Part 10 out of 11
the door, which was behind him.
"No, no!" he responded shortly and somewhat testily.
"Well," I reflected, "if you won't talk, you may be still; I'll
let you alone now, and return to my book."
So I snuffed the candle and resumed the perusal of "Marmion." He
soon stirred; my eye was instantly drawn to his movements; he only
took out a morocco pocket-book, thence produced a letter, which he
read in silence, folded it, put it back, relapsed into meditation.
It was vain to try to read with such an inscrutable fixture before
me; nor could I, in impatience, consent to be dumb; he might rebuff
me if he liked, but talk I would.
"Have you heard from Diana and Mary lately?"
"Not since the letter I showed you a week ago."
"There has not been any change made about your own arrangements?
You will not be summoned to leave England sooner than you expected?"
"I fear not, indeed: such chance is too good to befall me." Baffled
so far, I changed my ground. I bethought myself to talk about the
school and my scholars.
"Mary Garrett's mother is better, and Mary came back to the school
this morning, and I shall have four new girls next week from the
Foundry Close -- they would have come to-day but for the snow."
"Mr. Oliver pays for two."
"He means to give the whole school a treat at Christmas."
"Was it your suggestion?"
"His daughter's, I think."
"It is like her: she is so good-natured."
Again came the blank of a pause: the clock struck eight strokes.
It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me.
"Leave your book a moment, and come a little nearer the fire," he
Wondering, and of my wonder finding no end, I complied.
"Half-an-hour ago," he pursued, "I spoke of my impatience to hear
the sequel of a tale: on reflection, I find the matter will be
better managed by my assuming the narrator's part, and converting
you into a listener. Before commencing, it is but fair to warn
you that the story will sound somewhat hackneyed in your ears; but
stale details often regain a degree of freshness when they pass
through new lips. For the rest, whether trite or novel, it is
"Twenty years ago, a poor curate -- never mind his name at this
moment -- fell in love with a rich man's daughter; she fell in love
with him, and married him, against the advice of all her friends,
who consequently disowned her immediately after the wedding. Before
two years passed, the rash pair were both dead, and laid quietly
side by side under one slab. (I have seen their grave; it formed
part of the pavement of a huge churchyard surrounding the grim,
soot-black old cathedral of an overgrown manufacturing town in
-shire.) They left a daughter, which, at its very birth, Charity
received in her lap -- cold as that of the snow-drift I almost stuck
fast in to-night. Charity carried the friendless thing to the house
of its rich maternal relations; it was reared by an aunt-in-law,
called (I come to names now) Mrs. Reed of Gateshead. You start --
did you hear a noise? I daresay it is only a rat scrambling along
the rafters of the adjoining schoolroom: it was a barn before
I had it repaired and altered, and barns are generally haunted by
rats. -- To proceed. Mrs. Reed kept the orphan ten years: whether
it was happy or not with her, I cannot say, never having been told;
but at the end of that time she transferred it to a place you know
-- being no other than Lowood School, where you so long resided
yourself. It seems her career there was very honourable: from a
pupil, she became a teacher, like yourself -- really it strikes me
there are parallel points in her history and yours -- she left it
to be a governess: there, again, your fates were analogous; she
undertook the education of the ward of a certain Mr. Rochester."
"Mr. Rivers!" I interrupted.
"I can guess your feelings," he said, "but restrain them for a while:
I have nearly finished; hear me to the end. Of Mr. Rochester's
character I know nothing, but the one fact that he professed to
offer honourable marriage to this young girl, and that at the very
altar she discovered he had a wife yet alive, though a lunatic.
What his subsequent conduct and proposals were is a matter of pure
conjecture; but when an event transpired which rendered inquiry
after the governess necessary, it was discovered she was gone -- no
one could tell when, where, or how. She had left Thornfield Hall
in the night; every research after her course had been vain: the
country had been scoured far and wide; no vestige of information
could be gathered respecting her. Yet that she should be found is
become a matter of serious urgency: advertisements have been put
in all the papers; I myself have received a letter from one Mr.
Briggs, a solicitor, communicating the details I have just imparted.
Is it not an odd tale?"
"Just tell me this," said I, "and since you know so much, you
surely can tell it me -- what of Mr. Rochester? How and where is
he? What is he doing? Is he well?"
"I am ignorant of all concerning Mr. Rochester: the letter never
mentions him but to narrate the fraudulent and illegal attempt I
have adverted to. You should rather ask the name of the governess
-- the nature of the event which requires her appearance."
"Did no one go to Thornfield Hall, then? Did no one see Mr.
"I suppose not."
"But they wrote to him?"
"And what did he say? Who has his letters?"
"Mr. Briggs intimates that the answer to his application was not
from Mr. Rochester, but from a lady: it is signed 'Alice Fairfax.'"
I felt cold and dismayed: my worst fears then were probably true:
he had in all probability left England and rushed in reckless
desperation to some former haunt on the Continent. And what opiate
for his severe sufferings -- what object for his strong passions
-- had he sought there? I dared not answer the question. Oh, my
poor master -- once almost my husband -- whom I had often called
"my dear Edward!"
"He must have been a bad man," observed Mr. Rivers.
"You don't know him -- don't pronounce an opinion upon him," I
said, with warmth.
"Very well," he answered quietly: "and indeed my head is otherwise
occupied than with him: I have my tale to finish. Since you won't
ask the governess's name, I must tell it of my own accord. Stay!
I have it here -- it is always more satisfactory to see important
points written down, fairly committed to black and white."
And the pocket-book was again deliberately produced, opened, sought
through; from one of its compartments was extracted a shabby slip
of paper, hastily torn off: I recognised in its texture and its
stains of ultra-marine, and lake, and vermillion, the ravished margin
of the portrait-cover. He got up, held it close to my eyes: and
I read, traced in Indian ink, in my own handwriting, the words
"JANE EYRE" -- the work doubtless of some moment of abstraction.
"Briggs wrote to me of a Jane Eyre:" he said, "the advertisements
demanded a Jane Eyre: I knew a Jane Elliott. -- I confess I had my
suspicions, but it was only yesterday afternoon they were at once
resolved into certainty. You own the name and renounce the alias?"
"Yes -- yes; but where is Mr. Briggs? He perhaps knows more of
Mr. Rochester than you do."
"Briggs is in London. I should doubt his knowing anything at all
about Mr. Rochester; it is not in Mr. Rochester he is interested.
Meantime, you forget essential points in pursuing trifles: you do
not inquire why Mr. Briggs sought after you -- what he wanted with
"Well, what did he want?"
"Merely to tell you that your uncle, Mr. Eyre of Madeira, is dead;
that he has left you all his property, and that you are now rich
-- merely that -- nothing more."
"I! -- rich?"
"Yes, you, rich -- quite an heiress."
"You must prove your identity of course," resumed St. John presently:
"a step which will offer no difficulties; you can then enter on
immediate possession. Your fortune is vested in the English funds;
Briggs has the will and the necessary documents."
Here was a new card turned up! It is a fine thing, reader, to be
lifted in a moment from indigence to wealth -- a very fine thing;
but not a matter one can comprehend, or consequently enjoy, all at
once. And then there are other chances in life far more thrilling
and rapture-giving: THIS is solid, an affair of the actual world,
nothing ideal about it: all its associations are solid and sober,
and its manifestations are the same. One does not jump, and spring,
and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune; one begins
to consider responsibilities, and to ponder business; on a base
of steady satisfaction rise certain grave cares, and we contain
ourselves, and brood over our bliss with a solemn brow.
Besides, the words Legacy, Bequest, go side by side with the words,
Death, Funeral. My uncle I had heard was dead -- my only relative;
ever since being made aware of his existence, I had cherished the
hope of one day seeing him: now, I never should. And then this
money came only to me: not to me and a rejoicing family, but to
my isolated self. It was a grand boon doubtless; and independence
would be glorious -- yes, I felt that -- that thought swelled my
"You unbend your forehead at last," said Mr. Rivers. "I thought
Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone.
Perhaps now you will ask how much you are worth?"
"How much am I worth?"
"Oh, a trifle! Nothing of course to speak of -- twenty thousand
pounds, I think they say -- but what is that?"
"Twenty thousand pounds?"
Here was a new stunner -- I had been calculating on four or five
thousand. This news actually took my breath for a moment: Mr.
St. John, whom I had never heard laugh before, laughed now.
"Well," said he, "if you had committed a murder, and I had told
you your crime was discovered, you could scarcely look more aghast."
"It is a large sum -- don't you think there is a mistake?"
"No mistake at all."
"Perhaps you have read the figures wrong -- it may be two thousand!"
"It is written in letters, not figures, -- twenty thousand."
I again felt rather like an individual of but average gastronomical
powers sitting down to feast alone at a table spread with provisions
for a hundred. Mr. Rivers rose now and put his cloak on.
"If it were not such a very wild night," he said, "I would send
Hannah down to keep you company: you look too desperately miserable
to be left alone. But Hannah, poor woman! could not stride the
drifts so well as I: her legs are not quite so long: so I must
e'en leave you to your sorrows. Good-night."
He was lifting the latch: a sudden thought occurred to me. "Stop
one minute!" I cried.
"It puzzles me to know why Mr. Briggs wrote to you about me; or how
he knew you, or could fancy that you, living in such an out-of-the-way
place, had the power to aid in my discovery."
"Oh! I am a clergyman," he said; "and the clergy are often appealed
to about odd matters." Again the latch rattled.
"No; that does not satisfy me!" I exclaimed: and indeed there
was something in the hasty and unexplanatory reply which, instead
of allaying, piqued my curiosity more than ever.
"It is a very strange piece of business," I added; "I must know
more about it."
"No; to-night! -- to-night!" and as he turned from the door, I
placed myself between it and him. He looked rather embarrassed.
"You certainly shall not go till you have told me all," I said.
"I would rather not just now."
"You shall! -- you must!"
"I would rather Diana or Mary informed you."
Of course these objections wrought my eagerness to a climax:
gratified it must be, and that without delay; and I told him so.
"But I apprised you that I was a hard man," said he, "difficult to
"And I am a hard woman, -- impossible to put off."
"And then," he pursued, "I am cold: no fervour infects me."
"Whereas I am hot, and fire dissolves ice. The blaze there has
thawed all the snow from your cloak; by the same token, it has
streamed on to my floor, and made it like a trampled street. As
you hope ever to be forgiven, Mr. Rivers, the high crime and
misdemeanour of spoiling a sanded kitchen, tell me what I wish to
"Well, then," he said, "I yield; if not to your earnestness, to your
perseverance: as stone is worn by continual dropping. Besides,
you must know some day, -- as well now as later. Your name is Jane
"Of course: that was all settled before."
"You are not, perhaps, aware that I am your namesake? -- that I
was christened St. John Eyre Rivers?"
"No, indeed! I remember now seeing the letter E. comprised in your
initials written in books you have at different times lent me; but
I never asked for what name it stood. But what then? Surely -- "
I stopped: I could not trust myself to entertain, much less to
express, the thought that rushed upon me -- that embodied itself,
-- that, in a second, stood out a strong, solid probability.
Circumstances knit themselves, fitted themselves, shot into order:
the chain that had been lying hitherto a formless lump of links
was drawn out straight, -- every ring was perfect, the connection
complete. I knew, by instinct, how the matter stood, before St.
John had said another word; but I cannot expect the reader to have
the same intuitive perception, so I must repeat his explanation.
"My mother's name was Eyre; she had two brothers; one a clergyman,
who married Miss Jane Reed, of Gateshead; the other, John Eyre, Esq.,
merchant, late of Funchal, Madeira. Mr. Briggs, being Mr. Eyre's
solicitor, wrote to us last August to inform us of our uncle's
death, and to say that he had left his property to his brother the
clergyman's orphan daughter, overlooking us, in consequence of a
quarrel, never forgiven, between him and my father. He wrote again
a few weeks since, to intimate that the heiress was lost, and asking
if we knew anything of her. A name casually written on a slip of
paper has enabled me to find her out. You know the rest." Again
he was going, but I set my back against the door.
"Do let me speak," I said; "let me have one moment to draw breath
and reflect." I paused -- he stood before me, hat in hand,
looking composed enough. I resumed -
"Your mother was my father's sister?"
"My aunt, consequently?"
"My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and Mary are his
sister's children, as I am his brother's child?"
"You three, then, are my cousins; half our blood on each side flows
from the same source?"
"We are cousins; yes."
I surveyed him. It seemed I had found a brother: one I could be
proud of, -- one I could love; and two sisters, whose qualities
were such, that, when I knew them but as mere strangers, they had
inspired me with genuine affection and admiration. The two girls,
on whom, kneeling down on the wet ground, and looking through the
low, latticed window of Moor House kitchen, I had gazed with so
bitter a mixture of interest and despair, were my near kinswomen;
and the young and stately gentleman who had found me almost dying
at his threshold was my blood relation. Glorious discovery to a
lonely wretch! This was wealth indeed! -- wealth to the heart! --
a mine of pure, genial affections. This was a blessing, bright,
vivid, and exhilarating; -- not like the ponderous gift of gold:
rich and welcome enough in its way, but sobering from its weight.
I now clapped my hands in sudden joy -- my pulse bounded, my veins
"Oh, I am glad! -- I am glad!" I exclaimed.
St. John smiled. "Did I not say you neglected essential points
to pursue trifles?" he asked. "You were serious when I told you
you had got a fortune; and now, for a matter of no moment, you are
"What can you mean? It may be of no moment to you; you have
sisters and don't care for a cousin; but I had nobody; and now
three relations, -- or two, if you don't choose to be counted, --
are born into my world full-grown. I say again, I am glad!"
I walked fast through the room: I stopped, half suffocated with
the thoughts that rose faster than I could receive, comprehend,
settle them:- thoughts of what might, could, would, and should be,
and that ere long. I looked at the blank wall: it seemed a sky
thick with ascending stars, -- every one lit me to a purpose or
delight. Those who had saved my life, whom, till this hour, I had
loved barrenly, I could now benefit. They were under a yoke, --
I could free them: they were scattered, -- I could reunite them:
the independence, the affluence which was mine, might be theirs too.
Were we not four? Twenty thousand pounds shared equally would be
five thousand each, justice -- enough and to spare: justice would
be done, -- mutual happiness secured. Now the wealth did not weigh
on me: now it was not a mere bequest of coin, -- it was a legacy
of life, hope, enjoyment.
How I looked while these ideas were taking my spirit by storm,
I cannot tell; but I perceived soon that Mr. Rivers had placed a
chair behind me, and was gently attempting to make me sit down on
it. He also advised me to be composed; I scorned the insinuation
of helplessness and distraction, shook off his hand, and began to
walk about again.
"Write to Diana and Mary to-morrow," I said, "and tell them to come
home directly. Diana said they would both consider themselves rich
with a thousand pounds, so with five thousand they will do very
"Tell me where I can get you a glass of water," said St. John; "you
must really make an effort to tranquillise your feelings."
"Nonsense! and what sort of an effect will the bequest have on you?
Will it keep you in England, induce you to marry Miss Oliver, and
settle down like an ordinary mortal?"
"You wander: your head becomes confused. I have been too abrupt
in communicating the news; it has excited you beyond your strength."
"Mr. Rivers! you quite put me out of patience: I am rational enough;
it is you who misunderstand, or rather who affect to misunderstand."
"Perhaps, if you explained yourself a little more fully, I should
"Explain! What is there to explain? You cannot fail to see that
twenty thousand pounds, the sum in question, divided equally between
the nephew and three nieces of our uncle, will give five thousand
to each? What I want is, that you should write to your sisters
and tell them of the fortune that has accrued to them."
"To you, you mean."
"I have intimated my view of the case: I am incapable of taking any
other. I am not brutally selfish, blindly unjust, or fiendishly
ungrateful. Besides, I am resolved I will have a home and
connections. I like Moor House, and I will live at Moor House;
I like Diana and Mary, and I will attach myself for life to Diana
and Mary. It would please and benefit me to have five thousand
pounds; it would torment and oppress me to have twenty thousand;
which, moreover, could never be mine in justice, though it might
in law. I abandon to you, then, what is absolutely superfluous to
me. Let there be no opposition, and no discussion about it; let
us agree amongst each other, and decide the point at once."
"This is acting on first impulses; you must take days to consider
such a matter, ere your word can be regarded as valid."
"Oh! if all you doubt is my sincerity, I am easy: you see the
justice of the case?"
"I DO see a certain justice; but it is contrary to all custom.
Besides, the entire fortune is your right: my uncle gained it by
his own efforts; he was free to leave it to whom he would: he left
it to you. After all, justice permits you to keep it: you may,
with a clear conscience, consider it absolutely your own."
"With me," said I, "it is fully as much a matter of feeling as
of conscience: I must indulge my feelings; I so seldom have had
an opportunity of doing so. Were you to argue, object, and annoy
me for a year, I could not forego the delicious pleasure of which
I have caught a glimpse -- that of repaying, in part, a mighty
obligation, and winning to myself lifelong friends."
"You think so now," rejoined St. John, "because you do not know
what it is to possess, nor consequently to enjoy wealth: you
cannot form a notion of the importance twenty thousand pounds would
give you; of the place it would enable you to take in society;
of the prospects it would open to you: you cannot -- "
"And you," I interrupted, "cannot at all imagine the craving I have
for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had
brothers or sisters; I must and will have them now: you are not
reluctant to admit me and own me, are you?"
"Jane, I will be your brother -- my sisters will be your sisters
-- without stipulating for this sacrifice of your just rights."
"Brother? Yes; at the distance of a thousand leagues! Sisters?
Yes; slaving amongst strangers! I, wealthy -- gorged with gold I
never earned and do not merit! You, penniless! Famous equality
and fraternisation! Close union! Intimate attachment!"
"But, Jane, your aspirations after family ties and domestic happiness
may be realised otherwise than by the means you contemplate: you
"Nonsense, again! Marry! I don't want to marry, and never shall
"That is saying too much: such hazardous affirmations are a proof
of the excitement under which you labour."
"It is not saying too much: I know what I feel, and how averse
are my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage. No one would
take me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere
money speculation. And I do not want a stranger -- unsympathising,
alien, different from me; I want my kindred: those with whom I
have full fellow-feeling. Say again you will be my brother: when
you uttered the words I was satisfied, happy; repeat them, if you
can, repeat them sincerely."
"I think I can. I know I have always loved my own sisters; and
I know on what my affection for them is grounded, -- respect for
their worth and admiration of their talents. You too have principle
and mind: your tastes and habits resemble Diana's and Mary's; your
presence is always agreeable to me; in your conversation I have
already for some time found a salutary solace. I feel I can easily
and naturally make room in my heart for you, as my third and youngest
"Thank you: that contents me for to-night. Now you had better
go; for if you stay longer, you will perhaps irritate me afresh by
some mistrustful scruple."
"And the school, Miss Eyre? It must now be shut up, I suppose?"
"No. I will retain my post of mistress till you get a substitute."
He smiled approbation: we shook hands, and he took leave.
I need not narrate in detail the further struggles I had, and
arguments I used, to get matters regarding the legacy settled as
I wished. My task was a very hard one; but, as I was absolutely
resolved -- as my cousins saw at length that my mind was really
and immutably fixed on making a just division of the property -- as
they must in their own hearts have felt the equity of the intention;
and must, besides, have been innately conscious that in my place
they would have done precisely what I wished to do -- they yielded
at length so far as to consent to put the affair to arbitration. The
judges chosen were Mr. Oliver and an able lawyer: both coincided
in my opinion: I carried my point. The instruments of transfer
were drawn out: St. John, Diana, Mary, and I, each became possessed
of a competency.
It was near Christmas by the time all was settled: the season of
general holiday approached. I now closed Morton school, taking care
that the parting should not be barren on my side. Good fortune
opens the hand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to give
somewhat when we have largely received, is but to afford a vent
to the unusual ebullition of the sensations. I had long felt with
pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we
parted, that consciousness was confirmed: they manifested their
affection plainly and strongly. Deep was my gratification to find
I had really a place in their unsophisticated hearts: I promised
them that never a week should pass in future that I did not visit
them, and give them an hour's teaching in their school.
Mr. Rivers came up as, having seen the classes, now numbering sixty
girls, file out before me, and locked the door, I stood with the
key in my hand, exchanging a few words of special farewell with some
half-dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest,
and well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of
the British peasantry. And that is saying a great deal; for after
all, the British peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most
self-respecting of any in Europe: since those days I have seen
paysannes and Bauerinnen; and the best of them seemed to me ignorant,
coarse, and besotted, compared with my Morton girls.
"Do you consider you have got your reward for a season of
exertion?" asked Mr. Rivers, when they were gone. "Does not the
consciousness of having done some real good in your day and generation
"And you have only toiled a few months! Would not a life devoted
to the task of regenerating your race be well spent?"
"Yes," I said; "but I could not go on for ever so: I want to enjoy
my own faculties as well as to cultivate those of other people.
I must enjoy them now; don't recall either my mind or body to the
school; I am out of it and disposed for full holiday."
He looked grave. "What now? What sudden eagerness is this you
evince? What are you going to do?"
"To be active: as active as I can. And first I must beg you to
set Hannah at liberty, and get somebody else to wait on you."
"Do you want her?"
"Yes, to go with me to Moor House. Diana and Mary will be at home
in a week, and I want to have everything in order against their
"I understand. I thought you were for flying off on some excursion.
It is better so: Hannah shall go with you."
"Tell her to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the schoolroom
key: I will give you the key of my cottage in the morning."
He took it. "You give it up very gleefully," said he; "I don't
quite understand your light-heartedness, because I cannot tell what
employment you propose to yourself as a substitute for the one you
are relinquishing. What aim, what purpose, what ambition in life
have you now?"
"My first aim will be to CLEAN DOWN (do you comprehend the full
force of the expression?) -- to CLEAN DOWN Moor House from chamber to
cellar; my next to rub it up with bees-wax, oil, and an indefinite
number of cloths, till it glitters again; my third, to arrange every
chair, table, bed, carpet, with mathematical precision; afterwards
I shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires
in every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your
sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a
beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding
of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies,
and solemnising of other culinary rites, as words can convey but
an inadequate notion of to the uninitiated like you. My purpose,
in short, is to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of
readiness for Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambition
is to give them a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come."
St. John smiled slightly: still he was dissatisfied.
"It is all very well for the present," said he; "but seriously, I
trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look
a little higher than domestic endearments and household joys."
"The best things the world has!" I interrupted.
"No, Jane, no: this world is not the scene of fruition; do not
attempt to make it so: nor of rest; do not turn slothful."
"I mean, on the contrary, to be busy."
"Jane, I excuse you for the present: two months' grace I allow
you for the full enjoyment of your new position, and for pleasing
yourself with this late-found charm of relationship; but THEN, I hope
you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and sisterly
society, and the selfish calm and sensual comfort of civilised
affluence. I hope your energies will then once more trouble you
with their strength."
I looked at him with surprise. "St. John," I said, "I think you
are almost wicked to talk so. I am disposed to be as content as
a queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness! To what end?"
"To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed
to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict
account. Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously -- I warn
you of that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with
which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures. Don't
cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy
and ardour for an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite
transient objects. Do you hear, Jane?"
"Yes; just as if you were speaking Greek. I feel I have adequate
cause to be happy, and I WILL be happy. Goodbye!"
Happy at Moor House I was, and hard I worked; and so did Hannah:
she was charmed to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle
of a house turned topsy-turvy -- how I could brush, and dust, and
clean, and cook. And really, after a day or two of confusion worse
confounded, it was delightful by degrees to invoke order from the
chaos ourselves had made. I had previously taken a journey to S-
to purchase some new furniture: my cousins having given me CARTE
BLANCHE to effect what alterations I pleased, and a sum having been
set aside for that purpose. The ordinary sitting-room and bedrooms
I left much as they were: for I knew Diana and Mary would derive
more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and chairs,
and beds, than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations. Still
some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the piquancy
with which I wished it to be invested. Dark handsome new carpets
and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected antique
ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and mirrors,
and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the end: they
looked fresh without being glaring. A spare parlour and bedroom
I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson upholstery:
I laid canvas on the passage, and carpets on the stairs. When all
was finished, I thought Moor House as complete a model of bright
modest snugness within, as it was, at this season, a specimen of
wintry waste and desert dreariness without.
The eventful Thursday at length came. They were expected about
dark, and ere dusk fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchen
was in perfect trim; Hannah and I were dressed, and all was in
St. John arrived first. I had entreated him to keep quite clear
of the house till everything was arranged: and, indeed, the bare
idea of the commotion, at once sordid and trivial, going on within
its walls sufficed to scare him to estrangement. He found me
in the kitchen, watching the progress of certain cakes for tea,
then baking. Approaching the hearth, he asked, "If I was at last
satisfied with housemaid's work?" I answered by inviting him to
accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my labours.
With some difficulty, I got him to make the tour of the house.
He just looked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wandered
upstairs and downstairs, he said I must have gone through a great
deal of fatigue and trouble to have effected such considerable changes
in so short a time: but not a syllable did he utter indicating
pleasure in the improved aspect of his abode.
This silence damped me. I thought perhaps the alterations had
disturbed some old associations he valued. I inquired whether this
was the case: no doubt in a somewhat crest-fallen tone.
"Not at all; he had, on the contrary, remarked that I had scrupulously
respected every association: he feared, indeed, I must have bestowed
more thought on the matter than it was worth. How many minutes,
for instance, had I devoted to studying the arrangement of this
very room? -- By-the-bye, could I tell him where such a book was?"
I showed him the volume on the shelf: he took it down, and
withdrawing to his accustomed window recess, he began to read it.
Now, I did not like this, reader. St. John was a good man; but I
began to feel he had spoken truth of himself when he said he was hard
and cold. The humanities and amenities of life had no attraction
for him -- its peaceful enjoyments no charm. Literally, he lived
only to aspire -- after what was good and great, certainly; but
still he would never rest, nor approve of others resting round him.
As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone
-- at his fine lineaments fixed in study -- I comprehended all at
once that he would hardly make a good husband: that it would be
a trying thing to be his wife. I understood, as by inspiration,
the nature of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it
was but a love of the senses. I comprehended how he should despise
himself for the feverish influence it exercised over him; how he
should wish to stifle and destroy it; how he should mistrust its
ever conducting permanently to his happiness or hers. I saw he
was of the material from which nature hews her heroes -- Christian
and Pagan -- her lawgivers, her statesmen, her conquerors: a
steadfast bulwark for great interests to rest upon; but, at the
fireside, too often a cold cumbrous column, gloomy and out of place.
"This parlour is not his sphere," I reflected: "the Himalayan
ridge or Caffre bush, even the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp
would suit him better. Well may he eschew the calm of domestic
life; it is not his element: there his faculties stagnate -- they
cannot develop or appear to advantage. It is in scenes of strife
and danger -- where courage is proved, and energy exercised, and
fortitude tasked -- that he will speak and move, the leader and
superior. A merry child would have the advantage of him on this
hearth. He is right to choose a missionary's career -- I see it
"They are coming! they are coming!" cried Hannah, throwing open
the parlour door. At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully.
Out I ran. It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible.
Hannah soon had a lantern lit. The vehicle had stopped at the
wicket; the driver opened the door: first one well-known form,
then another, stepped out. In a minute I had my face under their
bonnets, in contact first with Mary's soft cheek, then with Diana's
flowing curls. They laughed -- kissed me -- then Hannah: patted
Carlo, who was half wild with delight; asked eagerly if all was
well; and being assured in the affirmative, hastened into the house.
They were stiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcross,
and chilled with the frosty night air; but their pleasant countenances
expanded to the cheerful firelight. While the driver and Hannah
brought in the boxes, they demanded St. John. At this moment he
advanced from the parlour. They both threw their arms round his
neck at once. He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low tone
a few words of welcome, stood a while to be talked to, and then,
intimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in the
parlour, withdrew there as to a place of refuge.
I had lit their candles to go upstairs, but Diana had first to give
hospitable orders respecting the driver; this done, both followed
me. They were delighted with the renovation and decorations
of their rooms; with the new drapery, and fresh carpets, and rich
tinted china vases: they expressed their gratification ungrudgingly.
I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangements met their wishes
exactly, and that what I had done added a vivid charm to their
joyous return home.
Sweet was that evening. My cousins, full of exhilaration, were so
eloquent in narrative and comment, that their fluency covered St.
John's taciturnity: he was sincerely glad to see his sisters; but
in their glow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise.
The event of the day -- that is, the return of Diana and Mary --
pleased him; but the accompaniments of that event, the glad tumult,
the garrulous glee of reception irked him: I saw he wished the calmer
morrow was come. In the very meridian of the night's enjoyment,
about an hour after tea, a rap was heard at the door. Hannah entered
with the intimation that "a poor lad was come, at that unlikely
time, to fetch Mr. Rivers to see his mother, who was drawing away."
"Where does she live, Hannah?"
"Clear up at Whitcross Brow, almost four miles off, and moor and
moss all the way."
"Tell him I will go."
"I'm sure, sir, you had better not. It's the worst road to travel
after dark that can be: there's no track at all over the bog. And
then it is such a bitter night -- the keenest wind you ever felt.
You had better send word, sir, that you will be there in the
But he was already in the passage, putting on his cloak; and without
one objection, one murmur, he departed. It was then nine o'clock:
he did not return till midnight. Starved and tired enough he was:
but he looked happier than when he set out. He had performed
an act of duty; made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and
deny, and was on better terms with himself.
I am afraid the whole of the ensuing week tried his patience. It
was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent
it in a sort of merry domestic dissipation. The air of the moors,
the freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and
Mary's spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from
morning till noon, and from noon till night. They could always
talk; and their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such charms
for me, that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing
anything else. St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped
from it: he was seldom in the house; his parish was large, the
population scattered, and he found daily business in visiting the
sick and poor in its different districts.
One morning at breakfast, Diana, after looking a little pensive
for some minutes, asked him, "If his plans were yet unchanged."
"Unchanged and unchangeable," was the reply. And he proceeded
to inform us that his departure from England was now definitively
fixed for the ensuing year.
"And Rosamond Oliver?" suggested Mary, the words seeming to escape
her lips involuntarily: for no sooner had she uttered them, than
she made a gesture as if wishing to recall them. St. John had a
book in his hand -- it was his unsocial custom to read at meals --
he closed it, and looked up,
"Rosamond Oliver," said he, "is about to be married to Mr. Granby,
one of the best connected and most estimable residents in S-,
grandson and heir to Sir Frederic Granby: I had the intelligence
from her father yesterday."
His sisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked at
him: he was serene as glass.
"The match must have been got up hastily," said Diana: "they cannot
have known each other long."
"But two months: they met in October at the county ball at S-. But
where there are no obstacles to a union, as in the present case,
where the connection is in every point desirable, delays are
unnecessary: they will be married as soon as S- Place, which Sir
Frederic gives up to them, can he refitted for their reception."
The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I
felt tempted to inquire if the event distressed him: but he seemed
so little to need sympathy, that, so far from venturing to offer
him more, I experienced some shame at the recollection of what I
had already hazarded. Besides, I was out of practice in talking
to him: his reserve was again frozen over, and my frankness was
congealed beneath it. He had not kept his promise of treating me
like his sisters; he continually made little chilling differences
between us, which did not at all tend to the development of
cordiality: in short, now that I was acknowledged his kinswoman,
and lived under the same roof with him, I felt the distance between
us to be far greater than when he had known me only as the village
schoolmistress. When I remembered how far I had once been admitted
to his confidence, I could hardly comprehend his present frigidity.
Such being the case, I felt not a little surprised when he raised
his head suddenly from the desk over which he was stooping, and said -
"You see, Jane, the battle is fought and the victory won."
Startled at being thus addressed, I did not immediately
reply: after a moment's hesitation I answered -
"But are you sure you are not in the position of those conquerors
whose triumphs have cost them too dear? Would not such another
"I think not; and if I were, it does not much signify; I shall
never be called upon to contend for such another. The event of the
conflict is decisive: my way is now clear; I thank God for it!"
So saying, he returned to his papers and his silence.
As our mutual happiness (i.e., Diana's, Mary's, and mine) settled
into a quieter character, and we resumed our usual habits and regular
studies, St. John stayed more at home: he sat with us in the same
room, sometimes for hours together. While Mary drew, Diana pursued
a course of encyclopaedic reading she had (to my awe and amazement)
undertaken, and I fagged away at German, he pondered a mystic lore
of his own: that of some Eastern tongue, the acquisition of which
he thought necessary to his plans.
Thus engaged, he appeared, sitting in his own recess, quiet and
absorbed enough; but that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving
the outlandish-looking grammar, and wandering over, and sometimes
fixing upon us, his fellow-students, with a curious intensity of
observation: if caught, it would be instantly withdrawn; yet ever
and anon, it returned searchingly to our table. I wondered what
it meant: I wondered, too, at the punctual satisfaction he never
failed to exhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small moment,
namely, my weekly visit to Morton school; and still more was I
puzzled when, if the day was unfavourable, if there was snow, or
rain, or high wind, and his sisters urged me not to go, he would
invariably make light of their solicitude, and encourage me to
accomplish the task without regard to the elements.
"Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her," he would say:
"she can bear a mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of
snow, as well as any of us. Her constitution is both sound and
elastic; -- better calculated to endure variations of climate than
many more robust."
And when I returned, sometimes a good deal tired, and not a little
weather-beaten, I never dared complain, because I saw that to murmur
would be to vex him: on all occasions fortitude pleased him; the
reverse was a special annoyance.
One afternoon, however, I got leave to stay at home, because I
really had a cold. His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead: I
sat reading Schiller; he, deciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls.
As I exchanged a translation for an exercise, I happened to look his
way: there I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchful
blue eye. How long it had been searching me through and through,
and over and over, I cannot tell: so keen was it, and yet so cold,
I felt for the moment superstitious -- as if I were sitting in the
room with something uncanny.
"Jane, what are you doing?"
"I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."
"You are not in earnest?"
"In such earnest that I must have it so: and I will tell you why."
He then went on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he
was himself at present studying; that, as he advanced, he was apt
to forget the commencement; that it would assist him greatly to have
a pupil with whom he might again and again go over the elements,
and so fix them thoroughly in his mind; that his choice had hovered
for some time between me and his sisters; but that he had fixed on
me because he saw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.
Would I do him this favour? I should not, perhaps, have to make
the sacrifice long, as it wanted now barely three months to his
St. John was not a man to be lightly refused: you felt that every
impression made on him, either for pain or pleasure, was deep-graved and
permanent. I consented. When Diana and Mary returned, the former
found her scholar transferred from her to her brother: she
laughed, and both she and Mary agreed that St. John should
never have persuaded them to such a step. He answered quietly -
"I know it."
I found him a very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting
master: he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his
expectations, he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation.
By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away
my liberty of mind: his praise and notice were more restraining
than his indifference. I could no longer talk or laugh freely when
he was by, because a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me
that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him. I was so
fully aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable,
that in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other
became vain: I fell under a freezing spell. When he said "go," I
went; "come," I came; "do this," I did it. But I did not love my
servitude: I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect me.
One evening when, at bedtime, his sisters and I stood round him,
bidding him good-night, he kissed each of them, as was his custom;
and, as was equally his custom, he gave me his hand. Diana, who
chanced to be in a frolicsome humour (SHE was not painfully controlled
by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong), exclaimed -
"St. John! you used to call Jane your third sister, but you don't
treat her as such: you should kiss her too."
She pushed me towards him. I thought Diana very provoking, and felt
uncomfortably confused; and while I was thus thinking and feeling,
St. John bent his head; his Greek face was brought to a level with
mine, his eyes questioned my eyes piercingly -- he kissed me. There
are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say
my ecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes;
but there may be experiment kisses, and his was an experiment kiss.
When given, he viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking:
I am sure I did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a little
pale, for I felt as if this kiss were a seal affixed to my fetters.
He never omitted the ceremony afterwards, and the gravity and
quiescence with which I underwent it, seemed to invest it for him
with a certain charm.
As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt
daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half
my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself
to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation. He
wanted to train me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked
me hourly to aspire to the standard he uplifted. The thing was
as impossible as to mould my irregular features to his correct and
classic pattern, to give to my changeable green eyes the sea-blue
tint and solemn lustre of his own.
Not his ascendancy alone, however, held me in thrall at present.
Of late it had been easy enough for me to look sad: a cankering
evil sat at my heart and drained my happiness at its source -- the
evil of suspense.
Perhaps you think I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst
these changes of place and fortune. Not for a moment. His idea
was still with me, because it was not a vapour sunshine could
disperse, nor a sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was
a name graven on a tablet, fated to last as long as the marble it
inscribed. The craving to know what had become of him followed
me everywhere; when I was at Morton, I re-entered my cottage every
evening to think of that; and now at Moor House, I sought my bedroom
each night to brood over it.
In the course of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs about
the will, I had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester's present
residence and state of health; but, as St. John had conjectured,
he was quite ignorant of all concerning him. I then wrote to Mrs.
Fairfax, entreating information on the subject. I had calculated
with certainty on this step answering my end: I felt sure it would
elicit an early answer. I was astonished when a fortnight passed
without reply; but when two months wore away, and day after day
the post arrived and brought nothing for me, I fell a prey to the
I wrote again: there was a chance of my first letter having
missed. Renewed hope followed renewed effort: it shone like the
former for some weeks, then, like it, it faded, flickered: not
a line, not a word reached me. When half a year wasted in vain
expectancy, my hope died out, and then I felt dark indeed.
A fine spring shone round me, which I could not enjoy. Summer
approached; Diana tried to cheer me: she said I looked ill, and
wished to accompany me to the sea-side. This St. John opposed; he
said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my present
life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose, by way
of supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still further my lessons in
Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment:
and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him -- I could not
One day I had come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; the
ebb was occasioned by a poignantly felt disappointment. Hannah had
told me in the morning there was a letter for me, and when I went
down to take it, almost certain that the long-looked for tidings
were vouchsafed me at last, I found only an unimportant note from
Mr. Briggs on business. The bitter check had wrung from me some
tears; and now, as I sat poring over the crabbed characters and
flourishing tropes of an Indian scribe, my eyes filled again.
St. John called me to his side to read; in attempting to do this
my voice failed me: words were lost in sobs. He and I were the
only occupants of the parlour: Diana was practising her music in
the drawing-room, Mary was gardening -- it was a very fine May day,
clear, sunny, and breezy. My companion expressed no surprise at
this emotion, nor did he question me as to its cause; he only said -
"We will wait a few minutes, Jane, till you are more composed."
And while I smothered the paroxysm with all haste, he sat calm and
patient, leaning on his desk, and looking like a physician watching
with the eye of science an expected and fully understood crisis
in a patient's malady. Having stifled my sobs, wiped my eyes,
and muttered something about not being very well that morning, I
resumed my task, and succeeded in completing it. St. John
put away my books and his, locked his desk, and said -
"Now, Jane, you shall take a walk; and with me."
"I will call Diana and Mary."
"No; I want only one companion this morning, and that must be you.
Put on your things; go out by the kitchen-door: take the road
towards the head of Marsh Glen: I will join you in a moment."
I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my
dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own,
between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always
faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting,
sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other; and as neither
present circumstances warranted, nor my present mood inclined me
to mutiny, I observed careful obedience to St. John's directions;
and in ten minutes I was treading the wild track of the glen, side
by side with him.
The breeze was from the west: it came over the hills, sweet with
scents of heath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream
descending the ravine, swelled with past spring rains, poured
along plentiful and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun,
and sapphire tints from the firmament. As we advanced and left the
track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and emerald green, minutely
enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like
yellow blossom: the hills, meantime, shut us quite in; for the
glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.
"Let us rest here," said St. John, as we reached the first stragglers
of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the
beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little farther,
the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for raiment
and crag for gem -- where it exaggerated the wild to the savage,
and exchanged the fresh for the frowning -- where it guarded the
forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.
I took a seat: St. John stood near me. He looked up the pass
and down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream, and
returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it: he
removed his hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow.
He seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt: with his eye
he bade farewell to something.
"And I shall see it again," he said aloud, "in dreams when I sleep
by the Ganges: and again in a more remote hour -- when another
slumber overcomes me -- on the shore of a darker stream!"
Strange words of a strange love! An austere patriot's passion
for his fatherland! He sat down; for half-an-hour we never spoke;
neither he to me nor I to him: that interval past, he recommenced -
"Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman
which sails on the 20th of June."
"God will protect you; for you have undertaken His work," I answered.
"Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy. I am the servant of
an infallible Master. I am not going out under human guidance,
subject to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble
fellow-worms: my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect.
It seems strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist
under the same banner, -- to join in the same enterprise."
"All have not your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to
wish to march with the strong."
"I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them: I address only
such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it."
"Those are few in number, and difficult to discover."
"You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up -- to
urge and exhort them to the effort -- to show them what their gifts
are, and why they were given -- to speak Heaven's message in their
ear, -- to offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of
"If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own
hearts be the first to inform them of it?"
I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over
me: I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once
declare and rivet the spell.
"And what does YOUR heart say?" demanded St. John.
"My heart is mute, -- my heart is mute," I answered, struck and
"Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice.
"Jane, come with me to India: come as my helpmeet and fellow-labourer."
The glen and sky spun round: the hills heaved! It was as if I had
heard a summons from Heaven -- as if a visionary messenger, like
him of Macedonia, had enounced, "Come over and help us!" But I
was no apostle, -- I could not behold the herald, -- I could not
receive his call.
"Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"
I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed
his duty, knew neither mercy nor remorse. He continued -
"God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife. It is
not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are
formed for labour, not for love. A missionary's wife you must --
shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you -- not for my pleasure,
but for my Sovereign's service."
"I am not fit for it: I have no vocation," I said.
He had calculated on these first objections: he was not irritated
by them. Indeed, as he leaned back against the crag behind him,
folded his arms on his chest, and fixed his countenance, I saw he
was prepared for a long and trying opposition, and had taken in a
stock of patience to last him to its close -- resolved, however,
that that close should be conquest for him.
"Humility, Jane," said he, "is the groundwork of Christian virtues:
you say right that you are not fit for the work. Who is fit for
it? Or who, that ever was truly called, believed himself worthy
of the summons? I, for instance, am but dust and ashes. With St.
Paul, I acknowledge myself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not
suffer this sense of my personal vileness to daunt me. I know
my Leader: that He is just as well as mighty; and while He has
chosen a feeble instrument to perform a great task, He will, from
the boundless stores of His providence, supply the inadequacy of
the means to the end. Think like me, Jane -- trust like me. It
is the Rock of Ages I ask you to lean on: do not doubt but it will
bear the weight of your human weakness."
"I do not understand a missionary life: I have never studied
"There I, humble as I am, can give you the aid you want: I can
set you your task from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you
from moment to moment. This I could do in the beginning: soon
(for I know your powers) you would be as strong and apt as myself,
and would not require my help."
"But my powers -- where are they for this undertaking? I do not
feel them. Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you talk. I am
sensible of no light kindling -- no life quickening -- no voice
counselling or cheering. Oh, I wish I could make you see how much
my mind is at this moment like a rayless dungeon, with one shrinking
fear fettered in its depths -- the fear of being persuaded by you
to attempt what I cannot accomplish!"
"I have an answer for you -- hear it. I have watched you ever
since we first met: I have made you my study for ten months. I
have proved you in that time by sundry tests: and what have I
seen and elicited? In the village school I found you could perform
well, punctually, uprightly, labour uncongenial to your habits and
inclinations; I saw you could perform it with capacity and tact:
you could win while you controlled. In the calm with which you
learnt you had become suddenly rich, I read a mind clear of the
vice of Demas:- lucre had no undue power over you. In the resolute
readiness with which you cut your wealth into four shares, keeping
but one to yourself, and relinquishing the three others to the
claim of abstract justice, I recognised a soul that revelled in
the flame and excitement of sacrifice. In the tractability with
which, at my wish, you forsook a study in which you were interested,
and adopted another because it interested me; in the untiring assiduity
with which you have since persevered in it -- in the unflagging
energy and unshaken temper with which you have met its difficulties
-- I acknowledge the complement of the qualities I seek. Jane,
you are docile, diligent, disinterested, faithful, constant,
and courageous; very gentle, and very heroic: cease to mistrust
yourself -- I can trust you unreservedly. As a conductress of
Indian schools, and a helper amongst Indian women, your assistance
will be to me invaluable."
My iron shroud contracted round me; persuasion advanced with
slow sure step. Shut my eyes as I would, these last words of his
succeeded in making the way, which had seemed blocked up, comparatively
clear. My work, which had appeared so vague, so hopelessly diffuse,
condensed itself as he proceeded, and assumed a definite form under
his shaping hand. He waited for an answer. I demanded a quarter
of an hour to think, before I again hazarded a reply.
"Very willingly," he rejoined; and rising, he strode a little
distance up the pass, threw himself down on a swell of heath, and
there lay still.
"I CAN do what he wants me to do: I am forced to see and acknowledge
that," I meditated, -- "that is, if life be spared me. But I feel
mine is not the existence to be long protracted under an Indian
sun. What then? He does not care for that: when my time came to
die, he would resign me, in all serenity and sanctity, to the God
who gave me. The case is very plain before me. In leaving England,
I should leave a loved but empty land -- Mr. Rochester is not there;
and if he were, what is, what can that ever be to me? My business
is to live without him now: nothing so absurd, so weak as to drag
on from day to day, as if I were waiting some impossible change in
circumstances, which might reunite me to him. Of course (as St.
John once said) I must seek another interest in life to replace the
one lost: is not the occupation he now offers me truly the most
glorious man can adopt or God assign? Is it not, by its noble cares
and sublime results, the one best calculated to fill the void left
by uptorn affections and demolished hopes? I believe I must say,
Yes -- and yet I shudder. Alas! If I join St. John, I abandon
half myself: if I go to India, I go to premature death. And how
will the interval between leaving England for India, and India for
the grave, be filled? Oh, I know well! That, too, is very clear
to my vision. By straining to satisfy St. John till my sinews ache,
I SHALL satisfy him -- to the finest central point and farthest
outward circle of his expectations. If I DO go with him -- if I
DO make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it absolutely: I will
throw all on the altar -- heart, vitals, the entire victim. He will
never love me; but he shall approve me; I will show him energies
he has not yet seen, resources he has never suspected. Yes, I can
work as hard as he can, and with as little grudging.
"Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item --
one dreadful item. It is -- that he asks me to be his wife, and
has no more of a husband's heart for me than that frowning giant
of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge. He
prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all.
Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him
complete his calculations -- coolly put into practice his plans --
go through the wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal
ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would
scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent?
Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows
is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would
be monstrous. I will never undergo it. As his sister, I might
accompany him -- not as his wife: I will tell him so."
I looked towards the knoll: there he lay, still as a prostrate
column; his face turned to me: his eye beaming watchful and keen.
He started to his feet and approached me.
"I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."
"Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."
"You have hitherto been my adopted brother -- I, your adopted
sister: let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry."
He shook his head. "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case.
If you were my real sister it would be different: I should take
you, and seek no wife. But as it is, either our union must be
consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist: practical
obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan. Do you not see it,
Jane? Consider a moment -- your strong sense will guide you."
I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me
only to the fact that we did not love each other as man and wife
should: and therefore it inferred we ought not to marry. I said
so. "St. John," I returned, "I regard you as a brother -- you, me
as a sister: so let us continue."
"We cannot -- we cannot," he answered, with short, sharp
determination: "it would not do. You have said you will go with
me to India: remember -- you have said that."
"Well -- well. To the main point -- the departure with me from
England, the co-operation with me in my future labours -- you do not
object. You have already as good as put your hand to the plough:
you are too consistent to withdraw it. You have but one end to
keep in view -- how the work you have undertaken can best be done.
Simplify your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes,
aims; merge all considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling
with effect -- with power -- the mission of your great Master. To
do so, you must have a coadjutor: not a brother -- that is a loose
tie -- but a husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister
might any day be taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet
I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till
I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow -- his
hold on my limbs.
"Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John: seek one fitted to you."
"One fitted to my purpose, you mean -- fitted to my vocation. Again
I tell you it is not the insignificant private individual -- the
mere man, with the man's selfish senses -- I wish to mate: it is
"And I will give the missionary my energies -- it is all he wants
-- but not myself: that would be only adding the husk and shell
to the kernel. For them he has no use: I retain them."
"You cannot -- you ought not. Do you think God will be satisfied
with half an oblation? Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice? It
is the cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist
you. I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must
"Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said. "YOU do not want it."
I will not swear, reader, that there was not something of repressed
sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence, and in
the feeling that accompanied it. I had silently feared St. John
till now, because I had not understood him. He had held me in
awe, because he had held me in doubt. How much of him was saint,
how much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but revelations
were being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was
proceeding before my eyes. I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended
them. I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank
of heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet
of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism.
Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his
imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal -- one with
whom I might argue -- one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.
He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently
risked an upward glance at his countenance.
His eye, bent on me, expressed at once stern surprise and keen
inquiry. "Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic to ME!" it seemed to
say. "What does this signify?"
"Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere
long; "one of which we may neither think nor talk lightly without
sin. I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will serve
your heart to God: it is all I want. Once wrench your heart from
man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that Maker's
spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour;
you will be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end. You
will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by
our physical and mental union in marriage: the only union that
gives a character of permanent conformity to the destinies and
designs of human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices --
all trivial difficulties and delicacies of feeling -- all scruple
about the degree, kind, strength or tenderness of mere personal
inclination -- you will hasten to enter into that union at once."
"Shall I?" I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful
in their harmony, but strangely formidable in their still severity;
at his brow, commanding but not open; at his eyes, bright and deep
and searching, but never soft; at his tall imposing figure; and
fancied myself in idea HIS WIFE. Oh! it would never do! As his
curate, his comrade, all would be right: I would cross oceans with
him in that capacity; toil under Eastern suns, in Asian deserts with
him in that office; admire and emulate his courage and devotion and
vigour; accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed
at his ineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the
man: profoundly esteem the one, and freely forgive the other. I
should suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity:
my body would be under rather a stringent yoke, but my heart and
mind would be free. I should still have my unblighted self to turn
to: my natural unenslaved feelings with which to communicate in
moments of loneliness. There would be recesses in my mind which
would be only mine, to which he never came, and sentiments growing
there fresh and sheltered which his austerity could never blight,
nor his measured warrior-march trample down: but as his wife --
at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked --
forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel
it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned
flame consumed vital after vital -- THIS would be unendurable.
"St. John!" I exclaimed, when I had got so far in my meditation.
"Well?" he answered icily.
"I repeat I freely consent to go with you as your fellow-missionary,
but not as your wife; I cannot marry you and become part of you."
"A part of me you must become," he answered steadily; "otherwise
the whole bargain is void. How can I, a man not yet thirty, take
out with me to India a girl of nineteen, unless she be married to
me? How can we be for ever together -- sometimes in solitudes,
sometimes amidst savage tribes -- and unwed?"
"Very well," I said shortly; "under the circumstances, quite as
well as if I were either your real sister, or a man and a clergyman
"It is known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you as
such: to attempt it would be to fasten injurious suspicions on us
both. And for the rest, though you have a man's vigorous brain,
you have a woman's heart and -- it would not do."
"It would do," I affirmed with some disdain, "perfectly well. I
have a woman's heart, but not where you are concerned; for you
I have only a comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's frankness,
fidelity, fraternity, if you like; a neophyte's respect and submission
to his hierophant: nothing more -- don't fear."
"It is what I want," he said, speaking to himself; "it is just what
I want. And there are obstacles in the way: they must be hewn
down. Jane, you would not repent marrying me -- be certain of
that; we MUST be married. I repeat it: there is no other way;
and undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render
the union right even in your eyes."
"I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up
and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. "I scorn
the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn
you when you offer it."
He looked at me fixedly, compressing his well-cut lips while he
did so. Whether he was incensed or surprised, or what, it was not
easy to tell: he could command his countenance thoroughly.
"I scarcely expected to hear that expression from you," he said:
"I think I have done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."
I was touched by his gentle tone, and overawed by his high, calm
"Forgive me the words, St. John; but it is your own fault that
I have been roused to speak so unguardedly. You have introduced
a topic on which our natures are at variance -- a topic we should
never discuss: the very name of love is an apple of discord between
us. If the reality were required, what should we do? How should
we feel? My dear cousin, abandon your scheme of marriage -- forget
"No," said he; "it is a long-cherished scheme, and the only one
which can secure my great end: but I shall urge you no further
at present. To-morrow, I leave home for Cambridge: I have many
friends there to whom I should wish to say farewell. I shall be
absent a fortnight -- take that space of time to consider my offer:
and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny,
but God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my
wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit
yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.
Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who
have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"
He had done. Turning from me, he once more
"Looked to river, looked to hill."
But this time his feelings were all pent in his heart: I was not
worthy to hear them uttered. As I walked by his side homeward,
I read well in his iron silence all he felt towards me: the
disappointment of an austere and despotic nature, which has met
resistance where it expected submission -- the disapprobation of a
cool, inflexible judgment, which has detected in another feelings
and views in which it has no power to sympathise: in short, as a
man, he would have wished to coerce me into obedience: it was only
as a sincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversity,
and allowed so long a space for reflection and repentance.
That night, after he had kissed his sisters, he thought proper to
forget even to shake hands with me, but left the room in silence.
I -- who, though I had no love, had much friendship for him -- was
hurt by the marked omission: so much hurt that tears started to
"I see you and St. John have been quarrelling, Jane," said Diana,
"during your walk on the moor. But go after him; he is now lingering
in the passage expecting you -- he will make it up."
I have not much pride under such circumstances: I would always
rather be happy than dignified; and I ran after him -- he stood at
the foot of the stairs.
"Good-night, St. John," said I.
"Good-night, Jane," he replied calmly.
"Then shake hands," I added.
What a cold, loose touch, he impressed on my fingers! He was
deeply displeased by what had occurred that day; cordiality would
not warm, nor tears move him. No happy reconciliation was to
be had with him -- no cheering smile or generous word: but still
the Christian was patient and placid; and when I asked him if he
forgave me, he answered that he was not in the habit of cherishing
the remembrance of vexation; that he had nothing to forgive, not
having been offended.
And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked
He did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he
would. He deferred his departure a whole week, and during that
time he made me feel what severe punishment a good yet stern, a
conscientious yet implacable man can inflict on one who has offended
him. Without one overt act of hostility, one upbraiding word, he
contrived to impress me momently with the conviction that I was
put beyond the pale of his favour.
Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness
-- not that he would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been
fully in his power to do so. Both by nature and principle, he was
superior to the mean gratification of vengeance: he had forgiven
me for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had not forgotten
the words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget
them. I saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were
always written on the air between me and him; whenever I spoke, they
sounded in my voice to his ear, and their echo toned every answer
he gave me.
He did not abstain from conversing with me: he even called me as
usual each morning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt
man within him had a pleasure unimparted to, and unshared by, the
pure Christian, in evincing with what skill he could, while acting
and speaking apparently just as usual, extract from every deed and
every phrase the spirit of interest and approval which had formerly
communicated a certain austere charm to his language and manner.
To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his
eye was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument
-- nothing more.
All this was torture to me -- refined, lingering torture. It kept
up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief,
which harassed and crushed me altogether. I felt how -- if I were
his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon
kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or
receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him.
No ruth met my ruth. HE experienced no suffering from estrangement
-- no yearning after reconciliation; and though, more than once,
my fast falling tears blistered the page over which we both bent,
they produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been
really a matter of stone or metal. To his sisters, meantime, he
was somewhat kinder than usual: as if afraid that mere coldness
would not sufficiently convince me how completely I was banished
and banned, he added the force of contrast; and this I am sure he
did not by force, but on principle.
The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the
garden about sunset, and remembering, as I looked at him, that this
man, alienated as he now was, had once saved my life, and that we
were near relations, I was moved to make a last attempt to regain
his friendship. I went out and approached him as he stood leaning
over the little gate; I spoke to the point at once.
"St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me. Let
us be friends."
"I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still
watched the rising of the moon, which he had been contemplating as
"No, St. John, we are not friends as we were. You know that."
"Are we not? That is wrong. For my part, I wish you no ill and
"I believe you, St. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishing
any one ill; but, as I am your kinswoman, I should desire somewhat
more of affection than that sort of general philanthropy you extend
to mere strangers."
"Of course," he said. "Your wish is reasonable, and I am far from
regarding you as a stranger."
This, spoken in a cool, tranquil tone, was mortifying and baffling
enough. Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ire, I
should immediately have left him; but something worked within me
more strongly than those feelings could. I deeply venerated my
cousin's talent and principle. His friendship was of value to me:
to lose it tried me severely. I would not so soon relinquish the
attempt to reconquer it.
"Must we part in this way, St. John? And when you go to India, will
you leave me so, without a kinder word than you have yet spoken?"
He now turned quite from the moon and faced me.
"When I go to India, Jane, will I leave you! What! do you not go
"You said I could not unless I married you."
"And you will not marry me! You adhere to that resolution?"
Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can
put into the ice of their questions? How much of the fall of the
avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea
in their displeasure?
"No. St. John, I will not marry you. I adhere to my resolution."
The avalanche had shaken and slid a little forward, but it did not
yet crash down.
"Once more, why this refusal?" he asked.
"Formerly," I answered, "because you did not love me; now, I reply,
because you almost hate me. If I were to marry you, you would kill
me. You are killing me now."
His lips and cheeks turned white -- quite white.
"I SHOULD KILL YOU -- I AM KILLING YOU? Your words are such as ought
not to be used: violent, unfeminine, and untrue. They betray an
unfortunate state of mind: they merit severe reproof: they would
seem inexcusable, but that it is the duty of man to forgive his
fellow even until seventy-and-seven times."
I had finished the business now. While earnestly wishing to erase
from his mind the trace of my former offence, I had stamped on that
tenacious surface another and far deeper impression, I had burnt
"Now you will indeed hate me," I said. "It is useless to attempt
to conciliate you: I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."
A fresh wrong did these words inflict: the worse, because they
touched on the truth. That bloodless lip quivered to a temporary
spasm. I knew the steely ire I had whetted. I was heart-wrung.
"You utterly misinterpret my words," I said, at once seizing his
hand: "I have no intention to grieve or pain you -- indeed, I have
Most bitterly he smiled -- most decidedly he withdrew his hand from
mine. "And now you recall your promise, and will not go to India
at all, I presume?" said he, after a considerable pause.
"Yes, I will, as your assistant," I answered.
A very long silence succeeded. What struggle there was in him
between Nature and Grace in this interval, I cannot tell: only
singular gleams scintillated in his eyes, and strange shadows passed
over his face. He spoke at last.
"I before proved to you the absurdity of a single woman of your
age proposing to accompany abroad a single man of mine. I proved
it to you in such terms as, I should have thought, would have
prevented your ever again alluding to the plan. That you have done
so, I regret -- for your sake."
I interrupted him. Anything like a tangible reproach gave me
courage at once. "Keep to common sense, St. John: you are verging
on nonsense. You pretend to be shocked by what I have said. You
are not really shocked: for, with your superior mind, you cannot
be either so dull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning.
I say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your
Again he turned lividly pale; but, as before, controlled
his passion perfectly. He answered emphatically but calmly -
"A female curate, who is not my wife, would never suit me. With
me, then, it seems, you cannot go: but if you are sincere in your
offer, I will, while in town, speak to a married missionary, whose
wife needs a coadjutor. Your own fortune will make you independent
of the Society's aid; and thus you may still be spared the dishonour
of breaking your promise and deserting the band you engaged to
Now I never had, as the reader knows, either given any formal
promise or entered into any engagement; and this language was all
much too hard and much too despotic for the occasion. I replied -
"There is no dishonour, no breach of promise, no desertion in the
case. I am not under the slightest obligation to go to India,
especially with strangers. With you I would have ventured much,
because I admire, confide in, and, as a sister, I love you; but I
am convinced that, go when and with whom I would, I should not live
long in that climate."
"Ah! you are afraid of yourself," he said, curling his lip.
"I am. God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you
wish me would, I begin to think, be almost equivalent to committing
suicide. Moreover, before I definitively resolve on quitting
England, I will know for certain whether I cannot be of greater
use by remaining in it than by leaving it."
"What do you mean?"
"It would be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a point
on which I have long endured painful doubt, and I can go nowhere
till by some means that doubt is removed."
"I know where your heart turns and to what it clings. The interest
you cherish is lawless and unconsecrated. Long since you ought to
have crushed it: now you should blush to allude to it. You think
of Mr. Rochester?"
It was true. I confessed it by silence.
"Are you going to seek Mr. Rochester?"
"I must find out what is become of him."
"It remains for me, then," he said, "to remember you in my prayers,
and to entreat God for you, in all earnestness, that you may not
indeed become a castaway. I had thought I recognised in you one of
the chosen. But God sees not as man sees: HIS will be done -- "
He opened the gate, passed through it, and strayed away down the
glen. He was soon out of sight.
On re-entering the parlour, I found Diana standing at the window,
looking very thoughtful. Diana was a great deal taller than I:
she put her hand on my shoulder, and, stooping, examined my face.
"Jane," she said, "you are always agitated and pale now. I am
sure there is something the matter. Tell me what business St. John
and you have on hands. I have watched you this half hour from the
window; you must forgive my being such a spy, but for a long time
I have fancied I hardly know what. St. John is a strange being -- "
She paused -- I did not speak: soon she resumed -
"That brother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sort respecting
you, I am sure: he has long distinguished you by a notice and
interest he never showed to any one else -- to what end? I wish
he loved you -- does he, Jane?"
I put her cool hand to my hot forehead; "No, Die, not one whit."
"Then why does he follow you so with his eyes, and get you so
frequently alone with him, and keep you so continually at his side?
Mary and I had both concluded he wished you to marry him."
"He does -- he has asked me to be his wife."
Diana clapped her hands. "That is just what we hoped and thought!
And you will marry him, Jane, won't you? And then he will stay in
"Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to
procure a fitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."
"What! He wishes you to go to India?"
"Madness!" she exclaimed. "You would not live three months there,
I am certain. You never shall go: you have not consented, have
"I have refused to marry him -- "
"And have consequently displeased him?" she suggested.
"Deeply: he will never forgive me, I fear: yet I offered to
accompany him as his sister."
"It was frantic folly to do so, Jane. Think of the task you undertook
-- one of incessant fatigue, where fatigue kills even the strong,
and you are weak. St. John -- you know him -- would urge you to
impossibilities: with him there would be no permission to rest
during the hot hours; and unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever
he exacts, you force yourself to perform. I am astonished you
found courage to refuse his hand. You do not love him then, Jane?"
"Not as a husband."
"Yet he is a handsome fellow."
"And I am so plain, you see, Die. We should never suit."
"Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too
good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta." And again she earnestly
conjured me to give up all thoughts of going out with her brother.
"I must indeed," I said; "for when just now I repeated the offer of
serving him for a deacon, he expressed himself shocked at my want
of decency. He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in
proposing to accompany him unmarried: as if I had not from the
first hoped to find in him a brother, and habitually regarded him
"What makes you say he does not love you, Jane?"
"You should hear himself on the subject. He has again and again
explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to mate.
He has told me I am formed for labour -- not for love: which is
true, no doubt. But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love,
it follows that I am not formed for marriage. Would it not be
strange, Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but
as a useful tool?"
"Insupportable -- unnatural -- out of the question!"
"And then," I continued, "though I have only sisterly affection
for him now, yet, if forced to be his wife, I can imagine the
possibility of conceiving an inevitable, strange, torturing kind
of love for him, because he is so talented; and there is often a
certain heroic grandeur in his look, manner, and conversation. In
that case, my lot would become unspeakably wretched. He would not
want me to love him; and if I showed the feeling, he would make me
sensible that it was a superfluity, unrequired by him, unbecoming
in me. I know he would."
"And yet St. John is a good man," said Diana.
"He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the
feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large
views. It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out
of his way, lest, in his progress, he should trample them down.
Here he comes! I will leave you, Diana." And I hastened upstairs
as I saw him entering the garden.
But I was forced to meet him again at supper. During that meal he
appeared just as composed as usual. I had thought he would hardly
speak to me, and I was certain he had given up the pursuit of
his matrimonial scheme: the sequel showed I was mistaken on both
points. He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manner, or what
had, of late, been his ordinary manner -- one scrupulously polite.
No doubt he had invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the
anger I had roused in him, and now believed he had forgiven me once
For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first
chapter of Revelation. It was at all times pleasant to listen
while from his lips fell the words of the Bible: never did his
fine voice sound at once so sweet and full -- never did his manner
become so impressive in its noble simplicity, as when he delivered
the oracles of God: and to-night that voice took a more solemn
tone -- that manner a more thrilling meaning -- as he sat in the
midst of his household circle (the May moon shining in through the
uncurtained window, and rendering almost unnecessary the light of
the candle on the table): as he sat there, bending over the great
old Bible, and described from its page the vision of the new heaven
and the new earth -- told how God would come to dwell with men,
how He would wipe away all tears from their eyes, and promised that
there should be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, nor any
more pain, because the former things were passed away.
The succeeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them:
especially as I felt, by the slight, indescribable alteration in
sound, that in uttering them, his eye had turned on me.
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his
God, and he shall be my son. But," was slowly, distinctly read,
"the fearful, the unbelieving, &c., shall have their part in the
lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second
Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.
A calm, subdued triumph, blent with a longing earnestness, marked
his enunciation of the last glorious verses of that chapter. The
reader believed his name was already written in the Lamb's book of
life, and he yearned after the hour which should admit him to the
city to which the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour;
which has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, because the glory
of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
In the prayer following the chapter, all his energy gathered -- all
his stern zeal woke: he was in deep earnest, wrestling with God,
and resolved on a conquest. He supplicated strength for the weak-
hearted; guidance for wanderers from the fold: a return, even at
the eleventh hour, for those whom the temptations of the world and
the flesh were luring from the narrow path. He asked, he urged, he
claimed the boon of a brand snatched from the burning. Earnestness
is ever deeply solemn: first, as I listened to that prayer, I
wondered at his; then, when it continued and rose, I was touched
by it, and at last awed. He felt the greatness and goodness of
his purpose so sincerely: others who heard him plead for it, could
not but feel it too.
The prayer over, we took leave of him: he was to go at a very
early hour in the morning. Diana and Mary having kissed him, left
the room -- in compliance, I think, with a whispered hint from him:
I tendered my hand, and wished him a pleasant journey.
"Thank you, Jane. As I said, I shall return from Cambridge in a
fortnight: that space, then, is yet left you for reflection. If
I listened to human pride, I should say no more to you of marriage
with me; but I listen to my duty, and keep steadily in view my
first aim -- to do all things to the glory of God. My Master was
long-suffering: so will I be. I cannot give you up to perdition
as a vessel of wrath: repent -- resolve, while there is yet time.
Remember, we are bid to work while it is day -- warned that 'the
night cometh when no man shall work.' Remember the fate of Dives,
who had his good things in this life. God give you strength to
choose that better part which shall not be taken from you!"
He laid his hand on my head as he uttered the last words. He had
spoken earnestly, mildly: his look was not, indeed, that of a lover
beholding his mistress, but it was that of a pastor recalling his
wandering sheep -- or better, of a guardian angel watching the
soul for which he is responsible. All men of talent, whether they
be men of feeling or not; whether they be zealots, or aspirants,
or despots -- provided only they be sincere -- have their sublime
moments, when they subdue and rule. I felt veneration for St. John
-- veneration so strong that its impetus thrust me at once to the
point I had so long shunned. I was tempted to cease struggling
with him -- to rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of
his existence, and there lose my own. I was almost as hard beset
by him now as I had been once before, in a different way, by another.
I was a fool both times. To have yielded then would have been an
error of principle; to have yielded now would have been an error of
judgment. So I think at this hour, when I look back to the crisis
through the quiet medium of time: I was unconscious of folly at
I stood motionless under my hierophant's touch. My refusals were
forgotten -- my fears overcome -- my wrestlings paralysed. The
Impossible -- I.E., my marriage with St. John -- was fast becoming
the Possible. All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep.
Religion called -- Angels beckoned -- God commanded -- life rolled
together like a scroll -- death's gates opening, showed eternity
beyond: it seemed, that for safety and bliss there, all here might
be sacrificed in a second. The dim room was full of visions.
"Could you decide now?" asked the missionary. The inquiry was put
in gentle tones: he drew me to him as gently. Oh, that gentleness!
how far more potent is it than force! I could resist St. John's
wrath: I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness. Yet I knew all
the time, if I yielded now, I should not the less be made to repent,
some day, of my former rebellion. His nature was not changed by
one hour of solemn prayer: it was only elevated.
"I could decide if I were but certain," I answered: "were I but
convinced that it is God's will I should marry you, I could vow to
marry you here and now -- come afterwards what would!"
"My prayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John. He pressed his hand
firmer on my head, as if he claimed me: he surrounded me with his
arm, ALMOST as if he loved me (I say ALMOST -- I knew the difference
-- for I had felt what it was to be loved; but, like him, I had
now put love out of the question, and thought only of duty). I
contended with my inward dimness of vision, before which clouds
yet rolled. I sincerely, deeply, fervently longed to do what was
right; and only that. "Show me, show me the path!" I entreated
of Heaven. I was excited more than I had ever been; and whether
what followed was the effect of excitement the reader shall judge.
All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and
myself, were now retired to rest. The one candle was dying out:
the room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I
heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible
feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head