricate passages, and mount a staircase before we reached her
apartment; it contained a good fire, and looked cheerful. Miss
Temple told Helen Burns to be seated in a low arm-chair on one side
of the hearth, and herself taking another, she called me to her
"Is it all over?" she asked, looking down at my face. "Have you
cried your grief away?"
"I am afraid I never shall do that."
"Because I have been wrongly accused; and you, ma'am, and everybody
else, will now think me wicked."
"We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child.
Continue to act as a good girl, and you will satisfy us."
"Shall I, Miss Temple?"
"You will," said she, passing her arm round me. "And now tell me
who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?"
"Mrs. Reed, my uncle's wife. My uncle is dead, and he left me to
her care."
"Did she not, then, adopt you of her own accord?"
"No, ma'am; she was sorry to have to do it: but my uncle, as I have
often heard the servants say, got her to promise before he died that
she would always keep me."
"Well now, Jane, you know, or at least I will tell you, that when a
criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own
defence. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to
me as well as you can. Say whatever your memory suggests is true;
but add nothing and exaggerate nothing."
I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate-
-most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to
arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my
sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued
than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful
of Helen's warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused
into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary.
Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as
I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.
In the course of the tale I had mentioned Mr. Lloyd as having come
to see me after the fit: for I never forgot the, to me, frightful
episode of the red-room: in detailing which, my excitement was
sure, in some degree, to break bounds; for nothing could soften in
my recollection the spasm of agony which clutched my heart when Mrs.
Reed spurned my wild supplication for pardon, and locked me a second
time in the dark and haunted chamber.
I had finished: Miss Temple regarded me a few minutes in silence;
she then said -
"I know something of Mr. Lloyd; I shall write to him; if his reply
agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every
imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now."
She kissed me, and still keeping me at her side (where I was well
contented to stand, for I derived a child's pleasure from the
contemplation of her face, her dress, her one or two ornaments, her
white forehead, her clustered and shining curls, and beaming dark
eyes), she proceeded to address Helen Burns.
"How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much to-day?"
"Not quite so much, I think, ma'am."
"And the pain in your chest?"
"It is a little better."
Miss Temple got up, took her hand and examined her pulse; then she
returned to her own seat: as she resumed it, I heard her sigh low.
She was pensive a few minutes, then rousing herself, she said
cheerfully -
"But you two are my visitors to-night; I must treat you as such."
She rang her bell.
"Barbara," she said to the servant who answered it, "I have not yet
had tea; bring the tray and place cups for these two young ladies."
And a tray was soon brought. How pretty, to my eyes, did the china
cups and bright teapot look, placed on the little round table near
the fire! How fragrant was the steam of the beverage, and the scent
of the toast! of which, however, I, to my dismay (for I was
beginning to be hungry) discerned only a very small portion: Miss
Temple discerned it too.
"Barbara," said she, "can you not bring a little more bread and
butter? There is not enough for three."
Barbara went out: she returned soon -
"Madam, Mrs. Harden says she has sent up the usual quantity."
Mrs. Harden, be it observed, was the housekeeper: a woman after Mr.
Brocklehurst's own heart, made up of equal parts of whalebone and
"Oh, very well!" returned Miss Temple; "we must make it do, Barbara,
I suppose." And as the girl withdrew she added, smiling,
"Fortunately, I have it in my power to supply deficiencies for this
Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before
each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast,
she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped
in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.
"I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you," said
she, "but as there is so little toast, you must have it now," and
she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.
We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least
delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with
which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished
appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.
Tea over and the tray removed, she again summoned us to the fire; we
sat one on each side of her, and now a conversation followed between
her and Helen, which it was indeed a privilege to be admitted to
Miss Temple had always something of serenity in her air, of state in
her mien, of refined propriety in her language, which precluded
deviation into the ardent, the excited, the eager: something which
chastened the pleasure of those who looked on her and listened to
her, by a controlling sense of awe; and such was my feeling now:
but as to Helen Burns, I was struck with wonder.
The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness
of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these,
something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her.
They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of
her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and
bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which
had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss
Temple's--a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor
pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her
soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot
tell. Has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough,
to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence? Such
was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me,
memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very
brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.
They conversed of things I had never heard of; of nations and times
past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or
guessed at: they spoke of books: how many they had read! What
stores of knowledge they possessed! Then they seemed so familiar
with French names and French authors: but my amazement reached its
climax when Miss Temple asked Helen if she sometimes snatched a
moment to recall the Latin her father had taught her, and taking a
book from a shelf, bade her read and construe a page of Virgil; and
Helen obeyed, my organ of veneration expanding at every sounding
line. She had scarcely finished ere the bell announced bedtime! no
delay could be admitted; Miss Temple embraced us both, saying, as
she drew us to her heart -
"God bless you, my children!"
Helen she held a little longer than me: she let her go more
reluctantly; it was Helen her eye followed to the door; it was for
her she a second time breathed a sad sigh; for her she wiped a tear
from her cheek.
On reaching the bedroom, we heard the voice of Miss Scatcherd: she
was examining drawers; she had just pulled out Helen Burns's, and
when we entered Helen was greeted with a sharp reprimand, and told
that to-morrow she should have half-a-dozen of untidily folded
articles pinned to her shoulder.
"My things were indeed in shameful disorder," murmured Helen to me,
in a low voice: "I intended to have arranged them, but I forgot."
Next morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote in conspicuous characters on a
piece of pasteboard the word "Slattern," and bound it like a
phylactery round Helen's large, mild, intelligent, and benignlooking
forehead. She wore it till evening, patient, unresentful,
regarding it as a deserved punishment. The moment Miss Scatcherd
withdrew after afternoon school, I ran to Helen, tore it off, and
thrust it into the fire: the fury of which she was incapable had
been burning in my soul all day, and tears, hot and large, had
continually been scalding my cheek; for the spectacle of her sad
resignation gave me an intolerable pain at the heart.
About a week subsequently to the incidents above narrated, Miss
Temple, who had written to Mr. Lloyd, received his answer: it
appeared that what he said went to corroborate my account. Miss
Temple, having assembled the whole school, announced that inquiry
had been made into the charges alleged against Jane Eyre, and that
she was most happy to be able to pronounce her completely cleared
from every imputation. The teachers then shook hands with me and
kissed me, and a murmur of pleasure ran through the ranks of my
Thus relieved of a grievous load, I from that hour set to work
afresh, resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty: I
toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts; my
memory, not naturally tenacious, improved with practice; exercise
sharpened my wits; in a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class;
in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and
drawing. I learned the first two tenses of the verb ETRE, and
sketched my first cottage (whose walls, by-the-bye, outrivalled in
slope those of the leaning tower of Pisa), on the same day. That
night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the
Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk,
with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings: I feasted
instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark;
all the work of my own hands: freely pencilled houses and trees,
picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of cattle, sweet
paintings of butterflies hovering over unblown roses, of birds
picking at ripe cherries, of wren's nests enclosing pearl-like eggs,
wreathed about with young ivy sprays. I examined, too, in thought,
the possibility of my ever being able to translate currently a
certain little French story which Madame Pierrot had that day shown
me; nor was that problem solved to my satisfaction ere I fell
sweetly asleep.
Well has Solomon said--"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."
I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for
Gateshead and its daily luxuries.
But the privations, or rather the hardships, of Lowood lessened.
Spring drew on: she was indeed already come; the frosts of winter
had ceased; its snows were melted, its cutting winds ameliorated.
My wretched feet, flayed and swollen to lameness by the sharp air of
January, began to heal and subside under the gentler breathings of
April; the nights and mornings no longer by their Canadian
temperature froze the very blood in our veins; we could now endure
the play-hour passed in the garden: sometimes on a sunny day it
began even to be pleasant and genial, and a greenness grew over
those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought
that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter
traces of her steps. Flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; snowdrops,
crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. On
Thursday afternoons (half-holidays) we now took walks, and found
still sweeter flowers opening by the wayside, under the hedges.
I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the
horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded
walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble
summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow; in
a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies. How
different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath
the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow!--
when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds
along those purple peaks, and rolled down "ing" and holm till they
blended with the frozen fog of the beck! That beck itself was then
a torrent, turbid and curbless: it tore asunder the wood, and sent
a raving sound through the air, often thickened with wild rain or
whirling sleet; and for the forest on its banks, THAT showed only
ranks of skeletons.
April advanced to May: a bright serene May it was; days of blue
sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales filled up
its duration. And now vegetation matured with vigour; Lowood shook
loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery; its great elm,
ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland
plants sprang up profusely in its recesses; unnumbered varieties of
moss filled its hollows, and it made a strange ground-sunshine out
of the wealth of its wild primrose plants: I have seen their pale
gold gleam in overshadowed spots like scatterings of the sweetest
lustre. All this I enjoyed often and fully, free, unwatched, and
almost alone: for this unwonted liberty and pleasure there was a
cause, to which it now becomes my task to advert.
Have I not described a pleasant site for a dwelling, when I speak of
it as bosomed in hill and wood, and rising from the verge of a
stream? Assuredly, pleasant enough: but whether healthy or not is
another question.
That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of fog and fogbred
pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept
into the Orphan Asylum, breathed typhus through its crowded
schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May arrived, transformed the
seminary into an hospital.
Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the
pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay
ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed. The few
who continued well were allowed almost unlimited license; because
the medical attendant insisted on the necessity of frequent exercise
to keep them in health: and had it been otherwise, no one had
leisure to watch or restrain them. Miss Temple's whole attention
was absorbed by the patients: she lived in the sick-room, never
quitting it except to snatch a few hours' rest at night. The
teachers were fully occupied with packing up and making other
necessary preparations for the departure of those girls who were
fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to
remove them from the seat of contagion. Many, already smitten, went
home only to die: some died at the school, and were buried quietly
and quickly, the nature of the malady forbidding delay.
While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its
frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls;
while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells, the drug
and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of
mortality, that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and
beautiful woodland out of doors. Its garden, too, glowed with
flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had opened,
tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were
gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriars
gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and apples; and
these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of
Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of herbs and
blossoms to put in a coffin.
But I, and the rest who continued well, enjoyed fully the beauties
of the scene and season; they let us ramble in the wood, like
gipsies, from morning till night; we did what we liked, went where
we liked: we lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst and his family
never came near Lowood now: household matters were not scrutinised
into; the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of
infection; her successor, who had been matron at the Lowton
Dispensary, unused to the ways of her new abode, provided with
comparative liberality. Besides, there were fewer to feed; the sick
could eat little; our breakfast-basins were better filled; when
there was no time to prepare a regular dinner, which often happened,
she would give us a large piece of cold pie, or a thick slice of
bread and cheese, and this we carried away with us to the wood,
where we each chose the spot we liked best, and dined sumptuously.
My favourite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry
from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading
through the water; a feat I accomplished barefoot. The stone was
just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me,
at that time my chosen comrade--one Mary Ann Wilson; a shrewd,
observant personage, whose society I took pleasure in, partly
because she was witty and original, and partly because she had a
manner which set me at my ease. Some years older than I, she knew
more of the world, and could tell me many things I liked to hear:
with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults also she
gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I
said. She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to
inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving
much entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual
And where, meantime, was Helen Burns? Why did I not spend these
sweet days of liberty with her? Had I forgotten her? or was I so
worthless as to have grown tired of her pare society? Surely the
Mary Arm Wilson I have mentioned was inferior to my first
acquaintance: she could only tell me amusing stories, and
reciprocate any racy and pungent gossip I chose to indulge in;
while, if I have spoken truth of Helen, she was qualified to give
those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse a taste of far
higher things.
True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective
being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired
of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of
attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever
animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all
times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and
faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation
never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she
had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs.
She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with
the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus:
and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild,
which time and care would be sure to alleviate.
I was confirmed in this idea by the fact of her once or twice coming
downstairs on very warm sunny afternoons, and being taken by Miss
Temple into the garden; but, on these occasions, I was not allowed
to go and speak to her; I only saw her from the schoolroom window,
and then not distinctly; for she was much wrapped up, and sat at a
distance under the verandah.
One evening, in the beginning of June, I had stayed out very late
with Mary Ann in the wood; we had, as usual, separated ourselves
from the others, and had wandered far; so far that we lost our way,
and had to ask it at a lonely cottage, where a man and woman lived,
who looked after a herd of half-wild swine that fed on the mast in
the wood. When we got back, it was after moonrise: a pony, which
we knew to be the surgeon's, was standing at the garden door. Mary
Ann remarked that she supposed some one must be very ill, as Mr.
Bates had been sent for at that time of the evening. She went into
the house; I stayed behind a few minutes to plant in my garden a
handful of roots I had dug up in the forest, and which I feared
would wither if I left them till the morning. This done, I lingered
yet a little longer: the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it
was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing
west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon
rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was noting these things
and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it
had never done before:-
"How sad to be lying now on a sick bed, and to be in danger of
dying! This world is pleasant--it would be dreary to be called from
it, and to have to go who knows where?"
And then my mind made its first earnest effort to comprehend what
had been infused into it concerning heaven and hell; and for the
first time it recoiled, baffled; and for the first time glancing
behind, on each side, and before it, it saw all round an unfathomed
gulf: it felt the one point where it stood--the present; all the
rest was formless cloud and vacant depth; and it shuddered at the
thought of tottering, and plunging amid that chaos. While pondering
this new idea, I heard the front door open; Mr. Bates came out, and
with him was a nurse. After she had seen him mount his horse and
depart, she was about to close the door, but I ran up to her.
"How is Helen Burns?"
"Very poorly," was the answer.
"Is it her Mr. Bates has been to see?"
"And what does he say about her?"
"He says she'll not be here long."
This phrase, uttered in my hearing yesterday, would have only
conveyed the notion that she was about to be removed to
Northumberland, to her own home. I should not have suspected that
it meant she was dying; but I knew instantly now! It opened clear
on my comprehension that Helen Burns was numbering her last days in
this world, and that she was going to be taken to the region of
spirits, if such region there were. I experienced a shock of
horror, then a strong thrill of grief, then a desire--a necessity to
see her; and I asked in what room she lay.
"She is in Miss Temple's room," said the nurse.
"May I go up and speak to her?"
"Oh no, child! It is not likely; and now it is time for you to come
in; you'll catch the fever if you stop out when the dew is falling."
The nurse closed the front door; I went in by the side entrance
which led to the schoolroom: I was just in time; it was nine
o'clock, and Miss Miller was calling the pupils to go to bed.
It might be two hours later, probably near eleven, when I--not
having been able to fall asleep, and deeming, from the perfect
silence of the dormitory, that my companions were all wrapt in
profound repose--rose softly, put on my frock over my night-dress,
and, without shoes, crept from the apartment, and set off in quest
of Miss Temple's room. It was quite at the other end of the house;
but I knew my way; and the light of the unclouded summer moon,
entering here and there at passage windows, enabled me to find it
without difficulty. An odour of camphor and burnt vinegar warned me
when I came near the fever room: and I passed its door quickly,
fearful lest the nurse who sat up all night should hear me. I
dreaded being discovered and sent back; for I MUST see Helen,--I
must embrace her before she died,--I must give her one last kiss,
exchange with her one last word.
Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house
below, and succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two
doors, I reached another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then
just opposite to me was Miss Temple's room. A light shone through
the keyhole and from under the door; a profound stillness pervaded
the vicinity. Coming near, I found the door slightly ajar; probably
to admit some fresh air into the close abode of sickness.
Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient impulses--soul and
senses quivering with keen throes--I put it back and looked in. My
eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.
Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white
curtains, there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form
under the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse
I had spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an
unsnuffed candle burnt dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to
be seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious
patient in the fever-room. I advanced; then paused by the crib
side: my hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I
withdrew it. I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.
"Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"
She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale,
wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my
fear was instantly dissipated.
"Can it be you, Jane?" she asked, in her own gentle voice.
"Oh!" I thought, "she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she
could not speak and look so calmly if she were."
I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and her
cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but she
smiled as of old.
"Why are you come here, Jane? It is past eleven o'clock: I heard
it strike some minutes since."
"I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could
not sleep till I had spoken to you."
"You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably."
"Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?"
"Yes; to my long home--my last home."
"No, no, Helen!" I stopped, distressed. While I tried to devour my
tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake the
nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted; then she
whispered -
"Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with
my quilt."
I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close to her.
After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering -
"I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must
be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all
must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not
painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no
one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately
married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape great
sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well
in the world: I should have been continually at fault."
"But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"
"I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."
"Where is God? What is God?"
"My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely
implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I
count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore
me to Him, reveal Him to me."
"You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven,
and that our souls can get to it when we die?"
"I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can
resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my
father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me."
"And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?"
"You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the
same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane."
Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is that
region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round Helen;
she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her
go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said, in
the sweetest tone -
"How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a
little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I
like to have you near me."
"I'll stay with you, DEAR Helen: no one shall take me way."
"Are you warm, darling?"
"Good-night, Jane."
"Good-night, Helen."
She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.
When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked
up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me
through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded
for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no
explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two
afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room
at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen
Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen
Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after
her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey
marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word
Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant
existence: to the first ten years of my life I have given almost as
many chapters. But this is not to be a regular autobiography. I am
only bound to invoke Memory where I know her responses will possess
some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight years
almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to keep up the
links of connection.
When the typhus fever had fulfilled its mission of devastation at
Lowood, it gradually disappeared from thence; but not till its
virulence and the number of its victims had drawn public attention
on the school. Inquiry was made into the origin of the scourge, and
by degrees various facts came out which excited public indignation
in a high degree. The unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity
and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used
in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and
accommodations--all these things were discovered, and the discovery
produced a result mortifying to Mr. Brocklehurst, but beneficial to
the institution.
Several wealthy and benevolent individuals in the county subscribed
largely for the erection of a more convenient building in a better
situation; new regulations were made; improvements in diet and
clothing introduced; the funds of the school were intrusted to the
management of a committee. Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth
and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the
post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties
by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathising minds: his
office of inspector, too, was shared by those who knew how to
combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion
with uprightness. The school, thus improved, became in time a truly
useful and noble institution. I remained an inmate of its walls,
after its regeneration, for eight years: six as pupil, and two as
teacher; and in both capacities I bear my testimony to its value and
During these eight years my life was uniform: but not unhappy,
because it was not inactive. I had the means of an excellent
education placed within my reach; a fondness for some of my studies,
and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in
pleasing my teachers, especially such as I loved, urged me on: I
availed myself fully of the advantages offered me. In time I rose
to be the first girl of the first class; then I was invested with
the office of teacher; which I discharged with zeal for two years:
but at the end of that time I altered.
Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued
superintendent of the seminary: to her instruction I owed the best
part of my acquirements; her friendship and society had been my
continual solace; she had stood me in the stead of mother,
governess, and, latterly, companion. At this period she married,
removed with her husband (a clergyman, an excellent man, almost
worthy of such a wife) to a distant county, and consequently was
lost to me.
From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone
every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in
some degree a home to me. I had imbibed from her something of her
nature and much of her habits: more harmonious thoughts: what
seemed better regulated feelings had become the inmates of my mind.
I had given in allegiance to duty and order; I was quiet; I believed
I was content: to the eyes of others, usually even to my own, I
appeared a disciplined and subdued character.
But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between me
and Miss Temple: I saw her in her travelling dress step into a
post-chaise, shortly after the marriage ceremony; I watched the
chaise mount the hill and disappear beyond its brow; and then
retired to my own room, and there spent in solitude the greatest
part of the half-holiday granted in honour of the occasion.
I walked about the chamber most of the time. I imagined myself only
to be regretting my loss, and thinking how to repair it; but when my
reflections were concluded, and I looked up and found that the
afternoon was gone, and evening far advanced, another discovery
dawned on me, namely, that in the interval I had undergone a
transforming process; that my mind had put off all it had borrowed
of Miss Temple--or rather that she had taken with her the serene
atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity--and that now I was
left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring of
old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but
rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be
tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no
more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience
had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real
world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of
sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go
forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its
I went to my window, opened it, and looked out. There were the two
wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts
of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other
objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks; it was those I
longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath
seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding
round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between
two; how I longed to follow it farther! I recalled the time when I
had travelled that very road in a coach; I remembered descending
that hill at twilight; an age seemed to have elapsed since the day
which brought me first to Lowood, and I had never quitted it since.
My vacations had all been spent at school: Mrs. Reed had never sent
for me to Gateshead; neither she nor any of her family had ever been
to visit me. I had had no communication by letter or message with
the outer world: school-rules, school-duties, school-habits and
notions, and voices, and faces, and phrases, and costumes, and
preferences, and antipathies--such was what I knew of existence.
And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of
eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I
gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the
wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler
supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed
swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant
me at least a new servitude!"
Here a bell, ringing the hour of supper, called me downstairs.
I was not free to resume the interrupted chain of my reflections
till bedtime: even then a teacher who occupied the same room with
me kept me from the subject to which I longed to recur, by a
prolonged effusion of small talk. How I wished sleep would silence
her. It seemed as if, could I but go back to the idea which had
last entered my mind as I stood at the window, some inventive
suggestion would rise for my relief.
Miss Gryce snored at last; she was a heavy Welshwoman, and till now
her habitual nasal strains had never been regarded by me in any
other light than as a nuisance; to-night I hailed the first deep
notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my halfeffaced
thought instantly revived.
"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised
(mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there
is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words
as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no
more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere
waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be
matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years;
now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my
own will? Is not the thing feasible? Yes--yes--the end is not so
difficult; if I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the
means of attaining it."
I sat up in bed by way of arousing this said brain: it was a chilly
night; I covered my shoulders with a shawl, and then I proceeded TO
THINK again with all my might.
"What do I want? A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces,
under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use
wanting anything better. How do people do to get a new place? They
apply to friends, I suppose: I have no friends. There are many
others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and
be their own helpers; and what is their resource?"
I could not tell: nothing answered me; I then ordered my brain to
find a response, and quickly. It worked and worked faster: I felt
the pulses throb in my head and temples; but for nearly an hour it
worked in chaos; and no result came of its efforts. Feverish with
vain labour, I got up and took a turn in the room; undrew the
curtain, noted a star or two, shivered with cold, and again crept to
A kind fairy, in my absence, had surely dropped the required
suggestion on my pillow; for as I lay down, it came quietly and
naturally to my mind.--"Those who want situations advertise; you
must advertise in the -shire Herald."
"How? I know nothing about advertising."
Replies rose smooth and prompt now:-
"You must enclose the advertisement and the money to pay for it
under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald; you must put it,
the first opportunity you have, into the post at Lowton; answers
must be addressed to J.E., at the post-office there; you can go and
inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any are come,
and act accordingly."
This scheme I went over twice, thrice; it was then digested in my
mind; I had it in a clear practical form: I felt satisfied, and
fell asleep.
With earliest day, I was up: I had my advertisement written,
enclosed, and directed before the bell rang to rouse the school; it
ran thus:-
"A young lady accustomed to tuition" (had I not been a teacher two
years?) "is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family
where the children are under fourteen (I thought that as I was
barely eighteen, it would not do to undertake the guidance of pupils
nearer my own age). She is qualified to teach the usual branches of
a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music"
(in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of
accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive).
"Address, J.E., Post-office, Lowton, -shire."
This document remained locked in my drawer all day: after tea, I
asked leave of the new superintendent to go to Lowton, in order to
perform some small commissions for myself and one or two of my
fellow-teachers; permission was readily granted; I went. It was a
walk of two miles, and the evening was wet, but the days were still
long; I visited a shop or two, slipped the letter into the postoffice,
and came back through heavy rain, with streaming garments,
but with a relieved heart.
The succeeding week seemed long: it came to an end at last,
however, like all sublunary things, and once more, towards the close
of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to
Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the
side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but
that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be
awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the
charms of lea and water.
My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair
of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done,
I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the
shoemaker's to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who
wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.
"Are there any letters for J.E.?" I asked.
She peered at me over her spectacles, and then she opened a drawer
and fumbled among its contents for a long time, so long that my
hopes began to falter. At last, having held a document before her
glasses for nearly five minutes, she presented it across the
counter, accompanying the act by another inquisitive and mistrustful
glance--it was for J.E.
"Is there only one?" I demanded.
"There are no more," said she; and I put it in my pocket and turned
my face homeward: I could not open it then; rules obliged me to be
back by eight, and it was already half-past seven.
Various duties awaited me on my arrival. I had to sit with the
girls during their hour of study; then it was my turn to read
prayers; to see them to bed: afterwards I supped with the other
teachers. Even when we finally retired for the night, the
inevitable Miss Gryce was still my companion: we had only a short
end of candle in our candlestick, and I dreaded lest she should talk
till it was all burnt out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper
she had eaten produced a soporific effect: she was already snoring
before I had finished undressing. There still remained an inch of
candle: I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; I
broke it; the contents were brief.
"If J.E., who advertised in the -shire Herald of last Thursday,
possesses the acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position to
give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a
situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little
girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds
per annum. J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and
all particulars to the direction:-
"Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, -shire."
I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and
rather uncertain, like that of in elderly lady. This circumstance
was satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus
acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting
into some scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my
endeavours to be respectable, proper, en regle. I now felt that an
elderly lady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.
Mrs. Fairfax! I saw her in a black gown and widow's cap; frigid,
perhaps, but not uncivil: a model of elderly English
respectability. Thornfield! that, doubtless, was the name of her
house: a neat orderly spot, I was sure; though I failed in my
efforts to conceive a correct plan of the premises. Millcote, -
shire; I brushed up my recollections of the map of England, yes, I
saw it; both the shire and the town. -shire was seventy miles
nearer London than the remote county where I now resided: that was
a recommendation to me. I longed to go where there was life and
movement: Millcote was a large manufacturing town on the banks of
the A-; a busy place enough, doubtless: so much the better; it
would be a complete change at least. Not that my fancy was much
captivated by the idea of long chimneys and clouds of smoke--"but,"
I argued, "Thornfield will, probably, be a good way from the town."
Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.
Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be
confined to my own breast; I must impart them in order to achieve
their success. Having sought and obtained an audience of the
superintendent during the noontide recreation, I told her I had a
prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double
what I now received (for at Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum);
and requested she would break the matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurst,
or some of the committee, and ascertain whether they would permit me
to mention them as references. She obligingly consented to act as
mediatrix in the matter. The next day she laid the affair before
Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must be written to, as she
was my natural guardian. A note was accordingly addressed to that
lady, who returned for answer, that "I might do as I pleased: she
had long relinquished all interference in my affairs." This note
went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared to
me most tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my
condition if I could; and an assurance added, that as I had always
conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a
testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of
that institution, should forthwith be furnished me.
This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded
a copy of it to Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady's reply, stating
that she was satisfied, and fixing that day fortnight as the period
for my assuming the post of governess in her house.
I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.
I had not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my wants;
and the last day sufficed to pack my trunk,--the same I had brought
with me eight years ago from Gateshead.
The box was corded, the card nailed on. In half-an-hour the carrier
was to call for it to take it to Lowton, whether I myself was to
repair at an early hour the next morning to meet the coach. I had
brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves,
and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left
behind; and now having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to
rest. I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I could not
now repose an instant; I was too much excited. A phase of my life
was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow: impossible to
slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly while the change
was being accomplished.
"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was
wandering like a troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see
"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without
inquiry. I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room,
the door of which was half open, to go to the kitchen, when some one
ran out -
"It's her, I am sure!--I could have told her anywhere!" cried the
individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.
I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant,
matronly, yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and
eyes, and lively complexion.
"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half
recognised; "you've not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"
In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously:
"Bessie! Bessie! Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half
laughed, half cried, and we both went into the parlour. By the fire
stood a little fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and
"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.
"Then you are married, Bessie?"
"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and
I've a little girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."
"And you don't live at Gateshead?"
"I live at the lodge: the old porter has left."
"Well, and how do they all get on? Tell me everything about them,
Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee,
will you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.
"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout,"
continued Mrs. Leaven. "I dare say they've not kept you too well at
school: Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you are;
and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in breadth."
"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?"
"Very. She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there
everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but
his relations were against the match; and--what do you think?--he
and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found out
and stopped. It was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe she
was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat and dog life
together; they are always quarrelling--"
"Well, and what of John Reed?"
"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish. He went to
college, and he got--plucked, I think they call it: and then his
uncles wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law: but he is
such a dissipated young man, they will never make much of him, I
"What does he look like?"
"He is very tall: some people call him a fine-looking young man;
but he has such thick lips."
"And Mrs. Reed?"
"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's
not quite easy in her mind: Mr. John's conduct does not please her-
-he spends a deal of money."
"Did she send you here, Bessie?"
"No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard
that there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to
another part of the country, I thought I'd just set of, and get a
look at you before you were quite out of my reach."
"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie." I said this
laughing: I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed
regard, did in no shape denote admiration.
"No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like
a lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no
beauty as a child."
I smiled at Bessie's frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but
I confess I was not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen
most people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an
exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but
"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of
solace. "What can you do? Can you play on the piano?"
"A little."
There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked
me to sit down and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and
she was charmed.
"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly. "I
always said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?"
"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece." It was a
landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the
superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with the
committee on my behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.
"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane! It is as fine a picture as any
Miss Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the young ladies
themselves, who could not come near it: and have you learnt
"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."
"And you can work on muslin and canvas?"
"I can."
"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane! I knew you would be: you
will get on whether your relations notice you or not. There was
something I wanted to ask you. Have you ever heard anything from
your father's kinsfolk, the Eyres?"
"Never in my life."
"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite
despicable: and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much
gentry as the Reeds are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a Mr.
Eyre came to Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you were
it school fifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointed, for he
could not stay: he was going on a voyage to a foreign country, and
the ship was to sail from London in a day or two. He looked quite a
gentleman, and I believe he was your father's brother."
"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"
"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine--the butler
did tell me--"
"Madeira?" I suggested.
"Yes, that is it--that is the very word."
"So he went?"
"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very
high with him; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.' My
Robert believes he was a wine-merchant."
"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a winemerchant."
Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then she
was obliged to leave me: I saw her again for a few minutes the next
morning at Lowton, while I was waiting for the coach. We parted
finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there: each went her
separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell to meet the
conveyance which was to take her back to Gateshead, I mounted the
vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new life in the
unknown environs of Millcote.
A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play;
and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you
see a room in the George Inn at Millcote, with such large figured
papering on the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpet, such
furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints, including
a portrait of George the Third, and another of the Prince of Wales,
and a representation of the death of Wolfe. All this is visible to
you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by
that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and bonnet;
my muff and umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming away the
numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure to the
rawness of an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock a.m., and
the Millcote town clock is now just striking eight.
Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very
tranquil in my mind. I thought when the coach stopped here there
would be some one to meet me; I looked anxiously round as I
descended the wooden steps the "boots" placed for my convenience,
expecting to hear my name pronounced, and to see some description of
carriage waiting to convey me to Thornfield. Nothing of the sort
was visible; and when I asked a waiter if any one had been to
inquire after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative: so I had
no resource but to request to be shown into a private room: and
here I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling
my thoughts.
It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself
quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection,
uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and
prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.
The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow of pride
warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me
became predominant when half-an-hour elapsed and still I was alone.
I bethought myself to ring the bell.
"Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?" I asked
of the waiter who answered the summons.
"Thornfield? I don't know, ma'am; I'll inquire at the bar." He
vanished, but reappeared instantly -
"Is your name Eyre, Miss?"
"Person here waiting for you."
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the innpassage:
a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit
street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance.
"This will be your luggage, I suppose?" said the man rather abruptly
when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage.
"Yes." He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car,
and then I got in; before he shut me up, I asked him how far it was
to Thornfield.
"A matter of six miles."
"How long shall we be before we get there?"
"Happen an hour and a half."
He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and we
set off. Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time to
reflect; I was content to be at length so near the end of my
journey; and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant
conveyance, I meditated much at my ease.
"I suppose," thought I, "judging from the plainness of the servant
and carriage, Mrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much
the better; I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was
very miserable with them. I wonder if she lives alone except this
little girl; if so, and if she is in any degree amiable, I shall
surely be able to get on with her; I will do my best; it is a pity
that doing one's best does not always answer. At Lowood, indeed, I
took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but with
Mrs. Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn. I pray
God Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed; but if she
does, I am not bound to stay with her! let the worst come to the
worst, I can advertise again. How far are we on our road now, I
I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us;
judging by the number of its lights, it seemed a place of
considerable magnitude, much larger than Lowton. We were now, as
far as I could see, on a sort of common; but there were houses
scattered all over the district; I felt we were in a different
region to Lowood, more populous, less picturesque; more stirring,
less romantic.
The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse
walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verify
believe, to two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said -
"You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now."
Again I looked out: we were passing a church; I saw its low broad
tower against the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw a
narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or
hamlet. About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a
pair of gates: we passed through, and they clashed to behind us.
We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a
house: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the
rest were dark. The car stopped at the front door; it was opened by
a maid-servant; I alighted and went in.
"Will you walk this way, ma'am?" said the girl; and I followed her
across a square hall with high doors all round: she ushered me into
a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled
me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had
been for two hours inured; when I could see, however, a cosy and
agreeable picture presented itself to my view.
A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair
high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable
little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy
muslin apron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only
less stately and milder looking. She was occupied in knitting; a
large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to
complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring
introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived; there
was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass; and then,
as I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came
forward to meet me.
"How do you do, my dear? I am afraid you have had a tedious ride;
John drives so slowly; you must be cold, come to the fire."
"Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?" said I.
"Yes, you are right: do sit down."
She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl
and untie my bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself so
much trouble.
"Oh, it is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbed
with cold. Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two:
here are the keys of the storeroom."
And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys,
and delivered them to the servant.
"Now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she continued. "You've
brought your luggage with you, haven't you, my dear?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"I'll see it carried into your room," she said, and bustled out.
"She treats me like a visitor," thought I. "I little expected such
a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not
like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must
not exult too soon."
She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus and
a book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which Leah
now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. I felt
rather confused at being the object of more attention than I had
ever before received, and, that too, shown by my employer and
superior; but as she did not herself seem to consider she was doing
anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her
civilities quietly.
"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?" I
asked, when I had partaken of what she offered me.
"What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf," returned the good
lady, approaching her ear to my mouth.
I repeated the question more distinctly.
"Miss Fairfax? Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of
your future pupil."
"Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?"
"No,--I have no family."
I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way
Miss Varens was connected with her; but I recollected it was not
polite to ask too many questions: besides, I was sure to hear in
"I am so glad," she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and
took the cat on her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will be
quite pleasant living here now with a companion. To be sure it is
pleasant at any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather
neglected of late years perhaps, but still it is a respectable
place; yet you know in winter-time one feels dreary quite alone in
the best quarters. I say alone--Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and
John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are
only servants, and one can't converse with them on terms of
equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing
one's authority. I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if
you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a
creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from
November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with
sitting night after night alone; I had Leah in to read to me
sometimes; but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she
felt it confining. In spring and summer one got on better:
sunshine and long days make such a difference; and then, just at the
commencement of this autumn, little Adela Varens came and her nurse:
a child makes a house alive all at once; and now you are here I
shall be quite gay."
My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and I
drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere wish
that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.
"But I'll not keep you sitting up late to-night," said she; "it is
on the stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day:
you must feel tired. If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll
show you your bedroom. I've had the room next to mine prepared for
you; it is only a small apartment, but I thought you would like it
better than one of the large front chambers: to be sure they have
finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, I never sleep
in them myself."
I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt
fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire.
She took her candle, and I followed her from the room. First she
went to see if the hall-door was fastened; having taken the key from
the lock, she led the way upstairs. The steps and banisters were of
oak; the staircase window was high and latticed; both it and the
long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked as if they
belonged to a church rather than a house. A very chill and vaultlike
air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas
of space and solitude; and I was glad, when finally ushered into my
chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in ordinary,
modern style.
When Mrs. Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had
fastened my door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced
the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious
staircase, and that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of my
little room, I remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue and
mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of
gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside, and
offered up thanks where thanks were due; not forgetting, ere I rose,
to implore aid on my further path, and the power of meriting the
kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned.
My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears.
At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly: when I awoke
it was broad day.
The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone
in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered
walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained
plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view. Externals have
a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life
was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and
pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. My faculties, roused by
the change of scene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all
astir. I cannot precisely define what they expected, but it was
something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that month, but at an
indefinite future period.
I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain--for I had
no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity--I
was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit to
be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I made:
on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could, and to
please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes
regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy
cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be
tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a
misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so
irregular and so marked. And why had I these aspirations and these
regrets? It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly
say it to myself; yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason
too. However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my
black frock--which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of
fitting to a nicety--and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought I
should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfax, and that
my new pupil would not at least recoil from me with antipathy.
Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things
straight and neat on the toilet table, I ventured forth.
Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery
steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I
looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented a
grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a pearl
necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great
clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with
time and rubbing. Everything appeared very stately and imposing to
me; but then I was so little accustomed to grandeur. The hall-door,
which was half of glass, stood open; I stepped over the threshold.
It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on
embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I
looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three
storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a
gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round
the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well
from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on
the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great
meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where
an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as
oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion's designation.
Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so
craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world;
but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace
Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so
near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose
roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these
hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its old
tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.
I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet
listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying the
wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it
was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit, when
that lady appeared at the door.
"What! out already?" said she. "I see you are an early riser." I
went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake of
the hand.
"How do you like Thornfield?" she asked. I told her I liked it very
"Yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be
getting out of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his
head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it
rather oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence
of the proprietor."
"Mr. Rochester!" I exclaimed. "Who is he?"
"The owner of Thornfield," she responded quietly. "Did you not know
he was called Rochester?"
Of course I did not--I had never heard of him before; but the old
lady seemed to regard his existence as a universally understood
fact, with which everybody must be acquainted by instinct.
"I thought," I continued, "Thornfield belonged to you."
"To me? Bless you, child; what an idea! To me! I am only the
housekeeper--the manager. To be sure I am distantly related to the
Rochesters by the mother's side, or at least my husband was; he was
a clergyman, incumbent of Hay--that little village yonder on the
hill--and that church near the gates was his. The present Mr.
Rochester's mother was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my husband:
but I never presume on the connection--in fact, it is nothing to me;
I consider myself quite in the light of an ordinary housekeeper: my
employer is always civil, and I expect nothing more."
"And the little girl--my pupil!"
"She is Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governess
for her. He intended to have her brought up in -shire, I believe.
Here she comes, with her 'bonne,' as she calls her nurse." The
enigma then was explained: this affable and kind little widow was
no great dame; but a dependant like myself. I did not like her the
worse for that; on the contrary, I felt better pleased than ever.
The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of
condescension on her part: so much the better--my position was all
the freer.
As I was meditating on this discovery, a little girl, followed by
her attendant, came running up the lawn. I looked at my pupil, who
did not at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child,
perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale,
small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to
her waist.
"Good morning, Miss Adela," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Come and speak to
the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some
day." She approached.
"C'est le ma gouverante!" said she, pointing to me, and addressing
her nurse; who answered -
"Mais oui, certainement."
"Are they foreigners?" I inquired, amazed at hearing the French
"The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent; and,
I believe, never left it till within six months ago. When she first
came here she could speak no English; now she can make shift to talk
it a little: I don't understand her, she mixes it so with French;
but you will make out her meaning very well, I dare say."
Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a
French lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with
Madame Pierrot as often as I could, and had besides, during the last
seven years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily--applying
myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely as
possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I had acquired a certain
degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and was not
likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela. She came and
shook hand with me when she heard that I was her governess; and as I
led her in to breakfast, I addressed some phrases to her in her own
tongue: she replied briefly at first, but after we were seated at
the table, and she had examined me some ten minutes with her large
hazel eyes, she suddenly commenced chattering fluently.
"Ah!" cried she, in French, "you speak my language as well as Mr.
Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can
Sophie. She will be glad: nobody here understands her: Madame
Fairfax is all English. Sophie is my nurse; she came with me over
the sea in a great ship with a chimney that smoked--how it did
smoke!--and I was sick, and so was Sophie, and so was Mr. Rochester.
Mr. Rochester lay down on a sofa in a pretty room called the salon,
and Sophie and I had little beds in another place. I nearly fell
out of mine; it was like a shelf. And Mademoiselle--what is your
"Eyre--Jane Eyre."
"Aire? Bah! I cannot say it. Well, our ship stopped in the
morning, before it was quite daylight, at a great city--a huge city,
with very dark houses and all smoky; not at all like the pretty
clean town I came from; and Mr. Rochester carried me in his arms
over a plank to the land, and Sophie came after, and we all got into
a coach, which took us to a beautiful large house, larger than this
and finer, called an hotel. We stayed there nearly a week: I and
Sophie used to walk every day in a great green place full of trees,
called the Park; and there were many children there besides me, and
a pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with crumbs."
"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs.
I understood her very well, for I had been accustomed to the fluent
tongue of Madame Pierrot.
"I wish," continued the good lady, "you would ask her a question or
two about her parents: I wonder if she remembers them?"
"Adele," I inquired, "with whom did you live when you were in that
pretty clean town you spoke of?"
"I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin.
Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses. A great
many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance
before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it.
Shall I let you hear me sing now?"
She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a
specimen of her accomplishments. Descending from her chair, she
came and placed herself on my knee; then, folding her little hands
demurely before her, shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes to
the ceiling, she commenced singing a song from some opera. It was
the strain of a forsaken lady, who, after bewailing the perfidy of
her lover, calls pride to her aid; desires her attendant to deck her
in her brightest jewels and richest robes, and resolves to meet the
false one that night at a ball, and prove to him, by the gaiety of
her demeanour, how little his desertion has affected her.
The subject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but I
suppose the point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of love
and jealousy warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very bad
taste that point was: at least I thought so.
Adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the naivete of
her age. This achieved, she jumped from my knee and said, "Now,
Mademoiselle, I will repeat you some poetry."
Assuming an attitude, she began, "La Ligue des Rats: fable de La
Fontaine." She then declaimed the little piece with an attention to
punctuation and emphasis, a flexibility of voice and an
appropriateness of gesture, very unusual indeed at her age, and
which proved she had been carefully trained.
"Was it your mama who taught you that piece?" I asked.
"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way: 'Qu' avez vous donc?
lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!' She made me lift my hand--so--to
remind me to raise my voice at the question. Now shall I dance for
"No, that will do: but after your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as
you say, with whom did you live then?"
"With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she
is nothing related to me. I think she is poor, for she had not so
fine a house as mama. I was not long there. Mr. Rochester asked me
if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I said yes;
for I knew Mr. Rochester before I knew Madame Frederic, and he was
always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys: but you see
he has not kept his word, for he has brought me to England, and now
he is gone back again himself, and I never see him."
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it
appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the
schoolroom. Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors;
but there was one bookcase left open containing everything that
could be needed in the way of elementary works, and several volumes
of light literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances, &c.
I suppose he had considered that these were all the governess would
require for her private perusal; and, indeed, they contented me
amply for the present; compared with the scanty pickings I had now
and then been able to glean at Lowood, they seemed to offer an
abundant harvest of entertainment and information. In this room,
too, there was a cabinet piano, quite new and of superior tone; also
an easel for painting and a pair of globes.
I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply:
she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt it
would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I
had talked to her a great deal, and got her to learn a little, and
when the morning had advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to
her nurse. I then proposed to occupy myself till dinner-time in
drawing some little sketches for her use.
As I was going upstairs to fetch my portfolio and pencils, Mrs.
Fairfax called to me: "Your morning school-hours are over now, I
suppose," said she. She was in a room the folding-doors of which
stood open: I went in when she addressed me. It was a large,
stately apartment, with purple chairs and curtains, a Turkey carpet,
walnut-panelled walls, one vast window rich in slanted glass, and a
lofty ceiling, nobly moulded. Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some vases
of fine purple spar, which stood on a sideboard.
"What a beautiful room!" I exclaimed, as I looked round; for I had
never before seen any half so imposing.
"Yes; this is the dining-room. I have just opened the window, to
let in a little air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp in
apartments that are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels
like a vault."
She pointed to a wide arch corresponding to the window, and hung
like it with a Tyrian-dyed curtain, now looped up. Mounting to it
by two broad steps, and looking through, I thought I caught a
glimpse of a fairy place, so bright to my novice-eyes appeared the
view beyond. Yet it was merely a very pretty drawing-room, and
within it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, on which seemed
laid brilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled with snowy mouldings
of white grapes and vine-leaves, beneath which glowed in rich
contrast crimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on the
pale Pariain mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian glass, ruby red;
and between the windows large mirrors repeated the general blending
of snow and fire.
"In what order you keep these rooms, Mrs. Fairfax!" said I. "No
dust, no canvas coverings: except that the air feels chilly, one
would think they were inhabited daily."
"Why, Miss Eyre, though Mr. Rochester's visits here are rare, they
are always sudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put him
out to find everything swathed up, and to have a bustle of
arrangement on his arrival, I thought it best to keep the rooms in
"Is Mr. Rochester an exacting, fastidious sort of man?"
"Not particularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habits,
and he expects to have things managed in conformity to them."
"Do you like him? Is he generally liked?"
"Oh, yes; the family have always been respected here. Almost all
the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged
to the Rochesters time out of mind."
"Well, but, leaving his land out of the question, do you like him?
Is he liked for himself?"
"I have no cause to do otherwise than like him; and I believe he is
considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he has
never lived much amongst them."
"But has he no peculiarities? What, in short, is his character?"
"Oh! his character is unimpeachable, I suppose. He is rather
peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great
deal of the world, I should think. I dare say he is clever, but I
never had much conversation with him."
"In what way is he peculiar?"
"I don't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing striking, but you
feel it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure whether he
is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the contrary; you
don't thoroughly understand him, in short--at least, I don't: but
it is of no consequence, he is a very good master."
This was all the account I got from Mrs. Fairfax of her employer and
mine. There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a
character, or observing and describing salient points, either in
persons or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class;
my queries puzzled, but did not draw her out. Mr. Rochester was Mr.
Rochester in her eyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor--nothing
more: she inquired and searched no further, and evidently wondered
at my wish to gain a more definite notion of his identity.
When we left the dining-room, she proposed to show me over the rest
of the house; and I followed her upstairs and downstairs, admiring
as I went; for all was well arranged and handsome. The large front
chambers I thought especially grand: and some of the third-storey
rooms, though dark and low, were interesting from their air of
antiquity. The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartments
had from time to time been removed here, as fashions changed: and
the imperfect light entering by their narrow casement showed
bedsteads of a hundred years old; chests in oak or walnut, looking,
with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads,
like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed
and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushioned tops
were yet apparent traces of half-effaced embroideries, wrought by
fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust. All these
relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a
home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom,
the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means
coveted a night's repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut
in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought
old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of
strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings,--
all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of
"Do the servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.
"No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one
ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost
at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt."
"So I think: you have no ghost, then?"
"None that I ever heard of," returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
"Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?"
"I believe not. And yet it is said the Rochesters have been rather
a violent than a quiet race in their time: perhaps, though, that is
the reason they rest tranquilly in their graves now."
"Yes--'after life's fitful fever they sleep well,'" I muttered.
"Where are you going now, Mrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.
"On to the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?" I
followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence
by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall. I was
now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests.
Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the
grounds laid out like a map: the bright and velvet lawn closely
girdling the grey base of the mansion; the field, wide as a park,
dotted with its ancient timber; the wood, dun and sere, divided by a
path visibly overgrown, greener with moss than the trees were with
foliage; the church at the gates, the road, the tranquil hills, all
reposing in the autumn day's sun; the horizon bounded by a
propitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly white. No feature in the
scene was extraordinary, but all was pleasing. When I turned from
it and repassed the trap-door, I could scarcely see my way down the
ladder; the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that arch of
blue air to which I had been looking up, and to that sunlit scene of
grove, pasture, and green hill, of which the hall was the centre,
and over which I had been gazing with delight.
Mrs. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by
drift of groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded to
descend the narrow garret staircase. I lingered in the long passage
to which this led, separating the front and back rooms of the third
storey: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window at the
far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all
shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle.
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so
still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh;
distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for
an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct,
it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to
wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated but in
one, and I could have pointed out the door whence the accents
"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her descending the
great stairs. "Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?"
"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace
"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.
"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.
Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."
The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated in
an odd murmur.
"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.
I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as
tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but that
it was high noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness
accompanied the curious cachinnation; but that neither scene nor
season favoured fear, I should have been superstitiously afraid.
However, the event showed me I was a fool for entertaining a sense
even of surprise.
The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out,--a woman of
between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and
with a hard, plain face: any apparition less romantic or less
ghostly could scarcely be conceived.
"Too much noise, Grace," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Remember directions!"
Grace curtseyed silently and went in.
"She is a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid's
work," continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in some
points, but she does well enough. By-the-bye, how have you got on
with your new pupil this morning?"
The conversation, thus turned on Adele, continued till we reached
the light and cheerful region below. Adele came running to meet us
in the hall, exclaiming -
"Mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"
We found dinner ready, and waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.
The promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction to
Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer
acquaintance with the place and its inmates. Mrs. Fairfax turned
out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured woman,
of competent education and average intelligence. My pupil was a
lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was
sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care, and
no injudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my plans
for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and became
obedient and teachable. She had no great talents, no marked traits
of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste which
raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but
neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it. She
made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though
perhaps not very profound, affection; and by her simplicity, gay
prattle, and efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with a
degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each
other's society.
This, par parenthese, will be thought cool language by persons who
entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children, and
the duty of those charged with their education to conceive for them
an idolatrous devotion: but I am not writing to flatter parental
egotism, to echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the
truth. I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's welfare and
progress, and a quiet liking for her little self: just as I
cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness, and
a pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard she
had for me, and the moderation of her mind and character.
Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and
then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down
to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while
Adele played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the
storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of
the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over
sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line--that then I
longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which
might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard
of but never seen--that then I desired more of practical experience
than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance
with variety of character, than was here within my reach. I valued
what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adele; but I
believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness,
and what I believed in I wished to behold.
Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.
I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated
me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the
corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the
silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell
on whatever bright visions rose before it--and, certainly, they were
many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant
movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with
life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was
never ended--a tale my imagination created, and narrated
continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling,
that I desired and had not in my actual existence.
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with
tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they
cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine,
and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows
how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the
masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very
calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise
for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their
brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a
stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded
in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to
confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to
playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to
condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn
more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh: the
same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had
thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her
laugh. There were days when she was quite silent; but there were
others when I could not account for the sounds she made. Sometimes
I saw her: she would come out of her room with a basin, or a plate,
or a tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return,
generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain
truth!) bearing a pot of porter. Her appearance always acted as a
damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities: hard-featured
and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach. I made
some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she seemed a person
of few words: a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effort
of that sort.
The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah
the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but
in no respect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk French, and
sometimes I asked her questions about her native country; but she
was not of a descriptive or narrative turn, and generally gave such
vapid and confused answers as were calculated rather to check than
encourage inquiry.
October, November, December passed away. One afternoon in January,
Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adele, because she had a cold;
and, as Adele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me
how precious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhood,
I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on the
point. It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of
sitting still in the library through a whole long morning: Mrs.
Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting to be posted, so
I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; the
distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.
Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs.
Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I
usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with,
and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her
"Revenez bientot, ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeannette," with a
kiss I set out.
The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I walked
fast till I got warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and analyse
the species of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and situation.
It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under the
belfry: the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in
the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun. I was a mile from Thornfield,
in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts and blackberries
in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips and
haws, but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and
leafless repose. If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here;
for there was not a holly, not an evergreen to rustle, and the
stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as the white, worn
stones which causewayed the middle of the path. Far and wide, on
each side, there were only fields, where no cattle now browsed; and
the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally in the hedge,
looked like single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.
This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached the
middle, I sat down on a stile which led thence into a field.
Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff, I
did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested by a
sheet of ice covering the causeway, where a little brooklet, now
congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since. From
my seat I could look down on Thornfield: the grey and battlemented
hall was the principal object in the vale below me; its woods and
dark rookery rose against the west. I lingered till the sun went
down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I
then turned eastward.
On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud,
but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost
in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a
mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin
murmurs of life. My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in what
dales and depths I could not tell: but there were many hills beyond
Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their passes. That evening
calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the sough of
the most remote.
A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once
so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic
clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture,
the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn
in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance of
azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds where tint melts into
The din was on the causeway: a horse was coming; the windings of
the lane yet hid it, but it approached. I was just leaving the
stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go by. In
those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark
tenanted my mind: the memories of nursery stories were there
amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added
to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give. As
this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the
dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a
North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of
horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came
upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.
It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the
tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the
hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made
him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of
Bessie's Gytrash--a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge
head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to look
up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected
it would. The horse followed,--a tall steed, and on its back a
rider. The man, the human being, broke the spell at once. Nothing
ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone; and goblins, to my
notions, though they might tenant the dumb carcasses of beasts,
could scarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form. No
Gytrash was this,--only a traveller taking the short cut to
Millcote. He passed, and I went on; a few steps, and I turned: a
sliding sound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"
and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention. Man and horse were
down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the
causeway. The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a
predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening
hills echoed the sound, which was deep in proportion to his
magnitude. He snuffed round the prostrate group, and then he ran up
to me; it was all he could do,--there was no other help at hand to
summon. I obeyed him, and walked down to the traveller, by this
time struggling himself free of his steed. His efforts were so
vigorous, I thought he could not be much hurt; but I asked him the
question -
"Are you injured, sir?"
I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was
pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me
"Can I do anything?" I asked again.
"You must just stand on one side," he answered as he rose, first to
his knees, and then to his feet. I did; whereupon began a heaving,
stamping, clattering process, accompanied by a barking and baying
which removed me effectually some yards' distance; but I would not
be driven quite away till I saw the event. This was finally
fortunate; the horse was re-established, and the dog was silenced
with a "Down, Pilot!" The traveller now, stooping, felt his foot
and leg, as if trying whether they were sound; apparently something
ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen, and
sat down.
I was in the mood for being useful, or at least officious, I think,
for I now drew near him again.
"If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch some one either
from Thornfield Hall or from Hay."
"Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones,--only a sprain;"
and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an
involuntary "Ugh!"
Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing
bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a
riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not
apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and
considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern
features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked
ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached
middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of him,
and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking
young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning
him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had
hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.
I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance,
gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in
masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither
had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have
shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is
bright but antipathetic.
If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when I
addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and
with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation
to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveller,
set me at my ease: I retained my station when he waved to me to go,
and announced -
"I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this
solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse."
He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in
my direction before.
"I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if you
have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?"
"From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when
it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if
you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter."
"You live just below--do you mean at that house with the
battlements?" pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a
hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that,
by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
"Yes, sir."
"Whose house is it?"
"Mr. Rochester's."
"Do you know Mr. Rochester?"
"No, I have never seen him."
"He is not resident, then?"
"Can you tell me where he is?"
"I cannot."
"You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are--" He
stopped, ran his eye over my dress, which, as usual, was quite
simple: a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither of
them half fine enough for a lady's-maid. He seemed puzzled to
decide what I was; I helped him.
"I am the governess."
"Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not
forgotten! The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.
In two minutes he rose from the stile: his face expressed pain when
he tried to move.
"I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help
me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."
"Yes, sir."
"You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"
"Try to get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me: you are
not afraid?"
I should have been afraid to touch a horse when alone, but when told
to do it, I was disposed to obey. I put down my muff on the stile,
and went up to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the bridle,
but it was a spirited thing, and would not let me come near its
head; I made effort on effort, though in vain: meantime, I was
mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet. The traveller waited
and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.
"I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so
all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg
of you to come here."
I came. "Excuse me," he continued: "necessity compels me to make
you useful." He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on me
with some stress, limped to his horse. Having once caught the
bridle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacing
grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.
"Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just hand
me my whip; it lies there under the hedge."
I sought it and found it.
"Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as
fast as you can."
A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and
then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished,
"Like heath that, in the wilderness,
The wild wind whirls away."
I took up my muff and walked on. The incident had occurred and was
gone for me: it WAS an incident of no moment, no romance, no
interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a
monotonous life. My help had been needed and claimed; I had given
it: I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory
though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of
an existence all passive. The new face, too, was like a new picture
introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to all
the others hanging there: firstly, because it was masculine; and,
secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern. I had it still
before me when I entered Hay, and slipped the letter into the postoffice;
I saw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way home. When
I came to the stile, I stopped a minute, looked round and listened,
with an idea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the causeway again,
and that a rider in a cloak, and a Gytrash-like Newfoundland dog,
might be again apparent: I saw only the hedge and a pollard willow
before me, rising up still and straight to meet the moonbeams; I
heard only the faintest waft of wind roaming fitful among the trees
round Thornfield, a mile distant; and when I glanced down in the
direction of the murmur, my eye, traversing the hall-front, caught a
light kindling in a window: it reminded me that I was late, and I
hurried on.
I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was to
return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the
darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to
meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with
her, and her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened
by my walk,--to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of
an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very
privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of
appreciating. What good it would have done me at that time to have
been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to
have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calm
amidst which I now repined! Yes, just as much good as it would do a
man tired of sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take a long
walk: and just as natural was the wish to stir, under my
circumstances, as it would be under his.
I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards
and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were
closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and
spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house--from the grey-hollow
filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me--to that sky
expanded before me,--a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the
moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she
left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther
below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its
fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling
stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins
glow when I viewed them. Little things recall us to earth; the
clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and
stars, opened a side-door, and went in.
The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung
bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the
oak staircase. This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-room,
whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial fire in the
grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons, and revealing
purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most pleasant
radiance. It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece: I had
scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful mingling
of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adele,
when the door closed.
I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there too, but
no candle, and no Mrs. Fairfax. Instead, all alone, sitting upright
on the rug, and gazing with gravity at the blaze, I beheld a great
black and white long-haired dog, just like the Gytrash of the lane.
It was so like it that I went forward and said--"Pilot" and the
thing got up and came to me and snuffed me. I caressed him, and he
wagged his great tail; but he looked an eerie creature to be alone
with, and I could not tell whence he had come. I rang the bell, for
I wanted a candle; and I wanted, too, to get an account of this
visitant. Leah entered.
"What dog is this?"
"He came with master."
"With whom?"
"With master--Mr. Rochester--he is just arrived."
"Indeed! and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"
"Yes, and Miss Adele; they are in the dining-room, and John is gone
for a surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and
his ankle is sprained."
"Did the horse fall in Hay Lane?"
"Yes, coming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."
"Ah! Bring me a candle will you Leah?"
Leah brought it; she entered, followed by Mrs. Fairfax, who repeated
the news; adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was come, and was now
with Mr. Rochester: then she hurried out to give orders about tea,
and I went upstairs to take off my things.
Mr. Rochester, it seems, by the surgeon's orders, went to bed early
that night; nor did he rise soon next morning. When he did come
down, it was to attend to business: his agent and some of his
tenants were arrived, and waiting to speak with him.
Adele and I had now to vacate the library: it would be in daily
requisition as a reception-room for callers. A fire was lit in an
apartment upstairs, and there I carried our books, and arranged it
for the future schoolroom. I discerned in the course of the morning
that Thornfield Hall was a changed place: no longer silent as a
church, it echoed every hour or two to a knock at the door, or a
clang of the bell; steps, too, often traversed the hall, and new
voices spoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer world
was flowing through it; it had a master: for my part, I liked it
Adele was not easy to teach that day; she could not apply: she kept
running to the door and looking over the banisters to see if she
could get a glimpse of Mr. Rochester; then she coined pretexts to go
downstairs, in order, as I shrewdly suspected, to visit the library,
where I knew she was not wanted; then, when I got a little angry,
and made her sit still, she continued to talk incessantly of her
"ami, Monsieur Edouard Fairfax DE Rochester," as she dubbed him (I
had not before heard his prenomens), and to conjecture what presents
he had brought her: for it appears he had intimated the night
before, that when his luggage came from Millcote, there would be
found amongst it a little box in whose contents she had an interest.
"Et cela doit signifier," said she, "qu'il y aura le dedans un
cadeau pour moi, et peut-etre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle.
Monsieur a parle de vous: il m'a demande le nom de ma gouvernante,
et si elle n'etait pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu
pale. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas,
I and my pupil dined as usual in Mrs. Fairfax's parlour; the
afternoon was wild and snowy, and we passed it in the schoolroom.
At dark I allowed Adele to put away books and work, and to run
downstairs; for, from the comparative silence below, and from the
cessation of appeals to the door-bell, I conjectured that Mr.
Rochester was now at liberty. Left alone, I walked to the window;
but nothing was to be seen thence: twilight and snowflakes together
thickened the air, and hid the very shrubs on the lawn. I let down
the curtain and went back to the fireside.
In the clear embers I was tracing a view, not unlike a picture I
remembered to have seen of the castle of Heidelberg, on the Rhine,
when Mrs. Fairfax came in, breaking up by her entrance the fiery
mosaic I had been piercing together, and scattering too some heavy
unwelcome thoughts that were beginning to throng on my solitude.
"Mr. Rochester would be glad if you and your pupil would take tea
with him in the drawing-room this evening," said she: "he has been
so much engaged all day that he could not ask to see you before."
"When is his tea-time?" I inquired.
"Oh, at six o'clock: he keeps early hours in the country. You had
better change your frock now; I will go with you and fasten it.
Here is a candle."
"Is it necessary to change my frock?"
"Yes, you had better: I always dress for the evening when Mr.
Rochester is here."
This additional ceremony seemed somewhat stately; however, I
repaired to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax's aid, replaced my black
stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional
one I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of
the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate
"You want a brooch," said Mrs. Fairfax. I had a single little pearl
ornament which Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake: I put it
on, and then we went downstairs. Unused as I was to strangers, it
was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned in Mr.
Rochester's presence. I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into the
dining-room, and kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment;
and, passing the arch, whose curtain was now dropped, entered the
elegant recess beyond.
Two wax candles stood lighted on the table, and two on the
mantelpiece; basking in the light and heat of a superb fire, lay
Pilot--Adele knelt near him. Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr.
Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at
Adele and the dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my
traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead,
made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I
recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than
beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim
mouth, chin, and jaw--yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake.
His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in
squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in
the athletic sense of the term--broad chested and thin flanked,
though neither tall nor graceful.
Mr. Rochester must have been aware of the entrance of Mrs. Fairfax
and myself; but it appeared he was not in the mood to notice us, for
he never lifted his head as we approached.
"Here is Miss Eyre, sir," said Mrs. Fairfax, in her quiet way. He
bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and
"Let Miss Eyre be seated," said he: and there was something in the
forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed
further to express, "What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be
there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her."
I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness
would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or
repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh
caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent
quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.
Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt
interested to see how he would go on.
He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved.
Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be
amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual--and, as usual,
rather trite--she condoled with him on the pressure of business he
had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with that
painful sprain: then she commended his patience and perseverance in
going through with it.
"Madam, I should like some tea," was the sole rejoinder she got.
She hastened to ring the bell; and when the tray came, she proceeded
to arrange the cups, spoons, &c., with assiduous celerity. I and
Adele went to the table; but the master did not leave his couch.
"Will you hand Mr. Rochester's cup?" said Mrs. Fairfax to me; "Adele
might perhaps spill it."
I did as requested. As he took the cup from my hand, Adele,
thinking the moment propitious for making a request in my favour,
cried out -
"N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre
dans votre petit coffre?"
"Who talks of cadeaux?" said he gruffly. "Did you expect a present,
Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?" and he searched my face with
eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.
"I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are
generally thought pleasant things."
"Generally thought? But what do YOU think?"
"I should be obliged to take time, sir, before I could give you an
answer worthy of your acceptance: a present has many faces to it,
has it not? and one should consider all, before pronouncing an
opinion as to its nature."
"Miss Eyre, you are not so unsophisticated as Adele: she demands a
'cadeau,' clamorously, the moment she sees me: you beat about the
"Because I have less confidence in my deserts than Adele has: she
can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and the right too of
custom; for she says you have always been in the habit of giving her
playthings; but if I had to make out a case I should be puzzled,
since I am a stranger, and have done nothing to entitle me to an
"Oh, don't fall back on over-modesty! I have examined Adele, and
find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she
has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement."
"Sir, you have now given me my 'cadeau;' I am obliged to you: it is
the meed teachers most covet--praise of their pupils' progress."
"Humph!" said Mr. Rochester, and he took his tea in silence.
"Come to the fire," said the master, when the tray was taken away,
and Mrs. Fairfax had settled into a corner with her knitting; while
Adele was leading me by the hand round the room, showing me the
beautiful books and ornaments on the consoles and chiffonnieres. We
obeyed, as in duty bound; Adele wanted to take a seat on my knee,
but she was ordered to amuse herself with Pilot.
"You have been resident in my house three months?"
"Yes, sir."
"And you came from--?"
"From Lowood school, in -shire."
"Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?"
"Eight years."
"Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the
time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder
you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you
had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last
night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind
to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.
Who are your parents?"
"I have none."
"Nor ever had, I suppose: do you remember them?"
"I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you
sat on that stile?"
"For whom, sir?"
"For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them.
Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned
ice on the causeway?"
I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred
years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not
even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of
them. I don't think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will
ever shine on their revels more."
Mrs. Fairfax had dropped her knitting, and, with raised eyebrows,
seemed wondering what sort of talk this was.
"Well," resumed Mr. Rochester, "if you disown parents, you must have
some sort of kinsfolk: uncles and aunts?"
"No; none that I ever saw."
"And your home?"
"I have none."
"Where do your brothers and sisters live?"
"I have no brothers or sisters."
"Who recommended you to come here?"
"I advertised, and Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement."
"Yes," said the good lady, who now knew what ground we were upon,
"and I am daily thankful for the choice Providence led me to make.
Miss Eyre has been an invaluable companion to me, and a kind and
careful teacher to Adele."
"Don't trouble yourself to give her a character," returned Mr.
Rochester: "eulogiums will not bias me; I shall judge for myself.
She began by felling my horse."
"Sir?" said Mrs. Fairfax.
"I have to thank her for this sprain."
The widow looked bewildered.
"Miss Eyre, have you ever lived in a town?"
"No, sir."
"Have you seen much society?"
"None but the pupils and teachers of Lowood, and now the inmates of
"Have you read much?"
"Only such books as came in my way; and they have not been numerous
or very learned."
"You have lived the life of a nun: no doubt you are well drilled in
religious forms;--Brocklehurst, who I understand directs Lowood, is
a parson, is he not?"
"Yes, sir."
"And you girls probably worshipped him, as a convent full of
religieuses would worship their director."
"Oh, no."
"You are very cool! No! What! a novice not worship her priest!
That sounds blasphemous."
"I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling.
He is a harsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off our
hair; and for economy's sake bought us bad needles and thread, with
which we could hardly sew."
"That was very false economy," remarked Mrs. Fairfax, who now again
caught the drift of the dialogue.
"And was that the head and front of his offending?" demanded Mr.
"He starved us when he had the sole superintendence of the provision
department, before the committee was appointed; and he bored us with
long lectures once a week, and with evening readings from books of
his own inditing, about sudden deaths and judgments, which made us
afraid to go to bed."
"What age were you when you went to Lowood?"
"About ten."
"And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?"
I assented.
"Arithmetic, you see, is useful; without its aid, I should hardly
have been able to guess your age. It is a point difficult to fix
where the features and countenance are so much at variance as in
your case. And now what did you learn at Lowood? Can you play?"
"A little."
"Of course: that is the established answer. Go into the library--I
mean, if you please.--(Excuse my tone of command; I am used to say,
'Do this,' and it is done: I cannot alter my customary habits for
one new inmate.)--Go, then, into the library; take a candle with
you; leave the door open; sit down to the piano, and play a tune."
I departed, obeying his directions.
"Enough!" he called out in a few minutes. "You play A LITTLE, I
see; like any other English school-girl; perhaps rather better than
some, but not well."
I closed the piano and returned. Mr. Rochester continued--"Adele
showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours. I
don't know whether they were entirely of your doing; probably a
master aided you?"
"No, indeed!" I interjected.
"Ah! that pricks pride. Well, fetch me your portfolio, if you can
vouch for its contents being original; but don't pass your word
unless you are certain: I can recognise patchwork."
"Then I will say nothing, and you shall judge for yourself, sir."
I brought the portfolio from the library.
"Approach the table," said he; and I wheeled it to his couch. Adele
and Mrs. Fairfax drew near to see the pictures.
"No crowding," said Mr. Rochester: "take the drawings from my hand
as I finish with them; but don't push your faces up to mine."
He deliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting. Three he laid
aside; the others, when he had examined them, he swept from him.
"Take them off to the other table, Mrs. Fairfax," said he, and look
at them with Adele;--you" (glancing at me) "resume your seat, and
answer my questions. I perceive those pictures were done by one
hand: was that hand yours?"
"And when did you find time to do them? They have taken much time,
and some thought."
"I did them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowood, when I had
no other occupation."
"Where did you get your copies?"
"Out of my head."
"That head I see now on your shoulders?"
"Yes, sir."
"Has it other furniture of the same kind within?"
"I should think it may have: I should hope--better."
He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them
While he is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what they are:
and first, I must premise that they are nothing wonderful. The
subjects had, indeed, risen vividly on my mind. As I saw them with
the spiritual eye, before I attempted to embody them, they were
striking; but my hand would not second my fancy, and in each case it
had wrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.
These pictures were in water-colours. The first represented clouds
low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea: all the distance was in
eclipse; so, too, was the foreground; or rather, the nearest
billows, for there was no land. One gleam of light lifted into
relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and
large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet
set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my
palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil
could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse
glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb
clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn.
The second picture contained for foreground only the dim peak of a
hill, with grass and some leaves slanting as if by a breeze. Beyond
and above spread an expanse of sky, dark blue as at twilight:
rising into the sky was a woman's shape to the bust, portrayed in
tints as dusk and soft as I could combine. The dim forehead was
crowned with a star; the lineaments below were seen as through the
suffusion of vapour; the eyes shone dark and wild; the hair streamed
shadowy, like a beamless cloud torn by storm or by electric travail.
On the neck lay a pale reflection like moonlight; the same faint
lustre touched the train of thin clouds from which rose and bowed
this vision of the Evening Star.
The third showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter
sky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lances, close
serried, along the horizon. Throwing these into distance, rose, in
the foreground, a head,--a colossal head, inclined towards the
iceberg, and resting against it. Two thin hands, joined under the
forehead, and supporting it, drew up before the lower features a
sable veil, a brow quite bloodless, white as bone, and an eye
hollow and fixed, blank of meaning but for the glassiness of
despair, alone were visible. Above the temples, amidst wreathed
turban folds of black drapery, vague in its character and
consistency as cloud, gleamed a ring of white flame, gemmed with
sparkles of a more lurid tinge. This pale crescent was "the
likeness of a kingly crown;" what it diademed was "the shape which
shape had none."
"Were you happy when you painted these pictures?" asked Mr.
Rochester presently.
"I was absorbed, sir: yes, and I was happy. To paint them, in
short, was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known."
"That is not saying much. Your pleasures, by your own account, have
been few; but I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist's
dreamland while you blent and arranged these strange tints. Did you
sit at them long each day?"
"I had nothing else to do, because it was the vacation, and I sat at
them from morning till noon, and from noon till night: the length
of the midsummer days favoured my inclination to apply."
"And you felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardent
"Far from it. I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and
my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was
quite powerless to realise."
"Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no
more, probably. You had not enough of the artist's skill and
science to give it full being: yet the drawings are, for a schoolgirl,
peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish. These eyes in
the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make
them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet
above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn
depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in
that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that
is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!"
I had scarce tied the strings of the portfolio, when, looking at his
watch, he said abruptly -
"It is nine o'clock: what are you about, Miss Eyre, to let Adele
sit up so long? Take her to bed."
Adele went to kiss him before quitting the room: he endured the
caress, but scarcely seemed to relish it more than Pilot would have
done, nor so much.
"I wish you all good-night, now," said he, making a movement of the
hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company,
and wished to dismiss us. Mrs. Fairfax folded up her knitting: I
took my portfolio: we curtseyed to him, received a frigid bow in
return, and so withdrew.
"You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,"
I observed, when I rejoined her in her room, after putting Adele to
"Well, is he?"
"I think so: he is very changeful and abrupt."
"True: no doubt he may appear so to a stranger, but I am so
accustomed to his manner, I never think of it; and then, if he has
peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made."
"Partly because it is his nature--and we can none of us help our
nature; and partly because he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to
harass him, and make his spirits unequal."
"What about?"
"Family troubles, for one thing."
"But he has no family."
"Not now, but he has had--or, at least, relatives. He lost his
elder brother a few years since."
"His ELDER brother?"
"Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long in
possession of the property; only about nine years."
"Nine years is a tolerable time. Was he so very fond of his brother
as to be still inconsolable for his loss?"
"Why, no--perhaps not. I believe there were some misunderstandings
between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr.
Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old
gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate
together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and
yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep
up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some
steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of
mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined to bring Mr.
Edward into what he considered a painful position, for the sake of
making his fortune: what the precise nature of that position was I
never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook what he had to
suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke with his family,
and now for many years he has led an unsettled kind of life. I
don't think he has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnight
together, since the death of his brother without a will left him
master of the estate; and, indeed, no wonder he shuns the old
"Why should he shun it?"
"Perhaps he thinks it gloomy."
The answer was evasive. I should have liked something clearer; but
Mrs. Fairfax either could not, or would not, give me more explicit
information of the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester's trials. She
averred they were a mystery to herself, and that what she knew was
chiefly from conjecture. It was evident, indeed, that she wished me
to drop the subject, which I did accordingly.
For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester. In the
mornings he seemed much engaged with business, and, in the
afternoon, gentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood called, and
sometimes stayed to dine with him. When his sprain was well enough
to admit of horse exercise, he rode out a good deal; probably to
return these visits, as he generally did not come back till late at
During this interval, even Adele was seldom sent for to his
presence, and all my acquaintance with him was confined to an
occasional rencontre in the hall, on the stairs, or in the gallery,
when he would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, just
acknowledging my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and
sometimes bow and smile with gentlemanlike affability. His changes
of mood did not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do
with their alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite
disconnected with me.
One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio;
in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents: the gentlemen went
away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs. Fairfax
informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr. Rochester
did not accompany them. Soon after they were gone he rang the bell:
a message came that I and Adele were to go downstairs. I brushed
Adele's hair and made her neat, and having ascertained that I was
myself in my usual Quaker trim, where there was nothing to retouch--
all being too close and plain, braided locks included, to admit of
disarrangement--we descended, Adele wondering whether the petit
coffre was at length come; for, owing to some mistake, its arrival
had hitherto been delayed. She was gratified: there it stood, a
little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room. She
appeared to know it by instinct.
"Ma boite! ma boite!" exclaimed she, running towards it.
"Yes, there is your 'boite' at last: take it into a corner, you
genuine daughter of Paris, and amuse yourself with disembowelling
it," said the deep and rather sarcastic voice of Mr. Rochester,
proceeding from the depths of an immense easy-chair at the fireside.
"And mind," he continued, "don't bother me with any details of the
anatomical process, or any notice of the condition of the entrails:
let your operation be conducted in silence: tiens-toi tranquille,
enfant; comprends-tu?"
Adele seemed scarcely to need the warning--she had already retired
to a sofa with her treasure, and was busy untying the cord which
secured the lid. Having removed this impediment, and lifted certain
silvery envelopes of tissue paper, she merely exclaimed -
"Oh ciel! Que c'est beau!" and then remained absorbed in ecstatic
"Is Miss Eyre there?" now demanded the master, half rising from his
seat to look round to the door, near which I still stood.
"Ah! well, come forward; be seated here." He drew a chair near his
own. "I am not fond of the prattle of children," he continued;
"for, old bachelor as I am, I have no pleasant associations
connected with their lisp. It would be intolerable to me to pass a
whole evening tete-e-tete with a brat. Don't draw that chair
farther off, Miss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it--if you
please, that is. Confound these civilities! I continually forget
them. Nor do I particularly affect simple-minded old ladies. Bythe-
bye, I must have mine in mind; it won't do to neglect her; she
is a Fairfax, or wed to one; and blood is said to be thicker than
He rang, and despatched an invitation to Mrs. Fairfax, who soon
arrived, knitting-basket in hand.
"Good evening, madam; I sent to you for a charitable purpose. I
have forbidden Adele to talk to me about her presents, and she is
bursting with repletion: have the goodness to serve her as
auditress and interlocutrice; it will be one of the most benevolent
acts you ever performed."
Adele, indeed, no sooner saw Mrs. Fairfax, than she summoned her to
her sofa, and there quickly filled her lap with the porcelain, the
ivory, the waxen contents of her "boite;" pouring out, meantime,
explanations and raptures in such broken English as she was mistress
"Now I have performed the part of a good host," pursued Mr.
Rochester, "put my guests into the way of amusing each other, I
ought to be at liberty to attend to my own pleasure. Miss Eyre,
draw your chair still a little farther forward: you are yet too far
back; I cannot see you without disturbing my position in this
comfortable chair, which I have no mind to do."
I did as I was bid, though I would much rather have remained
somewhat in the shade; but Mr. Rochester had such a direct way of
giving orders, it seemed a matter of course to obey him promptly.
We were, as I have said, in the dining-room: the lustre, which had
been lit for dinner, filled the room with a festal breadth of light;
the large fire was all red and clear; the purple curtains hung rich
and ample before the lofty window and loftier arch; everything was
still, save the subdued chat of Adele (she dared not speak loud),
and, filling up each pause, the beating of winter rain against the
Mr. Rochester, as he sat in his damask-covered chair, looked
different to what I had seen him look before; not quite so stern--
much less gloomy. There was a smile on his lips, and his eyes
sparkled, whether with wine or not, I am not sure; but I think it
very probable. He was, in short, in his after-dinner mood; more
expanded and genial, and also more self-indulgent than the frigid
and rigid temper of the morning; still he looked preciously grim,
cushioning his massive head against the swelling back of his chair,
and receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn features,
and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes, and very
fine eyes, too--not without a certain change in their depths
sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of
that feeling.
He had been looking two minutes at the fire, and I had been looking
the same length of time at him, when, turning suddenly, he caught my
gaze fastened on his physiognomy.
"You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he: "do you think me handsome?"
I should, if I had deliberated, have replied to this question by
something conventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehow
slipped from my tongue before I was aware--"No, sir."
"Ah! By my word! there is something singular about you," said he:
"you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and
simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes
generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-bye, when they are
directed piercingly to my face; as just now, for instance); and when
one asks you a question, or makes a remark to which you are obliged
to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at
least brusque. What do you mean by it?"
"Sir, I was too plain; I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied
that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about
appearances; that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of little
consequence, or something of that sort."
"You ought to have replied no such thing. Beauty of little
consequence, indeed! And so, under pretence of softening the
previous outrage, of stroking and soothing me into placidity, you
stick a sly penknife under my ear! Go on: what fault do you find
with me, pray? I suppose I have all my limbs and all my features
like any other man?"
"Mr. Rochester, allow me to disown my first answer: I intended no
pointed repartee: it was only a blunder."
"Just so: I think so: and you shall be answerable for it.
Criticise me: does my forehead not please you?"
He lifted up the sable waves of hair which lay horizontally over his
brow, and showed a solid enough mass of intellectual organs, but an
abrupt deficiency where the suave sign of benevolence should have
"Now, ma'am, am I a fool?"
"Far from it, sir. You would, perhaps, think me rude if I inquired
in return whether you are a philanthropist?"
"There again! Another stick of the penknife, when she pretended to
pat my head: and that is because I said I did not like the society
of children and old women (low be it spoken!). No, young lady, I am
not a general philanthropist; but I bear a conscience;" and he
pointed to the prominences which are said to indicate that faculty,
and which, fortunately for him, were sufficiently conspicuous;
giving, indeed, a marked breadth to the upper part of his head:
"and, besides, I once had a kind of rude tenderness of heart. When
I was as old as you, I was a feeling fellow enough, partial to the
unfledged, unfostered, and unlucky; but Fortune has knocked me about
since: she has even kneaded me with her knuckles, and now I flatter
myself I am hard and tough as an India-rubber ball; pervious,
though, through a chink or two still, and with one sentient point in
the middle of the lump. Yes: does that leave hope for me?"
"Hope of what, sir?"
"Of my final re-transformation from India-rubber back to flesh?"
"Decidedly he has had too much wine," I thought; and I did not know
what answer to make to his queer question: how could I tell whether
he was capable of being re-transformed?
"You looked very much puzzled, Miss Eyre; and though you are not
pretty any more than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you;
besides, it is convenient, for it keeps those searching eyes of
yours away from my physiognomy, and busies them with the worsted
flowers of the rug; so puzzle on. Young lady, I am disposed to be
gregarious and communicative to-night."
With this announcement he rose from his chair, and stood, leaning
his arm on the marble mantelpiece: in that attitude his shape was
seen plainly as well as his face; his unusual breadth of chest,
disproportionate almost to his length of limb. I am sure most
people would have thought him an ugly man; yet there was so much
unconscious pride in his port; so much ease in his demeanour; such a
look of complete indifference to his own external appearance; so
haughty a reliance on the power of other qualities, intrinsic or
adventitious, to atone for the lack of mere personal attractiveness,
that, in looking at him, one inevitably shared the indifference,
and, even in a blind, imperfect sense, put faith in the confidence.
"I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative to-night," he
repeated, "and that is why I sent for you: the fire and the
chandelier were not sufficient company for me; nor would Pilot have
been, for none of these can talk. Adele is a degree better, but
still far below the mark; Mrs. Fairfax ditto; you, I am persuaded,
can suit me if you will: you puzzled me the first evening I invited
you down here. I have almost forgotten you since: other ideas have
driven yours from my head; but to-night I am resolved to be at ease;
to dismiss what importunes, and recall what pleases. It would
please me now to draw you out--to learn more of you--therefore
Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complacent or
submissive smile either.
"Speak," he urged.
"What about, sir?"
"Whatever you like. I leave both the choice of subject and the
manner of treating it entirely to yourself."
Accordingly I sat and said nothing: "If he expects me to talk for
the mere sake of talking and showing off, he will find he has
addressed himself to the wrong person," I thought.
"You are dumb, Miss Eyre."
I was dumb still. He bent his head a little towards me, and with a
single hasty glance seemed to dive into my eyes.
"Stubborn?" he said, "and annoyed. Ah! it is consistent. I put my
request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your
pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don't wish to treat you like
an inferior: that is" (correcting himself), "I claim only such
superiority as must result from twenty years' difference in age and
a century's advance in experience. This is legitimate, et j'y
tiens, as Adele would say; and it is by virtue of this superiority,
and this alone, that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me
a little now, and divert my thoughts, which are galled with dwelling
on one point--cankering as a rusty nail."
He had deigned an explanation, almost an apology, and I did not feel
insensible to his condescension, and would not seem so.
"I am willing to amuse you, if I can, sir--quite willing; but I
cannot introduce a topic, because how do I know what will interest
you? Ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them."
"Then, in the first place, do you agree with me that I have a right
to be a little masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on
the grounds I stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your
father, and that I have battled through a varied experience with
many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you
have lived quietly with one set of people in one house?"
"Do as you please, sir."
"That is no answer; or rather it is a very irritating, because a
very evasive one. Reply clearly."
"I don't think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because
you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world
than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have
made of your time and experience."
"Humph! Promptly spoken. But I won't allow that, seeing that it
would never suit my case, as I have made an indifferent, not to say
a bad, use of both advantages. Leaving superiority out of the
question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and
then, without being piqued or hurt by the tone of command. Will
I smiled: I thought to myself Mr. Rochester IS peculiar--he seems
to forget that he pays me 30 pounds per annum for receiving his
"The smile is very well," said he, catching instantly the passing
expression; "but speak too."
"I was thinking, sir, that very few masters would trouble themselves
to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were piqued and
hurt by their orders."
"Paid subordinates! What! you are my paid subordinate, are you? Oh
yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well then, on that mercenary
ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?"
"No, sir, not on that ground; but, on the ground that you did forget
it, and that you care whether or not a dependent is comfortable in
his dependency, I agree heartily."
"And will you consent to dispense with a great many conventional
forms and phrases, without thinking that the omission arises from
"I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence:
one I rather like, the other nothing free-born would submit to, even
for a salary."
"Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for a
salary; therefore, keep to yourself, and don't venture on
generalities of which you are intensely ignorant. However, I
mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its
inaccuracy; and as much for the manner in which it was said, as for
the substance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; one
does not often see such a manner: no, on the contrary, affectation,
or coldness, or stupid, coarse-minded misapprehension of one's
meaning are the usual rewards of candour. Not three in three
thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you
have just done. But I don't mean to flatter you: if you are cast
in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours:
Nature did it. And then, after all, I go too fast in my
conclusions: for what I yet know, you may be no better than the
rest; you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few
good points."
"And so may you," I thought. My eye met his as the idea crossed my
mind: he seemed to read the glance, answering as if its import had
been spoken as well as imagined -
"Yes, yes, you are right," said he; "I have plenty of faults of my
own: I know it, and I don't wish to palliate them, I assure you.
God wot I need not be too severe about others; I have a past
existence, a series of deeds, a colour of life to contemplate within
my own breast, which might well call my sneers and censures from my
neighbours to myself. I started, or rather (for like other
defaulters, I like to lay half the blame on ill fortune and adverse
circumstances) was thrust on to a wrong tack at the age of one-andtwenty,
and have never recovered the right course since: but I
might have been very different; I might have been as good as you--
wiser--almost as stainless. I envy you your peace of mind, your
clean conscience, your unpolluted memory. Little girl, a memory
without blot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure--an
inexhaustible source of pure refreshment: is it not?"
"How was your memory when you were eighteen, sir?"
"All right then; limpid, salubrious: no gush of bilge water had
turned it to fetid puddle. I was your equal at eighteen--quite your
equal. Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre;
one of the better kind, and you see I am not so. You would say you
don't see it; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye
(beware, by-the-bye, what you express with that organ; I am quick at
interpreting its language). Then take my word for it,--I am not a
villain: you are not to suppose that--not to attribute to me any
such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to
circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite commonplace
sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the
rich and worthless try to put on life. Do you wonder that I avow
this to you? Know, that in the course of your future life you will
often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your
acquaintances' secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I
have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to
listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that
you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with
a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging
because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations."
"How do you know?--how can you guess all this, sir?"
"I know it well; therefore I proceed almost as freely as if I were
writing my thoughts in a diary. You would say, I should have been
superior to circumstances; so I should--so I should; but you see I
was not. When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool:
I turned desperate; then I degenerated. Now, when any vicious
simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot
flatter myself that I am better than he: I am forced to confess
that he and I are on a level. I wish I had stood firm--God knows I
do! Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse
is the poison of life."
"Repentance is said to be its cure, sir."
"It is not its cure. Reformation may be its cure; and I could
reform--I have strength yet for that--if--but where is the use of
thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am? Besides, since
happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure
out of life: and I WILL get it, cost what it may."
"Then you will degenerate still more, sir."
"Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure?
And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee
gathers on the moor."
"It will sting--it will taste bitter, sir."
"How do you know?--you never tried it. How very serious--how very
solemn you look: and you are as ignorant of the matter as this
cameo head" (taking one from the mantelpiece). "You have no right
to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of
life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries."
"I only remind you of your own words, sir: you said error brought
remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence."
"And who talks of error now? I scarcely think the notion that
flittered across my brain was an error. I believe it was an
inspiration rather than a temptation: it was very genial, very
soothing--I know that. Here it comes again! It is no devil, I
assure you; or if it be, it has put on the robes of an angel of
light. I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance
to my heart."
"Distrust it, sir; it is not a true angel."
"Once more, how do you know? By what instinct do you pretend to
distinguish between a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messenger
from the eternal throne--between a guide and a seducer?"
"I judged by your countenance, sir, which was troubled when you said
the suggestion had returned upon you. I feel sure it will work you
more misery if you listen to it."
"Not at all--it bears the most gracious message in the world: for
the rest, you are not my conscience-keeper, so don't make yourself
uneasy. Here, come in, bonny wanderer!"
He said this as if he spoke to a vision, viewless to any eye but his
own; then, folding his arms, which he had half extended, on his
chest, he seemed to enclose in their embrace the invisible being.
"Now," he continued, again addressing me, "I have received the
pilgrim--a disguised deity, as I verify believe. Already it has
done me good: my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a
"To speak truth, sir, I don't understand you at all: I cannot keep
up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth. Only one
thing, I know: you said you were not as good as you should like to
be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;--one thing I can
comprehend: you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a
perpetual bane. It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would
in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve;
and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your
thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new
and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with
"Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am
paving hell with energy."
"I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint.
Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have
"And better?"
"And better--so much better as pure ore is than foul dross. You
seem to doubt me; I don't doubt myself: I know what my aim is, what
my motives are; and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that
of the Medes and Persians, that both are right."
"They cannot be, sir, if they require a new statute to legalise
"They are, Miss Eyre, though they absolutely require a new statute:
unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules."
"That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir; because one can see at once
that it is liable to abuse."
"Sententious sage! so it is: but I swear by my household gods not
to abuse it."
"You are human and fallible."
"I am: so are you--what then?"
"The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the
divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted."
"What power?"
"That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action,--'Let
it be right.'"
"'Let it be right'--the very words: you have pronounced them."
"MAY it be right then," I said, as I rose, deeming it useless to
continue a discourse which was all darkness to me; and, besides,
sensible that the character of my interlocutor was beyond my
penetration; at least, beyond its present reach; and feeling the
uncertainty, the vague sense of insecurity, which accompanies a
conviction of ignorance.
"Where are you going?"
"To put Adele to bed: it is past her bedtime."
"You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Sphynx."
"Your language is enigmatical, sir: but though I am bewildered, I
am certainly not afraid."
"You ARE afraid--your self-love dreads a blunder."
"In that sense I do feel apprehensive--I have no wish to talk
"If you did, it would be in such a grave, quiet manner, I should
mistake it for sense. Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don't trouble
yourself to answer--I see you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very
merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I
am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you
somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and
restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a
brother--or father, or master, or what you will--to smile too gaily,
speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you
will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be
conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have
more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now. I see at
intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set
bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were
it but free, it would soar cloud-high. You are still bent on
"It has struck nine, sir."
"Never mind,--wait a minute: Adele is not ready to go to bed yet.
My position, Miss Eyre, with my back to the fire, and my face to the
room, favours observation. While talking to you, I have also
occasionally watched Adele (I have my own reasons for thinking her a
curious study,--reasons that I may, nay, that I shall, impart to you
some day). She pulled out of her box, about ten minutes ago, a
little pink silk frock; rapture lit her face as she unfolded it;
coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the
marrow of her bones. 'Il faut que je l'essaie!' cried she, 'et e
l'instant meme!' and she rushed out of the room. She is now with
Sophie, undergoing a robing process: in a few minutes she will reenter;
and I know what I shall see,--a miniature of Celine Varens,
as she used to appear on the boards at the rising of-- But never
mind that. However, my tenderest feelings are about to receive a
shock: such is my presentiment; stay now, to see whether it will be
Ere long, Adele's little foot was heard tripping across the hall.
She entered, transformed as her guardian had predicted. A dress of
rose-coloured satin, very short, and as full in the skirt as it
could be gathered, replaced the brown frock she had previously worn;
a wreath of rosebuds circled her forehead; her feet were dressed in
silk stockings and small white satin sandals.
"Est-ce que ma robe va bien?" cried she, bounding forwards; "et mes
souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je crois que je vais danser!"
And spreading out her dress, she chasseed across the room till,
having reached Mr. Rochester, she wheeled lightly round before him
on tip-toe, then dropped on one knee at his feet, exclaiming -
"Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonte;" then rising,
she added, "C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce pas,
"Pre-cise-ly!" was the answer; "and, 'comme cela,' she charmed my
English gold out of my British breeches' pocket. I have been green,
too, Miss Eyre,--ay, grass green: not a more vernal tint freshens
you now than once freshened me. My Spring is gone, however, but it
has left me that French floweret on my hands, which, in some moods,
I would fain be rid of. Not valuing now the root whence it sprang;
having found that it was of a sort which nothing but gold dust could
manure, I have but half a liking to the blossom, especially when it
looks so artificial as just now. I keep it and rear it rather on
the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or
small, by one good work. I'll explain all this some day. Goodnight."
Mr. Rochester did, on a future occasion, explain it. It was one
afternoon, when he chanced to meet me and Adele in the grounds: and
while she played with Pilot and her shuttlecock, he asked me to walk
up and down a long beech avenue within sight of her.
He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer,
Celine Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a
"grande passion." This passion Celine had professed to return with
even superior ardour. He thought himself her idol, ugly as he was:
he believed, as he said, that she preferred his "taille d'athlete"
to the elegance of the Apollo Belvidere.
"And, Miss Eyre, so much was I flattered by this preference of the
Gallic sylph for her British gnome, that I installed her in an
hotel; gave her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage,
cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, &c. In short, I began the process
of ruining myself in the received style, like any other spoony. I
had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame
and destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not
to deviate an inch from the beaten centre. I had--as I deserved to
have--the fate of all other spoonies. Happening to call one evening
when Celine did not expect me, I found her out; but it was a warm
night, and I was tired with strolling through Paris, so I sat down
in her boudoir; happy to breathe the air consecrated so lately by
her presence. No,--I exaggerate; I never thought there was any
consecrating virtue about her: it was rather a sort of pastille
perfume she had left; a scent of musk and amber, than an odour of
sanctity. I was just beginning to stifle with the fumes of
conservatory flowers and sprinkled essences, when I bethought myself
to open the window and step out on to the balcony. It was moonlight
and gaslight besides, and very still and serene. The balcony was
furnished with a chair or two; I sat down, and took out a cigar,--I
will take one now, if you will excuse me."
Here ensued a pause, filled up by the producing and lighting of a
cigar; having placed it to his lips and breathed a trail of Havannah
incense on the freezing and sunless air, he went on -
"I liked bonbons too in those days, Miss Eyre, and I was croquant--
(overlook the barbarism)--croquant chocolate comfits, and smoking
alternately, watching meantime the equipages that rolled along the
fashionable streets towards the neighbouring opera-house, when in an
elegant close carriage drawn by a beautiful pair of English horses,
and distinctly seen in the brilliant city-night, I recognised the
'voiture' I had given Celine. She was returning: of course my
heart thumped with impatience against the iron rails I leant upon.
The carriage stopped, as I had expected, at the hotel door; my flame
(that is the very word for an opera inamorata) alighted: though
muffed in a cloak--an unnecessary encumbrance, by-the-bye, on so
warm a June evening--I knew her instantly by her little foot, seen
peeping from the skirt of her dress, as she skipped from the
carriage-step. Bending over the balcony, I was about to murmur 'Mon
ange'--in a tone, of course, which should be audible to the ear of
love alone--when a figure jumped from the carriage after her;
cloaked also; but that was a spurred heel which had rung on the
pavement, and that was a hatted head which now passed under the
arched porte cochere of the hotel.
"You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I
need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both
sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to
be given which shall waken it. You think all existence lapses in as
quiet a flow as that in which your youth has hitherto slid away.
Floating on with closed eyes and muffled ears, you neither see the
rocks bristling not far off in the bed of the flood, nor hear the
breakers boil at their base. But I tell you--and you may mark my
words--you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where
the whole of life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult,
foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points,
or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current-
-as I am now.
"I like this day; I like that sky of steel; I like the sternness and
stillness of the world under this frost. I like Thornfield, its
antiquity, its retirement, its old crow-trees and thorn-trees, its
grey facade, and lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin:
and yet how long have I abhorred the very thought of it, shunned it
like a great plague-house? How I do still abhor -"
He ground his teeth and was silent: he arrested his step and struck
his boot against the hard ground. Some hated thought seemed to have
him in its grip, and to hold him so tightly that he could not
We were ascending the avenue when he thus paused; the hall was
before us. Lifting his eye to its battlements, he cast over them a
glare such as I never saw before or since. Pain, shame, ire,
impatience, disgust, detestation, seemed momentarily to hold a
quivering conflict in the large pupil dilating under his ebon
eyebrow. Wild was the wrestle which should be paramount; but
another feeling rose and triumphed: something hard and cynical:
self-willed and resolute: it settled his passion and petrified his
countenance: he went on -
"During the moment I was silent, Miss Eyre, I was arranging a point
with my destiny. She stood there, by that beech-trunk--a hag like
one of those who appeared to Macbeth on the heath of Forres. 'You
like Thornfield?' she said, lifting her finger; and then she wrote
in the air a memento, which ran in lurid hieroglyphics all along the
house-front, between the upper and lower row of windows, 'Like it if
you can! Like it if you dare!'
"'I will like it,' said I; 'I dare like it;' and" (he subjoined
moodily) "I will keep my word; I will break obstacles to happiness,
to goodness--yes, goodness. I wish to be a better man than I have
been, than I am; as Job's leviathan broke the spear, the dart, and
the habergeon, hindrances which others count as iron and brass, I
will esteem but straw and rotten wood."
Adele here ran before him with her shuttlecock. "Away!" he cried
harshly; "keep at a distance, child; or go in to Sophie!"
Continuing then to pursue his walk in silence, I ventured to recall
him to the point whence he had abruptly diverged -
"Did you leave the balcony, sir," I asked, "when Mdlle. Varens
I almost expected a rebuff for this hardly well-timed question, but,
on the contrary, waking out of his scowling abstraction, he turned
his eyes towards me, and the shade seemed to clear off his brow.
"Oh, I had forgotten Celine! Well, to resume. When I saw my
charmer thus come in accompanied by a cavalier, I seemed to hear a
hiss, and the green snake of jealousy, rising on undulating coils
from the moonlit balcony, glided within my waistcoat, and ate its
way in two minutes to my heart's core. Strange!" he exclaimed,
suddenly starting again from the point. "Strange that I should
choose you for the confidant of all this, young lady; passing
strange that you should listen to me quietly, as if it were the most
usual thing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of his
opera-mistresses to a quaint, inexperienced girl like you! But the
last singularity explains the first, as I intimated once before:
you, with your gravity, considerateness, and caution were made to be
the recipient of secrets. Besides, I know what sort of a mind I
have placed in communication with my own: I know it is one not
liable to take infection: it is a peculiar mind: it is a unique
one. Happily I do not mean to harm it: but, if I did, it would not
take harm from me. The more you and I converse, the better; for
while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me." After this
digression he proceeded -
"I remained in the balcony. 'They will come to her boudoir, no
doubt,' thought I: 'let me prepare an ambush.' So putting my hand
in through the open window, I drew the curtain over it, leaving only
an opening through which I could take observations; then I closed
the casement, all but a chink just wide enough to furnish an outlet
to lovers' whispered vows: then I stole back to my chair; and as I
resumed it the pair came in. My eye was quickly at the aperture.
Celine's chamber-maid entered, lit a lamp, left it on the table, and
withdrew. The couple were thus revealed to me clearly: both
removed their cloaks, and there was 'the Varens,' shining in satin
and jewels,--my gifts of course,--and there was her companion in an
officer's uniform; and I knew him for a young roue of a vicomte--a
brainless and vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in society, and
had never thought of hating because I despised him so absolutely.
On recognising him, the fang of the snake Jealousy was instantly
broken; because at the same moment my love for Celine sank under an
extinguisher. A woman who could betray me for such a rival was not
worth contending for; she deserved only scorn; less, however, than
I, who had been her dupe.
"They began to talk; their conversation eased me completely:
frivolous, mercenary, heartless, and senseless, it was rather
calculated to weary than enrage a listener. A card of mine lay on
the table; this being perceived, brought my name under discussion.
Neither of them possessed energy or wit to belabour me soundly, but
they insulted me as coarsely as they could in their little way:
especially Celine, who even waxed rather brilliant on my personal
defects--deformities she termed them. Now it had been her custom to
launch out into fervent admiration of what she called my 'beaute
male:' wherein she differed diametrically from you, who told me
point-blank, at the second interview, that you did not think me
handsome. The contrast struck me at the time and--"
Adele here came running up again.
"Monsieur, John has just been to say that your agent has called and
wishes to see you."
"Ah! in that case I must abridge. Opening the window, I walked in
upon them; liberated Celine from my protection; gave her notice to
vacate her hotel; offered her a purse for immediate exigencies;
disregarded screams, hysterics, prayers, protestations, convulsions;
made an appointment with the vicomte for a meeting at the Bois de
Boulogne. Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left
a bullet in one of his poor etiolated arms, feeble as the wing of a
chicken in the pip, and then thought I had done with the whole crew.
But unluckily the Varens, six months before, had given me this
filette Adele, who, she affirmed, was my daughter; and perhaps she
may be, though I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in her
countenance: Pilot is more like me than she. Some years after I
had broken with the mother, she abandoned her child, and ran away to
Italy with a musician or singer. I acknowledged no natural claim on
Adele's part to be supported by me, nor do I now acknowledge any,
for I am not her father; but hearing that she was quite destitute, I
e'en took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and
transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an
English country garden. Mrs. Fairfax found you to train it; but now
you know that it is the illegitimate offspring of a French operagirl,
you will perhaps think differently of your post and protegee:
you will be coming to me some day with notice that you have found
another place--that you beg me to look out for a new governess, &c.-
"No: Adele is not answerable for either her mother's faults or
yours: I have a regard for her; and now that I know she is, in a
sense, parentless--forsaken by her mother and disowned by you, sir--
I shall cling closer to her than before. How could I possibly
prefer the spoilt pet of a wealthy family, who would hate her
governess as a nuisance, to a lonely little orphan, who leans
towards her as a friend?"
"Oh, that is the light in which you view it! Well, I must go in
now; and you too: it darkens."
But I stayed out a few minutes longer with Adele and Pilot--ran a
race with her, and played a game of battledore and shuttlecock.
When we went in, and I had removed her bonnet and coat, I took her
on my knee; kept her there an hour, allowing her to prattle as she
liked: not rebuking even some little freedoms and trivialities into
which she was apt to stray when much noticed, and which betrayed in
her a superficiality of character, inherited probably from her
mother, hardly congenial to an English mind. Still she had her
merits; and I was disposed to appreciate all that was good in her to
the utmost. I sought in her countenance and features a likeness to
Mr. Rochester, but found none: no trait, no turn of expression
announced relationship. It was a pity: if she could but have been
proved to resemble him, he would have thought more of her.
It was not till after I had withdrawn to my own chamber for the
night, that I steadily reviewed the tale Mr. Rochester had told me.
As he had said, there was probably nothing at all extraordinary in
the substance of the narrative itself: a wealthy Englishman's
passion for a French dancer, and her treachery to him, were everyday
matters enough, no doubt, in society; but there was something
decidedly strange in the paroxysm of emotion which had suddenly
seized him when he was in the act of expressing the present
contentment of his mood, and his newly revived pleasure in the old
hall and its environs. I meditated wonderingly on this incident;
but gradually quitting it, as I found it for the present
inexplicable, I turned to the consideration of my master's manner to
myself. The confidence he had thought fit to repose in me seemed a
tribute to my discretion: I regarded and accepted it as such. His
deportment had now for some weeks been more uniform towards me than
at the first. I never seemed in his way; he did not take fits of
chilling hauteur: when he met me unexpectedly, the encounter seemed
welcome; he had always a word and sometimes a smile for me: when
summoned by formal invitation to his presence, I was honoured by a
cordiality of reception that made me feel I really possessed the
power to amuse him, and that these evening conferences were sought
as much for his pleasure as for my benefit.
I, indeed, talked comparatively little, but I heard him talk with
relish. It was his nature to be communicative; he liked to open to
a mind unacquainted with the world glimpses of its scenes and ways
(I do not mean its corrupt scenes and wicked ways, but such as
derived their interest from the great scale on which they were
acted, the strange novelty by which they were characterised); and I
had a keen delight in receiving the new ideas he offered, in
imagining the new pictures he portrayed, and following him in
thought through the new regions he disclosed, never startled or
troubled by one noxious allusion.
The ease of his manner freed me from painful restraint: the
friendly frankness, as correct as cordial, with which he treated me,
drew me to him. I felt at times as if he were my relation rather
than my master: yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did not
mind that; I saw it was his way. So happy, so gratified did I
become with this new interest added to life, that I ceased to pine
after kindred: my thin crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; the
blanks of existence were filled up; my bodily health improved; I
gathered flesh and strength.
And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude,
and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the
object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering
than the brightest fire. Yet I had not forgotten his faults;
indeed, I could not, for he brought them frequently before me. He
was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description: in
my secret soul I knew that his great kindness to me was balanced by
unjust severity to many others. He was moody, too; unaccountably
so; I more than once, when sent for to read to him, found him
sitting in his library alone, with his head bent on his folded arms;
and, when he looked up, a morose, almost a malignant, scowl
blackened his features. But I believed that his moodiness, his
harshness, and his former faults of morality (I say FORMER, for now
he seemed corrected of them) had their source in some cruel cross of
fate. I believed he was naturally a man of better tendencies,
higher principles, and purer tastes than such as circumstances had
developed, education instilled, or destiny encouraged. I thought
there were excellent materials in him; though for the present they
hung together somewhat spoiled and tangled. I cannot deny that I
grieved for his grief, whatever that was, and would have given much
to assuage it.
Though I had now extinguished my candle and was laid down in bed, I
could not sleep for thinking of his look when he paused in the
avenue, and told how his destiny had risen up before him, and dared
him to be happy at Thornfield.
"Why not?" I asked myself. "What alienates him from the house?
Will he leave it again soon? Mrs. Fairfax said he seldom stayed
here longer than a fortnight at a time; and he has now been resident
eight weeks. If he does go, the change will be doleful. Suppose he
should be absent spring, summer, and autumn: how joyless sunshine
and fine days will seem!"
I hardly know whether I had slept or not after this musing; at any
rate, I started wide awake on hearing a vague murmur, peculiar and
lugubrious, which sounded, I thought, just above me. I wished I had
kept my candle burning: the night was drearily dark; my spirits
were depressed. I rose and sat up in bed, listening. The sound was
I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward
tranquillity was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck
two. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers
had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery
outside. I said, "Who is there?" Nothing answered. I was chilled
with fear.
All at once I remembered that it might be Pilot, who, when the
kitchen-door chanced to be left open, not unfrequently found his way
up to the threshold of Mr. Rochester's chamber: I had seen him
lying there myself in the mornings. The idea calmed me somewhat: I
lay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush now
reigned again through the whole house, I began to feel the return of
slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A
dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted,
scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.
This was a demoniac laugh--low, suppressed, and deep--uttered, as it
seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door. The head of my bed
was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laugher stood
at my bedside--or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked
round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural
sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels.
My first impulse was to rise and fasten the bolt; my next, again to
cry out, "Who is there?"
Something gurgled and moaned. Ere long, steps retreated up the
gallery towards the third-storey staircase: a door had lately been
made to shut in that staircase; I heard it open and close, and all
was still.
"Was that Grace Poole? and is she possessed with a devil?" thought
I. Impossible now to remain longer by myself: I must go to Mrs.
Fairfax. I hurried on my frock and a shawl; I withdrew the bolt and
opened the door with a trembling hand. There was a candle burning
just outside, and on the matting in the gallery. I was surprised at
this circumstance: but still more was I amazed to perceive the air
quite dim, as if filled with smoke; and, while looking to the right
hand and left, to find whence these blue wreaths issued, I became
further aware of a strong smell of burning.
Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr.
Rochester's, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I thought
no more of Mrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Poole, or the
laugh: in an instant, I was within the chamber. Tongues of flame
darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire. In the midst of
blaze and vapour, Mr. Rochester lay stretched motionless, in deep
"Wake! wake!" I cried. I shook him, but he only murmured and
turned: the smoke had stupefied him. Not a moment could be lost:
the very sheets were kindling, I rushed to his basin and ewer;
fortunately, one was wide and the other deep, and both were filled
with water. I heaved them up, deluged the bed and its occupant,
flew back to my own room, brought my own water-jug, baptized the
couch afresh, and, by God's aid, succeeded in extinguishing the
flames which were devouring it.
The hiss of the quenched element, the breakage of a pitcher which I
flung from my hand when I had emptied it, and, above all, the splash
of the shower-bath I had liberally bestowed, roused Mr. Rochester at
last. Though it was now dark, I knew he was awake; because I heard
him fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool
of water.
"Is there a flood?" he cried.
"No, sir," I answered; "but there has been a fire: get up, do; you
are quenched now; I will fetch you a candle."
"In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre?" he
demanded. "What have you done with me, witch, sorceress? Who is in
the room besides you? Have you plotted to drown me?"
"I will fetch you a candle, sir; and, in Heaven's name, get up.
Somebody has plotted something: you cannot too soon find out who
and what it is."
"There! I am up now; but at your peril you fetch a candle yet:
wait two minutes till I get into some dry garments, if any dry there
be--yes, here is my dressing-gown. Now run!"
I did run; I brought the candle which still remained in the gallery.
He took it from my hand, held it up, and surveyed the bed, all
blackened and scorched, the sheets drenched, the carpet round
swimming in water.
"What is it? and who did it?" he asked. I briefly related to him
what had transpired: the strange laugh I had heard in the gallery:
the step ascending to the third storey; the smoke,--the smell of
fire which had conducted me to his room; in what state I had found
matters there, and how I had deluged him with all the water I could
lay hands on.
He listened very gravely; his face, as I went on, expressed more
concern than astonishment; he did not immediately speak when I had
"Shall I call Mrs. Fairfax?" I asked.
"Mrs. Fairfax? No; what the deuce would you call her for? What can
she do? Let her sleep unmolested."
"Then I will fetch Leah, and wake John and his wife."
"Not at all: just be still. You have a shawl on. If you are not
warm enough, you may take my cloak yonder; wrap it about you, and
sit down in the arm-chair: there,--I will put it on. Now place
your feet on the stool, to keep them out of the wet. I am going to
leave you a few minutes. I shall take the candle. Remain where you
are till I return; be as still as a mouse. I must pay a visit to
the second storey. Don't move, remember, or call any one."
He went: I watched the light withdraw. He passed up the gallery
very softly, unclosed the staircase door with as little noise as
possible, shut it after him, and the last ray vanished. I was left
in total darkness. I listened for some noise, but heard nothing. A
very long time elapsed. I grew weary: it was cold, in spite of the
cloak; and then I did not see the use of staying, as I was not to
rouse the house. I was on the point of risking Mr. Rochester's
displeasure by disobeying his orders, when the light once more
gleamed dimly on the gallery wall, and I heard his unshod feet tread
the matting. "I hope it is he," thought I, "and not something
He re-entered, pale and very gloomy. "I have found it all out,"
said he, setting his candle down on the washstand; "it is as I
"How, sir?"
He made no reply, but stood with his arms folded, looking on the
ground. At the end of a few minutes he inquired in rather a
peculiar tone -
"I forget whether you said you saw anything when you opened your
chamber door."
"No, sir, only the candlestick on the ground."
"But you heard an odd laugh? You have heard that laugh before, I
should think, or something like it?"
"Yes, sir: there is a woman who sews here, called Grace Poole,--she
laughs in that way. She is a singular person."
"Just so. Grace Poole--you have guessed it. She is, as you say,
singular--very. Well, I shall reflect on the subject. Meantime, I
am glad that you are the only person, besides myself, acquainted
with the precise details of to-night's incident. You are no talking
fool: say nothing about it. I will account for this state of
affairs" (pointing to the bed): "and now return to your own room.
I shall do very well on the sofa in the library for the rest of the
night. It is near four:- in two hours the servants will be up."
"Good-night, then, sir," said I, departing.
He seemed surprised--very inconsistently so, as he had just told me
to go.
"What!" he exclaimed, "are you quitting me already, and in that
"You said I might go, sir."
"But not without taking leave; not without a word or two of
acknowledgment and good-will: not, in short, in that brief, dry
fashion. Why, you have saved my life!--snatched me from a horrible
and excruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutual
strangers! At least shake hands."
He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one,
them in both his own.
"You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense
a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have
been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an
obligation: but you: it is different;--I feel your benefits no
burden, Jane."
He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips,-
-but his voice was checked.
"Good-night again, sir. There is no debt, benefit, burden,
obligation, in the case."
"I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some
time;--I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their
expression and smile did not"--(again he stopped)--"did not" (he
proceeded hastily) "strike delight to my very inmost heart so for
nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good
genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My
cherished preserver, goodnight!"
Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look.
"I am glad I happened to be awake," I said: and then I was going.
"What! you WILL go?"
"I am cold, sir."
"Cold? Yes,--and standing in a pool! Go, then, Jane; go!" But he
still retained my hand, and I could not free it. I bethought myself
of an expedient.
"I think I hear Mrs. Fairfax move, sir," said I.
"Well, leave me:" he relaxed his fingers, and I was gone.
I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning
dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of
trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw
beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and
now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit
triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in
fancy--a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove
me back. Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion.
Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.
I both wished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day which
followed this sleepless night: I wanted to hear his voice again,
yet feared to meet his eye. During the early part of the morning, I
momentarily expected his coming; he was not in the frequent habit of
entering the schoolroom, but he did step in for a few minutes
sometimes, and I had the impression that he was sure to visit it
that day.
But the morning passed just as usual: nothing happened to interrupt
the quiet course of Adele's studies; only soon after breakfast, I
heard some bustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester's chamber,
Mrs. Fairfax's voice, and Leah's, and the cook's--that is, John's
wife--and even John's own gruff tones. There were exclamations of
"What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!" "It is always
dangerous to keep a candle lit at night." "How providential that he
had presence of mind to think of the water-jug!" "I wonder he waked
nobody!" "It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping on
the library sofa," &c.
To much confabulation succeeded a sound of scrubbing and setting to
rights; and when I passed the room, in going downstairs to dinner, I
saw through the open door that all was again restored to complete
order; only the bed was stripped of its hangings. Leah stood up in
the window-seat, rubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke. I
was about to address her, for I wished to know what account had been
given of the affair: but, on advancing, I saw a second person in
the chamber--a woman sitting on a chair by the bedside, and sewing
rings to new curtains. That woman was no other than Grace Poole.
There she sat, staid and taciturn-looking, as usual, in her brown
stuff gown, her check apron, white handkerchief, and cap. She was
intent on her work, in which her whole thoughts seemed absorbed: on
her hard forehead, and in her commonplace features, was nothing
either of the paleness or desperation one would have expected to see
marking the countenance of a woman who had attempted murder, and
whose intended victim had followed her last night to her lair, and
(as I believed), charged her with the crime she wished to
perpetrate. I was amazed--confounded. She looked up, while I still
gazed at her: no start, no increase or failure of colour betrayed
emotion, consciousness of guilt, or fear of detection. She said
"Good morning, Miss," in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; and
taking up another ring and more tape, went on with her sewing.
"I will put her to some test," thought I: "such absolute
impenetrability is past comprehension."
"Good morning, Grace," I said. "Has anything happened here? I
thought I heard the servants all talking together a while ago."
"Only master had been reading in his bed last night; he fell asleep
with his candle lit, and the curtains got on fire; but, fortunately,
he awoke before the bed-clothes or the wood-work caught, and
contrived to quench the flames with the water in the ewer.
"A strange affair!" I said, in a low voice: then, looking at her
fixedly--"Did Mr. Rochester wake nobody? Did no one hear him move?"
She again raised her eyes to me, and this time there was something
of consciousness in their expression. She seemed to examine me
warily; then she answered -
"The servants sleep so far off, you know, Miss, they would not be
likely to hear. Mrs. Fairfax's room and yours are the nearest to
master's; but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing: when people get
elderly, they often sleep heavy." She paused, and then added, with
a sort of assumed indifference, but still in a marked and
significant tone--"But you are young, Miss; and I should say a light
sleeper: perhaps you may have heard a noise?"
"I did," said I, dropping my voice, so that Leah, who was still
polishing the panes, could not hear me, "and at first I thought it
was Pilot: but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard a
laugh, and a strange one."
She took a new needleful of thread, waxed it carefully, threaded her
needle with a steady hand, and then observed, with perfect composure
"It is hardly likely master would laugh, I should think, Miss, when
he was in such danger: You must have been dreaming."
"I was not dreaming," I said, with some warmth, for her brazen
coolness provoked me. Again she looked at me; and with the same
scrutinising and conscious eye.
"Have you told master that you heard a laugh?" she inquired.
"I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning."
"You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the
gallery?" she further asked.
She appeared to be cross-questioning me, attempting to draw from me
information unawares. The idea struck me that if she discovered I
knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing of some of her
malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.
"On the contrary," said I, "I bolted my door."
"Then you are not in the habit of bolting your door every night
before you get into bed?"
"Fiend! she wants to know my habits, that she may lay her plans
accordingly!" Indignation again prevailed over prudence: I replied
sharply, "Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt: I did
not think it necessary. I was not aware any danger or annoyance was
to be dreaded at Thornfield Hall: but in future" (and I laid marked
stress on the words) "I shall take good care to make all secure
before I venture to lie down."
"It will be wise so to do," was her answer: "this neighbourhood is
as quiet as any I know, and I never heard of the hall being
attempted by robbers since it was a house; though there are hundreds
of pounds' worth of plate in the plate-closet, as is well known.
And you see, for such a large house, there are very few servants,
because master has never lived here much; and when he does come,
being a bachelor, he needs little waiting on: but I always think it
best to err on the safe side; a door is soon fastened, and it is as
well to have a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may be
about. A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence;
but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He
often blesses them when they are used discreetly." And here she
closed her harangue: a long one for her, and uttered with the
demureness of a Quakeress.
I still stood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me her
miraculous self-possession and most inscrutable hypocrisy, when the
cook entered.
"Mrs. Poole," said she, addressing Grace, "the servants' dinner will
soon be ready: will you come down?"
"No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and
I'll carry it upstairs."
"You'll have some meat?"
"Just a morsel, and a taste of cheese, that's all."
"And the sago?"
"Never mind it at present: I shall be coming down before teatime:
I'll make it myself."
The cook here turned to me, saying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for
me: so I departed.
I hardly heard Mrs. Fairfax's account of the curtain conflagration
during dinner, so much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over the
enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and still more in pondering
the problem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why she
had not been given into custody that morning, or, at the very least,
dismissed from her master's service. He had almost as much as
declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what
mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her? Why had he
enjoined me, too, to secrecy? It was strange: a bold, vindictive,
and haughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of the
meanest of his dependants; so much in her power, that even when she
lifted her hand against his life, he dared not openly charge her
with the attempt, much less punish her for it.
Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to
think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr.
Rochester in her behalf; but, hard-favoured and matronly as she was,
the idea could not be admitted. "Yet," I reflected, "she has been
young once; her youth would be contemporary with her master's: Mrs.
Fairfax told me once, she had lived here many years. I don't think
she can ever have been pretty; but, for aught I know, she may
possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the
want of personal advantages. Mr. Rochester is an amateur of the
decided and eccentric: Grace is eccentric at least. What if a
former caprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden and
headstrong as his) has delivered him into her power, and she now
exercises over his actions a secret influence, the result of his own
indiscretion, which he cannot shake off, and dare not disregard?"
But, having reached this point of conjecture, Mrs. Poole's square,
flat figure, and uncomely, dry, even coarse face, recurred so
distinctly to my mind's eye, that I thought, "No; impossible! my
supposition cannot be correct. Yet," suggested the secret voice
which talks to us in our own hearts, "you are not beautiful either,
and perhaps Mr. Rochester approves you: at any rate, you have often
felt as if he did; and last night--remember his words; remember his
look; remember his voice!"
I well remembered all; language, glance, and tone seemed at the
moment vividly renewed. I was now in the schoolroom; Adele was
drawing; I bent over her and directed her pencil. She looked up
with a sort of start.
"Qu' avez-vous, mademoiselle?" said she. "Vos doigts tremblent
comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des
"I am hot, Adele, with stooping!" She went on sketching; I went on
I hastened to drive from my mind the hateful notion I had been
conceiving respecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me. I compared
myself with her, and found we were different. Bessie Leaven had
said I was quite a lady; and she spoke truth--I was a lady. And now
I looked much better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had more
colour and more flesh, more life, more vivacity, because I had
brighter hopes and keener enjoyments.
"Evening approaches," said I, as I looked towards the window. "I
have never heard Mr. Rochester's voice or step in the house to-day;
but surely I shall see him before night: I feared the meeting in
the morning; now I desire it, because expectation has been so long
baffled that it is grown impatient."
When dusk actually closed, and when Adele left me to go and play in
the nursery with Sophie, I did most keenly desire it. I listened
for the bell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with a
message; I fancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester's own tread, and
I turned to the door, expecting it to open and admit him. The door
remained shut; darkness only came in through the window. Still it
was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o'clock, and
it was yet but six. Surely I should not be wholly disappointed tonight,
when I had so many things to say to him! I wanted again to
introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would
answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she
who had made last night's hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept
her wickedness a secret. It little mattered whether my curiosity
irritated him; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by
turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always
prevented me from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation I
never ventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.
Retaining every minute form of respect, every propriety of my
station, I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy
restraint; this suited both him and me.
A tread creaked on the stairs at last. Leah made her appearance;
but it was only to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax's
room. Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that
brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester's presence.
"You must want your tea," said the good lady, as I joined her; "you
ate so little at dinner. I am afraid," she continued, "you are not
well to-day: you look flushed and feverish."
"Oh, quite well! I never felt better."
"Then you must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fill
the teapot while I knit off this needle?" Having completed her
task, she rose to draw down the blind, which she had hitherto kept
up, by way, I suppose, of making the most of daylight, though dusk
was now fast deepening into total obscurity.
"It is fair to-night," said she, as she looked through the panes,
"though not starlight; Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a
favourable day for his journey."
"Journey!--Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere? I did not know he was
"Oh, he set of the moment he had breakfasted! He is gone to the
Leas, Mr. Eshton's place, ten miles on the other side Millcote. I
believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir
George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others."
"Do you expect him back to-night?"
"No--nor to-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay
a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together,
they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with
all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate.
Gentlemen especially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr.
Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he
is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; though you
would not think his appearance calculated to recommend him
particularly in their eyes: but I suppose his acquirements and
abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any
little fault of look."
"Are there ladies at the Leas?"
"There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters--very elegant young
ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingram,
most beautiful women, I suppose: indeed I have seen Blanche, six or
seven years since, when she was a girl of eighteen. She came here
to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have
seen the dining-room that day--how richly it was decorated, how
brilliantly lit up! I should think there were fifty ladies and
gentlemen present--all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram
was considered the belle of the evening."
"You saw her, you say, Mrs. Fairfax: what was she like?"
"Yes, I saw her. The dining-room doors were thrown open; and, as it
was Christmas-time, the servants were allowed to assemble in the
hall, to hear some of the ladies sing and play. Mr. Rochester would
have me to come in, and I sat down in a quiet corner and watched
them. I never saw a more splendid scene: the ladies were
magnificently dressed; most of them--at least most of the younger
ones--looked handsome; but Miss Ingram was certainly the queen."
"And what was she like?"
"Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive
complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr.
Rochester's: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And
then she had such a fine head of hair; raven-black and so becomingly
arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest,
the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an
amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her
breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below
her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it
contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls."
"She was greatly admired, of course?"
"Yes, indeed: and not only for her beauty, but for her
accomplishments. She was one of the ladies who sang: a gentleman
accompanied her on the piano. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet."
"Mr. Rochester? I was not aware he could sing."
"Oh! he has a fine bass voice, and an excellent taste for music."
"And Miss Ingram: what sort of a voice had she?"
"A very rich and powerful one: she sang delightfully; it was a
treat to listen to her;--and she played afterwards. I am no judge
of music, but Mr. Rochester is; and I heard him say her execution
was remarkably good."
"And this beautiful and accomplished lady, she is not yet married?"
"It appears not: I fancy neither she nor her sister have very large
fortunes. Old Lord Ingram's estates were chiefly entailed, and the
eldest son came in for everything almost."
"But I wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy to
her: Mr. Rochester, for instance. He is rich, is he not?"
"Oh! yes. But you see there is a considerable difference in age:
Mr. Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five."
"What of that? More unequal matches are made every day."
"True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain an
idea of the sort. But you eat nothing: you have scarcely tasted
since you began tea."
"No: I am too thirsty to eat. Will you let me have another cup?"
I was about again to revert to the probability of a union between
Mr. Rochester and the beautiful Blanche; but Adele came in, and the
conversation was turned into another channel.
When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked
into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured
to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through
imagination's boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of
common sense.
Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the
hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night--of
the general state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly a
fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told, in her own
quiet way a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the
real, and rabidly devoured the ideal;--I pronounced judgment to this
That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of
life; that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on
sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.
"YOU," I said, "a favourite with Mr. Rochester? YOU gifted with the
power of pleasing him? YOU of importance to him in any way? Go!
your folly sickens me. And you have derived pleasure from
occasional tokens of preference--equivocal tokens shown by a
gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependent and a
novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe!--Could not even selfinterest
make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the
brief scene of last night?--Cover your face and be ashamed! He said
something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their
bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! It does
good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot
possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let
a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown,
must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded
to, must lead, ignis-fatus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no
"Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the
glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully,
without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no
displeasing irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess,
disconnected, poor, and plain.'
"Afterwards, take a piece of smooth ivory--you have one prepared in
your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest,
clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils;
delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in
your softest shades and sweetest lines, according to the description
given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven
ringlets, the oriental eye;--What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as a
model! Order! No snivel!--no sentiment!--no regret! I will endure
only sense and resolution. Recall the august yet harmonious
lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling
arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor
gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and
glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it 'Blanche,
an accomplished lady of rank.'
"Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester
thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them:
say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he
chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious
thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?'"
"I'll do it," I resolved: and having framed this determination, I
grew calm, and fell asleep.
I kept my word. An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait
in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory
miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face
enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast
was as great as self-control could desire. I derived benefit from
the task: it had kept my head and hands employed, and had given
force and fixedness to the new impressions I wished to stamp
indelibly on my heart.
Ere long, I had reason to congratulate myself on the course of
wholesome discipline to which I had thus forced my feelings to
submit. Thanks to it, I was able to meet subsequent occurrences
with a decent calm, which, had they found me unprepared, I should
probably have been unequal to maintain, even externally.
A week passed, and no news arrived of Mr. Rochester: ten days, and
still he did not come. Mrs. Fairfax said she should not be
surprised if he were to go straight from the Leas to London, and
thence to the Continent, and not show his face again at Thornfield
for a year to come; he had not unfrequently quitted it in a manner
quite as abrupt and unexpected. When I heard this, I was beginning
to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually
permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment;
but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once
called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over
the temporary blunder--how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr.
Rochester's movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a
vital interest. Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of
inferiority: on the contrary, I just said -
"You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than
to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protegee, and to
be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do
your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands. Be sure that is
the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him; so don't
make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies,
and so forth. He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be
too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and
strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised."
I went on with my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vague
suggestions kept wandering across my brain of reasons why I should
quit Thornfield; and I kept involuntarily framing advertisements and
pondering conjectures about new situations: these thoughts I did
not think check; they might germinate and bear fruit if they could.
Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight, when the post
brought Mrs. Fairfax a letter.
"It is from the master," said she, as she looked at the direction.
"Now I suppose we shall know whether we are to expect his return or
And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on
taking my coffee (we were at breakfast): it was hot, and I
attributed to that circumstance a fiery glow which suddenly rose to
my face. Why my hand shook, and why I involuntarily spilt half the
contents of my cup into my saucer, I did not choose to consider.
"Well, I sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance of
being busy enough now: for a little while at least," said Mrs.
Fairfax, still holding the note before her spectacles.
Ere I permitted myself to request an explanation, I tied the string
of Adele's pinafore, which happened to be loose: having helped her
also to another bun and refilled her mug with milk, I said,
nonchalantly -
"Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?"
"Indeed he is--in three days, he says: that will be next Thursday;
and not alone either. I don't know how many of the fine people at
the Leas are coming with him: he sends directions for all the best
bedrooms to be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms are to be
cleaned out; I am to get more kitchen hands from the George Inn, at
Millcote, and from wherever else I can; and the ladies will bring
their maids and the gentlemen their valets: so we shall have a full
house of it." And Mrs. Fairfax swallowed her breakfast and hastened
away to commence operations.
The three days were, as she had foretold, busy enough. I had
thought all the rooms at Thornfield beautifully clean and well
arranged; but it appears I was mistaken. Three women were got to
help; and such scrubbing, such brushing, such washing of paint and
beating of carpets, such taking down and putting up of pictures,
such polishing of mirrors and lustres, such lighting of fires in
bedrooms, such airing of sheets and feather-beds on hearths, I never
beheld, either before or since. Adele ran quite wild in the midst
of it: the preparations for company and the prospect of their
arrival, seemed to throw her into ecstasies. She would have Sophie
to look over all her "toilettes," as she called frocks; to furbish
up any that were "passees," and to air and arrange the new. For
herself, she did nothing but caper about in the front chambers, jump
on and off the bedsteads, and lie on the mattresses and piled-up
bolsters and pillows before the enormous fires roaring in the
chimneys. From school duties she was exonerated: Mrs. Fairfax had
pressed me into her service, and I was all day in the storeroom,
helping (or hindering) her and the cook; learning to make custards
and cheese-cakes and French pastry, to truss game and garnish
The party were expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon, in time for
dinner at six. During the intervening period I had no time to nurse
chimeras; and I believe I was as active and gay as anybody--Adele
excepted. Still, now and then, I received a damping check to my
cheerfulness; and was, in spite of myself, thrown back on the region
of doubts and portents, and dark conjectures. This was when I
chanced to see the third-storey staircase door (which of late had
always been kept locked) open slowly, and give passage to the form
of Grace Poole, in prim cap, white apron, and handkerchief; when I
watched her glide along the gallery, her quiet tread muffled in a
list slipper; when I saw her look into the bustling, topsy-turvy
bedrooms,--just say a word, perhaps, to the charwoman about the
proper way to polish a grate, or clean a marble mantelpiece, or take
stains from papered walls, and then pass on. She would thus descend
to the kitchen once a day, eat her dinner, smoke a moderate pipe on
the hearth, and go back, carrying her pot of porter with her, for
her private solace, in her own gloomy, upper haunt. Only one hour
in the twenty-four did she pass with her fellow-servants below; all
the rest of her time was spent in some low-ceiled, oaken chamber of
the second storey: there she sat and sewed--and probably laughed
drearily to herself,--as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon.
The strangest thing of all was, that not a soul in the house, except
me, noticed her habits, or seemed to marvel at them: no one
discussed her position or employment; no one pitied her solitude or
isolation. I once, indeed, overheard part of a dialogue between
Leah and one of the charwomen, of which Grace formed the subject.
Leah had been saying something I had not caught, and the charwoman
remarked -
"She gets good wages, I guess?"
"Yes," said Leah; "I wish I had as good; not that mine are to
complain of,--there's no stinginess at Thornfield; but they're not
one fifth of the sum Mrs. Poole receives. And she is laying by:
she goes every quarter to the bank at Millcote. I should not wonder
but she has saved enough to keep her independent if she liked to
leave; but I suppose she's got used to the place; and then she's not
forty yet, and strong and able for anything. It is too soon for her
to give up business."
"She is a good hand, I daresay," said the charwoman.
"Ah!--she understands what she has to do,--nobody better," rejoined
Leah significantly; "and it is not every one could fill her shoes--
not for all the money she gets."
"That it is not!" was the reply. "I wonder whether the master--"
The charwoman was going on; but here Leah turned and perceived me,
and she instantly gave her companion a nudge.
"Doesn't she know?" I heard the woman whisper.
Leah shook her head, and the conversation was of course dropped.
All I had gathered from it amounted to this,--that there was a
mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I
was purposely excluded.
Thursday came: all work had been completed the previous evening;
carpets were laid down, bed-hangings festooned, radiant white
counterpanes spread, toilet tables arranged, furniture rubbed,
flowers piled in vases: both chambers and saloons looked as fresh
and bright as hands could make them. The hall, too, was scoured;
and the great carved clock, as well as the steps and banisters of
the staircase, were polished to the brightness of glass; in the
dining-room, the sideboard flashed resplendent with plate; in the
drawing-room and boudoir, vases of exotics bloomed on all sides.
Afternoon arrived: Mrs. Fairfax assumed her best black satin gown,
her gloves, and her gold watch; for it was her part to receive the
company,--to conduct the ladies to their rooms, &c. Adele, too,
would be dressed: though I thought she had little chance of being
introduced to the party that day at least. However, to please her,
I allowed Sophie to apparel her in one of her short, full muslin
frocks. For myself, I had no need to make any change; I should not
be called upon to quit my sanctum of the schoolroom; for a sanctum
it was now become to me,--"a very pleasant refuge in time of
It had been a mild, serene spring day--one of those days which,
towards the end of March or the beginning of April, rise shining
over the earth as heralds of summer. It was drawing to an end now;
but the evening was even warm, and I sat at work in the schoolroom
with the window open.
"It gets late," said Mrs. Fairfax, entering in rustling state. "I
am glad I ordered dinner an hour after the time Mr. Rochester
mentioned; for it is past six now. I have sent John down to the
gates to see if there is anything on the road: one can see a long
way from thence in the direction of Millcote." She went to the
window. "Here he is!" said she. "Well, John" (leaning out), "any
"They're coming, ma'am," was the answer. "They'll be here in ten
Adele flew to the window. I followed, taking care to stand on one
side, so that, screened by the curtain, I could see without being
The ten minutes John had given seemed very long, but at last wheels
were heard; four equestrians galloped up the drive, and after them
came two open carriages. Fluttering veils and waving plumes filled
the vehicles; two of the cavaliers were young, dashing-looking
gentlemen; the third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse, Mesrour,
Pilot bounding before him; at his side rode a lady, and he and she
were the first of the party. Her purple riding-habit almost swept
the ground, her veil streamed long on the breeze; mingling with its
transparent folds, and gleaming through them, shone rich raven
"Miss Ingram!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax, and away she hurried to her
post below.
The cavalcade, following the sweep of the drive, quickly turned the
angle of the house, and I lost sight of it. Adele now petitioned to
go down; but I took her on my knee, and gave her to understand that
she must not on any account think of venturing in sight of the
ladies, either now or at any other time, unless expressly sent for:
that Mr. Rochester would be very angry, &c. "Some natural tears she
shed" on being told this; but as I began to look very grave, she
consented at last to wipe them.
A joyous stir was now audible in the hall: gentlemen's deep tones
and ladies' silvery accents blent harmoniously together, and
distinguishable above all, though not loud, was the sonorous voice
of the master of Thornfield Hall, welcoming his fair and gallant
guests under its roof. Then light steps ascended the stairs; and
there was a tripping through the gallery, and soft cheerful laughs,
and opening and closing doors, and, for a time, a hush.
"Elles changent de toilettes," said Adele; who, listening
attentively, had followed every movement; and she sighed.
"Chez maman," said she, "quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais
partout, au salon et e leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les
femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c'etait si
amusant: comme cela on apprend."
"Don't you feel hungry, Adele?"
"Mais oui, mademoiselle: voile cinq ou six heures que nous n'avons
pas mange."
"Well now, while the ladies are in their rooms, I will venture down
and get you something to eat."
And issuing from my asylum with precaution, I sought a back-stairs
which conducted directly to the kitchen. All in that region was
fire and commotion; the soup and fish were in the last stage of
projection, and the cook hung over her crucibles in a frame of mind
and body threatening spontaneous combustion. In the servants' hall
two coachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat round the
fire; the abigails, I suppose, were upstairs with their mistresses;
the new servants, that had been hired from Millcote, were bustling
about everywhere. Threading this chaos, I at last reached the
larder; there I took possession of a cold chicken, a roll of bread,
some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with this booty I
made a hasty retreat. I had regained the gallery, and was just
shutting the back-door behind me, when an accelerated hum warned me
that the ladies were about to issue from their chambers. I could
not proceed to the schoolroom without passing some of their doors,
and running the risk of being surprised with my cargo of victualage;
so I stood still at this end, which, being windowless, was dark:
quite dark now, for the sun was set and twilight gathering.
Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another:
each came out gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous
through the dusk. For a moment they stood grouped together at the
other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet subdued
vivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly
as a bright mist rolls down a hill. Their collective appearance had
left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never
before received.
I found Adele peeping through the schoolroom door, which she held
ajar. "What beautiful ladies!" cried she in English. "Oh, I wish I
might go to them! Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us byand-
bye, after dinner?"
"No, indeed, I don't; Mr. Rochester has something else to think
about. Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see them
to-morrow: here is your dinner."
She was really hungry, so the chicken and tarts served to divert her
attention for a time. It was well I secured this forage, or both
she, I, and Sophie, to whom I conveyed a share of our repast, would
have run a chance of getting no dinner at all: every one downstairs
was too much engaged to think of us. The dessert was not carried
out till after nine and at ten footmen were still running to and fro
with trays and coffee-cups. I allowed Adele to sit up much later
than usual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleep
while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people bustling
about. Besides, she added, a message might possibly come from Mr.
Rochester when she was undressed; "et alors quel dommage!"
I told her stories as long as she would listen to them; and then for
a change I took her out into the gallery. The hall lamp was now
lit, and it amused her to look over the balustrade and watch the
servants passing backwards and forwards. When the evening was far
advanced, a sound of music issued from the drawing-room, whither the
piano had been removed; Adele and I sat down on the top step of the
stairs to listen. Presently a voice blent with the rich tones of
the instrument; it was a lady who sang, and very sweet her notes
were. The solo over, a duet followed, and then a glee: a joyous
conversational murmur filled up the intervals. I listened long:
suddenly I discovered that my ear was wholly intent on analysing the
mingled sounds, and trying to discriminate amidst the confusion of
accents those of Mr. Rochester; and when it caught them, which it
soon did, it found a further task in framing the tones, rendered by
distance inarticulate, into words.
The clock struck eleven. I looked at Adele, whose head leant
against my shoulder; her eyes were waxing heavy, so I took her up in
my arms and carried her off to bed. It was near one before the
gentlemen and ladies sought their chambers.
The next day was as fine as its predecessor: it was devoted by the
party to an excursion to some site in the neighbourhood. They set
out early in the forenoon, some on horseback, the rest in carriages;
I witnessed both the departure and the return. Miss Ingram, as
before, was the only lady equestrian; and, as before, Mr. Rochester
galloped at her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest. I
pointed out this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfax, who was standing at
the window with me -
"You said it was not likely they should think of being married,"
said I, "but you see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any of
the other ladies."
"Yes, I daresay: no doubt he admires her."
"And she him," I added; "look how she leans her head towards him as
if she were conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face;
I have never had a glimpse of it yet."
"You will see her this evening," answered Mrs. Fairfax. "I happened
to remark to Mr. Rochester how much Adele wished to be introduced to
the ladies, and he said: 'Oh! let her come into the drawing-room
after dinner; and request Miss Eyre to accompany her.'"
"Yes; he said that from mere politeness: I need not go, I am sure,"
I answered.
"Well, I observed to him that as you were unused to company, I did
not think you would like appearing before so gay a party--all
strangers; and he replied, in his quick way--'Nonsense! If she
objects, tell her it is my particular wish; and if she resists, say
I shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.'"
"I will not give him that trouble," I answered. "I will go, if no
better may be; but I don't like it. Shall you be there, Mrs.
"No; I pleaded off, and he admitted my plea. I'll tell you how to
manage so as to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal entrance,
which is the most disagreeable part of the business. You must go
into the drawing-room while it is empty, before the ladies leave the
dinner-table; choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you need
not stay long after the gentlemen come in, unless you please: just
let Mr. Rochester see you are there and then slip away--nobody will
notice you."
"Will these people remain long, do you think?"
"Perhaps two or three weeks, certainly not more. After the Easter
recess, Sir George Lynn, who was lately elected member for Millcote,
will have to go up to town and take his seat; I daresay Mr.
Rochester will accompany him: it surprises me that he has already
made so protracted a stay at Thornfield."
It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when
I was to repair with my charge to the drawing-room. Adele had been
in a state of ecstasy all day, after hearing she was to be presented
to the ladies in the evening; and it was not till Sophie commenced
the operation of dressing her that she sobered down. Then the
importance of the process quickly steadied her, and by the time she
had her curls arranged in well-smoothed, drooping clusters, her pink
satin frock put on, her long sash tied, and her lace mittens
adjusted, she looked as grave as any judge. No need to warn her not
to disarrange her attire: when she was dressed, she sat demurely
down in her little chair, taking care previously to lift up the
satin skirt for fear she should crease it, and assured me she would
not stir thence till I was ready. This I quickly was: my best
dress (the silver-grey one, purchased for Miss Temple's wedding, and
never worn since) was soon put on; my hair was soon smoothed; my
sole ornament, the pearl brooch, soon assumed. We descended.
Fortunately there was another entrance to the drawing-room than that
through the saloon where they were all seated at dinner. We found
the apartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marble
hearth, and wax candles shining in bright solitude, amid the
exquisite flowers with which the tables were adorned. The crimson
curtain hung before the arch: slight as was the separation this
drapery formed from the party in the adjoining saloon, they spoke in
so low a key that nothing of their conversation could be
distinguished beyond a soothing murmur.
Adele, who appeared to be still under the influence of a most
solemnising impression, sat down, without a word, on the footstool I
pointed out to her. I retired to a window-seat, and taking a book
from a table near, endeavoured to read. Adele brought her stool to
my feet; ere long she touched my knee.
"What is it, Adele?"
"Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendrie une seule de ces fleurs
magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette."
"You think too much of your 'toilette,' Adele: but you may have a
flower." And I took a rose from a vase and fastened it in her sash.
She sighed a sigh of ineffable satisfaction, as if her cup of
happiness were now full. I turned my face away to conceal a smile I
could not suppress: there was something ludicrous as well as
painful in the little Parisienne's earnest and innate devotion to
matters of dress.
A soft sound of rising now became audible; the curtain was swept
back from the arch; through it appeared the dining-room, with its
lit lustre pouring down light on the silver and glass of a
magnificent dessert-service covering a long table; a band of ladies
stood in the opening; they entered, and the curtain fell behind
There were but eight; yet, somehow, as they flocked in, they gave
the impression of a much larger number. Some of them were very
tall; many were dressed in white; and all had a sweeping amplitude
of array that seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifies
the moon. I rose and curtseyed to them: one or two bent their
heads in return, the others only stared at me.
They dispersed about the room, reminding me, by the lightness and
buoyancy of their movements, of a flock of white plumy birds. Some
of them threw themselves in half-reclining positions on the sofas
and ottomans: some bent over the tables and examined the flowers
and books: the rest gathered in a group round the fire: all talked
in a low but clear tone which seemed habitual to them. I knew their
names afterwards, and may as well mention them now.
First, there was Mrs. Eshton and two of her daughters. She had
evidently been a handsome woman, and was well preserved still. Of
her daughters, the eldest, Amy, was rather little: naive, and
child-like in face and manner, and piquant in form; her white muslin
dress and blue sash became her well. The second, Louisa, was taller
and more elegant in figure; with a very pretty face, of that order
the French term minois chiffone: both sisters were fair as lilies.
Lady Lynn was a large and stout personage of about forty, very
erect, very haughty-looking, richly dressed in a satin robe of
changeful sheen: her dark hair shone glossily under the shade of an
azure plume, and within the circlet of a band of gems.
Mrs. Colonel Dent was less showy; but, I thought, more lady-like.
She had a slight figure, a pale, gentle face, and fair hair. Her
black satin dress, her scarf of rich foreign lace, and her pearl
ornaments, pleased me better than the rainbow radiance of the titled
But the three most distinguished--partly, perhaps, because the
tallest figures of the band--were the Dowager Lady Ingram and her
daughters, Blanche and Mary. They were all three of the loftiest
stature of women. The Dowager might be between forty and fifty:
her shape was still fine; her hair (by candle-light at least) still
black; her teeth, too, were still apparently perfect. Most people
would have termed her a splendid woman of her age: and so she was,
no doubt, physically speaking; but then there was an expression of
almost insupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance.
She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat
like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only inflated and
darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained
by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural
erectness. She had, likewise, a fierce and a hard eye: it reminded
me of Mrs. Reed's; she mouthed her words in speaking; her voice was
deep, its inflections very pompous, very dogmatical,--very
intolerable, in short. A crimson velvet robe, and a shawl turban of
some gold-wrought Indian fabric, invested her (I suppose she
thought) with a truly imperial dignity.
Blanche and Mary were of equal stature,--straight and tall as
poplars. Mary was too slim for her height, but Blanche was moulded
like a Dian. I regarded her, of course, with special interest.
First, I wished to see whether her appearance accorded with Mrs.
Fairfax's description; secondly, whether it at all resembled the
fancy miniature I had painted of her; and thirdly--it will out!--
whether it were such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr.
Rochester's taste.
As far as person went, she answered point for point, both to my
picture and Mrs. Fairfax's description. The noble bust, the sloping
shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and black ringlets were
all there;--but her face? Her face was like her mother's; a
youthful unfurrowed likeness: the same low brow, the same high
features, the same pride. It was not, however, so saturnine a
pride! she laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so was
the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.
Genius is said to be self-conscious. I cannot tell whether Miss
Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious--remarkably selfconscious
indeed. She entered into a discourse on botany with the
gentle Mrs. Dent. It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science:
though, as she said, she liked flowers, "especially wild ones;" Miss
Ingram had, and she ran over its vocabulary with an air. I
presently perceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) TRAILING
Mrs. Dent; that is, playing on her ignorance--her TRAIL might be
clever, but it was decidedly not good-natured. She played: her
execution was brilliant; she sang: her voice was fine; she talked
French apart to her mamma; and she talked it well, with fluency and
with a good accent.
Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer
features too, and a skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark as
a Spaniard)--but Mary was deficient in life: her face lacked
expression, her eye lustre; she had nothing to say, and having once
taken her seat, remained fixed like a statue in its niche. The
sisters were both attired in spotless white.
And did I now think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester would
be likely to make? I could not tell--I did not know his taste in
female beauty. If he liked the majestic, she was the very type of
majesty: then she was accomplished, sprightly. Most gentlemen
would admire her, I thought; and that he DID admire her, I already
seemed to have obtained proof: to remove the last shade of doubt,
it remained but to see them together.
You are not to suppose, reader, that Adele has all this time been
sitting motionless on the stool at my feet: no; when the ladies
entered, she rose, advanced to meet them, made a stately reverence,
and said with gravity -
"Bon jour, mesdames."
And Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and
exclaimed, "Oh, what a little puppet!"
Lady Lynn had remarked, "It is Mr. Rochester's ward, I suppose--the
little French girl he was speaking of."
Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand, and given her a kiss.
Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously--"What a love of
a child!"
And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced
between them, chattering alternately in French and broken English;
absorbing not only the young ladies' attention, but that of Mrs.
Eshton and Lady Lynn, and getting spoilt to her heart's content.
At last coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen are summoned. I sit
in the shade--if any shade there be in this brilliantly-lit
apartment; the window-curtain half hides me. Again the arch yawns;
they come. The collective appearance of the gentlemen, like that of
the ladies, is very imposing: they are all costumed in black; most
of them are tall, some young. Henry and Frederick Lynn are very
dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly man.
Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, is gentleman-like: his
hair is quite white, his eyebrows and whiskers still dark, which
gives him something of the appearance of a "pere noble de theatre."
Lord Ingram, like his sisters, is very tall; like them, also, he is
handsome; but he shares Mary's apathetic and listless look: he
seems to have more length of limb than vivacity of blood or vigour
of brain.
And where is Mr. Rochester?
He comes in last: I am not looking at the arch, yet I see him
enter. I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles,
on the meshes of the purse I am forming--I wish to think only of the
work I have in my hands, to see only the silver beads and silk
threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure,
and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I
had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and he,
holding my hand, and looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes
that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions
I had a part. How near had I approached him at that moment! What
had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative
positions? Yet now, how distant, how far estranged we were! So far
estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me. I did
not wonder, when, without looking at me, he took a seat at the other
side of the room, and began conversing with some of the ladies.
No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and that
I might gaze without being observed, than my eyes were drawn
involuntarily to his face; I could not keep their lids under
control: they would rise, and the irids would fix on him. I
looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking,--a precious yet
poignant pleasure; pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a
pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the
well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine
draughts nevertheless.
Most true is it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer." My
master's colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and
jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth,--all
energy, decision, will,--were not beautiful, according to rule; but
they were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest,
an influence that quite mastered me,--that took my feelings from my
own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him;
the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the
germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of
him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me love
him without looking at me.
I compared him with his guests. What was the gallant grace of the
Lynns, the languid elegance of Lord Ingram,--even the military
distinction of Colonel Dent, contrasted with his look of native pith
and genuine power? I had no sympathy in their appearance, their
expression: yet I could imagine that most observers would call them
attractive, handsome, imposing; while they would pronounce Mr.
Rochester at once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking. I saw them
smile, laugh--it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much
soul in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as much
significance as their laugh. I saw Mr. Rochester smile:- his stern
features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle, its ray
both searching and sweet. He was talking, at the moment, to Louisa
and Amy Eshton. I wondered to see them receive with calm that look
which seemed to me so penetrating: I expected their eyes to fall,
their colour to rise under it; yet I was glad when I found they were
in no sense moved. "He is not to them what he is to me," I thought:
"he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;--I am sure he
is--I feel akin to him--I understand the language of his countenance
and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have
something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that
assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I
had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands?
Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a
paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true, vigorous
feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal
my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot
care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not
mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I
mean only that I have certain tastes and feelings in common with
him. I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever
sundered:- and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him."
Coffee is handed. The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have
become lively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry. Colonel
Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen. The two
proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.
Sir George--whom, by-the-bye, I have forgotten to describe,--a very
big, and very fresh-looking country gentleman, stands before their
sofa, coffee-cup in hand, and occasionally puts in a word. Mr.
Frederick Lynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingram, and is showing
her the engravings of a splendid volume: she looks, smiles now and
then, but apparently says little. The tall and phlegmatic Lord
Ingram leans with folded arms on the chair-back of the little and
lively Amy Eshton; she glances up at him, and chatters like a wren:
she likes him better than she does Mr. Rochester. Henry Lynn has
taken possession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa: Adele shares
it with him: he is trying to talk French with her, and Louisa
laughs at his blunders. With whom will Blanche Ingram pair? She is
standing alone at the table, bending gracefully over an album. She
seems waiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long: she
herself selects a mate.
Mr. Rochester, having quitted the Eshtons, stands on the hearth as
solitary as she stands by the table: she confronts him, taking her
station on the opposite side of the mantelpiece.
"Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?"
"Nor am I."
"Then, what induced you to take charge of such a little doll as
that?" (pointing to Adele). "Where did you pick her up?"
"I did not pick her up; she was left on my hands."
"You should have sent her to school."
"I could not afford it: schools are so dear."
"Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with
her just now--is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still, behind the
window-curtain. You pay her, of course; I should think it quite as
expensive,--more so; for you have them both to keep in addition."
I feared--or should I say, hoped?--the allusion to me would make Mr.
Rochester glance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther into the
shade: but he never turned his eyes.
"I have not considered the subject," said he indifferently, looking
straight before him.
"No, you men never do consider economy and common sense. You should
hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I
should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable
and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi--were they not, mama?"
"Did you speak, my own?"
The young lady thus claimed as the dowager's special property,
reiterated her question with an explanation.
"My dearest, don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.
I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice. I
thank Heaven I have now done with them!"
Mrs. Dent here bent over to the pious lady and whispered something
in her ear; I suppose, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder
that one of the anathematised race was present.
"Tant pis!" said her Ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!" Then,
in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed
her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults
of her class."
"What are they, madam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.
"I will tell you in your private ear," replied she, wagging her
turban three times with portentous significancy.
"But my curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."
"Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I."
"Oh, don't refer him to me, mama! I have just one word to say of
the whole tribe; they are a nuisance. Not that I ever suffered much
from them; I took care to turn the tables. What tricks Theodore and
I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and Madame
Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with spirit.
The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was a poor sickly
thing, lachrymose and low-spirited, not worth the trouble of
vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and insensible; no
blow took effect on her. But poor Madame Joubert! I see her yet in
her raging passions, when we had driven her to extremities--spilt
our tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed our books up to the
ceiling, and played a charivari with the ruler and desk, the fender
and fire-irons. Theodore, do you remember those merry days?"
"Yaas, to be sure I do," drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor old
stick used to cry out 'Oh you villains childs!'--and then we
sermonised her on the presumption of attempting to teach such clever
blades as we were, when she was herself so ignorant."
"We did; and, Tedo, you know, I helped you in prosecuting (or
persecuting) your tutor, whey-faced Mr. Vining--the parson in the
pip, as we used to call him. He and Miss Wilson took the liberty of
falling in love with each other--at least Tedo and I thought so; we
surprised sundry tender glances and sighs which we interpreted as
tokens of 'la belle passion,' and I promise you the public soon had
the benefit of our discovery; we employed it as a sort of lever to
hoist our dead-weights from the house. Dear mama, there, as soon as
she got an inkling of the business, found out that it was of an
immoral tendency. Did you not, my lady-mother?"
"Certainly, my best. And I was quite right: depend on that: there
are a thousand reasons why liaisons between governesses and tutors
should never be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated house;
"Oh, gracious, mama! Spare us the enumeration! Au reste, we all
know them: danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;
distractions and consequent neglect of duty on the part of the
attached--mutual alliance and reliance; confidence thence resulting-
-insolence accompanying--mutiny and general blow-up. Am I right,
Baroness Ingram, of Ingram Park?"
"My lily-flower, you are right now, as always."
"Then no more need be said: change the subject."
Amy Eshton, not hearing or not heeding this dictum, joined in with
her soft, infantine tone: "Louisa and I used to quiz our governess
too; but she was such a good creature, she would bear anything:
nothing put her out. She was never cross with us; was she, Louisa?"
"No, never: we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and her
workbox, and turn her drawers inside out; and she was so goodnatured,
she would give as anything we asked for."
"I suppose, now," said Miss Ingram, curling her lip sarcastically,
"we shall have an abstract of the memoirs of all the governesses
extant: in order to avert such a visitation, I again move the
introduction of a new topic. Mr. Rochester, do you second my
"Madam, I support you on this point, as on every other."
"Then on me be the onus of bringing it forward. Signior Eduardo,
are you in voice to-night?"
"Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be."
"Then, signior, I lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up your
lungs and other vocal organs, as they will be wanted on my royal
"Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"
"A fig for Rizzio!" cried she, tossing her head with all its curls,
as she moved to the piano. "It is my opinion the fiddler David must
have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell better:
to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him; and
history may say what it will of James Hepburn, but I have a notion,
he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero whom I could have
consented to gift with my hand."
"Gentlemen, you hear! Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?"
cried Mr. Rochester.
"I should say the preference lies with you," responded Colonel Dent.
"On my honour, I am much obliged to you," was the reply.
Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself with proud grace at the
piano, spreading out her snowy robes in queenly amplitude, commenced
a brilliant prelude; talking meantime. She appeared to be on her
high horse to-night; both her words and her air seemed intended to
excite not only the admiration, but the amazement of her auditors:
she was evidently bent on striking them as something very dashing
and daring indeed.
"Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed
she, rattling away at the instrument. "Poor, puny things, not fit
to stir a step beyond papa's park gates: nor to go even so far
without mama's permission and guardianship! Creatures so absorbed
in care about their pretty faces, and their white hands, and their
small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty! As if
loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman--her legitimate
appanage and heritage! I grant an ugly WOMAN is a blot on the fair
face of creation; but as to the GENTLEMEN, let them be solicitous to
possess only strength and valour: let their motto be:- Hunt, shoot,
and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such should be my
device, were I a man."
"Whenever I marry," she continued after a pause which none
interrupted, "I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a
foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall
exact an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared
between me and the shape he sees in his mirror. Mr. Rochester, now
sing, and I will play for you."
"I am all obedience," was the response.
"Here then is a Corsair-song. Know that I doat on Corsairs; and for
that reason, sing it con spirito."
"Commands from Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug of
milk and water."
"Take care, then: if you don't please me, I will shame you by
showing how such things SHOULD be done."
"That is offering a premium on incapacity: I shall now endeavour to
"Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a
proportionate punishment."
"Miss Ingram ought to be clement, for she has it in her power to
inflict a chastisement beyond mortal endurance."
"Ha! explain!" commanded the lady.
"Pardon me, madam: no need of explanation; your own fine sense must
inform you that one of your frowns would be a sufficient substitute
for capital punishment."
"Sing!" said she, and again touching the piano, she commenced an
accompaniment in spirited style.
"Now is my time to slip away," thought I: but the tones that then
severed the air arrested me. Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochester
possessed a fine voice: he did--a mellow, powerful bass, into which
he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way through the
ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely. I waited
till the last deep and full vibration had expired--till the tide of
talk, checked an instant, had resumed its flow; I then quitted my
sheltered corner and made my exit by the side-door, which was
fortunately near. Thence a narrow passage led into the hall: in
crossing it, I perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped to tie it,
kneeling down for that purpose on the mat at the foot of the
staircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman came
out; rising hastily, I stood face to face with him: it was Mr.
"How do you do?" he asked.
"I am very well, sir."
"Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?"
I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but
I would not take that freedom. I answered -
"I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir."
"What have you been doing during my absence?"
"Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual."
"And getting a good deal paler than you were--as I saw at first
sight. What is the matter?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
"Did you take any cold that night you half drowned me?"
"Not she least."
"Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early."
"I am tired, sir."
He looked at me for a minute.
"And a little depressed," he said. "What about? Tell me."
"Nothing--nothing, sir. I am not depressed."
"But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words
would bring tears to your eyes--indeed, they are there now, shining
and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to
the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some
prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means.
Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my
visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every
evening; it is my wish; don't neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie
for Adele. Good-night, my--" He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly
left me.
Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how
different from the first three months of stillness, monotony, and
solitude I had passed beneath its roof! All sad feelings seemed now
driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten: there was
life everywhere, movement all day long. You could not now traverse
the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front chambers, once so
tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a dandy
The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance
hall, were equally alive; and the saloons were only left void and
still when the blue sky and halcyon sunshine of the genial spring
weather called their occupants out into the grounds. Even when that
weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days, no
damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became more
lively and varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor gaiety.
I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change of
entertainment was proposed: they spoke of "playing charades," but
in my ignorance I did not understand the term. The servants were
called in, the dining-room tables wheeled away, the lights otherwise
disposed, the chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the arch.
While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen directed these
alterations, the ladies were running up and down stairs ringing for
their maids. Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information
respecting the resources of the house in shawls, dresses, draperies
of any kind; and certain wardrobes of the third storey were
ransacked, and their contents, in the shape of brocaded and hooped
petticoats, satin sacques, black modes, lace lappets, &c., were
brought down in armfuls by the abigails; then a selection was made,
and such things as were chosen were carried to the boudoir within
the drawing-room.
Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him, and
was selecting certain of their number to be of his party. "Miss
Ingram is mine, of course," said he: afterwards he named the two
Misses Eshton, and Mrs. Dent. He looked at me: I happened to be
near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs. Dent's bracelet,
which had got loose.
"Will you play?" he asked. I shook my head. He did not insist,
which I rather feared he would have done; he allowed me to return
quietly to my usual seat.
He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party,
which was headed by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of
chairs. One of the gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to
propose that I should be asked to join them; but Lady Ingram
instantly negatived the notion.
"No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the
Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up. Within the arch,
the bulky figure of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had likewise
chosen, was seen enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on a
table, lay open a large book; and at his side stood Amy Eshton,
draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book in her hand.
Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adele (who had
insisted on being one of her guardian's party), bounded forward,
scattering round her the contents of a basket of flowers she carried
on her arm. Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingram,
clad in white, a long veil on her head, and a wreath of roses round
her brow; by her side walked Mr. Rochester, and together they drew
near the table. They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshton,
dressed also in white, took up their stations behind them. A
ceremony followed, in dumb show, in which it was easy to recognise
the pantomime of a marriage. At its termination, Colonel Dent and
his party consulted in whispers for two minutes, then the Colonel
called out -
"Bride!" Mr. Rochester bowed, and the curtain fell.
A considerable interval elapsed before it again rose. Its second
rising displayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.
The drawing-room, as I have before observed, was raised two steps
above the dining-room, and on the top of the upper step, placed a
yard or two back within the room, appeared a large marble basin--
which I recognised as an ornament of the conservatory--where it
usually stood, surrounded by exotics, and tenanted by gold fish--and
whence it must have been transported with some trouble, on account
of its size and weight.
Seated on the carpet, by the side of this basin, was seen Mr.
Rochester, costumed in shawls, with a turban on his head. His dark
eyes and swarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costume
exactly: he looked the very model of an Eastern emir, an agent or a
victim of the bowstring. Presently advanced into view Miss Ingram.
She, too, was attired in oriental fashion: a crimson scarf tied
sash-like round the waist: an embroidered handkerchief knotted
about her temples; her beautifully-moulded arms bare, one of them
upraised in the act of supporting a pitcher, poised gracefully on
her head. Both her cast of form and feature, her complexion and her
general air, suggested the idea of some Israelitish princess of the
patriarchal days; and such was doubtless the character she intended
to represent.
She approached the basin, and bent over it as if to fill her
pitcher; she again lifted it to her head. The personage on the
well-brink now seemed to accost her; to make some request:- "She
hasted, let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink."
From the bosom of his robe he then produced a casket, opened it and
showed magnificent bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishment
and admiration; kneeling, he laid the treasure at her feet;
incredulity and delight were expressed by her looks and gestures;
the stranger fastened the bracelets on her arms and the rings in her
ears. It was Eliezer and Rebecca: the camels only were wanting.
The divining party again laid their heads together: apparently they
could not agree about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.
Colonel Dent, their spokesman, demanded "the tableau of the whole;"
whereupon the curtain again descended.
On its third rising only a portion of the drawing-room was
disclosed; the rest being concealed by a screen, hung with some sort
of dark and coarse drapery. The marble basin was removed; in its
place, stood a deal table and a kitchen chair: these objects were
visible by a very dim light proceeding from a horn lantern, the wax
candles being all extinguished.
Amidst this sordid scene, sat a man with his clenched hands resting
on his knees, and his eyes bent on the ground. I knew Mr.
Rochester; though the begrimed face, the disordered dress (his coat
hanging loose from one arm, as if it had been almost torn from his
back in a scuffle), the desperate and scowling countenance, the
rough, bristling hair might well have disguised him. As he moved, a
chain clanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.
"Bridewell!" exclaimed Colonel Dent, and the charade was solved.
A sufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resume
their ordinary costume, they re-entered the dining-room. Mr.
Rochester led in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on his
"Do you know," said she, "that, of the three characters, I liked you
in the last best? Oh, had you but lived a few years earlier, what a
gallant gentleman-highwayman you would have made!"
"Is all the soot washed from my face?" he asked, turning it towards
"Alas! yes: the more's the pity! Nothing could be more becoming to
your complexion than that ruffian's rouge."
"You would like a hero of the road then?"
"An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an
Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine
"Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an
hour since, in the presence of all these witnesses." She giggled,
and her colour rose.
"Now, Dent," continued Mr. Rochester, "it is your turn." And as the
other party withdrew, he and his band took the vacated seats. Miss
Ingram placed herself at her leader's right hand; the other diviners
filled the chairs on each side of him and her. I did not now watch
the actors; I no longer waited with interest for the curtain to
rise; my attention was absorbed by the spectators; my eyes, erewhile
fixed on the arch, were now irresistibly attracted to the semicircle
of chairs. What charade Colonel Dent and his party played, what
word they chose, how they acquitted themselves, I no longer
remember; but I still see the consultation which followed each
scene: I see Mr. Rochester turn to Miss Ingram, and Miss Ingram to
him; I see her incline her head towards him, till the jetty curls
almost touch his shoulder and wave against his cheek; I hear their
mutual whisperings; I recall their interchanged glances; and
something even of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns in
memory at this moment.
I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester: I
could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased
to notice me--because I might pass hours in his presence, and he
would never once turn his eyes in my direction--because I saw all
his attentions appropriated by a great lady, who scorned to touch me
with the hem of her robes as she passed; who, if ever her dark and
imperious eye fell on me by chance, would withdraw it instantly as
from an object too mean to merit observation. I could not unlove
him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady--because
I read daily in her a proud security in his intentions respecting
her--because I witnessed hourly in him a style of courtship which,
if careless and choosing rather to be sought than to seek, was yet,
in its very carelessness, captivating, and in its very pride,
There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances,
though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader, to
engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume to be
jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram's. But I was not jealous: or
very rarely;--the nature of the pain I suffered could not be
explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:
she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming
paradox; I mean what I say. She was very showy, but she was not
genuine: she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments; but her
mind was poor, her heart barren by nature: nothing bloomed
spontaneously on that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted by
its freshness. She was not good; she was not original: she used to
repeat sounding phrases from books: she never offered, nor had, an
opinion of her own. She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but she
did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and
truth were not in her. Too often she betrayed this, by the undue
vent she gave to a spiteful antipathy she had conceived against
little Adele: pushing her away with some contumelious epithet if
she happened to approach her; sometimes ordering her from the room,
and always treating her with coldness and acrimony. Other eyes
besides mine watched these manifestations of character--watched them
closely, keenly, shrewdly. Yes; the future bridegroom, Mr.
Rochester himself, exercised over his intended a ceaseless
surveillance; and it was from this sagacity--this guardedness of
his--this perfect, clear consciousness of his fair one's defects--
this obvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards her, that
my ever-torturing pain arose.
I saw he was going to marry her, for family, perhaps political
reasons, because her rank and connections suited him; I felt he had
not given her his love, and that her qualifications were ill adapted
to win from him that treasure. This was the point--this was where
the nerve was touched and teased--this was where the fever was
sustained and fed: SHE COULD NOT CHARM HIM.
If she had managed the victory at once, and he had yielded and
sincerely laid his heart at her feet, I should have covered my face,
turned to the wall, and (figuratively) have died to them. If Miss
Ingram had been a good and noble woman, endowed with force, fervour,
kindness, sense, I should have had one vital struggle with two
tigers--jealousy and despair: then, my heart torn out and devoured,
I should have admired her--acknowledged her excellence, and been
quiet for the rest of my days: and the more absolute her
superiority, the deeper would have been my admiration--the more
truly tranquil my quiescence. But as matters really stood, to watch
Miss Ingram's efforts at fascinating Mr. Rochester, to witness their
repeated failure--herself unconscious that they did fail; vainly
fancying that each shaft launched hit the mark, and infatuatedly
pluming herself on success, when her pride and self-complacency
repelled further and further what she wished to allure--to witness
THIS, was to be at once under ceaseless excitation and ruthless
Because, when she failed, I saw how she might have succeeded.
Arrows that continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast and
fell harmless at his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand,
have quivered keen in his proud heart--have called love into his
stern eye, and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still,
without weapons a silent conquest might have been won.
"Why can she not influence him more, when she is privileged to draw
so near to him?" I asked myself. "Surely she cannot truly like him,
or not like him with true affection! If she did, she need not coin
her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly,
manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous. It seems to
me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying
little and looking less, get nigher his heart. I have seen in his
face a far different expression from that which hardens it now while
she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it
was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; and
one had but to accept it--to answer what he asked without
pretension, to address him when needful without grimace--and it
increased and grew kinder and more genial, and warmed one like a
fostering sunbeam. How will she manage to please him when they are
married? I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might be
managed; and his wife might, I verily believe, be the very happiest
woman the sun shines on."
I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's project
of marrying for interest and connections. It surprised me when I
first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a
man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his
choice of a wife; but the longer I considered the position,
education, &c., of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging
and blaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to
ideas and principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their
childhood. All their class held these principles: I supposed,
then, they had reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom.
It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to
my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness
of the advantages to the husband's own happiness offered by this
plan convinced me that there must be arguments against its general
adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all
the world would act as I wished to act.
But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to
my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once
kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly been my endeavour to study
all sides of his character: to take the bad with the good; and from
the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgment. Now I saw
no bad. The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that had
startled me once, were only like keen condiments in a choice dish:
their presence was pungent, but their absence would be felt as
comparatively insipid. And as for the vague something--was it a
sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression?--
that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye, and
closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially
disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink, as
if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had
suddenly felt the ground quiver and seen it gape: that something,
I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not
with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to
dare--to divine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because one day
she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore its secrets
and analyse their nature.
Meantime, while I thought only of my master and his future bride--
saw only them, heard only their discourse, and considered only their
movements of importance--the rest of the party were occupied with
their own separate interests and pleasures. The Ladies Lynn and
Ingram continued to consort in solemn conferences, where they nodded
their two turbans at each other, and held up their four hands in
confronting gestures of surprise, or mystery, or horror, according
to the theme on which their gossip ran, like a pair of magnified
puppets. Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs. Eshton; and
the two sometimes bestowed a courteous word or smile on me. Sir
George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and Mr. Eshton discussed politics, or
county affairs, or justice business. Lord Ingram flirted with Amy
Eshton; Louisa played and sang to and with one of the Messrs. Lynn;
and Mary Ingram listened languidly to the gallant speeches of the
other. Sometimes all, as with one consent, suspended their by-play
to observe and listen to the principal actors: for, after all, Mr.
Rochester and--because closely connected with him--Miss Ingram were
the life and soul of the party. If he was absent from the room an
hour, a perceptible dulness seemed to steal over the spirits of his
guests; and his re-entrance was sure to give a fresh impulse to the
vivacity of conversation.
The want of his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly felt
one day that he had been summoned to Millcote on business, and was
not likely to return till late. The afternoon was wet: a walk the
party had proposed to take to see a gipsy camp, lately pitched on a
common beyond Hay, was consequently deferred. Some of the gentlemen
were gone to the stables: the younger ones, together with the
younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard-room. The
dowagers Ingram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.
Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity,
some efforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into
conversation, had first murmured over some sentimental tunes and
airs on the piano, and then, having fetched a novel from the
library, had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa, and
prepared to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the tedious hours of
absence. The room and the house were silent: only now and then the
merriment of the billiard-players was heard from above.
It was verging on dusk, and the clock had already given warning of
the hour to dress for dinner, when little Adele, who knelt by me in
the drawing-room window-seat, suddenly exclaimed -
"Voile, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"
I turned, and Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa: the
others, too, looked up from their several occupations; for at the
same time a crunching of wheels and a splashing tramp of horse-hoofs
became audible on the wet gravel. A post-chaise was approaching.
"What can possess him to come home in that style?" said Miss Ingram.
"He rode Mesrour (the black horse), did he not, when he went out?
and Pilot was with him:- what has he done with the animals?"
As she said this, she approached her tall person and ample garments
so near the window, that I was obliged to bend back almost to the
breaking of my spine: in her eagerness she did not observe me at
first, but when she did, she curled her lip and moved to another
casement. The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-bell,
and a gentleman alighted attired in travelling garb; but it was not
Mr. Rochester; it was a tall, fashionable-looking man, a stranger.
"How provoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram: "you tiresome monkey!"
(apostrophising Adele), "who perched you up in the window to give
false intelligence?" and she cast on me an angry glance, as if I
were in fault.
Some parleying was audible in the hall, and soon the new-comer
entered. He bowed to Lady Ingram, as deeming her the eldest lady
"It appears I come at an inopportune time, madam," said he, "when my
friend, Mr. Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very long
journey, and I think I may presume so far on old and intimate
acquaintance as to instal myself here till he returns."
His manner was polite; his accent, in speaking, struck me as being
somewhat unusual,--not precisely foreign, but still not altogether
English: his age might be about Mr. Rochester's,--between thirty
and forty; his complexion was singularly sallow: otherwise he was a
fine-looking man, at first sight especially. On closer examination,
you detected something in his face that displeased, or rather that
failed to please. His features were regular, but too relaxed: his
eye was large and well cut, but the life looking out of it was a
tame, vacant life--at least so I thought.
The sound of the dressing-bell dispersed the party. It was not till
after dinner that I saw him again: he then seemed quite at his
ease. But I liked his physiognomy even less than before: it struck
me as being at the same time unsettled and inanimate. His eye
wandered, and had no meaning in its wandering: this gave him an odd
look, such as I never remembered to have seen. For a handsome and
not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there was
no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape: no
firmness in that aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there was no
thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank, brown
As I sat in my usual nook, and looked at him with the light of the
girandoles on the mantelpiece beaming full over him--for he occupied
an arm-chair drawn close to the fire, and kept shrinking still
nearer, as if he were cold, I compared him with Mr. Rochester. I
think (with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be much
greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between a meek
sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian.
He had spoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend. A curious
friendship theirs must have been: a pointed illustration, indeed,
of the old adage that "extremes meet."
Two or three of the gentlemen sat near him, and I caught at times
scraps of their conversation across the room. At first I could not
make much sense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa Eshton
and Mary Ingram, who sat nearer to me, confused the fragmentary
sentences that reached me at intervals. These last were discussing
the stranger; they both called him "a beautiful man." Louisa said
he was "a love of a creature," and she "adored him;" and Mary
instanced his "pretty little mouth, and nice nose," as her ideal of
the charming.
"And what a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa,--"so
smooth--none of those frowning irregularities I dislike so much; and
such a placid eye and smile!"
And then, to my great relief, Mr. Henry Lynn summoned them to the
other side of the room, to settle some point about the deferred
excursion to Hay Common.
I was now able to concentrate my attention on the group by the fire,
and I presently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason;
then I learned that he was but just arrived in England, and that he
came from some hot country: which was the reason, doubtless, his
face was so sallow, and that he sat so near the hearth, and wore a
surtout in the house. Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston,
Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies as his residence; and it was
with no little surprise I gathered, ere long, that he had there
first seen and become acquainted with Mr. Rochester. He spoke of
his friend's dislike of the burning heats, the hurricanes, and rainy
seasons of that region. I knew Mr. Rochester had been a traveller:
Mrs. Fairfax had said so; but I thought the continent of Europe had
bounded his wanderings; till now I had never heard a hint given of
visits to more distant shores.
I was pondering these things, when an incident, and a somewhat
unexpected one, broke the thread of my musings. Mr. Mason,
shivering as some one chanced to open the door, asked for more coal
to be put on the fire, which had burnt out its flame, though its
mass of cinder still shone hot and red. The footman who brought the
coal, in going out, stopped near Mr. Eshton's chair, and said
something to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the words,
"old woman,"--"quite troublesome."
"Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take
herself off," replied the magistrate.
"No--stop!" interrupted Colonel Dent. "Don't send her away, Eshton;
we might turn the thing to account; better consult the ladies." And
speaking aloud, he continued--"Ladies, you talked of going to Hay
Common to visit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that one of the old
Mother Bunches is in the servants' hall at this moment, and insists
upon being brought in before 'the quality,' to tell them their
fortunes. Would you like to see her?"
"Surely, colonel," cried Lady Ingram, "you would not encourage such
a low impostor? Dismiss her, by all means, at once!"
"But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady," said the footman;
"nor can any of the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just now,
entreating her to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the chimneycomer,
and says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leave
to come in here."
"What does she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.
"'To tell the gentry their fortunes,' she says, ma'am; and she
swears she must and will do it."
"What is she like?" inquired the Misses Eshton, in a breath.
"A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a crock."
"Why, she's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn. "Let us have
her in, of course."
"To be sure," rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousand pities
to throw away such a chance of fun."
"My dear boys, what are you thinking about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.
"I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding,"
chimed in the Dowager Ingram.
"Indeed, mama, but you can--and will," pronounced the haughty voice
of Blanche, as she turned round on the piano-stool; where till now
she had sat silent, apparently examining sundry sheets of music. "I
have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore, Sam, order the
beldame forward."
"My darling Blanche! recollect--"
"I do--I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will--
quick, Sam!"
"Yes--yes--yes!" cried all the juveniles, both ladies and gentlemen.
"Let her come--it will be excellent sport!"
The footman still lingered. "She looks such a rough one," said he.
"Go!" ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.
Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of
raillery and jests was proceeding when Sam returned.
"She won't come now," said he. "She says it's not her mission to
appear before the 'vulgar herd' (them's her words). I must show her
into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her must
go to her one by one."
"You see now, my queenly Blanche," began Lady Ingram, "she
encroaches. Be advised, my angel girl--and--"
"Show her into the library, of course," cut in the "angel girl."
"It is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd
either: I mean to have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the
"Yes, ma'am--but she looks such a tinkler."
"Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding."
Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose to full
flow once more.
"She's ready now," said the footman, as he reappeared. "She wishes
to know who will be her first visitor."
"I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies
go," said Colonel Dent.
"Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."
Sam went and returned.
"She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not trouble
themselves to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty
suppressing a titter, "any ladies either, except the young, and
"By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.
Miss Ingram rose solemnly: "I go first," she said, in a tone which
might have befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach
in the van of his men.
"Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause--reflect!" was her mama's cry;
but she swept past her in stately silence, passed through the door
which Colonel Dent held open, and we heard her enter the library.
A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to
wring her hands: which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared she
felt, for her part, she never dared venture. Amy and Louisa Eshton
tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.
The minutes passed very slowly: fifteen were counted before the
library-door again opened. Miss Ingram returned to us through the
Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke? All eyes met her
with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of
rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry: she
walked stiffly to her seat, and took it in silence.
"Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram.
"What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.
"What did you think? How do you feel?--Is she a real fortuneteller?"
demanded the Misses Eshton.
"Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon me.
Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited: you
seem, by the importance of you all--my good mama included--ascribe
to this matter, absolutely to believe we have a genuine witch in the
house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman. I have seen
a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science
of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell. My whim is
gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag in
the stocks to-morrow morning, as he threatened."
Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined
further conversation. I watched her for nearly half-an-hour:
during all that time she never turned a page, and her face grew
momently darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly expressive of
disappointment. She had obviously not heard anything to her
advantage: and it seemed to me, from her prolonged fit of gloom and
taciturnity, that she herself, notwithstanding her professed
indifference, attached undue importance to whatever revelations had
been made her.
Meantime, Mary Ingram, Amy and Louisa Eshton, declared they dared
not go alone; and yet they all wished to go. A negotiation was
opened through the medium of the ambassador, Sam; and after much
pacing to and fro, till, I think, the said Sam's calves must have
ached with the exercise, permission was at last, with great
difficulty, extorted from the rigorous Sibyl, for the three to wait
upon her in a body.
Their visit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been: we heard
hysterical giggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library;
and at the end of about twenty minutes they burst the door open, and
came running across the hall, as if they were half-scared out of
their wits.
"I am sure she is something not right!" they cried, one and all.
"She told us such things! She knows all about us!" and they sank
breathless into the various seats the gentlemen hastened to bring
Pressed for further explanation, they declared she had told them of
things they had said and done when they were mere children;
described books and ornaments they had in their boudoirs at home:
keepsakes that different relations had presented to them. They
affirmed that she had even divined their thoughts, and had whispered
in the ear of each the name of the person she liked best in the
world, and informed them of what they most wished for.
Here the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be further
enlightened on these two last-named points; but they got only
blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and titters, in return for their
importunity. The matrons, meantime, offered vinaigrettes and
wielded fans; and again and again reiterated the expression of their
concern that their warning had not been taken in time; and the elder
gentlemen laughed, and the younger urged their services on the
agitated fair ones.
In the midst of the tumult, and while my eyes and ears were fully
engaged in the scene before me, I heard a hem close at my elbow: I
turned, and saw Sam.
"If you please, miss, the gipsy declares that there is another young
single lady in the room who has not been to her yet, and she swears
she will not go till she has seen all. I thought it must be you:
there is no one else for it. What shall I tell her?"
"Oh, I will go by all means," I answered: and I was glad of the
unexpected opportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity. I
slipped out of the room, unobserved by any eye--for the company were
gathered in one mass about the trembling trio just returned--and I
closed the door quietly behind me.
"If you like, miss," said Sam, "I'll wait in the hall for you; and
if she frightens you, just call and I'll come in."
"No, Sam, return to the kitchen: I am not in the least afraid."
Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited.
The library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl--
if Sibyl she were--was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at the
chimney-corner. She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet: or
rather, a broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied down with a striped
handkerchief under her chin. An extinguished candle stood on the
table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed reading in a little
black book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze: she
muttered the words to herself, as most old women do, while she read;
she did not desist immediately on my entrance: it appeared she
wished to finish a paragraph.
I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with
sitting at a distance from the drawing-room fire. I felt now as
composed as ever I did in my life: there was nothing indeed in the
gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm. She shut her book and
slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I
could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one. It looked
all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white
band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or
rather jaws: her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and direct
"Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as
decided as her glance, as harsh as her features.
"I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I
ought to warn you, I have no faith."
"It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard
it in your step as you crossed the threshold."
"Did you? You've a quick ear."
"I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."
"You need them all in your trade."
"I do; especially when I've customers like you to deal with. Why
don't you tremble?"
"I'm not cold."
"Why don't you turn pale?"
"I am not sick."
"Why don't you consult my art?"
"I'm not silly."
The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; she
then drew out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke.
Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body,
took the pipe from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire,
said very deliberately--"You are cold; you are sick; and you are
"Prove it," I rejoined.
"I will, in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no
contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick;
because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to
man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you
may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor will you stir one step
to meet it where it waits you."
She again put her short black pipe to her lips, and renewed her
smoking with vigour.
"You might say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as a
solitary dependent in a great house."
"I might say it to almost any one: but would it be true of almost
any one?"
"In my circumstances."
"Yes; just so, in YOUR circumstances: but find me another precisely
placed as you are."
"It would be easy to find you thousands."
"You could scarcely find me one. If you knew it, you are peculiarly
situated: very near happiness; yes, within reach of it. The
materials are all prepared; there only wants a movement to combine
them. Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approached
and bliss results."
"I don't understand enigmas. I never could guess a riddle in my
"If you wish me to speak more plainly, show me your palm."
"And I must cross it with silver, I suppose?"
"To be sure."
I gave her a shilling: she put it into an old stocking-foot which
she took out of her pocket, and having tied it round and returned
it, she told me to hold out my hand. I did. She ached her face to
the palm, and pored over it without touching it.
"It is too fine," said she. "I can make nothing of such a hand as
that; almost without lines: besides, what is in a palm? Destiny is
not written there."
"I believe you," said I.
"No," she continued, "it is in the face: on the forehead, about the
eyes, in the lines of the mouth. Kneel, and lift up your head."
"Ah! now you are coming to reality," I said, as I obeyed her. "I
shall begin to put some faith in you presently."
I knelt within half a yard of her. She stirred the fire, so that a
ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the glare, however,
as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine, it
"I wonder with what feelings you came to me to-night," she said,
when she had examined me a while. "I wonder what thoughts are busy
in your heart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with the
fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:
just as little sympathetic communion passing between you and them as
if they were really mere shadows of human forms, and not the actual
"I feel tired often, sleepy sometimes, but seldom sad."
"Then you have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you with
whispers of the future?"
"Not I. The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my
earnings to set up a school some day in a little house rented by
"A mean nutriment for the spirit to exist on: and sitting in that
window-seat (you see I know your habits )--"
"You have learned them from the servants."
"Ah! you think yourself sharp. Well, perhaps I have: to speak
truth, I have an acquaintance with one of them, Mrs. Poole--"
I started to my feet when I heard the name.
"You have--have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in the business
after all, then!"
"Don't be alarmed," continued the strange being; "she's a safe hand
is Mrs. Poole: close and quiet; any one may repose confidence in
her. But, as I was saying: sitting in that window-seat, do you
think of nothing but your future school? Have you no present
interest in any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairs
before you? Is there not one face you study? one figure whose
movements you follow with at least curiosity?"
"I like to observe all the faces and all the figures."
"But do you never single one from the rest--or it may be, two?"
"I do frequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem telling
a tale: it amuses me to watch them."
"What tale do you like best to hear?"
"Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme--
courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe--marriage."
"And do you like that monotonous theme?"
"Positively, I don't care about it: it is nothing to me."
"Nothing to you? When a lady, young and full of life and health,
charming with beauty and endowed with the gifts of rank and fortune,
sits and smiles in the eyes of a gentleman you--"
"I what?"
"You know--and perhaps think well of."
"I don't know the gentlemen here. I have scarcely interchanged a
syllable with one of them; and as to thinking well of them, I
consider some respectable, and stately, and middle-aged, and others
young, dashing, handsome, and lively: but certainly they are all at
liberty to be the recipients of whose smiles they please, without my
feeling disposed to consider the transaction of any moment to me."
"You don't know the gentlemen here? You have not exchanged a
syllable with one of them? Will you say that of the master of the
"He is not at home."
"A profound remark! A most ingenious quibble! He went to Millcote
this morning, and will be back here to-night or to-morrow: does
that circumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance--
blot him, as it were, out of existence?"
"No; but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with the
theme you had introduced."
"I was talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and of
late so many smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes that
they overflow like two cups filled above the brim: have you never
remarked that?"
"Mr. Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."
"No question about his right: but have you never observed that, of
all the tales told here about matrimony, Mr. Rochester has been
favoured with the most lively and the most continuous?"
"The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator." I
said this rather to myself than to the gipsy, whose strange talk,
voice, manner, had by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream. One
unexpected sentence came from her lips after another, till I got
involved in a web of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirit
had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and
taking record of every pulse.
"Eagerness of a listener!" repeated she: "yes; Mr. Rochester has
sat by the hour, his ear inclined to the fascinating lips that took
such delight in their task of communicating; and Mr. Rochester was
so willing to receive and looked so grateful for the pastime given
him; you have noticed this?"
"Grateful! I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."
"Detecting! You have analysed, then. And what did you detect, if
not gratitude?"
I said nothing.
"You have seen love: have you not?--and, looking forward, you have
seen him married, and beheld his bride happy?"
"Humph! Not exactly. Your witch's skill is rather at fault
"What the devil have you seen, then?"
"Never mind: I came here to inquire, not to confess. Is it known
that Mr. Rochester is to be married?"
"Yes; and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."
"Appearances would warrant that conclusion: and, no doubt (though,
with an audacity that wants chastising out of you, you seem to
question it), they will be a superlatively happy pair. He must love
such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably she
loves him, or, if not his person, at least his purse. I know she
considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree; though
(God pardon me!) I told her something on that point about an hour
ago which made her look wondrous grave: the corners of her mouth
fell half an inch. I would advise her blackaviced suitor to look
out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll,--he's
"But, mother, I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I
came to hear my own; and you have told me nothing of it."
"Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait
contradicted another. Chance has meted you a measure of happiness:
that I know. I knew it before I came here this evening. She has
laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends
on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether
you will do so, is the problem I study. Kneel again on the rug."
"Don't keep me long; the fire scorches me."
I knelt. She did not stoop towards me, but only gazed, leaning back
in her chair. She began muttering, -
"The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks
soft and full of feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is
susceptible; impression follows impression through its clear sphere;
where it ceases to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs
on the lid: that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness.
It turns from me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems to
deny, by a mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have
already made,--to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:
its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinion. The eye is
"As to the mouth, it delights at times in laughter; it is disposed
to impart all that the brain conceives; though I daresay it would be
silent on much the heart experiences. Mobile and flexible, it was
never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of solitude:
it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often, and have
human affection for its interlocutor. That feature too is
"I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that brow
professes to say,--'I can live alone, if self-respect, and
circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy
bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me
alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only
at a price I cannot afford to give.' The forehead declares, 'Reason
sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings
burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage
furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may
imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the
last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision.
Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall
follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the
dictates of conscience.'
"Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected. I have
formed my plans--right plans I deem them--and in them I have
attended to the claims of conscience, the counsels of reason. I
know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of
bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were
detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution--such is
not my taste. I wish to foster, not to blight--to earn gratitude,
not to wring tears of blood--no, nor of brine: my harvest must be
in smiles, in endearments, in sweet-- That will do. I think I rave
in a kind of exquisite delirium. I should wish now to protract this
moment ad infinitum; but I dare not. So far I have governed myself
thoroughly. I have acted as I inwardly swore I would act; but
further might try me beyond my strength. Rise, Miss Eyre: leave
me; the play is played out'."
Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I
dream still? The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her
gesture, and all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass--as
the speech of my own tongue. I got up, but did not go. I looked; I
stirred the fire, and I looked again: but she drew her bonnet and
her bandage closer about her face, and again beckoned me to depart.
The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused now, and on
the alert for discoveries, I at once noticed that hand. It was no
more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supple
member, with smooth fingers, symmetrically turned; a broad ring
flashed on the little finger, and stooping forward, I looked at it,
and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before. Again I looked at
the face; which was no longer turned from me--on the contrary, the
bonnet was doffed, the bandage displaced, the head advanced.
"Well, Jane, do you know me?" asked the familiar voice.
"Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then--"
"But the string is in a knot--help me."
"Break it, sir."
"There, then--'Off, ye lendings!'" And Mr. Rochester stepped out of
his disguise.
"Now, sir, what a strange idea!"
"But well carried out, eh? Don't you think so?"
"With the ladies you must have managed well."
"But not with you?"
"You did not act the character of a gipsy with me."
"What character did I act? My own?"
"No; some unaccountable one. In short, I believe you have been
trying to draw me out--or in; you have been talking nonsense to make
me talk nonsense. It is scarcely fair, sir."
"Do you forgive me, Jane?"
"I cannot tell till I have thought it all over. If, on reflection,
I find I have fallen into no great absurdity, I shall try to forgive
you; but it was not right."
"Oh, you have been very correct--very careful, very sensible."
I reflected, and thought, on the whole, I had. It was a comfort;
but, indeed, I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of the
interview. Something of masquerade I suspected. I knew gipsies and
fortune-tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old woman
had expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice, her
anxiety to conceal her features. But my mind had been running on
Grace Poole--that living enigma, that mystery of mysteries, as I
considered her. I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.
"Well," said he, "what are you musing about? What does that grave
smile signify?"
"Wonder and self-congratulation, sir. I have your permission to
retire now, I suppose?"
"No; stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-room
yonder are doing."
"Discussing the gipsy, I daresay."
"Sit down!--Let me hear what they said about me."
"I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near eleven o'clock.
Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here
since you left this morning?"
"A stranger!--no; who can it be? I expected no one; is he gone?"
"No; he said he had known you long, and that he could take the
liberty of installing himself here till you returned."
"The devil he did! Did he give his name?"
"His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies; from
Spanish Town, in Jamaica, I think."
Mr. Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my hand, as if to
lead me to a chair. As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive grip;
the smile on his lips froze: apparently a spasm caught his breath.
"Mason!--the West Indies!" he said, in the tone one might fancy a
speaking automaton to enounce its single words; "Mason!--the West
Indies!" he reiterated; and he went over the syllables three times,
growing, in the intervals of speaking, whiter than ashes: he hardly
seemed to know what he was doing.
"Do you feel ill, sir?" I inquired.
"Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!" He staggered.
"Oh, lean on me, sir."
"Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it
"Yes, sir, yes; and my arm."
He sat down, and made me sit beside him. Holding my hand in both
his own, he chafed it; gazing on me, at the same time, with the most
troubled and dreary look.
"My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island with
only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed
from me."
"Can I help you, sir?--I'd give my life to serve you."
"Jane, if aid is wanted, I'll seek it at your hands; I promise you
"Thank you, sir. Tell me what to do,--I'll try, at least, to do
"Fetch me now, Jane, a glass of wine from the dining-room: they
will be at supper there; and tell me if Mason is with them, and what
he is doing."
I went. I found all the party in the dining-room at supper, as Mr.
Rochester had said; they were not seated at table,--the supper was
arranged on the sideboard; each had taken what he chose, and they
stood about here and there in groups, their plates and glasses in
their hands. Every one seemed in high glee; laughter and
conversation were general and animated. Mr. Mason stood near the
fire, talking to Colonel and Mrs. Dent, and appeared as merry as any
of them. I filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch me
frowningly as I did so: she thought I was taking a liberty, I
daresay), and I returned to the library.
Mr. Rochester's extreme pallor had disappeared, and he looked once
more firm and stern. He took the glass from my hand.
"Here is to your health, ministrant spirit!" he said. He swallowed
the contents and returned it to me. "What are they doing, Jane?"
"Laughing and talking, sir."
"They don't look grave and mysterious, as if they had heard
something strange?"
"Not at all: they are full of jests and gaiety."
"And Mason?"
"He was laughing too."
"If all these people came in a body and spat at me, what would you
do, Jane?"
"Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could."
He half smiled. "But if I were to go to them, and they only looked
at me coldly, and whispered sneeringly amongst each other, and then
dropped off and left me one by one, what then? Would you go with
"I rather think not, sir: I should have more pleasure in staying
with you."
"To comfort me?"
"Yes, sir, to comfort you, as well as I could."
"And if they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"
"I, probably, should know nothing about their ban; and if I did, I
should care nothing about it."
"Then, you could dare censure for my sake?"
"I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my
adherence; as you, I am sure, do."
"Go back now into the room; step quietly up to Mason, and whisper in
his ear that Mr. Rochester is come and wishes to see him: show him
in here and then leave me."
"Yes, sir."
I did his behest. The company all stared at me as I passed straight
among them. I sought Mr. Mason, delivered the message, and preceded
him from the room: I ushered him into the library, and then I went
At a late hour, after I had been in bed some time, I heard the
visitors repair to their chambers: I distinguished Mr. Rochester's
voice, and heard him say, "This way, Mason; this is your room."
He spoke cheerfully: the gay tones set my heart at ease. I was
soon asleep.
I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to
let down my window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon,
which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in her
course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in
at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.
Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk--silverwhite
and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half
rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.
Good God! What a cry!
The night--its silence--its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a
sharp, a shrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.
My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was
paralysed. The cry died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever
being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it: not the
widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession, send
out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie. The thing
delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.
It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And
overhead--yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling--I now
heard a struggle: a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and a
half-smothered voice shouted -
"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.
"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and
stamping went on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:-
"Rochester! Rochester! for God's sake, come!"
A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery.
Another step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and
there was silence.
I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I
issued from my apartment. The sleepers were all aroused:
ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room; door after
door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the gallery
filled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh!
what is it?"--"Who is hurt?"--"What has happened?"--"Fetch a
light!"--"Is it fire?"--"Are there robbers?"--"Where shall we run?"
was demanded confusedly on all hands. But for the moonlight they
would have been in complete darkness. They ran to and fro; they
crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion was
"Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent. "I cannot find
him in his bed."
"Here! here!" was shouted in return. "Be composed, all of you: I'm
And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester
advanced with a candle: he had just descended from the upper
storey. One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm:
it was Miss Ingram.
"What awful event has taken place?" said she. "Speak! let us know
the worst at once!"
"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses
Eshton were clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast
white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.
"All's right!--all's right!" he cried. "It's a mere rehearsal of
Much Ado about Nothing. Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax
And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks. Calming
himself by an effort, he added -
"A servant has had the nightmare; that is all. She's an excitable,
nervous person: she construed her dream into an apparition, or
something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.
Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the
house is settled, she cannot be looked after. Gentlemen, have the
goodness to set the ladies the example. Miss Ingram, I am sure you
will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors. Amy and
Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.
Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead
certainty, if you stay in this chill gallery any longer."
And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to
get them all once more enclosed in their separate dormitories. I
did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as
unnoticed I had left it.
Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed
myself carefully. The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the
words that had been uttered, had probably been heard only by me; for
they had proceeded from the room above mine: but they assured me
that it was not a servant's dream which had thus struck horror
through the house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had given
was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests. I dressed,
then, to be ready for emergencies. When dressed, I sat a long time
by the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered
fields and waiting for I knew not what. It seemed to me that some
event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.
No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually,
and in about an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a
desert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
Meantime the moon declined: she was about to set. Not liking to
sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,
dressed as I was. I left the window, and moved with little noise
across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautious
hand tapped low at the door.
"Am I wanted?" I asked.
"Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master's.
"Yes, sir."
"And dressed?"
"Come out, then, quietly."
I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.
"I want you," he said: "come this way: take your time, and make no
My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as a
cat. He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the
dark, low corridor of the fateful third storey: I had followed and
stood at his side.
"Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.
"Yes, sir."
"Have you any salts--volatile salts? Yes."
"Go back and fetch both."
I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my
drawer, and once more retraced my steps. He still waited; he held a
key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors, he put
it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.
"You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"
"I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet."
I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no
"Just give me your hand," he said: "it will not do to risk a
fainting fit."
I put my fingers into his. "Warm and steady," was his remark: he
turned the key and opened the door.
I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax
showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the
tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door
apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open; a
light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling,
snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling. Mr. Rochester,
putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went
forward to the inner apartment. A shout of laughter greeted his
entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace Poole's own
goblin ha! ha! SHE then was there. He made some sort of
arrangement without speaking, though I heard a low voice address
him: he came out and closed the door behind him.
"Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a
large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable
portion of the chamber. An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man
sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his
head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the
candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifeless
face--the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side,
and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.
"Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched a
basin of water from the washstand: "Hold that," said he. I obeyed.
He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like
face; he asked for my smelling-bottle, and applied it to the
nostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned. Mr.
Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and
shoulder were bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fast down.
"Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.
"Pooh! No--a mere scratch. Don't be so overcome, man: bear up!
I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself: you'll be able to be
removed by morning, I hope. Jane," he continued.
"I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an
hour, or perhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I do when
it returns: if he feels faint, you will put the glass of water on
that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose. You will not
speak to him on any pretext--and--Richard, it will be at the peril
of your life if you speak to her: open your lips--agitate yourself-
-and I'll not answer for the consequences."
Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear,
either of death or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse
him. Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I
proceeded to use it as he had done. He watched me a second, then
saying, "Remember!--No conversation," he left the room. I
experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the
sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.
Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic
cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes
and hands; a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:
yes--that was appalling--the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at
the thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.
I must keep to my post, however. I must watch this ghastly
countenance--these blue, still lips forbidden to unclose--these eyes
now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room, now fixing on
me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror. I must dip my hand
again and again in the basin of blood and water, and wipe away the
trickling gore. I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle wane
on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought, antique
tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of the vast old
bed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinet
opposite--whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore, in grim
design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its
separate panel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose an
ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.
According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered
here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that
bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon the
devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed
gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor--of
Satan himself--in his subordinate's form.
Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for
the movements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.
But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound: all the night
I heard but three sounds at three long intervals,--a step creak, a
momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a deep human
Then my own thoughts worried me. What crime was this that lived
incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled
nor subdued by the owner?--what mystery, that broke out now in fire
and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature was
it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the
voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of
And this man I bent over--this commonplace, quiet stranger--how had
he become involved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown
at him? What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimely
season, when he should have been asleep in bed? I had heard Mr.
Rochester assign him an apartment below--what brought him here! And
why, now, was he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?
Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochester
enforced? Why DID Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment? His
guest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been
hideously plotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy
and sank in oblivion! Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr.
Rochester; that the impetuous will of the latter held complete sway
over the inertness of the former: the few words which had passed
between them assured me of this. It was evident that in their
former intercourse, the passive disposition of the one had been
habitually influenced by the active energy of the other: whence
then had arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason's
arrival? Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual--whom
his word now sufficed to control like a child--fallen on him, a few
hours since, as a thunderbolt might fall on an oak?
Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:
"Jane, I have got a blow--I have got a blow, Jane." I could not
forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder: and
it was no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit and
thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.
"When will he come? When will he come?" I cried inwardly, as the
night lingered and lingered--as my bleeding patient drooped, moaned,
sickened: and neither day nor aid arrived. I had, again and again,
held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again offered him
the stimulating salts: my efforts seemed ineffectual: either
bodily or mental suffering, or loss of blood, or all three combined,
were fast prostrating his strength. He moaned so, and looked so
weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; ant I might not even
speak to him.
The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived
streaks of grey light edging the window curtains: dawn was then
approaching. Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of his
distant kennel in the courtyard: hope revived. Nor was it
unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding
lock, warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted
more than two hours: many a week has seemed shorter.
Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to
"Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last: "I give you
but half-an-hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages,
getting the patient downstairs and all."
"But is he fit to move, sir?"
"No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits
must be kept up. Come, set to work."
Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland
blind, let in all the daylight he could; and I was surprised and
cheered to see how far dawn was advanced: what rosy streaks were
beginning to brighten the east. Then he approached Mason, whom the
surgeon was already handling.
"Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.
"She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.
"Not a whit!--courage! This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin
the worse of it: you've lost a little blood; that's all Carter,
assure him there's no danger."
"I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone the
bandages; "only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would not
have bled so much--but how is this? The flesh on the shoulder is
torn as well as cut. This wound was not done with a knife: there
have been teeth here!"
"She bit me," he murmured. "She worried me like a tigress, when
Rochester got the knife from her."
"You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at
once," said Mr. Rochester.
"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.
"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering. "And I did not expect
it: she looked so quiet at first."
"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said--be on your guard
when you go near her. Besides, you might have waited till tomorrow,
and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the
interview to-night, and alone."
"I thought I could have done some good."
"You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you:
but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for
not taking my advice; so I'll say no more. Carter--hurry!--hurry!
The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."
"Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this
other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."
"She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.
I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of
disgust, horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to
distortion; but he only said -
"Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don't
repeat it."
"I wish I could forget it," was the answer.
"You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to
Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried--or rather,
you need not think of her at all."
"Impossible to forget this night!"
"It is not impossible: have some energy, man. You thought you were
as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive and
talking now. There!--Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'll
make you decent in a trice. Jane" (he turned to me for the first
time since his re-entrance), "take this key: go down into my
bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open the
top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neckhandkerchief:
bring them here; and be nimble."
I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles
named, and returned with them.
"Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his
toilet; but don't leave the room: you may be wanted again."
I retired as directed.
"Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired Mr.
Rochester presently.
"No, sir; all was very still."
"We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both
for your sake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder. I have
striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come at
last. Here, Carter, help him on with his waist-coat. Where did you
leave your furred cloak? You can't travel a mile without that, I
know, in this damned cold climate. In your room?--Jane, run down to
Mr. Mason's room,--the one next mine,--and fetch a cloak you will
see there."
Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined and
edged with fur.
"Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you
must away to my room again. What a mercy you are shod with velvet,
Jane!--a clod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.
You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a
little phial and a little glass you will find there,--quick!"
I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.
"That's well! Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of
administering a dose myself, on my own responsibility. I got this
cordial at Rome, of an Italian charlatan--a fellow you would have
kicked, Carter. It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but
it is good upon occasion: as now, for instance. Jane, a little
He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the waterbottle
on the washstand.
"That will do;--now wet the lip of the phial."
I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and
presented it to Mason.
"Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour
or so."
"But will it hurt me?--is it inflammatory?"
"Drink! drink! drink!"
Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist. He
was dressed now: he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory
and sullied. Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had
swallowed the liquid; he then took his arm -
"Now I am sure you can get on your feet," he said--"try."
The patient rose.
"Carter, take him under the other shoulder. Be of good cheer,
Richard; step out--that's it!"
"I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.
"I am sure you do. Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the
backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of the
post-chaise you will see in the yard--or just outside, for I told
him not to drive his rattling wheels over the pavement--to be ready;
we are coming: and, Jane, if any one is about, come to the foot of
the stairs and hem."
It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of
rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent. The sidepassage
door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as
possible: all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open,
and there was a post-chaise, with horses ready harnessed, and driver
seated on the box, stationed outside. I approached him, and said
the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looked carefully round
and listened. The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;
the curtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;
little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard
trees, whose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wall
enclosing one side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped from
time to time in their closed stables: all else was still.
The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and
the surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted him
into the chaise; Carter followed.
"Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep him
at your house till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a day or
two to see how he gets on. Richard, how is it with you?"
"The fresh air revives me, Fairfax."
"Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind--goodbye,
"Well what is it?"
"Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be:
let her--" he stopped and burst into tears.
"I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer:
he shut up the chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.
"Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr.
Rochester, as he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.
This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door
in the wall bordering the orchard. I, supposing he had done with
me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I heard him
call "Jane!" He had opened feel portal and stood at it, waiting for
"Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said;
"that house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?"
"It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."
"The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and
you see it through a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the
gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is
sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly
bark. Now HERE" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)
"all is real, sweet, and pure."
He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees,
and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all
sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses,
pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various
fragrant herbs. They were fresh now as a succession of April
showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make
them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light
illumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the
quiet walks under them.
"Jane, will you have a flower?"
He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it
to me.
"Thank you, sir."
"Do you like this sunrise, Jane? That sky with its high and light
clouds which are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm--this
placid and balmly atmosphere?"
"I do, very much."
"You have passed a strange night, Jane."
"Yes, sir."
"And it has made you look pale--were you afraid when I left you
alone with Mason?"
"I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."
"But I had fastened the door--I had the key in my pocket: I should
have been a careless shepherd if I had left a lamb--my pet lamb--so
near a wolf's den, unguarded: you were safe."
"Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?"
"Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her--put the thing out of
your thoughts."
"Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."
"Never fear--I will take care of myself."
"Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?"
"I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England: nor even
then. To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which
may crack and spue fire any day."
"But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led. Your influence, sir, is
evidently potent with him: he will never set you at defiance or
wilfully injure you."
"Oh, no! Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me--
but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless word,
deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of happiness."
"Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and show
him how to avert the danger."
He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw
it from him.
"If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be?
Annihilated in a moment. Ever since I have known Mason, I have only
had to say to him 'Do that,' and the thing has been done. But I
cannot give him orders in this case: I cannot say 'Beware of
harming me, Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him
ignorant that harm to me is possible. Now you look puzzled; and I
will puzzle you further. You are my little friend, are you not?"
"I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right."
"Precisely: I see you do. I see genuine contentment in your gait
and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing
me--working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically say,
'ALL THAT IS RIGHT:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrong,
there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed alacrity, no
lively glance and animated complexion. My friend would then turn to
me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is impossible: I
cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable as a
fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me:
yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and
friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once."
"If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me,
sir, you are very safe."
"God grant it may be so! Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."
The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a
rustic seat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me:
but I stood before him.
"Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two. You don't
hesitate to take a place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?"
I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been
"Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew--while all the
flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch
their young ones' breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early
bees do their first spell of work--I'll put a case to you, which you
must endeavour to suppose your own: but first, look at me, and tell
me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in detaining you, or
that you err in staying."
"No, sir; I am content."
"Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:- suppose you were no
longer a girl well reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged
from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;
conceive that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what
nature or from what motives, but one whose consequences must follow
you through life and taint all your existence. Mind, I don't say a
CRIME; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guilty
act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word
is ERROR. The results of what you have done become in time to you
utterly insupportable; you take measures to obtain relief: unusual
measures, but neither unlawful nor culpable. Still you are
miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:
your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not
leave it till the time of setting. Bitter and base associations
have become the sole food of your memory: you wander here and
there, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure--I mean in
heartless, sensual pleasure--such as dulls intellect and blights
feeling. Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years
of voluntary banishment: you make a new acquaintance--how or where
no matter: you find in this stranger much of the good and bright
qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and never before
encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil and
without taint. Such society revives, regenerates: you feel better
days come back--higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to
recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days in a
way more worthy of an immortal being. To attain this end, are you
justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere conventional
impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your
judgment approves?"
He paused for an answer: and what was I to say? Oh, for some good
spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain
aspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no
gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech: the birds
sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however sweet, was
Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:
"Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant,
man justified in daring the world's opinion, in order to attach to
him for ever this gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby
securing his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"
"Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation
should never depend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die;
philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any
one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his
equals for strength to amend and solace to heal."
"But the instrument--the instrument! God, who does the work,
ordains the instrument. I have myself--I tell it you without
parable--been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I
have found the instrument for my cure in--"
He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly
rustling. I almost wondered they did not check their songs and
whispers to catch the suspended revelation; but they would have had
to wait many minutes--so long was the silence protracted. At last I
looked up at the tardy speaker: he was looking eagerly at me.
"Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone--while his face
changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh
and sarcastic--"you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:
don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me with a
He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and
when he came back he was humming a tune.
"Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with
your vigils: don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"
"Curse you? No, sir."
"Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers! They
were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the
mysterious chamber. Jane, when will you watch with me again?"
"Whenever I can be useful, sir."
"For instance, the night before I am married! I am sure I shall not
be able to sleep. Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me
company? To you I can talk of my lovely one: for now you have seen
her and know her."
"Yes, sir."
"She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?"
"Yes, sir."
"A strapper--a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with
hair just such as the ladies of Carthage must have had. Bless me!
there's Dent and Lynn in the stables! Go in by the shrubbery,
through that wicket."
As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard,
saying cheerfully -
"Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before
sunrise: I rose at four to see him off."
Presentiments are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are
signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has
not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life,
because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies, I believe,
exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly
estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the
unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose workings
baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be
but the sympathies of Nature with man.
When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard
Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a
little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of
trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying might have
worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately followed
which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was
sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.
Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for
during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that
had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes
hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched
playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in
running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing
one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me;
but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore,
it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I
entered the land of slumber.
I did not like this iteration of one idea--this strange recurrence
of one image, and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour
of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this babyphantom
I had been roused on that moonlight night when I heard the
cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned
downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax's
room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having
the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep
mourning, and the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with a
crape band.
"I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I
entered; "but my name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed
when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine years since, and I live
there still."
"Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used to
give me a ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony. And how is
Bessie? You are married to Bessie?"
"Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank you; she brought me
another little one about two months since--we have three now--and
both mother and child are thriving."
"And are the family well at the house, Robert?"
"I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are
very badly at present--in great trouble."
"I hope no one is dead," I said, glancing at his black dress. He
too looked down at the crape round his hat and replied -
"Mr. John died yesterday was a week, at his chambers in London."
"Mr. John?"
"And how does his mother bear it?"
"Why, you see, Miss Eyre, it is not a common mishap: his life has
been very wild: these last three years he gave himself up to
strange ways, and his death was shocking."
"I heard from Bessie he was not doing well."
"Doing well! He could not do worse: he ruined his health and his
estate amongst the worst men and the worst women. He got into debt
and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon as he
was free he returned to his old companions and habits. His head was
not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anything
I ever heard. He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago and
wanted missis to give up all to him. Missis refused: her means
have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he went back
again, and the next news was that he was dead. How he died, God
knows!--they say he killed himself."
I was silent: the things were frightful. Robert Leaven resumed -
"Missis had been out of health herself for some time: she had got
very stout, but was not strong with it; and the loss of money and
fear of poverty were quite breaking her down. The information about
Mr. John's death and the manner of it came too suddenly: it brought
on a stroke. She was three days without speaking; but last Tuesday
she seemed rather better: she appeared as if she wanted to say
something, and kept making signs to my wife and mumbling. It was
only yesterday morning, however, that Bessie understood she was
pronouncing your name; and at last she made out the words, 'Bring
Jane--fetch Jane Eyre: I want to speak to her.' Bessie is not sure
whether she is in her right mind, or means anything by the words;
but she told Miss Reed and Miss Georgiana, and advised them to send
for you. The young ladies put it off at first; but their mother
grew so restless, and said, 'Jane, Jane,' so many times, that at
last they consented. I left Gateshead yesterday: and if you can
get ready, Miss, I should like to take you back with me early tomorrow
"Yes, Robert, I shall be ready: it seems to me that I ought to go."
"I think so too, Miss. Bessie said she was sure you would not
refuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can get
"Yes; and I will do it now;" and having directed him to the
servants' hall, and recommended him to the care of John's wife, and
the attentions of John himself, I went in search of Mr. Rochester.
He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the
stables, or the grounds. I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him;-
-yes: she believed he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram. To
the billiard-room I hastened: the click of balls and the hum of
voices resounded thence; Mr. Rochester, Miss Ingram, the two Misses
Eshton, and their admirers, were all busied in the game. It
required some courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errand,
however, was one I could not defer, so I approached the master where
he stood at Miss Ingram's side. She turned as I drew near, and
looked at me haughtily: her eyes seemed to demand, "What can the
creeping creature want now?" and when I said, in a low voice, "Mr.
Rochester," she made a movement as if tempted to order me away. I
remember her appearance at the moment--it was very graceful and very
striking: she wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy azure
scarf was twisted in her hair. She had been all animation with the
game, and irritated pride did not lower the expression of her
haughty lineaments.
"Does that person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and Mr.
Rochester turned to see who the "person" was. He made a curious
grimace--one of his strange and equivocal demonstrations--threw down
his cue and followed me from the room.
"Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the schoolroom
door, which he had shut.
"If you please, sir, I want leave of absence for a week or two."
"What to do?--where to go?"
"To see a sick lady who has sent for me."
"What sick lady?--where does she live?"
"At Gateshead; in -shire."
"-shire? That is a hundred miles off! Who may she be that sends
for people to see her that distance?"
"Her name is Reed, sir--Mrs. Reed."
"Reed of Gateshead? There was a Reed of Gateshead, a magistrate."
"It is his widow, sir."
"And what have you to do with her? How do you know her?"
"Mr. Reed was my uncle--my mother's brother."
"The deuce he was! You never told me that before: you always said
you had no relations."
"None that would own me, sir. Mr. Reed is dead, and his wife cast
me off."
"Because I was poor, and burdensome, and she disliked me."
"But Reed left children?--you must have cousins? Sir George Lynn
was talking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterday, who, he said, was one
of the veriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning a
Georgiana Reed of the same place, who was much admired for her
beauty a season or two ago in London."
"John Reed is dead, too, sir: he ruined himself and half-ruined his
family, and is supposed to have committed suicide. The news so
shocked his mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."
"And what good can you do her? Nonsense, Jane! I would never think
of running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps, be
dead before you reach her: besides, you say she cast you off."
"Yes, sir, but that is long ago; and when her circumstances were
very different: I could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."
"How long will you stay?"
"As short a time as possible, sir."
"Promise me only to stay a week--"
"I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it."
"At all events you WILL come back: you will not be induced under
any pretext to take up a permanent residence with her?"
"Oh, no! I shall certainly return if all be well."
"And who goes with you? You don't travel a hundred miles alone."
"No, sir, she has sent her coachman."
"A person to be trusted?"
"Yes, sir, he has lived ten years in the family."
Mr. Rochester meditated. "When do you wish to go?"
"Early to-morrow morning, sir."
"Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money, and
I daresay you have not much: I have given you no salary yet. How
much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling.
I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, sir."
He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over
it as if its scantiness amused him. Soon he produced his pocketbook:
"Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds, and
he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change.
"I don't want change; you know that. Take your wages."
I declined accepting more than was my due. He scowled at first;
then, as if recollecting something, he said -
"Right, right! Better not give you all now: you would, perhaps,
stay away three months if you had fifty pounds. There are ten; is
it not plenty?"
"Yes, sir, but now you owe me five."
"Come back for it, then; I am your banker for forty pounds."
"Mr. Rochester, I may as well mention another matter of business to
you while I have the opportunity."
"Matter of business? I am curious to hear it."
"You have as good as informed me, sir, that you are going shortly to
be married?"
"Yes; what then?"
"In that case, sir, Adele ought to go to school: I am sure you will
perceive the necessity of it."
"To get her out of my bride's way, who might otherwise walk over her
rather too emphatically? There's sense in the suggestion; not a
doubt of it. Adele, as you say, must go to school; and you, of
course, must march straight to--the devil?"
"I hope not, sir; but I must seek another situation somewhere."
"In course!" he exclaimed, with a twang of voice and a distortion of
features equally fantastic and ludicrous. He looked at me some
"And old Madam Reed, or the Misses, her daughters, will be solicited
by you to seek a place, I suppose?"
"No, sir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justify
me in asking favours of them--but I shall advertise."
"You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled. "At your
peril you advertise! I wish I had only offered you a sovereign
instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use
for it."
"And so have I, sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse
behind me. "I could not spare the money on any account."
"Little niggard!" said he, "refusing me a pecuniary request! Give
me five pounds, Jane."
"Not five shillings, sir; nor five pence."
"Just let me look at the cash."
"No, sir; you are not to be trusted."
"Promise me one thing."
"I'll promise you anything, sir, that I think I am likely to
"Not to advertise: and to trust this quest of a situation to me.
I'll find you one in time."
"I shall be glad so to do, sir, if you, in your turn, will promise
that I and Adele shall be both safe out of the house before your
bride enters it."
"Very well! very well! I'll pledge my word on it. You go tomorrow,
"Yes, sir; early."
"Shall you come down to the drawing-room after dinner?"
"No, sir, I must prepare for the journey."
"Then you and I must bid good-bye for a little while?"
"I suppose so, sir."
"And how do people perform that ceremony of parting, Jane? Teach
me; I'm not quite up to it."
"They say, Farewell, or any other form they prefer."
"Then say it."
"Farewell, Mr. Rochester, for the present."
"What must I say?"
"The same, if you like, sir."
"Farewell, Miss Eyre, for the present; is that all?"
"It seems stingy, to my notions, and dry, and unfriendly. I should
like something else: a little addition to the rite. If one shook
hands, for instance; but no--that would not content me either. So
you'll do no more than say Farewell, Jane?"
"It is enough, sir: as much good-will may be conveyed in one hearty
word as in many."
"Very likely; but it is blank and cool--'Farewell.'"
"How long is he going to stand with his back against that door?" I
asked myself; "I want to commence my packing." The dinner-bell
rang, and suddenly away he bolted, without another syllable: I saw
him no more during the day, and was off before he had risen in the
I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoon
of the first of May: I stepped in there before going up to the
hall. It was very clean and neat: the ornamental windows were hung
with little white curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate and
fire-irons were burnished bright, and the fire burnt clear. Bessie
sat on the hearth, nursing her last-born, and Robert and his sister
played quietly in a corner.
"Bless you!--I knew you would come!" exclaimed Mrs. Leaven, as I
"Yes, Bessie," said I, after I had kissed her; "and I trust I am not
too late. How is Mrs. Reed?--Alive still, I hope."
"Yes, she is alive; and more sensible and collected than she was.
The doctor says she may linger a week or two yet; but he hardly
thinks she will finally recover."
"Has she mentioned me lately?"
"She was talking of you only this morning, and wishing you would
come, but she is sleeping now, or was ten minutes ago, when I was up
at the house. She generally lies in a kind of lethargy all the
afternoon, and wakes up about six or seven. Will you rest yourself
here an hour, Miss, and then I will go up with you?"
Robert here entered, and Bessie laid her sleeping child in the
cradle and went to welcome him: afterwards she insisted on my
taking off my bonnet and having some tea; for she said I looked pale
and tired. I was glad to accept her hospitality; and I submitted to
be relieved of my travelling garb just as passively as I used to let
her undress me when a child.
Old times crowded fast back on me as I watched her bustling about--
setting out the tea-tray with her best china, cutting bread and
butter, toasting a tea-cake, and, between whiles, giving little
Robert or Jane an occasional tap or push, just as she used to give
me in former days. Bessie had retained her quick temper as well as
her light foot and good looks.
Tea ready, I was going to approach the table; but she desired me to
sit still, quite in her old peremptory tones. I must be served at
the fireside, she said; and she placed before me a little round
stand with my cup and a plate of toast, absolutely as she used to
accommodate me with some privately purloined dainty on a nursery
chair: and I smiled and obeyed her as in bygone days.
She wanted to know if I was happy at Thornfield Hall, and what sort
of a person the mistress was; and when I told her there was only a
master, whether he was a nice gentleman, and if I liked him. I told
her he rather an ugly man, but quite a gentleman; and that he
treated me kindly, and I was content. Then I went on to describe to
her the gay company that had lately been staying at the house; and
to these details Bessie listened with interest: they were precisely
of the kind she relished.
In such conversation an hour was soon gone: Bessie restored to me
my bonnet, &c., and, accompanied by her, I quitted the lodge for the
hall. It was also accompanied by her that I had, nearly nine years
ago, walked down the path I was now ascending. On a dark, misty,
raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate
and embittered heart--a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation-
-to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that bourne so far away
and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again rose before me: my
prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still
felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced
firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread
of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs, too, was now quite
healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished.
"You shall go into the breakfast-room first," said Bessie, as she
preceded me through the hall; "the young ladies will be there."
In another moment I was within that apartment. There was every
article of furniture looking just as it did on the morning I was
first introduced to Mr. Brocklehurst: the very rug he had stood
upon still covered the hearth. Glancing at the bookcases, I thought
I could distinguish the two volumes of Bewick's British Birds
occupying their old place on the third shelf, and Gulliver's Travels
and the Arabian Nights ranged just above. The inanimate objects
were not changed; but the living things had altered past
Two young ladies appeared before me; one very tall, almost as tall
as Miss Ingram--very thin too, with a sallow face and severe mien.
There was something ascetic in her look, which was augmented by the
extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress, a
starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and the
nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix. This I
felt sure was Eliza, though I could trace little resemblance to her
former self in that elongated and colourless visage.
The other was as certainly Georgiana: but not the Georgiana I
remembered--the slim and fairy-like girl of eleven. This was a
full-blown, very plump damsel, fair as waxwork, with handsome and
regular features, languishing blue eyes, and ringleted yellow hair.
The hue of her dress was black too; but its fashion was so different
from her sister's--so much more flowing and becoming--it looked as
stylish as the other's looked puritanical.
In each of the sisters there was one trait of the mother--and only
one; the thin and pallid elder daughter had her parent's Cairngorm
eye: the blooming and luxuriant younger girl had her contour of jaw
and chin--perhaps a little softened, but still imparting an
indescribable hardness to the countenance otherwise so voluptuous
and buxom.
Both ladies, as I advanced, rose to welcome me, and both addressed
me by the name of "Miss Eyre." Eliza's greeting was delivered in a
short, abrupt voice, without a smile; and then she sat down again,
fixed her eyes on the fire, and seemed to forget me. Georgiana
added to her "How d'ye do?" several commonplaces about my journey,
the weather, and so on, uttered in rather a drawling tone: and
accompanied by sundry side-glances that measured me from head to
foot--now traversing the folds of my drab merino pelisse, and now
lingering on the plain trimming of my cottage bonnet. Young ladies
have a remarkable way of letting you know that they think you a
"quiz" without actually saying the words. A certain
superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone,
express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing them
by any positive rudeness in word or deed.
A sneer, however, whether covert or open, had now no longer that
power over me it once possessed: as I sat between my cousins, I was
surprised to find how easy I felt under the total neglect of the one
and the semi-sarcastic attentions of the other--Eliza did not
mortify, nor Georgiana ruffle me. The fact was, I had other things
to think about; within the last few months feelings had been stirred
in me so much more potent than any they could raise--pains and
pleasures so much more acute and exquisite had been excited than any
it was in their power to inflict or bestow--that their airs gave me
no concern either for good or bad.
"How is Mrs. Reed?" I asked soon, looking calmly at Georgiana, who
thought fit to bridle at the direct address, as if it were an
unexpected liberty.
"Mrs. Reed? Ah! mama, you mean; she is extremely poorly: I doubt
if you can see her to-night."
"If," said I, "you would just step upstairs and tell her I am come,
I should be much obliged to you."
Georgiana almost started, and she opened her blue eyes wild and
wide. "I know she had a particular wish to see me," I added, "and I
would not defer attending to her desire longer than is absolutely
"Mama dislikes being disturbed in an evening," remarked Eliza. I
soon rose, quietly took off my bonnet and gloves, uninvited, and
said I would just step out to Bessie--who was, I dared say, in the
kitchen--and ask her to ascertain whether Mrs. Reed was disposed to
receive me or not to-night. I went, and having found Bessie and
despatched her on my errand, I proceeded to take further measures.
It had heretofore been my habit always to shrink from arrogance:
received as I had been to-day, I should, a year ago, have resolved
to quit Gateshead the very next morning; now, it was disclosed to me
all at once that that would be a foolish plan. I had taken a
journey of a hundred miles to see my aunt, and I must stay with her
till she was better--or dead: as to her daughters' pride or folly,
I must put it on one side, make myself independent of it. So I
addressed the housekeeper; asked her to show me a room, told her I
should probably be a visitor here for a week or two, had my trunk
conveyed to my chamber, and followed it thither myself: I met
Bessie on the landing.
"Missis is awake," said she; "I have told her you are here: come
and let us see if she will know you."
I did not need to be guided to the well-known room, to which I had
so often been summoned for chastisement or reprimand in former days.
I hastened before Bessie; I softly opened the door: a shaded light
stood on the table, for it was now getting dark. There was the
great four-post bed with amber hangings as of old; there the toilettable,
the armchair, and the footstool, at which I had a hundred
times been sentenced to kneel, to ask pardon for offences by me
uncommitted. I looked into a certain corner near, half-expecting to
see the slim outline of a once dreaded switch which used to lurk
there, waiting to leap out imp-like and lace my quivering palm or
shrinking neck. I approached the bed; I opened the curtains and
leant over the high-piled pillows.
Well did I remember Mrs. Reed's face, and I eagerly sought the
familiar image. It is a happy thing that time quells the longings
of vengeance and hushes the promptings of rage and aversion. I had
left this woman in bitterness and hate, and I came back to her now
with no other emotion than a sort of ruth for her great sufferings,
and a strong yearning to forget and forgive all injuries--to be
reconciled and clasp hands in amity.
The well-known face was there: stern, relentless as ever--there was
that peculiar eye which nothing could melt, and the somewhat raised,
imperious, despotic eyebrow. How often had it lowered on me menace
and hate! and how the recollection of childhood's terrors and
sorrows revived as I traced its harsh line now! And yet I stooped
down and kissed her: she looked at me.
"Is this Jane Eyre?" she said.
"Yes, Aunt Reed. How are you, dear aunt?"
I had once vowed that I would never call her aunt again: I thought
it no sin to forget and break that vow now. My fingers had fastened
on her hand which lay outside the sheet: had she pressed mine
kindly, I should at that moment have experienced true pleasure. But
unimpressionable natures are not so soon softened, nor are natural
antipathies so readily eradicated. Mrs. Reed took her hand away,
and, turning her face rather from me, she remarked that the night
was warm. Again she regarded me so icily, I felt at once that her
opinion of me--her feeling towards me--was unchanged and
unchangeable. I knew by her stony eye--opaque to tenderness,
indissoluble to tears--that she was resolved to consider me bad to
the last; because to believe me good would give her no generous
pleasure: only a sense of mortification.
I felt pain, and then I felt ire; and then I felt a determination to
subdue her--to be her mistress in spite both of her nature and her
will. My tears had risen, just as in childhood: I ordered them
back to their source. I brought a chair to the bed-head: I sat
down and leaned over the pillow.
"You sent for me," I said, "and I am here; and it is my intention to
stay till I see how you get on."
"Oh, of course! You have seen my daughters?"
"Well, you may tell them I wish you to stay till I can talk some
things over with you I have on my mind: to-night it is too late,
and I have a difficulty in recalling them. But there was something
I wished to say--let me see--"
The wandering look and changed utterance told what wreck had taken
place in her once vigorous frame. Turning restlessly, she drew the
bedclothes round her; my elbow, resting on a corner of the quilt,
fixed it down: she was at once irritated.
"Sit up!" said she; "don't annoy me with holding the clothes fast.
Are you Jane Eyre?"
"I am Jane Eyre."
"I have had more trouble with that child than any one would believe.
Such a burden to be left on my hands--and so much annoyance as she
caused me, daily and hourly, with her incomprehensible disposition,
and her sudden starts of temper, and her continual, unnatural
watchings of one's movements! I declare she talked to me once like
something mad, or like a fiend--no child ever spoke or looked as she
did; I was glad to get her away from the house. What did they do
with her at Lowood? The fever broke out there, and many of the
pupils died. She, however, did not die: but I said she did--I wish
she had died!"
"A strange wish, Mrs. Reed; why do you hate her so?"
"I had a dislike to her mother always; for she was my husband's only
sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family's
disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of
her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby;
though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its
maintenance. I hated it the first time I set my eyes on it--a
sickly, whining, pining thing! It would wail in its cradle all
night long--not screaming heartily like any other child, but
whimpering and moaning. Reed pitied it; and he used to nurse it and
notice it as if it had been his own: more, indeed, than he ever
noticed his own at that age. He would try to make my children
friendly to the little beggar: the darlings could not bear it, and
he was angry with them when they showed their dislike. In his last
illness, he had it brought continually to his bedside; and but an
hour before he died, he bound me by vow to keep the creature. I
would as soon have been charged with a pauper brat out of a
workhouse: but he was weak, naturally weak. John does not at all
resemble his father, and I am glad of it: John is like me and like
my brothers--he is quite a Gibson. Oh, I wish he would cease
tormenting me with letters for money? I have no more money to give
him: we are getting poor. I must send away half the servants and
shut up part of the house; or let it off. I can never submit to do
that--yet how are we to get on? Two-thirds of my income goes in
paying the interest of mortgages. John gambles dreadfully, and
always loses--poor boy! He is beset by sharpers: John is sunk and
degraded--his look is frightful--I feel ashamed for him when I see
She was getting much excited. "I think I had better leave her now,"
said I to Bessie, who stood on the other side of the bed.
"Perhaps you had, Miss: but she often talks in this way towards
night--in the morning she is calmer."
I rose. "Stop!" exclaimed Mrs. Reed, "there is another thing I
wished to say. He threatens me--he continually threatens me with
his own death, or mine: and I dream sometimes that I see him laid
out with a great wound in his throat, or with a swollen and
blackened face. I am come to a strange pass: I have heavy
troubles. What is to be done? How is the money to be had?"
Bessie now endeavoured to persuade her to take a sedative draught:
she succeeded with difficulty. Soon after, Mrs. Reed grew more
composed, and sank into a dozing state. I then left her.
More than ten days elapsed before I had again any conversation with
her. She continued either delirious or lethargic; and the doctor
forbade everything which could painfully excite her. Meantime, I
got on as well as I could with Georgiana and Eliza. They were very
cold, indeed, at first. Eliza would sit half the day sewing,
reading, or writing, and scarcely utter a word either to me or her
sister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by the
hour, and take no notice of me. But I was determined not to seem at
a loss for occupation or amusement: I had brought my drawing
materials with me, and they served me for both.
Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used to
take a seat apart from them, near the window, and busy myself in
sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened
momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of
imagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moon,
and a ship crossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flags, and
a naiad's head, crowned with lotus-flowers, rising out of them; an
elf sitting in a hedge-sparrow's nest, under a wreath of hawthornbloom
One morning I fell to sketching a face: what sort of a face it was
to be, I did not care or know. I took a soft black pencil, gave it
a broad point, and worked away. Soon I had traced on the paper a
broad and prominent forehead and a square lower outline of visage:
that contour gave me pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to fill
it with features. Strongly-marked horizontal eyebrows must be
traced under that brow; then followed, naturally, a well-defined
nose, with a straight ridge and full nostrils; then a flexiblelooking
mouth, by no means narrow; then a firm chin, with a decided
cleft down the middle of it: of course, some black whiskers were
wanted, and some jetty hair, tufted on the temples, and waved above
the forehead. Now for the eyes: I had left them to the last,
because they required the most careful working. I drew them large;
I shaped them well: the eyelashes I traced long and sombre; the
irids lustrous and large. "Good! but not quite the thing," I
thought, as I surveyed the effect: "they want more force and
spirit;" and I wrought the shades blacker, that the lights might
flash more brilliantly--a happy touch or two secured success.
There, I had a friend's face under my gaze; and what did it signify
that those young ladies turned their backs on me? I looked at it; I
smiled at the speaking likeness: I was absorbed and content.
"Is that a portrait of some one you know?" asked Eliza, who had
approached me unnoticed. I responded that it was merely a fancy
head, and hurried it beneath the other sheets. Of course, I lied:
it was, in fact, a very faithful representation of Mr. Rochester.
But what was that to her, or to any one but myself? Georgiana also
advanced to look. The other drawings pleased her much, but she
called that "an ugly man." They both seemed surprised at my skill.
I offered to sketch their portraits; and each, in turn, sat for a
pencil outline. Then Georgiana produced her album. I promised to
contribute a water-colour drawing: this put her at once into good
humour. She proposed a walk in the grounds. Before we had been out
two hours, we were deep in a confidential conversation: she had
favoured me with a description of the brilliant winter she had spent
in London two seasons ago--of the admiration she had there excited--
the attention she had received; and I even got hints of the titled
conquest she had made. In the course of the afternoon and evening
these hints were enlarged on: various soft conversations were
reported, and sentimental scenes represented; and, in short, a
volume of a novel of fashionable life was that day improvised by her
for my benefit. The communications were renewed from day to day:
they always ran on the same theme--herself, her loves, and woes. It
was strange she never once adverted either to her mother's illness,
or her brother's death, or the present gloomy state of the family
prospects. Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of
past gaiety, and aspirations after dissipations to come. She passed
about five minutes each day in her mother's sick-room, and no more.
Eliza still spoke little: she had evidently no time to talk. I
never saw a busier person than she seemed to be; yet it was
difficult to say what she did: or rather, to discover any result of
her diligence. She had an alarm to call her up early. I know not
how she occupied herself before breakfast, but after that meal she
divided her time into regular portions, and each hour had its
allotted task. Three times a day she studied a little book, which I
found, on inspection, was a Common Prayer Book. I asked her once
what was the great attraction of that volume, and she said, "the
Rubric." Three hours she gave to stitching, with gold thread, the
border of a square crimson cloth, almost large enough for a carpet.
In answer to my inquiries after the use of this article, she
informed me it was a covering for the altar of a new church lately
erected near Gateshead. Two hours she devoted to her diary; two to
working by herself in the kitchen-garden; and one to the regulation
of her accounts. She seemed to want no company; no conversation. I
believe she was happy in her way: this routine sufficed for her;
and nothing annoyed her so much as the occurrence of any incident
which forced her to vary its clockwork regularity.
She told me one evening, when more disposed to be communicative than
usual, that John's conduct, and the threatened ruin of the family,
had been a source of profound affliction to her: but she had now,
she said, settled her mind, and formed her resolution. Her own
fortune she had taken care to secure; and when her mother died--and
it was wholly improbable, she tranquilly remarked, that she should
either recover or linger long--she would execute a long-cherished
project: seek a retirement where punctual habits would be
permanently secured from disturbance, and place safe barriers
between herself and a frivolous world. I asked if Georgiana would
accompany her.
"Of course not. Georgiana and she had nothing in common: they
never had had. She would not be burdened with her society for any
consideration. Georgiana should take her own course; and she,
Eliza, would take hers."
Georgiana, when not unburdening her heart to me, spent most of her
time in lying on the sofa, fretting about the dulness of the house,
and wishing over and over again that her aunt Gibson would send her
an invitation up to town. "It would be so much better," she said,
"if she could only get out of the way for a month or two, till all
was over." I did not ask what she meant by "all being over," but I
suppose she referred to the expected decease of her mother and the
gloomy sequel of funeral rites. Eliza generally took no more notice
of her sister's indolence and complaints than if no such murmuring,
lounging object had been before her. One day, however, as she put
away her account-book and unfolded her embroidery, she suddenly took
her up thus -
"Georgiana, a more vain and absurd animal than you was certainly
never allowed to cumber the earth. You had no right to be born, for
you make no use of life. Instead of living for, in, and with
yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten your
feebleness on some other person's strength: if no one can be found
willing to burden her or himself with such a fat, weak, puffy,
useless thing, you cry out that you are ill-treated, neglected,
miserable. Then, too, existence for you must be a scene of
continual change and excitement, or else the world is a dungeon:
you must be admired, you must be courted, you must be flattered--you
must have music, dancing, and society--or you languish, you die
away. Have you no sense to devise a system which will make you
independent of all efforts, and all wills, but your own? Take one
day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its task:
leave no stray unemployed quarters of an hour, ten minutes, five
minutes--include all; do each piece of business in its turn with
method, with rigid regularity. The day will close almost before you
are aware it has begun; and you are indebted to no one for helping
you to get rid of one vacant moment: you have had to seek no one's
company, conversation, sympathy, forbearance; you have lived, in
short, as an independent being ought to do. Take this advice: the
first and last I shall offer you; then you will not want me or any
one else, happen what may. Neglect it--go on as heretofore,
craving, whining, and idling--and suffer the results of your idiocy,
however bad and insuperable they may be. I tell you this plainly;
and listen: for though I shall no more repeat what I am now about
to say, I shall steadily act on it. After my mother's death, I wash
my hands of you: from the day her coffin is carried to the vault in
Gateshead Church, you and I will be as separate as if we had never
known each other. You need not think that because we chanced to be
born of the same parents, I shall suffer you to fasten me down by
even the feeblest claim: I can tell you this--if the whole human
race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and we two stood alone on
the earth, I would leave you in the old world, and betake myself to
the new."
She closed her lips.
"You might have spared yourself the trouble of delivering that
tirade," answered Georgiana. "Everybody knows you are the most
selfish, heartless creature in existence: and I know your spiteful
hatred towards me: I have had a specimen of it before in the trick
you played me about Lord Edwin Vere: you could not bear me to be
raised above you, to have a title, to be received into circles where
you dare not show your face, and so you acted the spy and informer,
and ruined my prospects for ever." Georgiana took out her
handkerchief and blew her nose for an hour afterwards; Eliza sat
cold, impassable, and assiduously industrious.
True, generous feeling is made small account of by some, but here
were two natures rendered, the one intolerably acrid, the other
despicably savourless for the want of it. Feeling without judgment
is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too
bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.
It was a wet and windy afternoon: Georgiana had fallen asleep on
the sofa over the perusal of a novel; Eliza was gone to attend a
saint's-day service at the new church--for in matters of religion
she was a rigid formalist: no weather ever prevented the punctual
discharge of what she considered her devotional duties; fair or
foul, she went to church thrice every Sunday, and as often on weekdays
as there were prayers.
I bethought myself to go upstairs and see how the dying woman sped,
who lay there almost unheeded: the very servants paid her but a
remittent attention: the hired nurse, being little looked after,
would slip out of the room whenever she could. Bessie was faithful;
but she had her own family to mind, and could only come occasionally
to the hall. I found the sick-room unwatched, as I had expected:
no nurse was there; the patient lay still, and seemingly lethargic;
her livid face sunk in the pillows: the fire was dying in the
grate. I renewed the fuel, re-arranged the bedclothes, gazed awhile
on her who could not now gaze on me, and then I moved away to the
The rain beat strongly against the panes, the wind blew
tempestuously: "One lies there," I thought, "who will soon be
beyond the war of earthly elements. Whither will that spirit--now
struggling to quit its material tenement--flit when at length
In pondering the great mystery, I thought of Helen Burns, recalled
her dying words--her faith--her doctrine of the equality of
disembodied souls. I was still listening in thought to her wellremembered
tones--still picturing her pale and spiritual aspect, her
wasted face and sublime gaze, as she lay on her placid deathbed, and
whispered her longing to be restored to her divine Father's bosom--
when a feeble voice murmured from the couch behind: "Who is that?"
I knew Mrs. Reed had not spoken for days: was she reviving? I went
up to her.
"It is I, Aunt Reed."
"Who--I?" was her answer. "Who are you?" looking at me with
surprise and a sort of alarm, but still not wildly. "You are quite
a stranger to me--where is Bessie?"
"She is at the lodge, aunt."
"Aunt," she repeated. "Who calls me aunt? You are not one of the
Gibsons; and yet I know you--that face, and the eyes and forehead,
are quiet familiar to me: you are like--why, you are like Jane
I said nothing: I was afraid of occasioning some shock by declaring
my identity.
"Yet," said she, "I am afraid it is a mistake: my thoughts deceive
me. I wished to see Jane Eyre, and I fancy a likeness where none
exists: besides, in eight years she must be so changed." I now
gently assured her that I was the person she supposed and desired me
to be: and seeing that I was understood, and that her senses were
quite collected, I explained how Bessie had sent her husband to
fetch me from Thornfield.
"I am very ill, I know," she said ere long. "I was trying to turn
myself a few minutes since, and find I cannot move a limb. It is as
well I should ease my mind before I die: what we think little of in
health, burdens us at such an hour as the present is to me. Is the
nurse here? or is there no one in the room but you?"
I assured her we were alone.
"Well, I have twice done you a wrong which I regret now. One was in
breaking the promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as my
own child; the other--" she stopped. "After all, it is of no great
importance, perhaps," she murmured to herself: "and then I may get
better; and to humble myself so to her is painful."
She made an effort to alter her position, but failed: her face
changed; she seemed to experience some inward sensation--the
precursor, perhaps, of the last pang.
"Well, I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better
tell her.--Go to my dressing-case, open it, and take out a letter
you will see there."
I obeyed her directions. "Read the letter," she said.
It was short, and thus conceived:-
"Madam,--Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my
niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to
write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence
has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am
unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and
bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.--I am, Madam,
&c., &c.,
"JOHN EYRE, Madeira."
It was dated three years back.
"Why did I never hear of this?" I asked.
"Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a
hand in lifting you to prosperity. I could not forget your conduct
to me, Jane--the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone in
which you declared you abhorred me the worst of anybody in the
world; the unchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed that
the very thought of me made you sick, and asserted that I had
treated you with miserable cruelty. I could not forget my own
sensations when you thus started up and poured out the venom of your
mind: I felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed had
looked up at me with human eyes and cursed me in a man's voice.--
Bring me some water! Oh, make haste!"
"Dear Mrs. Reed," said I, as I offered her the draught she required,
"think no more of all this, let it pass away from your mind.
Forgive me for my passionate language: I was a child then; eight,
nine years have passed since that day."
She heeded nothing of what I said; but when she had tasted the water
and drawn breath, she went on thus -
"I tell you I could not forget it; and I took my revenge: for you
to be adopted by your uncle, and placed in a state of ease and
comfort, was what I could not endure. I wrote to him; I said I was
sorry for his disappointment, but Jane Eyre was dead: she had died
of typhus fever at Lowood. Now act as you please: write and
contradict my assertion--expose my falsehood as soon as you like.
You were born, I think, to be my torment: my last hour is racked by
the recollection of a deed which, but for you, I should never have
been tempted to commit."
"If you could but be persuaded to think no more of it, aunt, and to
regard me with kindness and forgiveness"
"You have a very bad disposition," said she, "and one to this day I
feel it impossible to understand: how for nine years you could be
patient and quiescent under any treatment, and in the tenth break
out all fire and violence, I can never comprehend."
"My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but
not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been
glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to
be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt."
I approached my cheek to her lips: she would not touch it. She
said I oppressed her by leaning over the bed, and again demanded
water. As I laid her down--for I raised her and supported her on my
arm while she drank--I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand with
mine: the feeble fingers shrank from my touch--the glazing eyes
shunned my gaze.
"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have
my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's, and be at peace."
Poor, suffering woman! it was too late for her to make now the
effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever
hated me--dying, she must hate me still.
The nurse now entered, and Bessie followed. I yet lingered half-anhour
longer, hoping to see some sign of amity: but she gave none.
She was fast relapsing into stupor; nor did her mind again rally:
at twelve o'clock that night she died. I was not present to close
her eyes, nor were either of her daughters. They came to tell us
the next morning that all was over. She was by that time laid out.
Eliza and I went to look at her: Georgiana, who had burst out into
loud weeping, said she dared not go. There was stretched Sarah
Reed's once robust and active frame, rigid and still: her eye of
flint was covered with its cold lid; her brow and strong traits wore
yet the impress of her inexorable soul. A strange and solemn object
was that corpse to me. I gazed on it with gloom and pain: nothing
soft, nothing sweet, nothing pitying, or hopeful, or subduing did it
inspire; only a grating anguish for HER woes--not MY loss--and a
sombre tearless dismay at the fearfulness of death in such a form.
Eliza surveyed her parent calmly. After a silence of some minutes
she observed -
"With her constitution she should have lived to a good old age: her
life was shortened by trouble." And then a spasm constricted her
mouth for an instant: as it passed away she turned and left the
room, and so did I. Neither of us had dropt a tear.
Mr. Rochester had given me but one week's leave of absence: yet a
month elapsed before I quitted Gateshead. I wished to leave
immediately after the funeral, but Georgiana entreated me to stay
till she could get off to London, whither she was now at last
invited by her uncle, Mr. Gibson, who had come down to direct his
sister's interment and settle the family affairs. Georgiana said
she dreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neither
sympathy in her dejection, support in her fears, nor aid in her
preparations; so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfish
lamentations as well as I could, and did my best in sewing for her
and packing her dresses. It is true, that while I worked, she would
idle; and I thought to myself, "If you and I were destined to live
always together, cousin, we would commence matters on a different
footing. I should not settle tamely down into being the forbearing
party; I should assign you your share of labour, and compel you to
accomplish it, or else it should be left undone: I should insist,
also, on your keeping some of those drawling, half-insincere
complaints hushed in your own breast. It is only because our
connection happens to be very transitory, and comes at a peculiarly
mournful season, that I consent thus to render it so patient and
compliant on my part."
At last I saw Georgiana off; but now it was Eliza's turn to request
me to stay another week. Her plans required all her time and
attention, she said; she was about to depart for some unknown
bourne; and all day long she stayed in her own room, her door bolted
within, filling trunks, emptying drawers, burning papers, and
holding no communication with any one. She wished me to look after
the house, to see callers, and answer notes of condolence.
One morning she told me I was at liberty. "And," she added, "I am
obliged to you for your valuable services and discreet conduct!
There is some difference between living with such an one as you and
with Georgiana: you perform your own part in life and burden no
one. To-morrow," she continued, "I set out for the Continent. I
shall take up my abode in a religious house near Lisle--a nunnery
you would call it; there I shall be quiet and unmolested. I shall
devote myself for a time to the examination of the Roman Catholic
dogmas, and to a careful study of the workings of their system: if
I find it to be, as I half suspect it is, the one best calculated to
ensure the doing of all things decently and in order, I shall
embrace the tenets of Rome and probably take the veil."
I neither expressed surprise at this resolution nor attempted to
dissuade her from it. "The vocation will fit you to a hair," I
thought: "much good may it do you!"
When we parted, she said: "Good-bye, cousin Jane Eyre; I wish you
well: you have some sense."
I then returned: "You are not without sense, cousin Eliza; but what
you have, I suppose, in another year will be walled up alive in a
French convent. However, it is not my business, and so it suits
you, I don't much care."
"You are in the right," said she; and with these words we each went
our separate way. As I shall not have occasion to refer either to
her or her sister again, I may as well mention here, that Georgiana
made an advantageous match with a wealthy worn-out man of fashion,
and that Eliza actually took the veil, and is at this day superior
of the convent where she passed the period of her novitiate, and
which she endowed with her fortune.
How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long
or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation. I
had known what it was to come back to Gateshead when a child after a
long walk, to be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and later, what
it was to come back from church to Lowood, to long for a plenteous
meal and a good fire, and to be unable to get either. Neither of
these returnings was very pleasant or desirable: no magnet drew me
to a given point, increasing in its strength of attraction the
nearer I came. The return to Thornfield was yet to be tried.
My journey seemed tedious--very tedious: fifty miles one day, a
night spent at an inn; fifty miles the next day. During the first
twelve hours I thought of Mrs. Reed in her last moments; I saw her
disfigured and discoloured face, and heard her strangely altered
voice. I mused on the funeral day, the coffin, the hearse, the
black train of tenants and servants--few was the number of
relatives--the gaping vault, the silent church, the solemn service.
Then I thought of Eliza and Georgiana; I beheld one the cynosure of
a ball-room, the other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on
and analysed their separate peculiarities of person and character.
The evening arrival at the great town of--scattered these thoughts;
night gave them quite another turn: laid down on my traveller's
bed, I left reminiscence for anticipation.
I was going back to Thornfield: but how long was I to stay there?
Not long; of that I was sure. I had heard from Mrs. Fairfax in the
interim of my absence: the party at the hall was dispersed; Mr.
Rochester had left for London three weeks ago, but he was then
expected to return in a fortnight. Mrs. Fairfax surmised that he
was gone to make arrangements for his wedding, as he had talked of
purchasing a new carriage: she said the idea of his marrying Miss
Ingram still seemed strange to her; but from what everybody said,
and from what she had herself seen, she could no longer doubt that
the event would shortly take place. "You would be strangely
incredulous if you did doubt it," was my mental comment. "I don't
doubt it."
The question followed, "Where was I to go?" I dreamt of Miss Ingram
all the night: in a vivid morning dream I saw her closing the gates
of Thornfield against me and pointing me out another road; and Mr.
Rochester looked on with his arms folded--smiling sardonically, as
it seemed, at both her and me.
I had not notified to Mrs. Fairfax the exact day of my return; for I
did not wish either car or carriage to meet me at Millcote. I
proposed to walk the distance quietly by myself; and very quietly,
after leaving my box in the ostler's care, did I slip away from the
George Inn, about six o'clock of a June evening, and take the old
road to Thornfield: a road which lay chiefly through fields, and
was now little frequented.
It was not a bright or splendid summer evening, though fair and
soft: the haymakers were at work all along the road; and the sky,
though far from cloudless, was such as promised well for the future:
its blue--where blue was visible--was mild and settled, and its
cloud strata high and thin. The west, too, was warm: no watery
gleam chilled it--it seemed as if there was a fire lit, an altar
burning behind its screen of marbled vapour, and out of apertures
shone a golden redness.
I felt glad as the road shortened before me: so glad that I stopped
once to ask myself what that joy meant: and to remind reason that
it was not to my home I was going, or to a permanent resting-place,
or to a place where fond friends looked out for me and waited my
arrival. "Mrs. Fairfax will smile you a calm welcome, to be sure,"
said I; "and little Adele will clap her hands and jump to see you:
but you know very well you are thinking of another than they, and
that he is not thinking of you."
But what is so headstrong as youth? What so blind as inexperience?
These affirmed that it was pleasure enough to have the privilege of
again looking on Mr. Rochester, whether he looked on me or not; and
they added--"Hasten! hasten! be with him while you may: but a few
more days or weeks, at most, and you are parted from him for ever!"
And then I strangled a new-born agony--a deformed thing which I
could not persuade myself to own and rear--and ran on.
They are making hay, too, in Thornfield meadows: or rather, the
labourers are just quitting their work, and returning home with
their rakes on their shoulders, now, at the hour I arrive. I have
but a field or two to traverse, and then I shall cross the road and
reach the gates. How full the hedges are of roses! But I have no
time to gather any; I want to be at the house. I passed a tall
briar, shooting leafy and flowery branches across the path; I see
the narrow stile with stone steps; and I see--Mr. Rochester sitting
there, a book and a pencil in his hand; he is writing.
Well, he is not a ghost; yet every nerve I have is unstrung: for a
moment I am beyond my own mastery. What does it mean? I did not
think I should tremble in this way when I saw him, or lose my voice
or the power of motion in his presence. I will go back as soon as I
can stir: I need not make an absolute fool of myself. I know
another way to the house. It does not signify if I knew twenty
ways; for he has seen me.
"Hillo!" he cries; and he puts up his book and his pencil. "There
you are! Come on, if you please."
I suppose I do come on; though in what fashion I know not; being
scarcely cognisant of my movements, and solicitous only to appear
calm; and, above all, to control the working muscles of my face--
which I feel rebel insolently against my will, and struggle to
express what I had resolved to conceal. But I have a veil--it is
down: I may make shift yet to behave with decent composure.
"And this is Jane Eyre? Are you coming from Millcote, and on foot?
Yes--just one of your tricks: not to send for a carriage, and come
clattering over street and road like a common mortal, but to steal
into the vicinage of your home along with twilight, just as if you
were a dream or a shade. What the deuce have you done with yourself
this last month?"
"I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead."
"A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard! She comes from the
other world--from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me so
when she meets me alone here in the gloaming! If I dared, I'd touch
you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf!--but I'd as
soon offer to take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh.
Truant! truant!" he added, when he had paused an instant. "Absent
from me a whole month, and forgetting me quite, I'll be sworn!"
I knew there would be pleasure in meeting my master again, even
though broken by the fear that he was so soon to cease to be my
master, and by the knowledge that I was nothing to him: but there
was ever in Mr. Rochester (so at least I thought) such a wealth of
the power of communicating happiness, that to taste but of the
crumbs he scattered to stray and stranger birds like me, was to
feast genially. His last words were balm: they seemed to imply
that it imported something to him whether I forgot him or not. And
he had spoken of Thornfield as my home--would that it were my home!
He did not leave the stile, and I hardly liked to ask to go by. I
inquired soon if he had not been to London.
"Yes; I suppose you found that out by second-sight."
"Mrs. Fairfax told me in a letter."
"And did she inform you what I went to do?"
"Oh, yes, sir! Everybody knew your errand."
"You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don't think it
will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won't look like
Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish,
Jane, I were a trifle better adapted to match with her externally.
Tell me now, fairy as you are--can't you give me a charm, or a
philter, or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?"
"It would be past the power of magic, sir;" and, in thought, I
added, "A loving eye is all the charm needed: to such you are
handsome enough; or rather your sternness has a power beyond
Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen
to me incomprehensible: in the present instance he took no notice
of my abrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certain
smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions.
He seemed to think it too good for common purposes: it was the real
sunshine of feeling--he shed it over me now.
"Pass, Janet," said he, making room for me to cross the stile: "go
up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend's
All I had now to do was to obey him in silence: no need for me to
colloquise further. I got over the stile without a word, and meant
to leave him calmly. An impulse held me fast--a force turned me
round. I said--or something in me said for me, and in spite of me -
"Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely
glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home--my
only home."
I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had
he tried. Little Adele was half wild with delight when she saw me.
Mrs. Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness. Leah
smiled, and even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee. This was very
pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by your
fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to
their comfort.
I that evening shut my eyes resolutely against the future: I
stopped my cars against the voice that kept warning me of near
separation and coming grief. When tea was over and Mrs. Fairfax had
taken her knitting, and I had assumed a low seat near her, and
Adele, kneeling on the carpet, had nestled close up to me, and a
sense of mutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring of
golden peace, I uttered a silent prayer that we might not be parted
far or soon; but when, as we thus sat, Mr. Rochester entered,
unannounced, and looking at us, seemed to take pleasure in the
spectacle of a group so amicable--when he said he supposed the old
lady was all right now that she had got her adopted daughter back
again, and added that he saw Adele was "prete e croquer sa petite
maman Anglaise"--I half ventured to hope that he would, even after
his marriage, keep us together somewhere under the shelter of his
protection, and not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.
A fortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield Hall.
Nothing was said of the master's marriage, and I saw no preparation
going on for such an event. Almost every day I asked Mrs. Fairfax
if she had yet heard anything decided: her answer was always in the
negative. Once she said she had actually put the question to Mr.
Rochester as to when he was going to bring his bride home; but he
had answered her only by a joke and one of his queer looks, and she
could not tell what to make of him.
One thing specially surprised me, and that was, there were no
journeyings backward and forward, no visits to Ingram Park: to be
sure it was twenty miles off, on the borders of another county; but
what was that distance to an ardent lover? To so practised and
indefatigable a horseman as Mr. Rochester, it would be but a
morning's ride. I began to cherish hopes I had no right to
conceive: that the match was broken off; that rumour had been
mistaken; that one or both parties had changed their minds. I used
to look at my master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but I
could not remember the time when it had been so uniformly clear of
clouds or evil feelings. If, in the moments I and my pupil spent
with him, I lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he
became even gay. Never had he called me more frequently to his
presence; never been kinder to me when there--and, alas! never had I
loved him so well.
A splendid Midsummer shone over England: skies so pure, suns so
radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favour even
singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days had
come from the South, like a flock of glorious passenger birds, and
lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion. The hay was all got
in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the roads
white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood,
full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of
the cleared meadows between.
On Midsummer-eve, Adele, weary with gathering wild strawberries in
Hay Lane half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched her
drop asleep, and when I left her, I sought the garden.
It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four:- "Day its fervid
fires had wasted," and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched
summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state--pure of the
pomp of clouds--spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of
red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and
extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven.
The east had its own charm or fine deep blue, and its own modest
gem, a casino and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but
she was yet beneath the horizon.
I walked a while on the pavement; but a subtle, well-known scent--
that of a cigar--stole from some window; I saw the library casement
open a handbreadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so I went
apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered and
more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers: a
very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the
other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was
a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding
walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horsechestnut,
circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence.
Here one could wander unseen. While such honey-dew fell, such
silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt
such shade for ever; but in threading the flower and fruit parterres
at the upper part of the enclosure, enticed there by the light the
now rising moon cast on this more open quarter, my step is stayed--
not by sound, not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance.
Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been
yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is
neither of shrub nor flower; it is--I know it well--it is Mr.
Rochester's cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees laden
with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood half a
mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible; but
that perfume increases: I must flee. I make for the wicket leading
to the shrubbery, and I see Mr. Rochester entering. I step aside
into the ivy recess; he will not stay long: he will soon return
whence he came, and if I sit still he will never see me.
But no--eventide is as pleasant to him as to me, and this antique
garden as attractive; and he strolls on, now lifting the gooseberrytree
branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they
are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping
towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to
admire the dew-beads on their petals. A great moth goes humming by
me; it alights on a plant at Mr. Rochester's foot: he sees it, and
bends to examine it.
"Now, he has his back towards me," thought I, "and he is occupied
too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed."
I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel
might not betray me: he was standing among the beds at a yard or
two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged
him. "I shall get by very well," I meditated. As I crossed his
shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet risen high,
he said quietly, without turning -
"Jane, come and look at this fellow."
I had made no noise: he had not eyes behind--could his shadow feel?
I started at first, and then I approached him.
"Look at his wings," said he, "he reminds me rather of a West Indian
insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in
England; there! he is flown."
The moth roamed away. I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr.
Rochester followed me, and when we reached the wicket, he said -
"Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house;
and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at
meeting with moonrise."
It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt
enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in
framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when
a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me out
of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour alone
with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not find a
reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging step, and
thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication; but he
himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became ashamed of
feeling any confusion: the evil--if evil existent or prospective
there was--seemed to lie with me only; his mind was unconscious and
"Jane," he recommenced, as we entered the laurel walk, and slowly
strayed down in the direction of the sunk fence and the horsechestnut,
"Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?"
"Yes, sir."
"You must have become in some degree attached to the house,--you,
who have an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the organ
of Adhesiveness?"
"I am attached to it, indeed."
"And though I don't comprehend how it is, I perceive you have
acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adele,
too; and even for simple dame Fairfax?"
"Yes, sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both."
"And would be sorry to part with them?"
"Pity!" he said, and sighed and paused. "It is always the way of
events in this life," he continued presently: "no sooner have you
got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls out to
you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired."
"Must I move on, sir?" I asked. "Must I leave Thornfield?"
"I believe you must, Jane. I am sorry, Janet, but I believe indeed
you must."
This was a blow: but I did not let it prostrate me.
"Well, sir, I shall be ready when the order to march comes."
"It is come now--I must give it to-night."
"Then you ARE going to be married, sir?"
"Ex-act-ly--pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have hit
the nail straight on the head."
"Soon, sir?"
"Very soon, my--that is, Miss Eyre: and you'll remember, Jane, the
first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was my
intention to put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noose, to
enter into the holy estate of matrimony--to take Miss Ingram to my
bosom, in short (she's an extensive armful: but that's not to the
point--one can't have too much of such a very excellent thing as my
beautiful Blanche): well, as I was saying--listen to me, Jane!
You're not turning your head to look after more moths, are you?
That was only a lady-clock, child, 'flying away home.' I wish to
remind you that it was you who first said to me, with that
discretion I respect in you--with that foresight, prudence, and
humility which befit your responsible and dependent position--that
in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adele had better
trot forthwith. I pass over the sort of slur conveyed in this
suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when you are far
away, Janet, I'll try to forget it: I shall notice only its wisdom;
which is such that I have made it my law of action. Adele must go
to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a new situation."
"Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately: and meantime, I suppose--"
I was going to say, "I suppose I may stay here, till I find another
shelter to betake myself to:" but I stopped, feeling it would not do
to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite under command.
"In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom," continued Mr.
Rochester; "and in the interim, I shall myself look out for
employment and an asylum for you."
"Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give--"
"Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependent does
her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim
upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently
render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law,
heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the
education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of
Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You'll like Ireland, I think:
they're such warm-hearted people there, they say."
"It is a long way off, sir."
"No matter--a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or
the distance."
"Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier--"
"From what, Jane?"
"From England and from Thornfield: and--"
"From YOU, sir."
I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of
free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to be heard,
however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O'Gall and
Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of
all the brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me
and the master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the
remembrance of the wider ocean--wealth, caste, custom intervened
between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.
"It is a long way," I again said.
"It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught,
Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane: that's morally certain.
I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for
the country. We have been good friends, Jane; have we not?"
"Yes, sir."
"And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend
the little time that remains to them close to each other. Come!
we'll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or
so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven
yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old
roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should
never more be destined to sit there together." He seated me and
"It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my
little friend on such weary travels: but if I can't do better, how
is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think,
I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
"Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to
you--especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a
string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably
knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of
your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred
miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of
communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should
take to bleeding inwardly. As for you,--you'd forget me."
"That I NEVER should, sir: you know--" Impossible to proceed.
"Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!"
In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I
endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from
head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to
express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never come
to Thornfield.
"Because you are sorry to leave it?"
The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was
claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a
right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last:
yes,--and to speak.
"I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield:- I love it,
because I have lived in it a full and delightful life,--momentarily
at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified.
I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every
glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I
have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I
delight in,--with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have
known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish
to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the
necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of
"Where do you see the necessity?" he asked suddenly.
"Where? You, sir, have placed it before me."
"In what shape?"
"In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman,--your
"My bride! What bride? I have no bride!"
"But you will have."
"Yes;--I will!--I will!" He set his teeth.
"Then I must go:- you have said it yourself."
"No: you must stay! I swear it--and the oath shall be kept."
"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like
passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you
think I am an automaton?--a machine without feelings? and can bear
to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of
living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor,
obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think
wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart! And if
God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have
made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave
you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom,
conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;--it is my spirit that
addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave,
and we stood at God's feet, equal,--as we are!"
"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester--"so," he added, enclosing me in
his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips:
"so, Jane!"
"Yes, so, sir," I rejoined: "and yet not so; for you are a married
man--or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you--to
one with whom you have no sympathy--whom I do not believe you truly
love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn
such a union: therefore I am better than you--let me go!"
"Where, Jane? To Ireland?"
"Yes--to Ireland. I have spoken my mind, and can go anywhere now."
"Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is
rending its own plumage in its desperation."
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with
an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
"And your will shall decide your destiny," he said: "I offer you my
hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions."
"You play a farce, which I merely laugh at."
"I ask you to pass through life at my side--to be my second self,
and best earthly companion."
"For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by
"Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be
still too."
A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled
through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away--away--to an
indefinite distance--it died. The nightingale's song was then the
only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr.
Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time
passed before he spoke; he at last said -
"Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one
"I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and
cannot return."
"But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to
I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
"Come, Jane--come hither."
"Your bride stands between us."
He rose, and with a stride reached me.
"My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, "because my
equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?"
Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp:
for I was still incredulous.
"Do you doubt me, Jane?"
"You have no faith in me?"
"Not a whit."
"Am I a liar in your eyes?" he asked passionately. "Little sceptic,
you SHALL be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None:
and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have
taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my
fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I
presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her
and her mother. I would not--I could not--marry Miss Ingram. You--
you strange, you almost unearthly thing!--I love as my own flesh.
You--poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are--I entreat to
accept me as a husband."
"What, me!" I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness--and
especially in his incivility--to credit his sincerity: "me who have
not a friend in the world but you- if you are my friend: not a
shilling but what you have given me?"
"You, Jane, I must have you for my own--entirely my own. Will you
be mine? Say yes, quickly."
"Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight."
"Because I want to read your countenance--turn!"
"There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled,
scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer."
His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there
were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes
"Oh, Jane, you torture me!" he exclaimed. "With that searching and
yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!"
"How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only
feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion--they cannot
"Gratitude!" he ejaculated; and added wildly--"Jane accept me
quickly. Say, Edward--give me my name--Edward--I will marry you."
"Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish
me to be your wife?"
"I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it."
"Then, sir, I will marry you."
"Edward--my little wife!"
"Dear Edward!"
"Come to me--come to me entirely now," said he; and added, in his
deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine,
"Make my happiness--I will make yours."
"God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not with me:
I have her, and will hold her."
"There is no one to meddle, sir. I have no kindred to interfere."
"No--that is the best of it," he said. And if I had loved him less
I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage; but,
sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting--called to the
paradise of union--I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in
so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, "Are you happy, Jane?"
And again and again I answered, "Yes." After which he murmured, "It
will atone--it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and
cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace
her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves?
It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I
do. For the world's judgment--I wash my hands thereof. For man's
opinion--I defy it."
But what had befallen the night? The moon was not yet set, and we
were all in shadow: I could scarcely see my master's face, near as
I was. And what ailed the chestnut tree? it writhed and groaned;
while wind roared in the laurel walk, and came sweeping over us.
"We must go in," said Mr. Rochester: "the weather changes. I could
have sat with thee till morning, Jane."
"And so," thought I, "could I with you." I should have said so,
perhaps, but a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I
was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling
peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr.
Rochester's shoulder.
The rain rushed down. He hurried me up the walk, through the
grounds, and into the house; but we were quite wet before we could
pass the threshold. He was taking off my shawl in the hall, and
shaking the water out of my loosened hair, when Mrs. Fairfax emerged
from her room. I did not observe her at first, nor did Mr.
Rochester. The lamp was lit. The clock was on the stroke of
"Hasten to take off your wet things," said he; "and before you go,
good-night--good-night, my darling!"
He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms,
there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. I only smiled at
her, and ran upstairs. "Explanation will do for another time,"
thought I. Still, when I reached my chamber, I felt a pang at the
idea she should even temporarily misconstrue what she had seen. But
joy soon effaced every other feeling; and loud as the wind blew,
near and deep as the thunder crashed, fierce and frequent as the
lightning gleamed, cataract-like as the rain fell during a storm of
two hours' duration, I experienced no fear and little awe. Mr.
Rochester came thrice to my door in the course of it, to ask if I
was safe and tranquil: and that was comfort, that was strength for
Before I left my bed in the morning, little Adele came running in to
tell me that the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard
had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split
As I rose and dressed, I thought over what had happened, and
wondered if it were a dream. I could not be certain of the reality
till I had seen Mr. Rochester again, and heard him renew his words
of love and promise.
While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt
it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in
its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of
fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple. I had often
been unwilling to look at my master, because I feared he could not
be pleased at my look; but I was sure I might lift my face to his
now, and not cool his affection by its expression. I took a plain
but clean and light summer dress from my drawer and put it on: it
seemed no attire had ever so well become me, because none had I ever
worn in so blissful a mood.
I was not surprised, when I ran down into the hall, to see that a
brilliant June morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night;
and to feel, through the open glass door, the breathing of a fresh
and fragrant breeze. Nature must be gladsome when I was so happy.
A beggar-woman and her little boy--pale, ragged objects both--were
coming up the walk, and I ran down and gave them all the money I
happened to have in my purse--some three or four shillings: good or
bad, they must partake of my jubilee. The rooks cawed, and blither
birds sang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own
rejoicing heart.
Mrs. Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sad
countenance, and saying gravely--"Miss Eyre, will you come to
breakfast?" During the meal she was quiet and cool: but I could
not undeceive her then. I must wait for my master to give
explanations; and so must she. I ate what I could, and then I
hastened upstairs. I met Adele leaving the schoolroom.
"Where are you going? It is time for lessons."
"Mr. Rochester has sent me away to the nursery."
"Where is he?"
"In there," pointing to the apartment she had left; and I went in,
and there he stood.
"Come and bid me good-morning," said he. I gladly advanced; and it
was not merely a cold word now, or even a shake of the hand that I
received, but an embrace and a kiss. It seemed natural: it seemed
genial to be so well loved, so caressed by him.
"Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty," said he: "truly
pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my
mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek
and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel
eyes?" (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake:
for him they were new-dyed, I suppose.)
"It is Jane Eyre, sir."
"Soon to be Jane Rochester," he added: "in four weeks, Janet; not a
day more. Do you hear that?"
I did, and I could not quite comprehend it: it made me giddy. The
feeling, the announcement sent through me, was something stronger
than was consistent with joy--something that smote and stunned. It
was, I think almost fear.
"You blushed, and now you are white, Jane: what is that for?"
"Because you gave me a new name--Jane Rochester; and it seems so
"Yes, Mrs. Rochester," said he; "young Mrs. Rochester--Fairfax
Rochester's girl-bride."
"It can never be, sir; it does not sound likely. Human beings never
enjoy complete happiness in this world. I was not born for a
different destiny to the rest of my species: to imagine such a lot
befalling me is a fairy tale--a day-dream."
"Which I can and will realise. I shall begin to-day. This morning
I wrote to my banker in London to send me certain jewels he has in
his keeping,--heirlooms for the ladies of Thornfield. In a day or
two I hope to pour them into your lap: for every privilege, every
attention shall be yours that I would accord a peer's daughter, if
about to marry her."
"Oh, sir!--never rain jewels! I don't like to hear them spoken of.
Jewels for Jane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange: I would rather
not have them."
"I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the
circlet on your forehead,--which it will become: for nature, at
least, has stamped her patent of nobility on this brow, Jane; and I
will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairylike
fingers with rings."
"No, no, sir! think of other subjects, and speak of other things,
and in another strain. Don't address me as if I were a beauty; I am
your plain, Quakerish governess."
"You are a beauty in my eyes, and a beauty just after the desire of
my heart,--delicate and aerial."
"Puny and insignificant, you mean. You are dreaming, sir,--or you
are sneering. For God's sake don't be ironical!"
"I will make the world acknowledge you a beauty, too," he went on,
while I really became uneasy at the strain he had adopted, because I
felt he was either deluding himself or trying to delude me. "I will
attire my Jane in satin and lace, and she shall have roses in her
hair; and I will cover the head I love best with a priceless veil."
"And then you won't know me, sir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyre
any longer, but an ape in a harlequin's jacket--a jay in borrowed
plumes. I would as soon see you, Mr. Rochester, tricked out in
stage-trappings, as myself clad in a court-lady's robe; and I don't
call you handsome, sir, though I love you most dearly: far too
dearly to flatter you. Don't flatter me."
He pursued his theme, however, without noticing my deprecation.
"This very day I shall take you in the carriage to Millcote, and you
must choose some dresses for yourself. I told you we shall be
married in four weeks. The wedding is to take place quietly, in the
church down below yonder; and then I shall waft you away at once to
town. After a brief stay there, I shall bear my treasure to regions
nearer the sun: to French vineyards and Italian plains; and she
shall see whatever is famous in old story and in modern record: she
shall taste, too, of the life of cities; and she shall learn to
value herself by just comparison with others."
"Shall I travel?--and with you, sir?"
"You shall sojourn at Paris, Rome, and Naples: at Florence, Venice,
and Vienna: all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-trodden
by you: wherever I stamped my hoof, your sylph's foot shall step
also. Ten years since, I flew through Europe half mad; with
disgust, hate, and rage as my companions: now I shall revisit it
healed and cleansed, with a very angel as my comforter."
I laughed at him as he said this. "I am not an angel," I asserted;
"and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr.
Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of
me--for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you:
which I do not at all anticipate."
"What do you anticipate of me?"
"For a little while you will perhaps be as you are now,--a very
little while; and then you will turn cool; and then you will be
capricious; and then you will be stern, and I shall have much ado to
please you: but when you get well used to me, you will perhaps like
me again,--LIKE me, I say, not LOVE me. I suppose your love will
effervesce in six months, or less. I have observed in books written
by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which a husband's
ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion, I hope
never to become quite distasteful to my dear master."
"Distasteful! and like you again! I think I shall like you again,
and yet again: and I will make you confess I do not only LIKE, but
LOVE you--with truth, fervour, constancy."
"Yet are you not capricious, sir?"
"To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil
when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts--when they open
to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and perhaps imbecility,
coarseness, and ill-temper: but to the clear eye and eloquent
tongue, to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but
does not break--at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent-
-I am ever tender and true."
"Had you ever experience of such a character, sir? Did you ever
love such an one?"
"I love it now."
"But before me: if I, indeed, in any respect come up to your
difficult standard?"
"I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me-
-you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and
while I am twining the soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends
a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced--conquered; and the
influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo
has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win. Why do you smile,
Jane? What does that inexplicable, that uncanny turn of countenance
"I was thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary),
I was thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers--"
"You were, you little elfish--"
"Hush, sir! You don't talk very wisely just now; any more than
those gentlemen acted very wisely. However, had they been married,
they would no doubt by their severity as husbands have made up for
their softness as suitors; and so will you, I fear. I wonder how
you will answer me a year hence, should I ask a favour it does not
suit your convenience or pleasure to grant."
"Ask me something now, Jane,--the least thing: I desire to be
"Indeed I will, sir; I have my petition all ready."
"Speak! But if you look up and smile with that countenance, I shall
swear concession before I know to what, and that will make a fool of
"Not at all, sir; I ask only this: don't send for the jewels, and
don't crown me with roses: you might as well put a border of gold
lace round that plain pocket handkerchief you have there."
"I might as well 'gild refined gold.' I know it: you request is
granted then--for the time. I will remand the order I despatched to
my banker. But you have not yet asked for anything; you have prayed
a gift to be withdrawn: try again."
"Well then, sir, have the goodness to gratify my curiosity, which is
much piqued on one point."
He looked disturbed. "What? what?" he said hastily. "Curiosity is
a dangerous petition: it is well I have not taken a vow to accord
every request--"
"But there can be no danger in complying with this, sir."
"Utter it, Jane: but I wish that instead of a mere inquiry into,
perhaps, a secret, it was a wish for half my estate."
"Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you
think I am a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would
much rather have all your confidence. You will not exclude me from
your confidence if you admit me to your heart?"
"You are welcome to all my confidence that is worth having, Jane;
but for God's sake, don't desire a useless burden! Don't long for
poison--don't turn out a downright Eve on my hands!"
"Why not, sir? You have just been telling me how much you liked to
be conquered, and how pleasant over-persuasion is to you. Don't you
think I had better take advantage of the confession, and begin and
coax and entreat--even cry and be sulky if necessary--for the sake
of a mere essay of my power?"
"I dare you to any such experiment. Encroach, presume, and the game
is up."
"Is it, sir? You soon give in. How stern you look now! Your
eyebrows have become as thick as my finger, and your forehead
resembles what, in some very astonishing poetry, I once saw styled,
'a blue-piled thunderloft.' That will be your married look, sir, I
"If that will be YOUR married look, I, as a Christian, will soon
give up the notion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander.
But what had you to ask, thing,--out with it?"
"There, you are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a great
deal better than flattery. I had rather be a THING than an angel.
This is what I have to ask,--Why did you take such pains to make me
believe you wished to marry Miss Ingram?"
"Is that all? Thank God it is no worse!" And now he unknit his
black brows; looked down, smiling at me, and stroked my hair, as if
well pleased at seeing a danger averted. "I think I may confess,"
he continued, "even although I should make you a little indignant,
Jane--and I have seen what a fire-spirit you can be when you are
indignant. You glowed in the cool moonlight last night, when you
mutinied against fate, and claimed your rank as my equal. Janet,
by-the-bye, it was you who made me the offer."
"Of course I did. But to the point if you please, sir--Miss
"Well, I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to
render you as madly in love with me as I was with you; and I knew
jealousy would be the best ally I could call in for the furtherance
of that end."
"Excellent! Now you are small--not one whit bigger than the end of
my little finger. It was a burning shame and a scandalous disgrace
to act in that way. Did you think nothing of Miss Ingram's
feelings, sir?"
"Her feelings are concentrated in one--pride; and that needs
humbling. Were you jealous, Jane?"
"Never mind, Mr. Rochester: it is in no way interesting to you to
know that. Answer me truly once more. Do you think Miss Ingram
will not suffer from your dishonest coquetry? Won't she feel
forsaken and deserted?"
"Impossible!--when I told you how she, on the contrary, deserted me:
the idea of my insolvency cooled, or rather extinguished, her flame
in a moment."
"You have a curious, designing mind, Mr. Rochester. I am afraid
your principles on some points are eccentric."
"My principles were never trained, Jane: they may have grown a
little awry for want of attention."
"Once again, seriously; may I enjoy the great good that has been
vouchsafed to me, without fearing that any one else is suffering the
bitter pain I myself felt a while ago?"
"That you may, my good little girl: there is not another being in
the world has the same pure love for me as yourself--for I lay that
pleasant unction to my soul, Jane, a belief in your affection."
I turned my lips to the hand that lay on my shoulder. I loved him
very much--more than I could trust myself to say--more than words
had power to express.
"Ask something more," he said presently; "it is my delight to be
entreated, and to yield."
I was again ready with my request. "Communicate your intentions to
Mrs. Fairfax, sir: she saw me with you last night in the hall, and
she was shocked. Give her some explanation before I see her again.
It pains me to be misjudged by so good a woman."
"Go to your room, and put on your bonnet," he replied. "I mean you
to accompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare for
the drive, I will enlighten the old lady's understanding. Did she
think, Janet, you had given the world for love, and considered it
well lost?"
"I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, sir."
"Station! station!--your station is in my heart, and on the necks of
those who would insult you, now or hereafter.--Go."
I was soon dressed; and when I heard Mr. Rochester quit Mrs.
Fairfax's parlour, I hurried down to it. The old lady, had been
reading her morning portion of Scripture--the Lesson for the day;
her Bible lay open before her, and her spectacles were upon it. Her
occupation, suspended by Mr. Rochester's announcement, seemed now
forgotten: her eyes, fixed on the blank wall opposite, expressed
the surprise of a quiet mind stirred by unwonted tidings. Seeing
me, she roused herself: she made a sort of effort to smile, and
framed a few words of congratulation; but the smile expired, and the
sentence was abandoned unfinished. She put up her spectacles, shut
the Bible, and pushed her chair back from the table.
"I feel so astonished," she began, "I hardly know what to say to
you, Miss Eyre. I have surely not been dreaming, have I? Sometimes
I half fall asleep when I am sitting alone and fancy things that
have never happened. It has seemed to me more than once when I have
been in a doze, that my dear husband, who died fifteen years since,
has come in and sat down beside me; and that I have even heard him
call me by my name, Alice, as he used to do. Now, can you tell me
whether it is actually true that Mr. Rochester has asked you to
marry him? Don't laugh at me. But I really thought he came in here
five minutes ago, and said that in a month you would be his wife."
"He has said the same thing to me," I replied.
"He has! Do you believe him? Have you accepted him?"
She looked at me bewildered. "I could never have thought it. He is
a proud man: all the Rochesters were proud: and his father, at
least, liked money. He, too, has always been called careful. He
means to marry you?"
"He tells me so."
She surveyed my whole person: in her eyes I read that they had
there found no charm powerful enough to solve the enigma.
"It passes me!" she continued; "but no doubt, it is true since you
say so. How it will answer, I cannot tell: I really don't know.
Equality of position and fortune is often advisable in such cases;
and there are twenty years of difference in your ages. He might
almost be your father."
"No, indeed, Mrs. Fairfax!" exclaimed I, nettled; "he is nothing
like my father! No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for
an instant. Mr. Rochester looks as young, and is as young, as some
men at five-and-twenty."
"Is it really for love he is going to marry you?" she asked.
I was so hurt by her coldness and scepticism, that the tears rose to
my eyes.
"I am sorry to grieve you," pursued the widow; "but you are so
young, and so little acquainted with men, I wished to put you on
your guard. It is an old saying that 'all is not gold that
glitters;' and in this case I do fear there will be something found
to be different to what either you or I expect."
"Why?--am I a monster?" I said: "is it impossible that Mr.
Rochester should have a sincere affection for me?"
"No: you are very well; and much improved of late; and Mr.
Rochester, I daresay, is fond of you. I have always noticed that
you were a sort of pet of his. There are times when, for your sake,
I have been a little uneasy at his marked preference, and have
wished to put you on your guard: but I did not like to suggest even
the possibility of wrong. I knew such an idea would shock, perhaps
offend you; and you were so discreet, and so thoroughly modest and
sensible, I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself. Last
night I cannot tell you what I suffered when I sought all over the
house, and could find you nowhere, nor the master either; and then,
at twelve o'clock, saw you come in with him."
"Well, never mind that now," I interrupted impatiently; "it is
enough that all was right."
"I hope all will be right in the end," she said: "but believe me,
you cannot be too careful. Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a
distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen in his
station are not accustomed to marry their governesses."
I was growing truly irritated: happily, Adele ran in.
"Let me go,--let me go to Millcote too!" she cried. "Mr. Rochester
won't: though there is so much room in the new carriage. Beg him
to let me go mademoiselle."
"That I will, Adele;" and I hastened away with her, glad to quit my
gloomy monitress. The carriage was ready: they were bringing it
round to the front, and my master was the pavement, Pilot following
him backwards and forwards.
"Adele may accompany us, may she not, sir?"
"I told her no. I'll have no brats!--I'll have only you."
"Do let her go, Mr. Rochester, if you please: it would be better."
"Not it: she will be a restraint."
He was quite peremptory, both in look and voice. The chill of Mrs.
Fairfax's warnings, and the damp of her doubts were upon me:
something of unsubstantiality and uncertainty had beset my hopes. I
half lost the sense of power over him. I was about mechanically to
obey him, without further remonstrance; but as he helped me into the
carriage, he looked at my face.
"What is the matter?" he asked; "all the sunshine is gone. Do you
really wish the bairn to go? Will it annoy you if she is left
"I would far rather she went, sir."
"Then off for your bonnet, and back like a flash of lightning!"
cried he to Adele.
She obeyed him with what speed she might.
"After all, a single morning's interruption will not matter much,"
said he, "when I mean shortly to claim you--your thoughts,
conversation, and company--for life."
Adele, when lifted in, commenced kissing me, by way of expressing
her gratitude for my intercession: she was instantly stowed away
into a corner on the other side of him. She then peeped round to
where I sat; so stern a neighbour was too restrictive to him, in his
present fractious mood, she dared whisper no observations, nor ask
of him any information.
"Let her come to me," I entreated: "she will, perhaps, trouble you,
sir: there is plenty of room on this side."
He handed her over as if she had been a lapdog. "I'll send her to
school yet," he said, but now he was smiling.
Adele heard him, and asked if she was to go to school "sans
"Yes," he replied, "absolutely sans mademoiselle; for I am to take
mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of
the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall
live with me there, and only me."
"She will have nothing to eat: you will starve her," observed
"I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and
hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adele."
"She will want to warm herself: what will she do for a fire?"
"Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold, I'll
carry her up to a peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater."
"Oh, qu' elle y sera mal--peu comfortable! And her clothes, they
will wear out: how can she get new ones?"
Mr. Rochester professed to be puzzled. "Hem!" said he. "What would
you do, Adele? Cudgel your brains for an expedient. How would a
white or a pink cloud answer for a gown, do you think? And one
could cut a pretty enough scarf out of a rainbow."
"She is far better as she is," concluded Adele, after musing some
time: "besides, she would get tired of living with only you in the
moon. If I were mademoiselle, I would never consent to go with
"She has consented: she has pledged her word."
"But you can't get her there; there is no road to the moon: it is
all air; and neither you nor she can fly."
"Adele, look at that field." We were now outside Thornfield gates,
and bowling lightly along the smooth road to Millcote, where the
dust was well laid by the thunderstorm, and, where the low hedges
and lofty timber trees on each side glistened green and rainrefreshed.
"In that field, Adele, I was walking late one evening about a
fortnight since--the evening of the day you helped me to make hay in
the orchard meadows; and, as I was tired with raking swaths, I sat
down to rest me on a stile; and there I took out a little book and a
pencil, and began to write about a misfortune that befell me long
ago, and a wish I had for happy days to come: I was writing away
very fast, though daylight was fading from the leaf, when something
came up the path and stopped two yards off me. I looked at it. It
was a little thing with a veil of gossamer on its head. I beckoned
it to come near me; it stood soon at my knee. I never spoke to it,
and it never spoke to me, in words; but I read its eyes, and it read
mine; and our speechless colloquy was to this effect -
"It was a fairy, and come from Elf-land, it said; and its errand was
to make me happy: I must go with it out of the common world to a
lonely place--such as the moon, for instance--and it nodded its head
towards her horn, rising over Hay-hill: it told me of the alabaster
cave and silver vale where we might live. I said I should like to
go; but reminded it, as you did me, that I had no wings to fly.
"'Oh,' returned the fairy, 'that does not signify! Here is a
talisman will remove all difficulties;' and she held out a pretty
gold ring. 'Put it,' she said, 'on the fourth finger of my left
hand, and I am yours, and you are mine; and we shall leave earth,
and make our own heaven yonder.' She nodded again at the moon. The
ring, Adele, is in my breeches-pocket, under the disguise of a
sovereign: but I mean soon to change it to a ring again."
"But what has mademoiselle to do with it? I don't care for the
fairy: you said it was mademoiselle you would take to the moon?"
"Mademoiselle is a fairy," he said, whispering mysteriously.
Whereupon I told her not to mind his badinage; and she, on her part,
evinced a fund of genuine French scepticism: denominating Mr.
Rochester "un vrai menteur," and assuring him that she made no
account whatever of his "contes de fee," and that "du reste, il n'y
avait pas de fees, et quand meme il y en avait:" she was sure they
would never appear to him, nor ever give him rings, or offer to live
with him in the moon.
The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr.
Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was
ordered to choose half-a-dozen dresses. I hated the business, I
begged leave to defer it: no--it should be gone through with now.
By dint of entreaties expressed in energetic whispers, I reduced the
half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he would select himself.
With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed
on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink
satin. I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as
well buy me a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should
certainly never venture to wear his choice. With infinite
difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make
an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk.
"It might pass for the present," he said; "but he would yet see me
glittering like a parterre."
Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a
jewellers shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned
with a sense of annoyance and degradation. As we re-entered the
carriage, and I sat back feverish and fagged, I remembered what, in
the hurry of events, dark and bright, I had wholly forgotten--the
letter of my uncle, John Eyre, to Mrs. Reed: his intention to adopt
me and make me his legatee. "It would, indeed, be a relief," I
thought, "if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear
being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second
Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me. I will write
to Madeira the moment I get home, and tell my uncle John I am going
to be married, and to whom: if I had but a prospect of one day
bringing Mr. Rochester an accession of fortune, I could better
endure to be kept by him now." And somewhat relieved by this idea
(which I failed not to execute that day), I ventured once more to
meet my master's and lover's eye, which most pertinaciously sought
mine, though I averted both face and gaze. He smiled; and I thought
his smile was such as a sultan might, in a blissful and fond moment,
bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched: I crushed his
hand, which was ever hunting mine, vigorously, and thrust it back to
him red with the passionate pressure.
"You need not look in that way," I said; "if you do, I'll wear
nothing but my old Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter. I'll be
married in this lilac gingham: you may make a dressing-gown for
yourself out of the pearl-grey silk, and an infinite series of
waistcoats out of the black satin."
He chuckled; he rubbed his hands. "Oh, it is rich to see and hear
her?" he exclaimed. "Is she original? Is she piquant? I would not
exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk's whole
seraglio, gazelle-eyes, houri forms, and all!"
The Eastern allusion bit me again. "I'll not stand you an inch in
the stead of a seraglio," I said; "so don't consider me an
equivalent for one. If you have a fancy for anything in that line,
away with you, sir, to the bazaars of Stamboul without delay, and
lay out in extensive slave-purchases some of that spare cash you
seem at a loss to spend satisfactorily here."
"And what will you do, Janet, while I am bargaining for so many tons
of flesh and such an assortment of black eyes?"
"I'll be preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preach
liberty to them that are enslaved--your harem inmates amongst the
rest. I'll get admitted there, and I'll stir up mutiny; and you,
three-tailed bashaw as you are, sir, shall in a trice find yourself
fettered amongst our hands: nor will I, for one, consent to cut
your bonds till you have signed a charter, the most liberal that
despot ever yet conferred."
"I would consent to be at your mercy, Jane."
"I would have no mercy, Mr. Rochester, if you supplicated for it
with an eye like that. While you looked so, I should be certain
that whatever charter you might grant under coercion, your first
act, when released, would be to violate its conditions."
"Why, Jane, what would you have? I fear you will compel me to go
through a private marriage ceremony, besides that performed at the
altar. You will stipulate, I see, for peculiar terms--what will
they be?"
"I only want an easy mind, sir; not crushed by crowded obligations.
Do you remember what you said of Celine Varens?--of the diamonds,
the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Celine
Varens. I shall continue to act as Adele's governess; by that I
shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides.
I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give
me nothing but--"
"Well, but what?"
"Your regard; and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be
"Well, for cool native impudence and pure innate pride, you haven't
your equal," said he. We were now approaching Thornfield. "Will it
please you to dine with me to-day?" he asked, as we re-entered the
"No, thank you, sir."
"And what for, 'no, thank you?' if one may inquire."
"I never have dined with you, sir: and I see no reason why I should
now: till--"
"Till what? You delight in half-phrases."
"Till I can't help it."
"Do you suppose I eat like an ogre or a ghoul, that you dread being
the companion of my repast?"
"I have formed no supposition on the subject, sir; but I want to go
on as usual for another month."
"You will give up your governessing slavery at once."
"Indeed, begging your pardon, sir, I shall not. I shall just go on
with it as usual. I shall keep out of your way all day, as I have
been accustomed to do: you may send for me in the evening, when you
feel disposed to see me, and I'll come then; but at no other time."
"I want a smoke, Jane, or a pinch of snuff, to comfort me under all
this, 'pour me donner une contenance,' as Adele would say; and
unfortunately I have neither my cigar-case, nor my snuff-box. But
listen--whisper. It is your time now, little tyrant, but it will be
mine presently; and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and
to hold, I'll just--figuratively speaking--attach you to a chain
like this" (touching his watch-guard). "Yes, bonny wee thing, I'll
wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne."
He said this as he helped me to alight from the carriage, and while
he afterwards lifted out Adele, I entered the house, and made good
my retreat upstairs.
He duly summoned me to his presence in the evening. I had prepared
an occupation for him; for I was determined not to spend the whole
time in a tete-e-tete conversation. I remembered his fine voice; I
knew he liked to sing--good singers generally do. I was no vocalist
myself, and, in his fastidious judgment, no musician, either; but I
delighted in listening when the performance was good. No sooner had
twilight, that hour of romance, began to lower her blue and starry
banner over the lattice, than I rose, opened the piano, and
entreated him, for the love of heaven, to give me a song. He said I
was a capricious witch, and that he would rather sing another time;
but I averred that no time was like the present.
"Did I like his voice?" he asked.
"Very much." I was not fond of pampering that susceptible vanity of
his; but for once, and from motives of expediency, I would e'en
soothe and stimulate it.
"Then, Jane, you must play the accompaniment."
"Very well, sir, I will try."
I did try, but was presently swept off the stool and denominated "a
little bungler." Being pushed unceremoniously to one side--which
was precisely what I wished--he usurped my place, and proceeded to
accompany himself: for he could play as well as sing. I hied me to
the window-recess. And while I sat there and looked out on the
still trees and dim lawn, to a sweet air was sung in mellow tones
the following strain:-
"The truest love that ever heart
Felt at its kindled core,
Did through each vein, in quickened start,
The tide of being pour.
Her coming was my hope each day,
Her parting was my pain;
The chance that did her steps delay
Was ice in every vein.
I dreamed it would be nameless bliss,
As I loved, loved to be;
And to this object did I press
As blind as eagerly.
But wide as pathless was the space
That lay our lives between,
And dangerous as the foamy race
Of ocean-surges green.
And haunted as a robber-path
Through wilderness or wood;
For Might and Right, and Woe and Wrath,
Between our spirits stood.
I dangers dared; I hindrance scorned;
I omens did defy:
Whatever menaced, harassed, warned,
I passed impetuous by.
On sped my rainbow, fast as light;
I flew as in a dream;
For glorious rose upon my sight
That child of Shower and Gleam.
Still bright on clouds of suffering dim
Shines that soft, solemn joy;
Nor care I now, how dense and grim
Disasters gather nigh.
I care not in this moment sweet,
Though all I have rushed o'er
Should come on pinion, strong and fleet,
Proclaiming vengeance sore:
Though haughty Hate should strike me down,
Right, bar approach to me,
And grinding Might, with furious frown,
Swear endless enmity.
My love has placed her little hand
With noble faith in mine,
And vowed that wedlock's sacred band
Our nature shall entwine.
My love has sworn, with sealing kiss,
With me to live--to die;
I have at last my nameless bliss.
As I love--loved am I!"
He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his
full falcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every
lineament. I quailed momentarily--then I rallied. Soft scene,
daring demonstration, I would not have; and I stood in peril of
both: a weapon of defence must be prepared--I whetted my tongue:
as he reached me, I asked with asperity, "whom he was going to marry
"That was a strange question to be put by his darling Jane."
"Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one: he had
talked of his future wife dying with him. What did he mean by such
a pagan idea? I had no intention of dying with him--he might depend
on that."
"Oh, all he longed, all he prayed for, was that I might live with
him! Death was not for such as I."
"Indeed it was: I had as good a right to die when my time came as
he had: but I should bide that time, and not be hurried away in a
"Would I forgive him for the selfish idea, and prove my pardon by a
reconciling kiss?"
"No: I would rather be excused."
Here I heard myself apostrophised as a "hard little thing;" and it
was added, "any other woman would have been melted to marrow at
hearing such stanzas crooned in her praise."
I assured him I was naturally hard--very flinty, and that he would
often find me so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him
divers rugged points in my character before the ensuing four weeks
elapsed: he should know fully what sort of a bargain he had made,
while there was yet time to rescind it.
"Would I be quiet and talk rationally?"
"I would be quiet if he liked, and as to talking rationally, I
flattered myself I was doing that now."
He fretted, pished, and pshawed. "Very good," I thought; "you may
fume and fidget as you please: but this is the best plan to pursue
with you, I am certain. I like you more than I can say; but I'll
not sink into a bathos of sentiment: and with this needle of
repartee I'll keep you from the edge of the gulf too; and, moreover,
maintain by its pungent aid that distance between you and myself
most conducive to our real mutual advantage."
From less to more, I worked him up to considerable irritation; then,
after he had retired, in dudgeon, quite to the other end of the
room, I got up, and saying, "I wish you good-night, sir," in my
natural and wonted respectful manner, I slipped out by the side-door
and got away.
The system thus entered on, I pursued during the whole season of
probation; and with the best success. He was kept, to be sure,
rather cross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he was
excellently entertained, and that a lamb-like submission and turtledove
sensibility, while fostering his despotism more, would have
pleased his judgment, satisfied his common-sense, and even suited
his taste less.
In other people's presence I was, as formerly, deferential and
quiet; any other line of conduct being uncalled for: it was only in
the evening conferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him. He
continued to send for me punctually the moment the clock struck
seven; though when I appeared before him now, he had no such honeyed
terms as "love" and "darling" on his lips: the best words at my
service were "provoking puppet," "malicious elf," "sprite,"
"changeling," &c. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a
pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a
severe tweak of the ear. It was all right: at present I decidedly
preferred these fierce favours to anything more tender. Mrs.
Fairfax, I saw, approved me: her anxiety on my account vanished;
therefore I was certain I did well. Meantime, Mr. Rochester
affirmed I was wearing him to skin and bone, and threatened awful
vengeance for my present conduct at some period fast coming. I
laughed in my sleeve at his menaces. "I can keep you in reasonable
check now," I reflected; "and I don't doubt to be able to do it
hereafter: if one expedient loses its virtue, another must be
Yet after all my task was not an easy one; often I would rather have
pleased than teased him. My future husband was becoming to me my
whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He
stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse
intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those
days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol.
The month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being
numbered. There was no putting off the day that advanced--the
bridal day; and all preparations for its arrival were complete. I,
at least, had nothing more to do: there were my trunks, packed,
locked, corded, ranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber;
to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on their road to London:
and so should I (D.V.),--or rather, not I, but one Jane Rochester, a
person whom as yet I knew not. The cards of address alone remained
to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer. Mr.
Rochester had himself written the direction, "Mrs. Rochester,--
Hotel, London," on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them,
or to have them affixed. Mrs. Rochester! She did not exist: she
would not be born till to-morrow, some time after eight o'clock
a.m.; and I would wait to be assured she had come into the world
alive before I assigned to her all that property. It was enough
that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said to
be hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw
bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the
pearl-coloured robe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped
portmanteau. I shut the closet to conceal the strange, wraith-like
apparel it contained; which, at this evening hour--nine o'clock--
gave out certainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of my
apartment. "I will leave you by yourself, white dream," I said. "I
am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out of doors and
feel it."
It was not only the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; not
only the anticipation of the great change--the new life which was to
commence to-morrow: both these circumstances had their share,
doubtless, in producing that restless, excited mood which hurried me
forth at this late hour into the darkening grounds: but a third
cause influenced my mind more than they.
I had at heart a strange and anxious thought. Something had
happened which I could not comprehend; no one knew of or had seen
the event but myself: it had taken place the preceding night. Mr.
Rochester that night was absent from home; nor was he yet returned:
business had called him to a small estate of two or three farms he
possessed thirty miles off--business it was requisite he should
settle in person, previous to his meditated departure from England.
I waited now his return; eager to disburthen my mind, and to seek of
him the solution of the enigma that perplexed me. Stay till he
comes, reader; and, when I disclose my secret to him, you shall
share the confidence.
I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all
day had blown strong and full from the south, without, however,
bringing a speck of rain. Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it
seemed to augment its rush and deepen its roar: the trees blew
steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back
their boughs once in an hour; so continuous was the strain bending
their branchy heads northward--the clouds drifted from pole to pole,
fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of blue sky had been
visible that July day.
It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind,
delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent
thundering through space. Descending the laurel walk, I faced the
wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up black and riven: the trunk,
split down the centre, gasped ghastly. The cloven halves were not
broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them
unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed--the
sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead,
and next winter's tempests would be sure to fell one or both to
earth: as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree--a
ruin, but an entire ruin.
"You did right to hold fast to each other," I said: as if the
monster-splinters were living things, and could hear me. "I think,
scathed as you look, and charred and scorched, there must be a
little sense of life in you yet, rising out of that adhesion at the
faithful, honest roots: you will never have green leaves more--
never more see birds making nests and singing idyls in your boughs;
the time of pleasure and love is over with you: but you are not
desolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his
decay." As I looked up at them, the moon appeared momentarily in
that part of the sky which filled their fissure; her disk was bloodred
and half overcast; she seemed to throw on me one bewildered,
dreary glance, and buried herself again instantly in the deep drift
of cloud. The wind fell, for a second, round Thornfield; but far
away over wood and water, poured a wild, melancholy wail: it was
sad to listen to, and I ran off again.
Here and there I strayed through the orchard, gathered up the apples
with which the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then I
employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried them
into the house and put them away in the store-room. Then I repaired
to the library to ascertain whether the fire was lit, for, though
summer, I knew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like to
see a cheerful hearth when he came in: yes, the fire had been
kindled some time, and burnt well. I placed his arm-chair by the
chimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it: I let down the
curtain, and had the candles brought in ready for lighting. More
restless than ever, when I had completed these arrangements I could
not sit still, nor even remain in the house: a little time-piece in
the room and the old clock in the hall simultaneously struck ten.
"How late it grows!" I said. "I will run down to the gates: it is
moonlight at intervals; I can see a good way on the road. He may be
coming now, and to meet him will save some minutes of suspense."
The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates;
but the road as far as I could see, to the right hand and the left,
was all still and solitary: save for the shadows of clouds crossing
it at intervals as the moon looked out, it was but a long pale line,
unvaried by one moving speck.
A puerile tear dimmed my eye while I looked--a tear of
disappointment and impatience; ashamed of it, I wiped it away. I
lingered; the moon shut herself wholly within her chamber, and drew
close her curtain of dense cloud: the night grew dark; rain came
driving fast on the gale.
"I wish he would come! I wish he would come!" I exclaimed, seized
with hypochondriac foreboding. I had expected his arrival before
tea; now it was dark: what could keep him? Had an accident
happened? The event of last night again recurred to me. I
interpreted it as a warning of disaster. I feared my hopes were too
bright to be realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that I
imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.
"Well, I cannot return to the house," I thought; "I cannot sit by
the fireside, while he is abroad in inclement weather: better tire
my limbs than strain my heart; I will go forward and meet him."
I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter
of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came on, full
gallop; a dog ran by his side. Away with evil presentiment! It was
he: here he was, mounted on Mesrour, followed by Pilot. He saw me;
for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it
watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved it round his head. I
now ran to meet him.
"There!" he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from
the saddle: "You can't do without me, that is evident. Step on my
boot-toe; give me both hands: mount!"
I obeyed: joy made me agile: I sprang up before him. A hearty
kissing I got for a welcome, and some boastful triumph, which I
swallowed as well as I could. He checked himself in his exultation
to demand, "But is there anything the matter, Janet, that you come
to meet me at such an hour? Is there anything wrong?"
"No, but I thought you would never come. I could not bear to wait
in the house for you, especially with this rain and wind."
"Rain and wind, indeed! Yes, you are dripping like a mermaid; pull
my cloak round you: but I think you are feverish, Jane: both your
cheek and hand are burning hot. I ask again, is there anything the
"Nothing now; I am neither afraid nor unhappy."
"Then you have been both?"
"Rather: but I'll tell you all about it by-and-bye, sir; and I
daresay you will only laugh at me for my pains."
"I'll laugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I dare
not: my prize is not certain. This is you, who have been as
slippery as an eel this last month, and as thorny as a briar-rose?
I could not lay a finger anywhere but I was pricked; and now I seem
to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms. You wandered out of
the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?"
"I wanted you: but don't boast. Here we are at Thornfield: now
let me get down."
He landed me on the pavement. As John took his horse, and he
followed me into the hall, he told me to make haste and put
something dry on, and then return to him in the library; and he
stopped me, as I made for the staircase, to extort a promise that I
would not be long: nor was I long; in five minutes I rejoined him.
I found him at supper.
"Take a seat and bear me company, Jane: please God, it is the last
meal but one you will eat at Thornfield Hall for a long time."
I sat down near him, but told him I could not eat. "Is it because
you have the prospect of a journey before you, Jane? Is it the
thoughts of going to London that takes away your appetite?"
"I cannot see my prospects clearly to-night, sir; and I hardly know
what thoughts I have in my head. Everything in life seems unreal."
"Except me: I am substantial enough--touch me."
"You, sir, are the most phantom-like of all: you are a mere dream."
He held out his hand, laughing. "Is that a dream?" said he, placing
it close to my eyes. He had a rounded, muscular, and vigorous hand,
as well as a long, strong arm.
"Yes; though I touch it, it is a dream," said I, as I put it down
from before my face. "Sir, have you finished supper?"
"Yes, Jane."
I rang the bell and ordered away the tray. When we were again
alone, I stirred the fire, and then took a low seat at my master's
"It is near midnight," I said.
"Yes: but remember, Jane, you promised to wake with me the night
before my wedding."
"I did; and I will keep my promise, for an hour or two at least: I
have no wish to go to bed."
"Are all your arrangements complete?"
"All, sir."
"And on my part likewise," he returned, "I have settled everything;
and we shall leave Thornfield to-morrow, within half-an-hour after
our return from church."
"Very well, sir."
"With what an extraordinary smile you uttered that word--'very
well,' Jane! What a bright spot of colour you have on each cheek!
and how strangely your eyes glitter! Are you well?"
"I believe I am."
"Believe! What is the matter? Tell me what you feel."
"I could not, sir: no words could tell you what I feel. I wish
this present hour would never end: who knows with what fate the
next may come charged?"
"This is hypochondria, Jane. You have been over-excited, or overfatigued."
"Do you, sir, feel calm and happy?"
"Calm?--no: but happy--to the heart's core."
I looked up at him to read the signs of bliss in his face: it was
ardent and flushed.
"Give me your confidence, Jane," he said: "relieve your mind of any
weight that oppresses it, by imparting it to me. What do you fear?-
-that I shall not prove a good husband?"
"It is the idea farthest from my thoughts."
"Are you apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter?--of
the new life into which you are passing?"
"You puzzle me, Jane: your look and tone of sorrowful audacity
perplex and pain me. I want an explanation."
"Then, sir, listen. You were from home last night?"
"I was: I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something which
had happened in my absence:- nothing, probably, of consequence; but,
in short, it has disturbed you. Let me hear it. Mrs. Fairfax has
said something, perhaps? or you have overheard the servants talk?--
your sensitive self-respect has been wounded?"
"No, sir." It struck twelve--I waited till the time-piece had
concluded its silver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibritting
stroke, and then I proceeded.
"All day yesterday I was very busy, and very happy in my ceaseless
bustle; for I am not, as you seem to think, troubled by any haunting
fears about the new sphere, et cetera: I think it a glorious thing
to have the hope of living with you, because I love you. No, sir,
don't caress me now--let me talk undisturbed. Yesterday I trusted
well in Providence, and believed that events were working together
for your good and mine: it was a fine day, if you recollect--the
calmness of the air and sky forbade apprehensions respecting your
safety or comfort on your journey. I walked a little while on the
pavement after tea, thinking of you; and I beheld you in imagination
so near me, I scarcely missed your actual presence. I thought of
the life that lay before me--YOUR life, sir--an existence more
expansive and stirring than my own: as much more so as the depths
of the sea to which the brook runs are than the shallows of its own
strait channel. I wondered why moralists call this world a dreary
wilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose. Just at sunset, the
air turned cold and the sky cloudy: I went in, Sophie called me
upstairs to look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought;
and under it in the box I found your present--the veil which, in
your princely extravagance, you sent for from London: resolved, I
suppose, since I would not have jewels, to cheat me into accepting
something as costly. I smiled as I unfolded it, and devised how I
would tease you about your aristocratic tastes, and your efforts to
masque your plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress. I though
how I would carry down to you the square of unembroidered blond I
had myself prepared as a covering for my low-born head, and ask if
that was not good enough for a woman who could bring her husband
neither fortune, beauty, nor connections. I saw plainly how you
would look; and heard your impetuous republican answers, and your
haughty disavowal of any necessity on your part to augment your
wealth, or elevate your standing, by marrying either a purse or a
"How well you read me, you witch!" interposed Mr. Rochester: "but
what did you find in the veil besides its embroidery? Did you find
poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?"
"No, no, sir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabric, I
found nothing save Fairfax Rochester's pride; and that did not scare
me, because I am used to the sight of the demon. But, sir, as it
grew dark, the wind rose: it blew yesterday evening, not as it
blows now--wild and high--but 'with a sullen, moaning sound' far
more eerie. I wished you were at home. I came into this room, and
the sight of the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me. For
some time after I went to bed, I could not sleep--a sense of anxious
excitement distressed me. The gale still rising, seemed to my ear
to muffle a mournful under-sound; whether in the house or abroad I
could not at first tell, but it recurred, doubtful yet doleful at
every lull; at last I made out it must be some dog howling at a
distance. I was glad when it ceased. On sleeping, I continued in
dreams the idea of a dark and gusty night. I continued also the
wish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful
consciousness of some barrier dividing us. During all my first
sleep, I was following the windings of an unknown road; total
obscurity environed me; rain pelted me; I was burdened with the
charge of a little child: a very small creature, too young and
feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and wailed
piteously in my ear. I thought, sir, that you were on the road a
long way before me; and I strained every nerve to overtake you, and
made effort on effort to utter your name and entreat you to stop--
but my movements were fettered, and my voice still died away
inarticulate; while you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every
"And these dreams weigh on your spirits now, Jane, when I am close
to you? Little nervous subject! Forget visionary woe, and think
only of real happiness! You say you love me, Janet: yes--I will
not forget that; and you cannot deny it. THOSE words did not die
inarticulate on your lips. I heard them clear and soft: a thought
too solemn perhaps, but sweet as music--'I think it is a glorious
thing to have the hope of living with you, Edward, because I love
you.' Do you love me, Jane?--repeat it."
"I do, sir--I do, with my whole heart."
"Well," he said, after some minutes' silence, "it is strange; but
that sentence has penetrated by breast painfully. Why? I think
because you said it with such an earnest, religious energy, and
because your upward gaze at me now is the very sublime of faith,
truth, and devotion: it is too much as if some spirit were near me.
Look wicked, Jane: as you know well how to look: coin one of your
wild, shy, provoking smiles; tell me you hate me--tease me, vex me;
do anything but move me: I would rather be incensed than saddened."
"I will tease you and vex you to your heart's content, when I have
finished my tale: but hear me to the end."
"I thought, Jane, you had told me all. I thought I had found the
source of your melancholy in a dream."
I shook my head. "What! is there more? But I will not believe it
to be anything important. I warn you of incredulity beforehand. Go
The disquietude of his air, the somewhat apprehensive impatience of
his manner, surprised me: but I proceeded.
"I dreamt another dream, sir: that Thornfield Hall was a dreary
ruin, the retreat of bats and owls. I thought that of all the
stately front nothing remained but a shell-like wall, very high and
very fragile-looking. I wandered, on a moonlight night, through the
grass-grown enclosure within: here I stumbled over a marble hearth,
and there over a fallen fragment of cornice. Wrapped up in a shawl,
I still carried the unknown little child: I might not lay it down
anywhere, however tired were my arms--however much its weight
impeded my progress, I must retain it. I heard the gallop of a
horse at a distance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you were
departing for many years and for a distant country. I climbed the
thin wall with frantic perilous haste, eager to catch one glimpse of
you from the top: the stones rolled from under my feet, the ivy
branches I grasped gave way, the child clung round my neck in
terror, and almost strangled me; at last I gained the summit. I saw
you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment. The
blast blew so strong I could not stand. I sat down on the narrow
ledge; I hushed the scared infant in my lap: you turned an angle of
the road: I bent forward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; I
was shaken; the child rolled from my knee, I lost my balance, fell,
and woke."
"Now, Jane, that is all."
"All the preface, sir; the tale is yet to come. On waking, a gleam
dazzled my eyes; I thought--Oh, it is daylight! But I was mistaken;
it was only candlelight. Sophie, I supposed, had come in. There
was a light in the dressing-table, and the door of the closet,
where, before going to bed, I had hung my wedding-dress and veil,
stood open; I heard a rustling there. I asked, 'Sophie, what are
you doing?' No one answered; but a form emerged from the closet; it
took the light, held it aloft, and surveyed the garments pendent
from the portmanteau. 'Sophie! Sophie!' I again cried: and still
it was silent. I had risen up in bed, I bent forward: first
surprise, then bewilderment, came over me; and then my blood crept
cold through my veins. Mr. Rochester, this was not Sophie, it was
not Leah, it was not Mrs. Fairfax: it was not--no, I was sure of
it, and am still--it was not even that strange woman, Grace Poole."
"It must have been one of them," interrupted my master.
"No, sir, I solemnly assure you to the contrary. The shape standing
before me had never crossed my eyes within the precincts of

--go to archives for second part--

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