Part 3 out of 11
was all burnt out; fortunately, however, the heavy supper she had
eaten produced a soporific effect: she was already snoring before
I had finished undressing. There still remained an inch of candle:
I now took out my letter; the seal was an initial F.; I broke it;
the contents were brief.
"If J.E., who advertised in the -shire Herald of last Thursday,
possesses the acquirements mentioned, and if she is in a position
to give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a
situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little
girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds
per annum. J.E. is requested to send references, name, address,
and all particulars to the direction:-
"Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote, -shire."
I examined the document long: the writing was old-fashioned and
rather uncertain, like that of an elderly lady. This circumstance
was satisfactory: a private fear had haunted me, that in thus
acting for myself, and by my own guidance, I ran the risk of getting
into some scrape; and, above all things, I wished the result of my
endeavours to be respectable, proper, en regle. I now felt that an
elderly lady was no bad ingredient in the business I had on hand.
Mrs. Fairfax! I saw her in a black gown and widow's cap; frigid,
perhaps, but not uncivil: a model of elderly English respectability.
Thornfield! that, doubtless, was the name of her house: a neat
orderly spot, I was sure; though I failed in my efforts to conceive
a correct plan of the premises. Millcote, - shire; I brushed up
my recollections of the map of England, yes, I saw it; both the
shire and the town. -shire was seventy miles nearer London than
the remote county where I now resided: that was a recommendation
to me. I longed to go where there was life and movement: Millcote
was a large manufacturing town on the banks of the A-; a busy place
enough, doubtless: so much the better; it would be a complete
change at least. Not that my fancy was much captivated by the idea
of long chimneys and clouds of smoke -- "but," I argued, "Thornfield
will, probably, be a good way from the town."
Here the socket of the candle dropped, and the wick went out.
Next day new steps were to be taken; my plans could no longer be
confined to my own breast; I must impart them in order to achieve
their success. Having sought and obtained an audience of the
superintendent during the noontide recreation, I told her I had a
prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double
what I now received (for at Lowood I only got 15 pounds per annum);
and requested she would break the matter for me to Mr. Brocklehurst,
or some of the committee, and ascertain whether they would permit
me to mention them as references. She obligingly consented to
act as mediatrix in the matter. The next day she laid the affair
before Mr. Brocklehurst, who said that Mrs. Reed must be written to,
as she was my natural guardian. A note was accordingly addressed to
that lady, who returned for answer, that "I might do as I pleased:
she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs." This note
went the round of the committee, and at last, after what appeared
to me most tedious delay, formal leave was given me to better my
condition if I could; and an assurance added, that as I had always
conducted myself well, both as teacher and pupil, at Lowood, a
testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of
that institution, should forthwith be furnished me.
This testimonial I accordingly received in about a month, forwarded
a copy of it to Mrs. Fairfax, and got that lady's reply, stating
that she was satisfied, and fixing that day fortnight as the period
for my assuming the post of governess in her house.
I now busied myself in preparations: the fortnight passed rapidly.
I had not a very large wardrobe, though it was adequate to my
wants; and the last day sufficed to pack my trunk, -- the same I
had brought with me eight years ago from Gateshead.
The box was corded, the card nailed on. In half-an-hour the
carrier was to call for it to take it to Lowton, whither I myself
was to repair at an early hour the next morning to meet the coach.
I had brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet,
gloves, and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article
was left behind; and now having nothing more to do, I sat down and
tried to rest. I could not; though I had been on foot all day, I
could not now repose an instant; I was too much excited. A phase
of my life was closing to-night, a new one opening to-morrow:
impossible to slumber in the interval; I must watch feverishly
while the change was being accomplished.
"Miss," said a servant who met me in the lobby, where I was wandering
like a troubled spirit, "a person below wishes to see you."
"The carrier, no doubt," I thought, and ran downstairs without
inquiry. I was passing the back-parlour or teachers' sitting-room,
the door of which was half open, to go to the kitchen,
when some one ran out -
"It's her, I am sure! -- I could have told her anywhere!" cried
the individual who stopped my progress and took my hand.
I looked: I saw a woman attired like a well-dressed servant,
matronly, yet still young; very good-looking, with black hair and
eyes, and lively complexion.
"Well, who is it?" she asked, in a voice and with a smile I half
recognised; "you've not quite forgotten me, I think, Miss Jane?"
In another second I was embracing and kissing her rapturously:
"Bessie! Bessie! Bessie!" that was all I said; whereat she half
laughed, half cried, and we both went into the parlour. By the
fire stood a little fellow of three years old, in plaid frock and
"That is my little boy," said Bessie directly.
"Then you are married, Bessie?"
"Yes; nearly five years since to Robert Leaven, the coachman; and
I've a little girl besides Bobby there, that I've christened Jane."
"And you don't live at Gateshead?"
"I live at the lodge: the old porter has left."
"Well, and how do they all get on? Tell me everything about them,
Bessie: but sit down first; and, Bobby, come and sit on my knee,
will you?" but Bobby preferred sidling over to his mother.
"You're not grown so very tall, Miss Jane, nor so very stout,"
continued Mrs. Leaven. "I dare say they've not kept you too well
at school: Miss Reed is the head and shoulders taller than you
are; and Miss Georgiana would make two of you in breadth."
"Georgiana is handsome, I suppose, Bessie?"
"Very. She went up to London last winter with her mama, and there
everybody admired her, and a young lord fell in love with her: but
his relations were against the match; and -- what do you think? --
he and Miss Georgiana made it up to run away; but they were found
out and stopped. It was Miss Reed that found them out: I believe
she was envious; and now she and her sister lead a cat
and dog life together; they are always quarrelling -- "
"Well, and what of John Reed?"
"Oh, he is not doing so well as his mama could wish. He went to
college, and he got -- plucked, I think they call it: and then
his uncles wanted him to be a barrister, and study the law: but he
is such a dissipated young man, they will never make much of him,
"What does he look like?"
"He is very tall: some people call him a fine-looking young man;
but he has such thick lips."
"And Mrs. Reed?"
"Missis looks stout and well enough in the face, but I think she's
not quite easy in her mind: Mr. John's conduct does not please
her- -he spends a deal of money."
"Did she send you here, Bessie?"
"No, indeed: but I have long wanted to see you, and when I heard
that there had been a letter from you, and that you were going to
another part of the country, I thought I'd just set off, and get
a look at you before you were quite out of my reach."
"I am afraid you are disappointed in me, Bessie." I said this
laughing: I perceived that Bessie's glance, though it expressed
regard, did in no shape denote admiration.
"No, Miss Jane, not exactly: you are genteel enough; you look like
a lady, and it is as much as ever I expected of you: you were no
beauty as a child."
I smiled at Bessie's frank answer: I felt that it was correct, but
I confess I was not quite indifferent to its import: at eighteen
most people wish to please, and the conviction that they have not an
exterior likely to second that desire brings anything but gratification.
"I dare say you are clever, though," continued Bessie, by way of
solace. "What can you do? Can you play on the piano?"
There was one in the room; Bessie went and opened it, and then asked
me to sit down and give her a tune: I played a waltz or two, and
she was charmed.
"The Miss Reeds could not play as well!" said she exultingly. "I
always said you would surpass them in learning: and can you draw?"
"That is one of my paintings over the chimney-piece." It was a
landscape in water colours, of which I had made a present to the
superintendent, in acknowledgment of her obliging mediation with
the committee on my behalf, and which she had framed and glazed.
"Well, that is beautiful, Miss Jane! It is as fine a picture as
any Miss Reed's drawing-master could paint, let alone the young
ladies themselves, who could not come near it: and have you learnt
"Yes, Bessie, I can both read it and speak it."
"And you can work on muslin and canvas?"
"Oh, you are quite a lady, Miss Jane! I knew you would be: you
will get on whether your relations notice you or not. There was
something I wanted to ask you. Have you ever heard anything from
your father's kinsfolk, the Eyres?"
"Never in my life."
"Well, you know Missis always said they were poor and quite
despicable: and they may be poor; but I believe they are as much
gentry as the Reeds are; for one day, nearly seven years ago, a
Mr. Eyre came to Gateshead and wanted to see you; Missis said you
were it school fifty miles off; he seemed so much disappointed, for
he could not stay: he was going on a voyage to a foreign country,
and the ship was to sail from London in a day or two. He looked
quite a gentleman, and I believe he was your father's brother."
"What foreign country was he going to, Bessie?"
"An island thousands of miles off, where they make wine
-- the butler did tell me -- "
"Madeira?" I suggested.
"Yes, that is it -- that is the very word."
"So he went?"
"Yes; he did not stay many minutes in the house: Missis was very
high with him; she called him afterwards a 'sneaking tradesman.'
My Robert believes he was a wine-merchant."
"Very likely," I returned; "or perhaps clerk or agent to a
Bessie and I conversed about old times an hour longer, and then
she was obliged to leave me: I saw her again for a few minutes
the next morning at Lowton, while I was waiting for the coach. We
parted finally at the door of the Brocklehurst Arms there: each
went her separate way; she set off for the brow of Lowood Fell
to meet the conveyance which was to take her back to Gateshead, I
mounted the vehicle which was to bear me to new duties and a new
life in the unknown environs of Millcote.
A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play;
and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you
see a room in the George Inn at Millcote, with such large figured
papering on the walls as inn rooms have; such a carpet, such
furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints, including
a portrait of George the Third, and another of the Prince of Wales,
and a representation of the death of Wolfe. All this is visible
to you by the light of an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and
by that of an excellent fire, near which I sit in my cloak and
bonnet; my muff and umbrella lie on the table, and I am warming
away the numbness and chill contracted by sixteen hours' exposure
to the rawness of an October day: I left Lowton at four o'clock
a.m., and the Millcote town clock is now just striking eight.
Reader, though I look comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil
in my mind. I thought when the coach stopped here there would be
some one to meet me; I looked anxiously round as I descended the
wooden steps the "boots" placed for my convenience, expecting to
hear my name pronounced, and to see some description of carriage
waiting to convey me to Thornfield. Nothing of the sort was
visible; and when I asked a waiter if any one had been to inquire
after a Miss Eyre, I was answered in the negative: so I had no
resource but to request to be shown into a private room: and here
I am waiting, while all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling my
It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel
itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection,
uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached,
and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has
quitted. The charm of adventure sweetens that sensation, the glow
of pride warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear
with me became predominant when half-an-hour elapsed and still I
was alone. I bethought myself to ring the bell.
"Is there a place in this neighbourhood called Thornfield?" I
asked of the waiter who answered the summons.
"Thornfield? I don't know, ma'am; I'll inquire at the
bar." He vanished, but reappeared instantly -
"Is your name Eyre, Miss?"
"Person here waiting for you."
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-
passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit
street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance.
"This will be your luggage, I suppose?" said the man rather abruptly
when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage.
"Yes." He hoisted it on to the vehicle, which was a sort of car,
and then I got in; before he shut me up, I asked him how far it
was to Thornfield.
"A matter of six miles."
"How long shall we be before we get there?"
"Happen an hour and a half."
He fastened the car door, climbed to his own seat outside, and
we set off. Our progress was leisurely, and gave me ample time
to reflect; I was content to be at length so near the end of my
journey; and as I leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant
conveyance, I meditated much at my ease.
"I suppose," thought I, "judging from the plainness of the servant
and carriage, Mrs. Fairfax is not a very dashing person: so much
the better; I never lived amongst fine people but once, and I was
very miserable with them. I wonder if she lives alone except this
little girl; if so, and if she is in any degree amiable, I shall
surely be able to get on with her; I will do my best; it is a pity
that doing one's best does not always answer. At Lowood, indeed,
I took that resolution, kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but
with Mrs. Reed, I remember my best was always spurned with scorn.
I pray God Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed; but
if she does, I am not bound to stay with her! let the worst come
to the worst, I can advertise again. How far are we on our road
now, I wonder?"
I let down the window and looked out; Millcote was behind us; judging
by the number of its lights, it seemed a place of considerable
magnitude, much larger than Lowton. We were now, as far as I could
see, on a sort of common; but there were houses scattered all over
the district; I felt we were in a different region to Lowood, more
populous, less picturesque; more stirring, less romantic.
The roads were heavy, the night misty; my conductor let his horse
walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, I verily
believe, to two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said -
"You're noan so far fro' Thornfield now."
Again I looked out: we were passing a church; I saw its low broad
tower against the sky, and its bell was tolling a quarter; I saw
a narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or
hamlet. About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a
pair of gates: we passed through, and they clashed to behind us.
We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a
house: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the
rest were dark. The car stopped at the front door; it was opened
by a maid-servant; I alighted and went in.
"Will you walk this way, ma'am?" said the girl; and I followed
her across a square hall with high doors all round: she ushered me
into a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first
dazzled me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my
eyes had been for two hours inured; when I could see, however, a
cosy and agreeable picture presented itself to my view.
A snug small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair
high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable
little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy
muslin apron; exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only
less stately and milder looking. She was occupied in knitting; a
large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting
to complete the beau-ideal of domestic comfort. A more reassuring
introduction for a new governess could scarcely be conceived;
there was no grandeur to overwhelm, no stateliness to embarrass;
and then, as I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly
came forward to meet me.
"How do you do, my dear? I am afraid you have had a tedious ride;
John drives so slowly; you must be cold, come to the fire."
"Mrs. Fairfax, I suppose?" said I.
"Yes, you are right: do sit down."
She conducted me to her own chair, and then began to remove my shawl
and untie my bonnet-strings; I begged she would not give herself
so much trouble.
"Oh, it is no trouble; I dare say your own hands are almost numbed
with cold. Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or
two: here are the keys of the storeroom."
And she produced from her pocket a most housewifely bunch of keys,
and delivered them to the servant.
"Now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she continued. "You've
brought your luggage with you, haven't you, my dear?"
"I'll see it carried into your room," she said, and bustled out.
"She treats me like a visitor," thought I. "I little expected such
a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is
not like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I
must not exult too soon."
She returned; with her own hands cleared her knitting apparatus
and a book or two from the table, to make room for the tray which
Leah now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. I
felt rather confused at being the object of more attention than
I had ever before received, and, that too, shown by my employer
and superior; but as she did not herself seem to consider she was
doing anything out of her place, I thought it better to take her
"Shall I have the pleasure of seeing Miss Fairfax to-night?" I
asked, when I had partaken of what she offered me.
"What did you say, my dear? I am a little deaf," returned the good
lady, approaching her ear to my mouth.
I repeated the question more distinctly.
"Miss Fairfax? Oh, you mean Miss Varens! Varens is the name of
your future pupil."
"Indeed! Then she is not your daughter?"
"No, -- I have no family."
I should have followed up my first inquiry, by asking in what way
Miss Varens was connected with her; but I recollected it was not
polite to ask too many questions: besides, I was sure to hear in
"I am so glad," she continued, as she sat down opposite to me, and
took the cat on her knee; "I am so glad you are come; it will be
quite pleasant living here now with a companion. To be sure it
is pleasant at any time; for Thornfield is a fine old hall, rather
neglected of late years perhaps, but still it is a respectable
place; yet you know in winter-time one feels dreary quite alone in
the best quarters. I say alone -- Leah is a nice girl to be sure,
and John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see
they are only servants, and one can't converse with them on terms
of equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing
one's authority. I'm sure last winter (it was a very severe one,
if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew),
not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from
November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with sitting
night after night alone; I had Leah in to read to me sometimes;
but I don't think the poor girl liked the task much: she felt it
confining. In spring and summer one got on better: sunshine and
long days make such a difference; and then, just at the commencement
of this autumn, little Adela Varens came and her nurse: a child
makes a house alive all at once; and now you are here I shall be
My heart really warmed to the worthy lady as I heard her talk; and
I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed my sincere
wish that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated.
"But I'll not keep you sitting up late to-night," said she; "it is
on the stroke of twelve now, and you have been travelling all day:
you must feel tired. If you have got your feet well warmed, I'll
show you your bedroom. I've had the room next to mine prepared for
you; it is only a small apartment, but I thought you would like it
better than one of the large front chambers: to be sure they have
finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, I never sleep
in them myself."
I thanked her for her considerate choice, and as I really felt
fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire.
She took her candle, and I followed her from the room. First she
went to see if the hall-door was fastened; having taken the key
from the lock, she led the way upstairs. The steps and banisters
were of oak; the staircase window was high and latticed; both it
and the long gallery into which the bedroom doors opened looked
as if they belonged to a church rather than a house. A very chill
and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless
ideas of space and solitude; and I was glad, when finally ushered
into my chamber, to find it of small dimensions, and furnished in
ordinary, modern style.
When Mrs. Fairfax had bidden me a kind good-night, and I had fastened
my door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measure effaced the
eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious
staircase, and that long, cold gallery, by the livelier aspect of
my little room, I remembered that, after a day of bodily fatigue
and mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse
of gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside,
and offered up thanks where thanks were due; not forgetting, ere I
rose, to implore aid on my further path, and the power of meriting
the kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was
earned. My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room
no fears. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly:
when I awoke it was broad day.
The chamber looked such a bright little place to me as the sun shone
in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered
walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained
plaster of Lowood, that my spirits rose at the view. Externals
have a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of
life was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and
pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. My faculties, roused
by the change of scene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all
astir. I cannot precisely define what they expected, but it was
something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that month, but at an
indefinite future period.
I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain -- for I
had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity
-- I was still by nature solicitous to be neat. It was not my habit
to be disregardful of appearance or careless of the impression I
made: on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could,
and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes
regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy
cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth; I desired to be
tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; I felt it a misfortune
that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and
so marked. And why had I these aspirations and these regrets?
It would be difficult to say: I could not then distinctly say it
to myself; yet I had a reason, and a logical, natural reason too.
However, when I had brushed my hair very smooth, and put on my black
frock -- which, Quakerlike as it was, at least had the merit of
fitting to a nicety -- and adjusted my clean white tucker, I thought
I should do respectably enough to appear before Mrs. Fairfax, and
that my new pupil would not at least recoil from me with antipathy.
Having opened my chamber window, and seen that I left all things
straight and neat on the toilet table, I ventured forth.
Traversing the long and matted gallery, I descended the slippery
steps of oak; then I gained the hall: I halted there a minute; I
looked at some pictures on the walls (one, I remember, represented
a grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hair and a
pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great
clock whose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with
time and rubbing. Everything appeared very stately and imposing to
me; but then I was so little accustomed to grandeur. The hall-door,
which was half of glass, stood open; I stepped over the threshold.
It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on
embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn,
I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three
storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a
gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman's seat: battlements round
the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well
from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on
the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great
meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where
an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as
oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion's designation.
Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so
craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world;
but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace
Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent
so near the stirring locality of Millcote. A little hamlet, whose
roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of these
hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield: its
old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates.
I was yet enjoying the calm prospect and pleasant fresh air, yet
listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yet surveying
the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place
it was for one lonely little dame like Mrs. Fairfax to inhabit,
when that lady appeared at the door.
"What! out already?" said she. "I see you are an early riser."
I went up to her, and was received with an affable kiss and shake
of the hand.
"How do you like Thornfield?" she asked. I told her I liked it
"Yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be
getting out of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his
head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it
rather oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence
of the proprietor."
"Mr. Rochester!" I exclaimed. "Who is he?"
"The owner of Thornfield," she responded quietly. "Did you not
know he was called Rochester?"
Of course I did not -- I had never heard of him before; but the
old lady seemed to regard his existence as a universally understood
fact, with which everybody must be acquainted by instinct.
"I thought," I continued, "Thornfield belonged to you."
"To me? Bless you, child; what an idea! To me! I am only the
housekeeper -- the manager. To be sure I am distantly related to
the Rochesters by the mother's side, or at least my husband was;
he was a clergyman, incumbent of Hay -- that little village yonder
on the hill -- and that church near the gates was his. The present
Mr. Rochester's mother was a Fairfax, and second cousin to my
husband: but I never presume on the connection -- in fact, it is
nothing to me; I consider myself quite in the light of an ordinary
housekeeper: my employer is always civil, and I expect nothing
"And the little girl -- my pupil!"
"She is Mr. Rochester's ward; he commissioned me to find a governess
for her. He intended to have her brought up in -shire, I believe.
Here she comes, with her 'bonne,' as she calls her nurse." The
enigma then was explained: this affable and kind little widow was
no great dame; but a dependant like myself. I did not like her the
worse for that; on the contrary, I felt better pleased than ever.
The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of
condescension on her part: so much the better -- my position was
all the freer.
As I was meditating on this discovery, a little girl, followed by
her attendant, came running up the lawn. I looked at my pupil,
who did not at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child,
perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale,
small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to
"Good morning, Miss Adela," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Come and speak to
the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some
day." She approached.
"C'est le ma gouverante!" said she, pointing to me, and
addressing her nurse; who answered -
"Mais oui, certainement."
"Are they foreigners?" I inquired, amazed at hearing the French
"The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent;
and, I believe, never left it till within six months ago. When
she first came here she could speak no English; now she can make
shift to talk it a little: I don't understand her, she mixes it
so with French; but you will make out her meaning very well, I dare
Fortunately I had had the advantage of being taught French by a
French lady; and as I had always made a point of conversing with
Madame Pierrot as often as I could, and had besides, during the last
seven years, learnt a portion of French by heart daily -- applying
myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely as
possible the pronunciation of my teacher, I had acquired a certain
degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and was not
likely to be much at a loss with Mademoiselle Adela. She came and
shook hand with me when she heard that I was her governess; and as
I led her in to breakfast, I addressed some phrases to her in her
own tongue: she replied briefly at first, but after we were seated
at the table, and she had examined me some ten minutes with her
large hazel eyes, she suddenly commenced chattering fluently.
"Ah!" cried she, in French, "you speak my language as well as
Mr. Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can
Sophie. She will be glad: nobody here understands her: Madame
Fairfax is all English. Sophie is my nurse; she came with me over
the sea in a great ship with a chimney that smoked -- how it did
smoke! -- and I was sick, and so was Sophie, and so was Mr. Rochester.
Mr. Rochester lay down on a sofa in a pretty room called the salon,
and Sophie and I had little beds in another place. I nearly fell
out of mine; it was like a shelf. And Mademoiselle -- what is your
"Eyre -- Jane Eyre."
"Aire? Bah! I cannot say it. Well, our ship stopped in the
morning, before it was quite daylight, at a great city -- a huge
city, with very dark houses and all smoky; not at all like the
pretty clean town I came from; and Mr. Rochester carried me in his
arms over a plank to the land, and Sophie came after, and we all
got into a coach, which took us to a beautiful large house, larger
than this and finer, called an hotel. We stayed there nearly a
week: I and Sophie used to walk every day in a great green place
full of trees, called the Park; and there were many children there
besides me, and a pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with
"Can you understand her when she runs on so fast?" asked Mrs.
I understood her very well, for I had been accustomed to the fluent
tongue of Madame Pierrot.
"I wish," continued the good lady, "you would ask her a question
or two about her parents: I wonder if she remembers them?"
"Adele," I inquired, "with whom did you live when you were in that
pretty clean town you spoke of?"
"I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin.
Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses. A
great many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to
dance before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I
liked it. Shall I let you hear me sing now?"
She had finished her breakfast, so I permitted her to give a specimen
of her accomplishments. Descending from her chair, she came and
placed herself on my knee; then, folding her little hands demurely
before her, shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes to the
ceiling, she commenced singing a song from some opera. It was the
strain of a forsaken lady, who, after bewailing the perfidy of her
lover, calls pride to her aid; desires her attendant to deck her
in her brightest jewels and richest robes, and resolves to meet the
false one that night at a ball, and prove to him, by the gaiety of
her demeanour, how little his desertion has affected her.
The subject seemed strangely chosen for an infant singer; but
I suppose the point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes of
love and jealousy warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very
bad taste that point was: at least I thought so.
Adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough, and with the naivete
of her age. This achieved, she jumped from my knee and said, "Now,
Mademoiselle, I will repeat you some poetry."
Assuming an attitude, she began, "La Ligue des Rats: fable de La
Fontaine." She then declaimed the little piece with an attention
to punctuation and emphasis, a flexibility of voice and an
appropriateness of gesture, very unusual indeed at her age, and
which proved she had been carefully trained.
"Was it your mama who taught you that piece?" I asked.
"Yes, and she just used to say it in this way: 'Qu' avez vous
donc? lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!' She made me lift my hand
-- so -- to remind me to raise my voice at the question. Now shall
I dance for you?"
"No, that will do: but after your mama went to the Holy Virgin,
as you say, with whom did you live then?"
"With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but
she is nothing related to me. I think she is poor, for she had
not so fine a house as mama. I was not long there. Mr. Rochester
asked me if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I
said yes; for I knew Mr. Rochester before I knew Madame Frederic,
and he was always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys:
but you see he has not kept his word, for he has brought me to
England, and now he is gone back again himself, and I never see
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room,
it appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the
schoolroom. Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors;
but there was one bookcase left open containing everything that
could be needed in the way of elementary works, and several volumes
of light literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances,
&c. I suppose he had considered that these were all the governess
would require for her private perusal; and, indeed, they contented
me amply for the present; compared with the scanty pickings I had
now and then been able to glean at Lowood, they seemed to offer an
abundant harvest of entertainment and information. In this room,
too, there was a cabinet piano, quite new and of superior tone;
also an easel for painting and a pair of globes.
I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply:
she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt
it would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when
I had talked to her a great deal, and got her to learn a little,
and when the morning had advanced to noon, I allowed her to return
to her nurse. I then proposed to occupy myself till dinner-time
in drawing some little sketches for her use.
As I was going upstairs to fetch my portfolio and pencils, Mrs.
Fairfax called to me: "Your morning school-hours are over now, I
suppose," said she. She was in a room the folding-doors of which
stood open: I went in when she addressed me. It was a large,
stately apartment, with purple chairs and curtains, a Turkey carpet,
walnut-panelled walls, one vast window rich in slanted glass, and
a lofty ceiling, nobly moulded. Mrs. Fairfax was dusting some
vases of fine purple spar, which stood on a sideboard.
"What a beautiful room!" I exclaimed, as I looked round; for I
had never before seen any half so imposing.
"Yes; this is the dining-room. I have just opened the window, to
let in a little air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp in
apartments that are seldom inhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels
like a vault."
She pointed to a wide arch corresponding to the window, and hung like
it with a Tyrian-dyed curtain, now looped up. Mounting to it by
two broad steps, and looking through, I thought I caught a glimpse
of a fairy place, so bright to my novice-eyes appeared the view
beyond. Yet it was merely a very pretty drawing-room, and within
it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, on which seemed laid
brilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled with snowy mouldings of
white grapes and vine-leaves, beneath which glowed in rich contrast
crimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on the pale
Parisian mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian glass, ruby red;
and between the windows large mirrors repeated the general blending
of snow and fire.
"In what order you keep these rooms, Mrs. Fairfax!" said I. "No
dust, no canvas coverings: except that the air feels chilly, one
would think they were inhabited daily."
"Why, Miss Eyre, though Mr. Rochester's visits here are rare, they
are always sudden and unexpected; and as I observed that it put
him out to find everything swathed up, and to have a bustle of
arrangement on his arrival, I thought it best to keep the rooms in
"Is Mr. Rochester an exacting, fastidious sort of man?"
"Not particularly so; but he has a gentleman's tastes and habits,
and he expects to have things managed in conformity to them."
"Do you like him? Is he generally liked?"
"Oh, yes; the family have always been respected here. Almost all
the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged
to the Rochesters time out of mind."
"Well, but, leaving his land out of the question, do you like him?
Is he liked for himself?"
"I have no cause to do otherwise than like him; and I believe he
is considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants: but he
has never lived much amongst them."
"But has he no peculiarities? What, in short, is his character?"
"Oh! his character is unimpeachable, I suppose. He is rather
peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great
deal of the world, I should think. I dare say he is clever, but
I never had much conversation with him."
"In what way is he peculiar?"
"I don't know -- it is not easy to describe -- nothing striking,
but you feel it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always sure
whether he is in jest or earnest, whether he is pleased or the
contrary; you don't thoroughly understand him, in short -- at least,
I don't: but it is of no consequence, he is a very good master."
This was all the account I got from Mrs. Fairfax of her employer
and mine. There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching
a character, or observing and describing salient points, either in
persons or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class;
my queries puzzled, but did not draw her out. Mr. Rochester was
Mr. Rochester in her eyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor --
nothing more: she inquired and searched no further, and evidently
wondered at my wish to gain a more definite notion of his identity.
When we left the dining-room, she proposed to show me over the rest
of the house; and I followed her upstairs and downstairs, admiring
as I went; for all was well arranged and handsome. The large front
chambers I thought especially grand: and some of the third-storey
rooms, though dark and low, were interesting from their air of
antiquity. The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartments
had from time to time been removed here, as fashions changed:
and the imperfect light entering by their narrow casement showed
bedsteads of a hundred years old; chests in oak or walnut, looking,
with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads,
like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed
and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushioned tops
were yet apparent traces of half-effaced embroideries, wrought by
fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust. All these
relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a
home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom,
the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means
coveted a night's repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut
in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought
old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies
of strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings,
-- all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam
"Do the servants sleep in these rooms?" I asked.
"No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no
one ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a
ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt."
"So I think: you have no ghost, then?"
"None that I ever heard of," returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
"Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?"
"I believe not. And yet it is said the Rochesters have been rather
a violent than a quiet race in their time: perhaps, though, that
is the reason they rest tranquilly in their graves now."
"Yes -- 'after life's fitful fever they sleep well,'" I muttered.
"Where are you going now, Mrs. Fairfax?" for she was moving away.
"On to the leads; will you come and see the view from thence?" I
followed still, up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence
by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall. I
was now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their
nests. Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I
surveyed the grounds laid out like a map: the bright and velvet
lawn closely girdling the grey base of the mansion; the field,
wide as a park, dotted with its ancient timber; the wood, dun and
sere, divided by a path visibly overgrown, greener with moss than
the trees were with foliage; the church at the gates, the road, the
tranquil hills, all reposing in the autumn day's sun; the horizon
bounded by a propitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly white. No
feature in the scene was extraordinary, but all was pleasing. When
I turned from it and repassed the trap-door, I could scarcely see
my way down the ladder; the attic seemed black as a vault compared
with that arch of blue air to which I had been looking up, and to
that sunlit scene of grove, pasture, and green hill, of which the
hall was the centre, and over which I had been gazing with delight.
Mrs. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by
drift of groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded
to descend the narrow garret staircase. I lingered in the long
passage to which this led, separating the front and back rooms of
the third storey: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window
at the far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors
all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle.
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so
still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh;
distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only
for an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though
distinct, it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that
seemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated
but in one, and I could have pointed out the door whence the accents
"Mrs. Fairfax!" I called out: for I now heard her descending the
great stairs. "Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?"
"Some of the servants, very likely," she answered: "perhaps Grace
"Did you hear it?" I again inquired.
"Yes, plainly: I often hear her: she sews in one of these rooms.
Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together."
The laugh was repeated in its low, syllabic tone, and terminated
in an odd murmur.
"Grace!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax.
I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was
as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but
that it was high noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness
accompanied the curious cachinnation; but that neither scene nor
season favoured fear, I should have been superstitiously afraid.
However, the event showed me I was a fool for entertaining a sense
even of surprise.
The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out, -- a woman of
between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired,
and with a hard, plain face: any apparition less romantic or less
ghostly could scarcely be conceived.
"Too much noise, Grace," said Mrs. Fairfax. "Remember directions!"
Grace curtseyed silently and went in.
"She is a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid's
work," continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionable in some
points, but she does well enough. By-the-bye, how have you got on
with your new pupil this morning?"
The conversation, thus turned on Adele, continued till we reached
the light and cheerful region below. Adele came running
to meet us in the hall, exclaiming -
"Mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding, "J'ai bien faim, moi!"
We found dinner ready, and waiting for us in Mrs. Fairfax's room.
The promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction
to Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer
acquaintance with the place and its inmates. Mrs. Fairfax turned
out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured woman,
of competent education and average intelligence. My pupil was a
lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was
sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care,
and no injudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my
plans for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and
became obedient and teachable. She had no great talents, no marked
traits of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste
which raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood;
but neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below
it. She made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious,
though perhaps not very profound, affection; and by her simplicity,
gay prattle, and efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with
a degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each
This, par parenthese, will be thought cool language by persons who
entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children,
and the duty of those charged with their education to conceive
for them an idolatrous devotion: but I am not writing to flatter
parental egotism, to echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely
telling the truth. I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's
welfare and progress, and a quiet liking for her little self: just
as I cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness,
and a pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard
she had for me, and the moderation of her mind and character.
Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and
then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went
down to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when,
while Adele played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in
the storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door
of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over
sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line -- that then
I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit;
which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had
heard of but never seen -- that then I desired more of practical
experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of
acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my
reach. I valued what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good
in Adele; but I believed in the existence of other and more vivid
kinds of goodness, and what I believed in I wished to behold.
Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.
I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated
me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the
corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the
silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell
on whatever bright visions rose before it -- and, certainly, they
were many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant
movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it
with life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that
was never ended -- a tale my imagination created, and narrated
continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling,
that I desired and had not in my actual existence.
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with
tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if
they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than
mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody
knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in
the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be
very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need
exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as
much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint,
too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it
is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say
that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting
stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is
thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do
more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their
When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh: the
same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard,
had thrilled me: I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger
than her laugh. There were days when she was quite silent; but
there were others when I could not account for the sounds she made.
Sometimes I saw her: she would come out of her room with a basin,
or a plate, or a tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and
shortly return, generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for
telling the plain truth!) bearing a pot of porter. Her appearance
always acted as a damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities:
hard-featured and staid, she had no point to which interest could
attach. I made some attempts to draw her into conversation, but
she seemed a person of few words: a monosyllabic reply usually
cut short every effort of that sort.
The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah
the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people;
but in no respect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk French,
and sometimes I asked her questions about her native country; but
she was not of a descriptive or narrative turn, and generally gave
such vapid and confused answers as were calculated rather to check
than encourage inquiry.
October, November, December passed away. One afternoon in January,
Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adele, because she had a cold;
and, as Adele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me
how precious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhood,
I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on the
point. It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of
sitting still in the library through a whole long morning: Mrs.
Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting to be posted,
so I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to
Hay; the distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon
walk. Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by
Mrs. Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll
(which I usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to
play with, and a story-book for change of amusement; and having
replied to her "Revenez bientot, ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle.
Jeannette," with a kiss I set out.
The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I
walked fast till I got warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and
analyse the species of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and
situation. It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed
under the belfry: the charm of the hour lay in its approaching
dimness, in the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun. I was a mile
from Thornfield, in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts
and blackberries in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral
treasures in hips and haws, but whose best winter delight lay in
its utter solitude and leafless repose. If a breath of air stirred,
it made no sound here; for there was not a holly, not an evergreen
to rustle, and the stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still
as the white, worn stones which causewayed the middle of the path.
Far and wide, on each side, there were only fields, where no cattle
now browsed; and the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally
in the hedge, looked like single russet leaves that had forgotten
This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached
the middle, I sat down on a stile which led thence into a field.
Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff,
I did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested
by a sheet of ice covering the causeway, where a little brooklet,
now congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since.
From my seat I could look down on Thornfield: the grey and
battlemented hall was the principal object in the vale below me;
its woods and dark rookery rose against the west. I lingered till
the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear
behind them. I then turned eastward.
On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud,
but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost
in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet
a mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its
thin murmurs of life. My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in
what dales and depths I could not tell: but there were many hills
beyond Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their passes. That
evening calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the
sough of the most remote.
A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at
once so far away and so clear: a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic
clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture,
the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn
in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance
of azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds where tint melts
The din was on the causeway: a horse was coming; the windings of
the lane yet hid it, but it approached. I was just leaving the
stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go by.
In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and
dark tenanted my mind: the memories of nursery stories were there
amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added
to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give.
As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through
the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured
a North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form
of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes
came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon
It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the
tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the
hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made
him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form
of Bessie's Gytrash -- a lion-like creature with long hair and
a huge head: it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying
to look up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half
expected it would. The horse followed, -- a tall steed, and on its
back a rider. The man, the human being, broke the spell at once.
Nothing ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone; and goblins,
to my notions, though they might tenant the dumb carcasses of
beasts, could scarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form.
No Gytrash was this, -- only a traveller taking the short cut to
Millcote. He passed, and I went on; a few steps, and I turned: a
sliding sound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"
and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention. Man and horse
were down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the
causeway. The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a
predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening
hills echoed the sound, which was deep in proportion to his
magnitude. He snuffed round the prostrate group, and then he ran
up to me; it was all he could do, -- there was no other help at
hand to summon. I obeyed him, and walked down to the traveller, by
this time struggling himself free of his steed. His efforts were
so vigorous, I thought he could not be much hurt; but I
asked him the question -
"Are you injured, sir?"
I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was
pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me
"Can I do anything?" I asked again.
"You must just stand on one side," he answered as he rose, first to
his knees, and then to his feet. I did; whereupon began a heaving,
stamping, clattering process, accompanied by a barking and baying
which removed me effectually some yards' distance; but I would
not be driven quite away till I saw the event. This was finally
fortunate; the horse was re-established, and the dog was silenced
with a "Down, Pilot!" The traveller now, stooping, felt his foot
and leg, as if trying whether they were sound; apparently something
ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen,
and sat down.
I was in the mood for being useful, or at least officious, I think,
for I now drew near him again.
"If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch some one either
from Thornfield Hall or from Hay."
"Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones, -- only a sprain;"
and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted
an involuntary "Ugh!"
Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing
bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a
riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not
apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and
considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern
features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked
ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached
middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of
him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking
young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning
him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had
hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.
I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance,
gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate
in masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they
neither had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should
have shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else
that is bright but antipathetic.
If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when
I addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and
with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation
to renew inquiries: but the frown, the roughness of the traveller,
set me at my ease: I retained my station when he waved
to me to go, and announced -
"I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this
solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse."
He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in
my direction before.
"I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if
you have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?"
"From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when
it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if
you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter."
"You live just below -- do you mean at that house with the
battlements?" pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast
a hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that,
by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
"Whose house is it?"
"Do you know Mr. Rochester?"
"No, I have never seen him."
"He is not resident, then?"
"Can you tell me where he is?"
"You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are -- "
He stopped, ran his eye over my dress, which, as usual, was quite
simple: a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither
of them half fine enough for a lady's-maid. He seemed puzzled to
decide what I was; I helped him.
"I am the governess."
"Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not
forgotten! The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.
In two minutes he rose from the stile: his face expressed pain
when he tried to move.
"I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help
me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."
"You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"
"Try to get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me: you are
I should have been afraid to touch a horse when alone, but when
told to do it, I was disposed to obey. I put down my muff on the
stile, and went up to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the
bridle, but it was a spirited thing, and would not let me come
near its head; I made effort on effort, though in vain: meantime,
I was mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet. The traveller
waited and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.
"I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet,
so all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must
beg of you to come here."
I came. "Excuse me," he continued: "necessity compels me to make
you useful." He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on
me with some stress, limped to his horse. Having once caught the
bridle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacing
grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.
"Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just
hand me my whip; it lies there under the hedge."
I sought it and found it.
"Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as
fast as you can."
A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and
then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished,
"Like heath that, in the wilderness, The wild wind whirls away."
I took up my muff and walked on. The incident had occurred and
was gone for me: it WAS an incident of no moment, no romance,
no interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour
of a monotonous life. My help had been needed and claimed; I had
given it: I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory
though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary
of an existence all passive. The new face, too, was like a new
picture introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar
to all the others hanging there: firstly, because it was masculine;
and, secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern. I had it
still before me when I entered Hay, and slipped the letter into
the post- office; I saw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way
home. When I came to the stile, I stopped a minute, looked round
and listened, with an idea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the
causeway again, and that a rider in a cloak, and a Gytrash-like
Newfoundland dog, might be again apparent: I saw only the hedge
and a pollard willow before me, rising up still and straight to
meet the moonbeams; I heard only the faintest waft of wind roaming
fitful among the trees round Thornfield, a mile distant; and when
I glanced down in the direction of the murmur, my eye, traversing
the hall-front, caught a light kindling in a window: it reminded
me that I was late, and I hurried on.
I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was
to return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the
darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to
meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with
her, and her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened
by my walk, -- to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters
of an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose
very privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of
appreciating. What good it would have done me at that time to have
been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to
have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the
calm amidst which I now repined! Yes, just as much good as it
would do a man tired of sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take
a long walk: and just as natural was the wish to stir, under my
circumstances, as it would be under his.
I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards
and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were
closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and
spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house -- from the grey-hollow
filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me -- to that sky
expanded before me, -- a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud;
the moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up
as she left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and
farther below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its
fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling
stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my
veins glow when I viewed them. Little things recall us to earth;
the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon
and stars, opened a side-door, and went in.
The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung
bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the
oak staircase. This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-room,
whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial fire in the
grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons, and revealing
purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most pleasant
radiance. It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece: I had
scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful mingling
of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adele,
when the door closed.
I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there too,
but no candle, and no Mrs. Fairfax. Instead, all alone, sitting
upright on the rug, and gazing with gravity at the blaze, I beheld
a great black and white long-haired dog, just like the Gytrash of
the lane. It was so like it that I went forward and said -- "Pilot"
and the thing got up and came to me and snuffed me. I caressed
him, and he wagged his great tail; but he looked an eerie creature
to be alone with, and I could not tell whence he had come. I
rang the bell, for I wanted a candle; and I wanted, too, to get an
account of this visitant. Leah entered.
"What dog is this?"
"He came with master."
"With master -- Mr. Rochester -- he is just arrived."
"Indeed! and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"
"Yes, and Miss Adele; they are in the dining-room, and John is gone
for a surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and
his ankle is sprained."
"Did the horse fall in Hay Lane?"
"Yes, coming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."
"Ah! Bring me a candle will you Leah?"
Leah brought it; she entered, followed by Mrs. Fairfax, who repeated
the news; adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was come, and was now
with Mr. Rochester: then she hurried out to give orders about tea,
and I went upstairs to take off my things.
Mr. Rochester, it seems, by the surgeon's orders, went to bed early
that night; nor did he rise soon next morning. When he did come
down, it was to attend to business: his agent and some of his
tenants were arrived, and waiting to speak with him.
Adele and I had now to vacate the library: it would be in daily
requisition as a reception-room for callers. A fire was lit in
an apartment upstairs, and there I carried our books, and arranged
it for the future schoolroom. I discerned in the course of the
morning that Thornfield Hall was a changed place: no longer silent
as a church, it echoed every hour or two to a knock at the door,
or a clang of the bell; steps, too, often traversed the hall, and
new voices spoke in different keys below; a rill from the outer world
was flowing through it; it had a master: for my part, I liked it
Adele was not easy to teach that day; she could not apply: she
kept running to the door and looking over the banisters to see if
she could get a glimpse of Mr. Rochester; then she coined pretexts
to go downstairs, in order, as I shrewdly suspected, to visit the
library, where I knew she was not wanted; then, when I got a little
angry, and made her sit still, she continued to talk incessantly
of her "ami, Monsieur Edouard Fairfax DE Rochester," as she dubbed
him (I had not before heard his prenomens), and to conjecture
what presents he had brought her: for it appears he had intimated
the night before, that when his luggage came from Millcote, there
would be found amongst it a little box in whose contents she had
"Et cela doit signifier," said she, "qu'il y aura le dedans un cadeau
pour moi, et peut-etre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle. Monsieur
a parle de vous: il m'a demande le nom de ma gouvernante, et si
elle n'etait pas une petite personne, assez mince et un peu pale.
J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas, mademoiselle?"
I and my pupil dined as usual in Mrs. Fairfax's parlour; the
afternoon was wild and snowy, and we passed it in the schoolroom.
At dark I allowed Adele to put away books and work, and to
run downstairs; for, from the comparative silence below, and from
the cessation of appeals to the door-bell, I conjectured that Mr.
Rochester was now at liberty. Left alone, I walked to the window;
but nothing was to be seen thence: twilight and snowflakes together
thickened the air, and hid the very shrubs on the lawn. I let down
the curtain and went back to the fireside.
In the clear embers I was tracing a view, not unlike a picture I
remembered to have seen of the castle of Heidelberg, on the Rhine,
when Mrs. Fairfax came in, breaking up by her entrance the fiery
mosaic I had been piercing together, and scattering too some heavy
unwelcome thoughts that were beginning to throng on my solitude.
"Mr. Rochester would be glad if you and your pupil would take tea
with him in the drawing-room this evening," said she: "he has been
so much engaged all day that he could not ask to see you before."
"When is his tea-time?" I inquired.
"Oh, at six o'clock: he keeps early hours in the country. You
had better change your frock now; I will go with you and fasten
it. Here is a candle."
"Is it necessary to change my frock?"
"Yes, you had better: I always dress for the evening when Mr.
Rochester is here."
This additional ceremony seemed somewhat stately; however, I repaired
to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax's aid, replaced my black stuff
dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional one
I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of
the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate
"You want a brooch," said Mrs. Fairfax. I had a single little pearl
ornament which Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake: I put
it on, and then we went downstairs. Unused as I was to strangers,
it was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned in
Mr. Rochester's presence. I let Mrs. Fairfax precede me into the
dining-room, and kept in her shade as we crossed that apartment;
and, passing the arch, whose curtain was now dropped, entered the
elegant recess beyond.
Two wax candles stood lighted on the table, and two on the mantelpiece;
basking in the light and heat of a superb fire, lay Pilot -- Adele
knelt near him. Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr. Rochester,
his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at Adele and the
dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my traveller with
his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by
the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive
nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils,
denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw -- yes,
all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested
of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy:
I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term
-- broad chested and thin flanked, though neither tall nor graceful.
Mr. Rochester must have been aware of the entrance of Mrs. Fairfax
and myself; but it appeared he was not in the mood to notice us,
for he never lifted his head as we approached.
"Here is Miss Eyre, sir," said Mrs. Fairfax, in her quiet way.
He bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and
"Let Miss Eyre be seated," said he: and there was something in the
forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed
further to express, "What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre
be there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her."
I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness
would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or
repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh
caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent
quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.
Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt
interested to see how he would go on.
He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved.
Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be
amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual -- and, as usual,
rather trite -- she condoled with him on the pressure of business
he had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with
that painful sprain: then she commended his patience and perseverance
in going through with it.
"Madam, I should like some tea," was the sole rejoinder she got.
She hastened to ring the bell; and when the tray came, she proceeded
to arrange the cups, spoons, &c., with assiduous celerity. I and
Adele went to the table; but the master did not leave his couch.
"Will you hand Mr. Rochester's cup?" said Mrs. Fairfax to me;
"Adele might perhaps spill it."
I did as requested. As he took the cup from my hand, Adele, thinking
the moment propitious for making a request in my favour, cried out -
"N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre
dans votre petit coffre?"
"Who talks of cadeaux?" said he gruffly. "Did you expect a
present, Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?" and he searched
my face with eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.
"I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are
generally thought pleasant things."
"Generally thought? But what do YOU think?"
"I should be obliged to take time, sir, before I could give you
an answer worthy of your acceptance: a present has many faces to
it, has it not? and one should consider all, before pronouncing
an opinion as to its nature."
"Miss Eyre, you are not so unsophisticated as Adele: she demands
a 'cadeau,' clamorously, the moment she sees me: you beat about
"Because I have less confidence in my deserts than Adele has: she
can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and the right too of
custom; for she says you have always been in the habit of giving
her playthings; but if I had to make out a case I should be puzzled,
since I am a stranger, and have done nothing to entitle me to an
"Oh, don't fall back on over-modesty! I have examined Adele, and
find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she
has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement."
"Sir, you have now given me my 'cadeau;' I am obliged to you: it
is the meed teachers most covet -- praise of their pupils' progress."
"Humph!" said Mr. Rochester, and he took his tea in silence.
"Come to the fire," said the master, when the tray was taken away,
and Mrs. Fairfax had settled into a corner with her knitting;
while Adele was leading me by the hand round the room, showing me
the beautiful books and ornaments on the consoles and chiffonnieres.
We obeyed, as in duty bound; Adele wanted to take a seat on my
knee, but she was ordered to amuse herself with Pilot.
"You have been resident in my house three months?"
"And you came from -- ?"
"From Lowood school, in -shire."
"Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?"
"Eight years! you must be tenacious of life. I thought half the
time in such a place would have done up any constitution! No wonder
you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled where you
had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last
night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind
to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.
Who are your parents?"
"I have none."
"Nor ever had, I suppose: do you remember them?"
"I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you
sat on that stile?"
"For whom, sir?"
"For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them.
Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned
ice on the causeway?"
I shook my head. "The men in green all forsook England a hundred
years ago," said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. "And not
even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace
of them. I don't think either summer or harvest, or winter moon,
will ever shine on their revels more."
Mrs. Fairfax had dropped her knitting, and, with raised eyebrows,
seemed wondering what sort of talk this was.
"Well," resumed Mr. Rochester, "if you disown parents, you must
have some sort of kinsfolk: uncles and aunts?"
"No; none that I ever saw."
"And your home?"
"I have none."
"Where do your brothers and sisters live?"
"I have no brothers or sisters."
"Who recommended you to come here?"
"I advertised, and Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement."
"Yes," said the good lady, who now knew what ground we were upon,
"and I am daily thankful for the choice Providence led me to make.
Miss Eyre has been an invaluable companion to me, and a kind and
careful teacher to Adele."
"Don't trouble yourself to give her a character," returned Mr.
Rochester: "eulogiums will not bias me; I shall judge for myself.
She began by felling my horse."
"Sir?" said Mrs. Fairfax.
"I have to thank her for this sprain."
The widow looked bewildered.
"Miss Eyre, have you ever lived in a town?"
"Have you seen much society?"
"None but the pupils and teachers of Lowood, and now the inmates
"Have you read much?"
"Only such books as came in my way; and they have not been numerous
or very learned."
"You have lived the life of a nun: no doubt you are well drilled
in religious forms; -- Brocklehurst, who I understand directs
Lowood, is a parson, is he not?"
"And you girls probably worshipped him, as a convent full of
religieuses would worship their director."
"You are very cool! No! What! a novice not worship her priest!
That sounds blasphemous."
"I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling.
He is a harsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off our
hair; and for economy's sake bought us bad needles and thread, with
which we could hardly sew."
"That was very false economy," remarked Mrs. Fairfax, who now again
caught the drift of the dialogue.
"And was that the head and front of his offending?" demanded Mr.
"He starved us when he had the sole superintendence of the provision
department, before the committee was appointed; and he bored us with
long lectures once a week, and with evening readings from books of
his own inditing, about sudden deaths and judgments, which made us
afraid to go to bed."
"What age were you when you went to Lowood?"
"And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?"
"Arithmetic, you see, is useful; without its aid, I should hardly
have been able to guess your age. It is a point difficult to fix
where the features and countenance are so much at variance as in
your case. And now what did you learn at Lowood? Can you play?"
"Of course: that is the established answer. Go into the library
-- I mean, if you please. -- (Excuse my tone of command; I am used
to say, 'Do this,' and it is done: I cannot alter my customary
habits for one new inmate.) -- Go, then, into the library; take a
candle with you; leave the door open; sit down to the piano, and
play a tune."
I departed, obeying his directions.
"Enough!" he called out in a few minutes. "You play A LITTLE, I
see; like any other English school-girl; perhaps rather better than
some, but not well."
I closed the piano and returned. Mr. Rochester continued -- "Adele
showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours.
I don't know whether they were entirely of your doing; probably a
master aided you?"
"No, indeed!" I interjected.
"Ah! that pricks pride. Well, fetch me your portfolio, if you
can vouch for its contents being original; but don't pass your word
unless you are certain: I can recognise patchwork."
"Then I will say nothing, and you shall judge for yourself, sir."
I brought the portfolio from the library.
"Approach the table," said he; and I wheeled it to his couch. Adele
and Mrs. Fairfax drew near to see the pictures.
"No crowding," said Mr. Rochester: "take the drawings from my hand
as I finish with them; but don't push your faces up to mine."
He deliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting. Three he
laid aside; the others, when he had examined them, he swept from
"Take them off to the other table, Mrs. Fairfax," said he, "and
look at them with Adele; -- you" (glancing at me) "resume your seat,
and answer my questions. I perceive those pictures were done by
one hand: was that hand yours?"
"And when did you find time to do them? They have taken much time,
and some thought."
"I did them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowood, when I
had no other occupation."
"Where did you get your copies?"
"Out of my head."
"That head I see now on your shoulders?"
"Has it other furniture of the same kind within?"
"I should think it may have: I should hope -- better."
He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them alternately.
While he is so occupied, I will tell you, reader, what they are:
and first, I must premise that they are nothing wonderful. The
subjects had, indeed, risen vividly on my mind. As I saw them with
the spiritual eye, before I attempted to embody them, they were
striking; but my hand would not second my fancy, and in each case
it had wrought out but a pale portrait of the thing I had conceived.
These pictures were in water-colours. The first represented clouds
low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea: all the distance was
in eclipse; so, too, was the foreground; or rather, the nearest
billows, for there was no land. One gleam of light lifted into
relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and
large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet
set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my
palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil
could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse
glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb
clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn.
The second picture contained for foreground only the dim peak
of a hill, with grass and some leaves slanting as if by a breeze.
Beyond and above spread an expanse of sky, dark blue as at twilight:
rising into the sky was a woman's shape to the bust, portrayed in
tints as dusk and soft as I could combine. The dim forehead was
crowned with a star; the lineaments below were seen as through the
suffusion of vapour; the eyes shone dark and wild; the hair streamed
shadowy, like a beamless cloud torn by storm or by electric travail.
On the neck lay a pale reflection like moonlight; the same faint
lustre touched the train of thin clouds from which rose and bowed
this vision of the Evening Star.
The third showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter
sky: a muster of northern lights reared their dim lances, close
serried, along the horizon. Throwing these into distance, rose,
in the foreground, a head, -- a colossal head, inclined towards
the iceberg, and resting against it. Two thin hands, joined under
the forehead, and supporting it, drew up before the lower features a
sable veil, a brow quite bloodless, white as bone, and an eye hollow
and fixed, blank of meaning but for the glassiness of despair, alone
were visible. Above the temples, amidst wreathed turban folds of
black drapery, vague in its character and consistency as cloud,
gleamed a ring of white flame, gemmed with sparkles of a more lurid
tinge. This pale crescent was "the likeness of a kingly crown;"
what it diademed was "the shape which shape had none."
"Were you happy when you painted these pictures?" asked Mr.
"I was absorbed, sir: yes, and I was happy. To paint them, in
short, was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known."
"That is not saying much. Your pleasures, by your own account,
have been few; but I daresay you did exist in a kind of artist's
dreamland while you blent and arranged these strange tints. Did
you sit at them long each day?"
"I had nothing else to do, because it was the vacation, and I sat
at them from morning till noon, and from noon till night: the
length of the midsummer days favoured my inclination to apply."
"And you felt self-satisfied with the result of your ardent labours?"
"Far from it. I was tormented by the contrast between my idea and
my handiwork: in each case I had imagined something which I was
quite powerless to realise."
"Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no
more, probably. You had not enough of the artist's skill and science
to give it full being: yet the drawings are, for a school-girl,
peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish. These eyes in the
Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make
them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet
above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn
depth? And who taught you to paint wind? There is a high gale
in that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For
that is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!"
I had scarce tied the strings of the portfolio, when, looking
at his watch, he said abruptly -
"It is nine o'clock: what are you about, Miss Eyre, to let Adele
sit up so long? Take her to bed."
Adele went to kiss him before quitting the room: he endured the
caress, but scarcely seemed to relish it more than Pilot would have
done, nor so much.
"I wish you all good-night, now," said he, making a movement of the
hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company,
and wished to dismiss us. Mrs. Fairfax folded up her knitting: I
took my portfolio: we curtseyed to him, received a frigid bow in
return, and so withdrew.
"You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,"
I observed, when I rejoined her in her room, after putting Adele
"Well, is he?"
"I think so: he is very changeful and abrupt."
"True: no doubt he may appear so to a stranger, but I am so
accustomed to his manner, I never think of it; and then, if he has
peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made."
"Partly because it is his nature -- and we can none of us help our
nature; and partly because he has painful thoughts, no doubt, to
harass him, and make his spirits unequal."
"Family troubles, for one thing."
"But he has no family."
"Not now, but he has had -- or, at least, relatives. He lost his
elder brother a few years since."
"His ELDER brother?"
"Yes. The present Mr. Rochester has not been very long in possession
of the property; only about nine years."
"Nine years is a tolerable time. Was he so very fond of his brother
as to be still inconsolable for his loss?"
"Why, no -- perhaps not. I believe there were some misunderstandings
between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr.
Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old
gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate
together. He did not like to diminish the property by division,
and yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too,
to keep up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of
age, some steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a
great deal of mischief. Old Mr. Rochester and Mr. Rowland combined
to bring Mr. Edward into what he considered a painful position, for
the sake of making his fortune: what the precise nature of that
position was I never clearly knew, but his spirit could not brook
what he had to suffer in it. He is not very forgiving: he broke
with his family, and now for many years he has led an unsettled
kind of life. I don't think he has ever been resident at Thornfield
for a fortnight together, since the death of his brother without
a will left him master of the estate; and, indeed, no wonder he
shuns the old place."
"Why should he shun it?"
"Perhaps he thinks it gloomy."
The answer was evasive. I should have liked something clearer; but
Mrs. Fairfax either could not, or would not, give me more explicit
information of the origin and nature of Mr. Rochester's trials.
She averred they were a mystery to herself, and that what she knew
was chiefly from conjecture. It was evident, indeed, that she
wished me to drop the subject, which I did accordingly.
For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester. In the
mornings he seemed much engaged with business, and, in the afternoon,
gentlemen from Millcote or the neighbourhood called, and sometimes
stayed to dine with him. When his sprain was well enough to admit
of horse exercise, he rode out a good deal; probably to return
these visits, as he generally did not come back till late at night.
During this interval, even Adele was seldom sent for to his presence,
and all my acquaintance with him was confined to an occasional
rencontre in the hall, on the stairs, or in the gallery, when he
would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, just acknowledging
my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and sometimes bow
and smile with gentlemanlike affability. His changes of mood did
not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do with their
alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite disconnected
One day he had had company to dinner, and had sent for my portfolio;
in order, doubtless, to exhibit its contents: the gentlemen went
away early, to attend a public meeting at Millcote, as Mrs. Fairfax
informed me; but the night being wet and inclement, Mr. Rochester
did not accompany them. Soon after they were gone he rang the bell: