Part 5 out of 11
out! -- whether it were such as I should fancy likely to suit Mr.
As far as person went, she answered point for point, both to my
picture and Mrs. Fairfax's description. The noble bust, the sloping
shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and black ringlets
were all there; -- but her face? Her face was like her mother's;
a youthful unfurrowed likeness: the same low brow, the same high
features, the same pride. It was not, however, so saturnine a
pride! she laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so
was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.
Genius is said to be self-conscious. I cannot tell whether Miss
Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious -- remarkably self-
conscious indeed. She entered into a discourse on botany with the
gentle Mrs. Dent. It seemed Mrs. Dent had not studied that science:
though, as she said, she liked flowers, "especially wild ones;"
Miss Ingram had, and she ran over its vocabulary with an air. I
presently perceived she was (what is vernacularly termed) TRAILING
Mrs. Dent; that is, playing on her ignorance -- her TRAIL might be
clever, but it was decidedly not good-natured. She played: her
execution was brilliant; she sang: her voice was fine; she talked
French apart to her mamma; and she talked it well, with fluency
and with a good accent.
Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer
features too, and a skin some shades fairer (Miss Ingram was dark
as a Spaniard) -- but Mary was deficient in life: her face lacked
expression, her eye lustre; she had nothing to say, and having once
taken her seat, remained fixed like a statue in its niche. The
sisters were both attired in spotless white.
And did I now think Miss Ingram such a choice as Mr. Rochester
would be likely to make? I could not tell -- I did not know his
taste in female beauty. If he liked the majestic, she was the
very type of majesty: then she was accomplished, sprightly. Most
gentlemen would admire her, I thought; and that he DID admire her,
I already seemed to have obtained proof: to remove the last shade
of doubt, it remained but to see them together.
You are not to suppose, reader, that Adele has all this time been
sitting motionless on the stool at my feet: no; when the ladies
entered, she rose, advanced to meet them, made a stately
reverence, and said with gravity -
"Bon jour, mesdames."
And Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and
exclaimed, "Oh, what a little puppet!"
Lady Lynn had remarked, "It is Mr. Rochester's ward, I suppose --
the little French girl he was speaking of."
Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand, and given her a kiss.
Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously -- "What a love
of a child!"
And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced
between them, chattering alternately in French and broken English;
absorbing not only the young ladies' attention, but that of Mrs.
Eshton and Lady Lynn, and getting spoilt to her heart's content.
At last coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen are summoned. I
sit in the shade -- if any shade there be in this brilliantly-lit
apartment; the window-curtain half hides me. Again the arch yawns;
they come. The collective appearance of the gentlemen, like that
of the ladies, is very imposing: they are all costumed in black;
most of them are tall, some young. Henry and Frederick Lynn are
very dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent is a fine soldierly
man. Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, is gentleman-like:
his hair is quite white, his eyebrows and whiskers still dark,
which gives him something of the appearance of a "pere noble de
theatre." Lord Ingram, like his sisters, is very tall; like them,
also, he is handsome; but he shares Mary's apathetic and listless
look: he seems to have more length of limb than vivacity of blood
or vigour of brain.
And where is Mr. Rochester?
He comes in last: I am not looking at the arch, yet I see him
enter. I try to concentrate my attention on those netting-needles,
on the meshes of the purse I am forming -- I wish to think only
of the work I have in my hands, to see only the silver beads and
silk threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his
figure, and I inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just
after I had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential service, and
he, holding my hand, and looking down on my face, surveyed me with
eyes that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow; in whose
emotions I had a part. How near had I approached him at that moment!
What had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative
positions? Yet now, how distant, how far estranged we were! So
far estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me.
I did not wonder, when, without looking at me, he took a seat at
the other side of the room, and began conversing with some of the
No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and
that I might gaze without being observed, than my eyes were drawn
involuntarily to his face; I could not keep their lids under control:
they would rise, and the irids would fix on him. I looked, and had
an acute pleasure in looking, -- a precious yet poignant pleasure;
pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a pleasure like what the
thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the well to which he has
crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless.
Most true is it that "beauty is in the eye of the gazer." My
master's colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and
jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth, -- all
energy, decision, will, -- were not beautiful, according to rule;
but they were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest,
an influence that quite mastered me, -- that took my feelings from
my own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love
him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul
the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view
of him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me
love him without looking at me.
I compared him with his guests. What was the gallant grace of the
Lynns, the languid elegance of Lord Ingram, -- even the military
distinction of Colonel Dent, contrasted with his look of native
pith and genuine power? I had no sympathy in their appearance,
their expression: yet I could imagine that most observers would
call them attractive, handsome, imposing; while they would pronounce
Mr. Rochester at once harsh-featured and melancholy-looking. I
saw them smile, laugh -- it was nothing; the light of the candles
had as much soul in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as
much significance as their laugh. I saw Mr. Rochester smile:- his
stern features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle,
its ray both searching and sweet. He was talking, at the moment,
to Louisa and Amy Eshton. I wondered to see them receive with
calm that look which seemed to me so penetrating: I expected their
eyes to fall, their colour to rise under it; yet I was glad when I
found they were in no sense moved. "He is not to them what he is
to me," I thought: "he is not of their kind. I believe he is of
mine; -- I am sure he is -- I feel akin to him -- I understand the
language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth
sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my
blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say,
a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive
my salary at his hands? Did I forbid myself to think of him in any
other light than as a paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every
good, true, vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him.
I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must
remember that he cannot care much for me. For when I say that I
am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to influence,
and his spell to attract; I mean only that I have certain tastes
and feelings in common with him. I must, then, repeat continually
that we are for ever sundered:- and yet, while I breathe and think,
I must love him."
Coffee is handed. The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have
become lively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry. Colonel
Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen. The two
proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.
Sir George -- whom, by-the-bye, I have forgotten to describe, -- a
very big, and very fresh-looking country gentleman, stands before
their sofa, coffee-cup in hand, and occasionally puts in a word.
Mr. Frederick Lynn has taken a seat beside Mary Ingram, and is
showing her the engravings of a splendid volume: she looks, smiles
now and then, but apparently says little. The tall and phlegmatic
Lord Ingram leans with folded arms on the chair-back of the little
and lively Amy Eshton; she glances up at him, and chatters like
a wren: she likes him better than she does Mr. Rochester. Henry
Lynn has taken possession of an ottoman at the feet of Louisa:
Adele shares it with him: he is trying to talk French with her,
and Louisa laughs at his blunders. With whom will Blanche Ingram
pair? She is standing alone at the table, bending gracefully over
an album. She seems waiting to be sought; but she will not wait
too long: she herself selects a mate.
Mr. Rochester, having quitted the Eshtons, stands on the hearth
as solitary as she stands by the table: she confronts him, taking
her station on the opposite side of the mantelpiece.
"Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?"
"Nor am I."
"Then, what induced you to take charge of such a little doll as
that?" (pointing to Adele). "Where did you pick her up?"
"I did not pick her up; she was left on my hands."
"You should have sent her to school."
"I could not afford it: schools are so dear."
"Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with
her just now -- is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still, behind
the window-curtain. You pay her, of course; I should think it
quite as expensive, -- more so; for you have them both to keep in
I feared -- or should I say, hoped? -- the allusion to me would
make Mr. Rochester glance my way; and I involuntarily shrank farther
into the shade: but he never turned his eyes.
"I have not considered the subject," said he indifferently, looking
straight before him.
"No, you men never do consider economy and common sense. You should
hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I
should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable
and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi -- were they not, mama?"
"Did you speak, my own?"
The young lady thus claimed as the dowager's special property,
reiterated her question with an explanation.
"My dearest, don't mention governesses; the word makes me nervous.
I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice.
I thank Heaven I have now done with them!"
Mrs. Dent here bent over to the pious lady and whispered something
in her ear; I suppose, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder
that one of the anathematised race was present.
"Tant pis!" said her Ladyship, "I hope it may do her good!" Then,
in a lower tone, but still loud enough for me to hear, "I noticed
her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults
of her class."
"What are they, madam?" inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.
"I will tell you in your private ear," replied she, wagging her
turban three times with portentous significancy.
"But my curiosity will be past its appetite; it craves food now."
"Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I."
"Oh, don't refer him to me, mama! I have just one word to say of
the whole tribe; they are a nuisance. Not that I ever suffered much
from them; I took care to turn the tables. What tricks Theodore
and I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and Madame
Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with
spirit. The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was
a poor sickly thing, lachrymose and low-spirited, not worth the
trouble of vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and
insensible; no blow took effect on her. But poor Madame Joubert!
I see her yet in her raging passions, when we had driven her to
extremities -- spilt our tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed
our books up to the ceiling, and played a charivari with the ruler
and desk, the fender and fire-irons. Theodore, do you remember
those merry days?"
"Yaas, to be sure I do," drawled Lord Ingram; "and the poor old
stick used to cry out 'Oh you villains childs!' -- and then we
sermonised her on the presumption of attempting to teach such clever
blades as we were, when she was herself so ignorant."
"We did; and, Tedo, you know, I helped you in prosecuting (or
persecuting) your tutor, whey-faced Mr. Vining -- the parson in the
pip, as we used to call him. He and Miss Wilson took the liberty
of falling in love with each other -- at least Tedo and I thought
so; we surprised sundry tender glances and sighs which we interpreted
as tokens of 'la belle passion,' and I promise you the public soon
had the benefit of our discovery; we employed it as a sort of lever
to hoist our dead-weights from the house. Dear mama, there, as
soon as she got an inkling of the business, found out that it was
of an immoral tendency. Did you not, my lady-mother?"
"Certainly, my best. And I was quite right: depend on that:
there are a thousand reasons why liaisons between governesses and
tutors should never be tolerated a moment in any well-regulated
house; firstly -- "
"Oh, gracious, mama! Spare us the enumeration! Au reste, we
all know them: danger of bad example to innocence of childhood;
distractions and consequent neglect of duty on the part of the attached
-- mutual alliance and reliance; confidence thence resulting --
insolence accompanying -- mutiny and general blow-up. Am I right,
Baroness Ingram, of Ingram Park?"
"My lily-flower, you are right now, as always."
"Then no more need be said: change the subject."
Amy Eshton, not hearing or not heeding this dictum, joined in with
her soft, infantine tone: "Louisa and I used to quiz our governess
too; but she was such a good creature, she would bear anything:
nothing put her out. She was never cross with us; was she, Louisa?"
"No, never: we might do what we pleased; ransack her desk and
her workbox, and turn her drawers inside out; and she was so good-
natured, she would give us anything we asked for."
"I suppose, now," said Miss Ingram, curling her lip sarcastically,
"we shall have an abstract of the memoirs of all the governesses
extant: in order to avert such a visitation, I again move
the introduction of a new topic. Mr. Rochester, do you second my
"Madam, I support you on this point, as on every other."
"Then on me be the onus of bringing it forward. Signior Eduardo,
are you in voice to-night?"
"Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be."
"Then, signior, I lay on you my sovereign behest to furbish up your
lungs and other vocal organs, as they will be wanted on my royal
"Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?"
"A fig for Rizzio!" cried she, tossing her head with all its
curls, as she moved to the piano. "It is my opinion the fiddler
David must have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell
better: to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil
in him; and history may say what it will of James Hepburn, but I
have a notion, he was just the sort of wild, fierce, bandit hero
whom I could have consented to gift with my hand."
"Gentlemen, you hear! Now which of you most resembles Bothwell?"
cried Mr. Rochester.
"I should say the preference lies with you," responded Colonel
"On my honour, I am much obliged to you," was the reply.
Miss Ingram, who had now seated herself with proud grace at the
piano, spreading out her snowy robes in queenly amplitude, commenced
a brilliant prelude; talking meantime. She appeared to be on her
high horse to-night; both her words and her air seemed intended to
excite not only the admiration, but the amazement of her auditors:
she was evidently bent on striking them as something very dashing
and daring indeed.
"Oh, I am so sick of the young men of the present day!" exclaimed
she, rattling away at the instrument. "Poor, puny things, not fit
to stir a step beyond papa's park gates: nor to go even so far
without mama's permission and guardianship! Creatures so absorbed
in care about their pretty faces, and their white hands, and
their small feet; as if a man had anything to do with beauty! As
if loveliness were not the special prerogative of woman -- her
legitimate appanage and heritage! I grant an ugly WOMAN is a blot
on the fair face of creation; but as to the GENTLEMEN, let them be
solicitous to possess only strength and valour: let their motto
be:- Hunt, shoot, and fight: the rest is not worth a fillip. Such
should be my device, were I a man."
"Whenever I marry," she continued after a pause which none interrupted,
"I am resolved my husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me.
I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall exact an
undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared between me
and the shape he sees in his mirror. Mr. Rochester, now sing, and
I will play for you."
"I am all obedience," was the response.
"Here then is a Corsair-song. Know that I doat on Corsairs; and
for that reason, sing it con spirito."
"Commands from Miss Ingram's lips would put spirit into a mug of
milk and water."
"Take care, then: if you don't please me, I will shame you by
showing how such things SHOULD be done."
"That is offering a premium on incapacity: I shall now endeavour
"Gardez-vous en bien! If you err wilfully, I shall devise a
"Miss Ingram ought to be clement, for she has it in her power to
inflict a chastisement beyond mortal endurance."
"Ha! explain!" commanded the lady.
"Pardon me, madam: no need of explanation; your own fine sense must
inform you that one of your frowns would be a sufficient substitute
for capital punishment."
"Sing!" said she, and again touching the piano, she commenced an
accompaniment in spirited style.
"Now is my time to slip away," thought I: but the tones that then
severed the air arrested me. Mrs. Fairfax had said Mr. Rochester
possessed a fine voice: he did -- a mellow, powerful bass, into
which he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way through
the ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely. I
waited till the last deep and full vibration had expired -- till
the tide of talk, checked an instant, had resumed its flow; I then
quitted my sheltered corner and made my exit by the side-door,
which was fortunately near. Thence a narrow passage led into the
hall: in crossing it, I perceived my sandal was loose; I stopped
to tie it, kneeling down for that purpose on the mat at the foot of
the staircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman
came out; rising hastily, I stood face to face with him: it was
"How do you do?" he asked.
"I am very well, sir."
"Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?"
I thought I might have retorted the question on him who
put it: but I would not take that freedom. I answered -
"I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir."
"What have you been doing during my absence?"
"Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual."
"And getting a good deal paler than you were -- as I saw at first
sight. What is the matter?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
"Did you take any cold that night you half drowned me?"
"Not the least."
"Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early."
"I am tired, sir."
He looked at me for a minute.
"And a little depressed," he said. "What about? Tell me."
"Nothing -- nothing, sir. I am not depressed."
"But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more
words would bring tears to your eyes -- indeed, they are there
now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash
and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal
dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what
all this means. Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that
so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room
every evening; it is my wish; don't neglect it. Now go, and send
Sophie for Adele. Good-night, my -- " He stopped, bit his lip,
and abruptly left me.
Merry days were these at Thornfield Hall; and busy days too: how
different from the first three months of stillness, monotony, and
solitude I had passed beneath its roof! All sad feelings seemed
now driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten: there
was life everywhere, movement all day long. You could not now
traverse the gallery, once so hushed, nor enter the front chambers,
once so tenantless, without encountering a smart lady's-maid or a
The kitchen, the butler's pantry, the servants' hall, the entrance
hall, were equally alive; and the saloons were only left void and
still when the blue sky and halcyon sunshine of the genial spring
weather called their occupants out into the grounds. Even when
that weather was broken, and continuous rain set in for some days,
no damp seemed cast over enjoyment: indoor amusements only became
more lively and varied, in consequence of the stop put to outdoor
I wondered what they were going to do the first evening a change
of entertainment was proposed: they spoke of "playing charades,"
but in my ignorance I did not understand the term. The servants
were called in, the dining-room tables wheeled away, the lights
otherwise disposed, the chairs placed in a semicircle opposite the
arch. While Mr. Rochester and the other gentlemen directed these
alterations, the ladies were running up and down stairs ringing
for their maids. Mrs. Fairfax was summoned to give information
respecting the resources of the house in shawls, dresses, draperies of
any kind; and certain wardrobes of the third storey were ransacked,
and their contents, in the shape of brocaded and hooped petticoats,
satin sacques, black modes, lace lappets, &c., were brought down in
armfuls by the abigails; then a selection was made, and such things
as were chosen were carried to the boudoir within the drawing-room.
Meantime, Mr. Rochester had again summoned the ladies round him,
and was selecting certain of their number to be of his party. "Miss
Ingram is mine, of course," said he: afterwards he named the two
Misses Eshton, and Mrs. Dent. He looked at me: I happened to be
near him, as I had been fastening the clasp of Mrs. Dent's bracelet,
which had got loose.
"Will you play?" he asked. I shook my head. He did not insist,
which I rather feared he would have done; he allowed me to return
quietly to my usual seat.
He and his aids now withdrew behind the curtain: the other party,
which was headed by Colonel Dent, sat down on the crescent of chairs.
One of the gentlemen, Mr. Eshton, observing me, seemed to propose
that I should be asked to join them; but Lady Ingram instantly
negatived the notion.
"No," I heard her say: "she looks too stupid for any game of the
Ere long a bell tinkled, and the curtain drew up. Within the arch,
the bulky figure of Sir George Lynn, whom Mr. Rochester had likewise
chosen, was seen enveloped in a white sheet: before him, on
a table, lay open a large book; and at his side stood Amy Eshton,
draped in Mr. Rochester's cloak, and holding a book in her hand.
Somebody, unseen, rang the bell merrily; then Adele (who had insisted
on being one of her guardian's party), bounded forward, scattering
round her the contents of a basket of flowers she carried on her
arm. Then appeared the magnificent figure of Miss Ingram, clad
in white, a long veil on her head, and a wreath of roses round her
brow; by her side walked Mr. Rochester, and together they drew near
the table. They knelt; while Mrs. Dent and Louisa Eshton, dressed
also in white, took up their stations behind them. A ceremony
followed, in dumb show, in which it was easy to recognise the
pantomime of a marriage. At its termination, Colonel Dent and his
party consulted in whispers for two minutes, then the Colonel called out -
"Bride!" Mr. Rochester bowed, and the curtain fell.
A considerable interval elapsed before it again rose. Its second
rising displayed a more elaborately prepared scene than the last.
The drawing-room, as I have before observed, was raised two steps
above the dining-room, and on the top of the upper step, placed a
yard or two back within the room, appeared a large marble basin --
which I recognised as an ornament of the conservatory -- where it
usually stood, surrounded by exotics, and tenanted by gold fish
-- and whence it must have been transported with some trouble, on
account of its size and weight.
Seated on the carpet, by the side of this basin, was seen Mr.
Rochester, costumed in shawls, with a turban on his head. His
dark eyes and swarthy skin and Paynim features suited the costume
exactly: he looked the very model of an Eastern emir, an agent
or a victim of the bowstring. Presently advanced into view Miss
Ingram. She, too, was attired in oriental fashion: a crimson
scarf tied sash-like round the waist: an embroidered handkerchief
knotted about her temples; her beautifully-moulded arms bare, one
of them upraised in the act of supporting a pitcher, poised gracefully
on her head. Both her cast of form and feature, her complexion and
her general air, suggested the idea of some Israelitish princess
of the patriarchal days; and such was doubtless the character she
intended to represent.
She approached the basin, and bent over it as if to fill her pitcher;
she again lifted it to her head. The personage on the well-brink
now seemed to accost her; to make some request:- "She hasted, let
down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him to drink." From the
bosom of his robe he then produced a casket, opened it and showed
magnificent bracelets and earrings; she acted astonishment and
admiration; kneeling, he laid the treasure at her feet; incredulity
and delight were expressed by her looks and gestures; the stranger
fastened the bracelets on her arms and the rings in her ears. It
was Eliezer and Rebecca: the camels only were wanting.
The divining party again laid their heads together: apparently they
could not agree about the word or syllable the scene illustrated.
Colonel Dent, their spokesman, demanded "the tableau of the whole;"
whereupon the curtain again descended.
On its third rising only a portion of the drawing-room was disclosed;
the rest being concealed by a screen, hung with some sort of dark
and coarse drapery. The marble basin was removed; in its place,
stood a deal table and a kitchen chair: these objects were visible
by a very dim light proceeding from a horn lantern, the wax candles
being all extinguished.
Amidst this sordid scene, sat a man with his clenched hands resting
on his knees, and his eyes bent on the ground. I knew Mr. Rochester;
though the begrimed face, the disordered dress (his coat hanging
loose from one arm, as if it had been almost torn from his back
in a scuffle), the desperate and scowling countenance, the rough,
bristling hair might well have disguised him. As he moved, a chain
clanked; to his wrists were attached fetters.
"Bridewell!" exclaimed Colonel Dent, and the charade was solved.
A sufficient interval having elapsed for the performers to resume
their ordinary costume, they re-entered the dining-room. Mr. Rochester
led in Miss Ingram; she was complimenting him on his acting.
"Do you know," said she, "that, of the three characters, I liked
you in the last best? Oh, had you but lived a few years earlier,
what a gallant gentleman-highwayman you would have made!"
"Is all the soot washed from my face?" he asked, turning it towards
"Alas! yes: the more's the pity! Nothing could be more becoming
to your complexion than that ruffian's rouge."
"You would like a hero of the road then?"
"An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an
Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine
"Well, whatever I am, remember you are my wife; we were married an
hour since, in the presence of all these witnesses." She giggled,
and her colour rose.
"Now, Dent," continued Mr. Rochester, "it is your turn." And as
the other party withdrew, he and his band took the vacated seats.
Miss Ingram placed herself at her leader's right hand; the other
diviners filled the chairs on each side of him and her. I did
not now watch the actors; I no longer waited with interest for the
curtain to rise; my attention was absorbed by the spectators; my
eyes, erewhile fixed on the arch, were now irresistibly attracted
to the semicircle of chairs. What charade Colonel Dent and his party
played, what word they chose, how they acquitted themselves, I no
longer remember; but I still see the consultation which followed
each scene: I see Mr. Rochester turn to Miss Ingram, and Miss
Ingram to him; I see her incline her head towards him, till the
jetty curls almost touch his shoulder and wave against his cheek;
I hear their mutual whisperings; I recall their interchanged glances;
and something even of the feeling roused by the spectacle returns
in memory at this moment.
I have told you, reader, that I had learnt to love Mr. Rochester:
I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had
ceased to notice me -- because I might pass hours in his presence,
and he would never once turn his eyes in my direction -- because
I saw all his attentions appropriated by a great lady, who scorned
to touch me with the hem of her robes as she passed; who, if ever
her dark and imperious eye fell on me by chance, would withdraw
it instantly as from an object too mean to merit observation. I
could not unlove him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this
very lady -- because I read daily in her a proud security in his
intentions respecting her -- because I witnessed hourly in him
a style of courtship which, if careless and choosing rather to be
sought than to seek, was yet, in its very carelessness, captivating,
and in its very pride, irresistible.
There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances,
though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader,
to engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume
to be jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram's. But I was not jealous:
or very rarely; -- the nature of the pain I suffered could not be
explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy:
she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming
paradox; I mean what I say. She was very showy, but she was not
genuine: she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments; but
her mind was poor, her heart barren by nature: nothing bloomed
spontaneously on that soil; no unforced natural fruit delighted by
its freshness. She was not good; she was not original: she used
to repeat sounding phrases from books: she never offered, nor had,
an opinion of her own. She advocated a high tone of sentiment; but
she did not know the sensations of sympathy and pity; tenderness and
truth were not in her. Too often she betrayed this, by the undue
vent she gave to a spiteful antipathy she had conceived against
little Adele: pushing her away with some contumelious epithet if
she happened to approach her; sometimes ordering her from the room,
and always treating her with coldness and acrimony. Other eyes
besides mine watched these manifestations of character -- watched
them closely, keenly, shrewdly. Yes; the future bridegroom,
Mr. Rochester himself, exercised over his intended a ceaseless
surveillance; and it was from this sagacity -- this guardedness of
his -- this perfect, clear consciousness of his fair one's defects
-- this obvious absence of passion in his sentiments towards her,
that my ever-torturing pain arose.
I saw he was going to marry her, for family, perhaps political
reasons, because her rank and connections suited him; I felt he
had not given her his love, and that her qualifications were ill
adapted to win from him that treasure. This was the point -- this
was where the nerve was touched and teased -- this was where the
fever was sustained and fed: SHE COULD NOT CHARM HIM.
If she had managed the victory at once, and he had yielded and
sincerely laid his heart at her feet, I should have covered my face,
turned to the wall, and (figuratively) have died to them. If Miss
Ingram had been a good and noble woman, endowed with force, fervour,
kindness, sense, I should have had one vital struggle with two tigers
-- jealousy and despair: then, my heart torn out and devoured, I
should have admired her -- acknowledged her excellence, and been
quiet for the rest of my days: and the more absolute her superiority,
the deeper would have been my admiration -- the more truly tranquil
my quiescence. But as matters really stood, to watch Miss Ingram's
efforts at fascinating Mr. Rochester, to witness their repeated
failure -- herself unconscious that they did fail; vainly fancying
that each shaft launched hit the mark, and infatuatedly pluming
herself on success, when her pride and self-complacency repelled
further and further what she wished to allure -- to witness THIS,
was to be at once under ceaseless excitation and ruthless restraint.
Because, when she failed, I saw how she might have succeeded. Arrows
that continually glanced off from Mr. Rochester's breast and fell
harmless at his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand,
have quivered keen in his proud heart -- have called love into his
stern eye, and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still,
without weapons a silent conquest might have been won.
"Why can she not influence him more, when she is privileged to draw
so near to him?" I asked myself. "Surely she cannot truly like
him, or not like him with true affection! If she did, she need not
coin her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly,
manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous. It seems
to me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying
little and looking less, get nigher his heart. I have seen in his
face a far different expression from that which hardens it now while
she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself:
it was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres;
and one had but to accept it -- to answer what he asked without
pretension, to address him when needful without grimace -- and
it increased and grew kinder and more genial, and warmed one like
a fostering sunbeam. How will she manage to please him when they
are married? I do not think she will manage it; and yet it might
be managed; and his wife might, I verily believe, be the very
happiest woman the sun shines on."
I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester's project
of marrying for interest and connections. It surprised me when I
first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a
man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his choice
of a wife; but the longer I considered the position, education, &c.,
of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging and blaming
either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to ideas and
principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their childhood.
All their class held these principles: I supposed, then, they had
reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom. It seemed
to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to my bosom
only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness of the
advantages to the husband's own happiness offered by this plan
convinced me that there must be arguments against its general
adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all
the world would act as I wished to act.
But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to
my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once
kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly been my endeavour to study
all sides of his character: to take the bad with the good; and
from the just weighing of both, to form an equitable judgment. Now
I saw no bad. The sarcasm that had repelled, the harshness that
had startled me once, were only like keen condiments in a choice
dish: their presence was pungent, but their absence would be felt
as comparatively insipid. And as for the vague something -- was it
a sinister or a sorrowful, a designing or a desponding expression?
-- that opened upon a careful observer, now and then, in his eye,
and closed again before one could fathom the strange depth partially
disclosed; that something which used to make me fear and shrink,
as if I had been wandering amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had
suddenly felt the ground quiver and seen it gape: that something,
I, at intervals, beheld still; and with throbbing heart, but not
with palsied nerves. Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only
to dare -- to divine it; and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because
one day she might look into the abyss at her leisure, explore its
secrets and analyse their nature.
Meantime, while I thought only of my master and his future bride
-- saw only them, heard only their discourse, and considered only
their movements of importance -- the rest of the party were occupied
with their own separate interests and pleasures. The Ladies Lynn
and Ingram continued to consort in solemn conferences, where they
nodded their two turbans at each other, and held up their four
hands in confronting gestures of surprise, or mystery, or horror,
according to the theme on which their gossip ran, like a pair of
magnified puppets. Mild Mrs. Dent talked with good-natured Mrs.
Eshton; and the two sometimes bestowed a courteous word or smile
on me. Sir George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and Mr. Eshton discussed
politics, or county affairs, or justice business. Lord Ingram
flirted with Amy Eshton; Louisa played and sang to and with one
of the Messrs. Lynn; and Mary Ingram listened languidly to the
gallant speeches of the other. Sometimes all, as with one consent,
suspended their by-play to observe and listen to the principal actors:
for, after all, Mr. Rochester and -- because closely connected
with him -- Miss Ingram were the life and soul of the party. If
he was absent from the room an hour, a perceptible dulness seemed
to steal over the spirits of his guests; and his re-entrance was
sure to give a fresh impulse to the vivacity of conversation.
The want of his animating influence appeared to be peculiarly felt
one day that he had been summoned to Millcote on business, and was
not likely to return till late. The afternoon was wet: a walk
the party had proposed to take to see a gipsy camp, lately pitched
on a common beyond Hay, was consequently deferred. Some of the
gentlemen were gone to the stables: the younger ones, together with
the younger ladies, were playing billiards in the billiard-room.
The dowagers Ingram and Lynn sought solace in a quiet game at cards.
Blanche Ingram, after having repelled, by supercilious taciturnity,
some efforts of Mrs. Dent and Mrs. Eshton to draw her into
conversation, had first murmured over some sentimental tunes and
airs on the piano, and then, having fetched a novel from the library,
had flung herself in haughty listlessness on a sofa, and prepared
to beguile, by the spell of fiction, the tedious hours of absence.
The room and the house were silent: only now and then the merriment
of the billiard-players was heard from above.
It was verging on dusk, and the clock had already given warning of
the hour to dress for dinner, when little Adele, who knelt
by me in the drawing-room window-seat, suddenly exclaimed -
"Voile, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!"
I turned, and Miss Ingram darted forwards from her sofa: the
others, too, looked up from their several occupations; for at the
same time a crunching of wheels and a splashing tramp of horse-hoofs
became audible on the wet gravel. A post-chaise was approaching.
"What can possess him to come home in that style?" said Miss Ingram.
"He rode Mesrour (the black horse), did he not, when he went out?
and Pilot was with him:- what has he done with the animals?"
As she said this, she approached her tall person and ample garments
so near the window, that I was obliged to bend back almost to the
breaking of my spine: in her eagerness she did not observe me at
first, but when she did, she curled her lip and moved to another
casement. The post-chaise stopped; the driver rang the door-bell,
and a gentleman alighted attired in travelling garb; but it was not
Mr. Rochester; it was a tall, fashionable-looking man, a stranger.
"How provoking!" exclaimed Miss Ingram: "you tiresome monkey!"
(apostrophising Adele), "who perched you up in the window to give
false intelligence?" and she cast on me an angry glance, as if I
were in fault.
Some parleying was audible in the hall, and soon the new-comer
entered. He bowed to Lady Ingram, as deeming her the eldest lady
"It appears I come at an inopportune time, madam," said he, "when
my friend, Mr. Rochester, is from home; but I arrive from a very
long journey, and I think I may presume so far on old and intimate
acquaintance as to instal myself here till he returns."
His manner was polite; his accent, in speaking, struck me as being
somewhat unusual, -- not precisely foreign, but still not altogether
English: his age might be about Mr. Rochester's, -- between thirty
and forty; his complexion was singularly sallow: otherwise he was
a fine-looking man, at first sight especially. On closer examination,
you detected something in his face that displeased, or rather that
failed to please. His features were regular, but too relaxed: his
eye was large and well cut, but the life looking out of it was a
tame, vacant life -- at least so I thought.
The sound of the dressing-bell dispersed the party. It was not
till after dinner that I saw him again: he then seemed quite at
his ease. But I liked his physiognomy even less than before: it
struck me as being at the same time unsettled and inanimate. His
eye wandered, and had no meaning in its wandering: this gave him
an odd look, such as I never remembered to have seen. For a handsome
and not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there
was no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape: no
firmness in that aquiline nose and small cherry mouth; there was
no thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank,
As I sat in my usual nook, and looked at him with the light of
the girandoles on the mantelpiece beaming full over him -- for he
occupied an arm-chair drawn close to the fire, and kept shrinking
still nearer, as if he were cold, I compared him with Mr. Rochester.
I think (with deference be it spoken) the contrast could not be
much greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon: between
a meek sheep and the rough-coated keen-eyed dog, its guardian.
He had spoken of Mr. Rochester as an old friend. A curious friendship
theirs must have been: a pointed illustration, indeed, of the old
adage that "extremes meet."
Two or three of the gentlemen sat near him, and I caught at times
scraps of their conversation across the room. At first I could
not make much sense of what I heard; for the discourse of Louisa
Eshton and Mary Ingram, who sat nearer to me, confused the fragmentary
sentences that reached me at intervals. These last were discussing
the stranger; they both called him "a beautiful man." Louisa
said he was "a love of a creature," and she "adored him;" and Mary
instanced his "pretty little mouth, and nice nose," as her ideal
of the charming.
"And what a sweet-tempered forehead he has!" cried Louisa, -- "so
smooth -- none of those frowning irregularities I dislike so much;
and such a placid eye and smile!"
And then, to my great relief, Mr. Henry Lynn summoned them to the
other side of the room, to settle some point about the deferred
excursion to Hay Common.
I was now able to concentrate my attention on the group by the fire,
and I presently gathered that the new-comer was called Mr. Mason;
then I learned that he was but just arrived in England, and that
he came from some hot country: which was the reason, doubtless,
his face was so sallow, and that he sat so near the hearth, and
wore a surtout in the house. Presently the words Jamaica, Kingston,
Spanish Town, indicated the West Indies as his residence; and it
was with no little surprise I gathered, ere long, that he had there
first seen and become acquainted with Mr. Rochester. He spoke
of his friend's dislike of the burning heats, the hurricanes, and
rainy seasons of that region. I knew Mr. Rochester had been a
traveller: Mrs. Fairfax had said so; but I thought the continent
of Europe had bounded his wanderings; till now I had never heard
a hint given of visits to more distant shores.
I was pondering these things, when an incident, and a somewhat
unexpected one, broke the thread of my musings. Mr. Mason, shivering
as some one chanced to open the door, asked for more coal to be
put on the fire, which had burnt out its flame, though its mass of
cinder still shone hot and red. The footman who brought the coal,
in going out, stopped near Mr. Eshton's chair, and said something
to him in a low voice, of which I heard only the words, "old woman,"
-- "quite troublesome."
"Tell her she shall be put in the stocks if she does not take
herself off," replied the magistrate.
"No -- stop!" interrupted Colonel Dent. "Don't send her away,
Eshton; we might turn the thing to account; better consult the
ladies." And speaking aloud, he continued -- "Ladies, you talked
of going to Hay Common to visit the gipsy camp; Sam here says that
one of the old Mother Bunches is in the servants' hall at this
moment, and insists upon being brought in before 'the quality,' to
tell them their fortunes. Would you like to see her?"
"Surely, colonel," cried Lady Ingram, "you would not encourage such
a low impostor? Dismiss her, by all means, at once!"
"But I cannot persuade her to go away, my lady," said the footman;
"nor can any of the servants: Mrs. Fairfax is with her just now,
entreating her to be gone; but she has taken a chair in the chimney-
comer, and says nothing shall stir her from it till she gets leave
to come in here."
"What does she want?" asked Mrs. Eshton.
"'To tell the gentry their fortunes,' she says, ma'am; and she
swears she must and will do it."
"What is she like?" inquired the Misses Eshton, in a breath.
"A shockingly ugly old creature, miss; almost as black as a crock."
"Why, she's a real sorceress!" cried Frederick Lynn. "Let us have
her in, of course."
"To be sure," rejoined his brother; "it would be a thousand pities
to throw away such a chance of fun."
"My dear boys, what are you thinking about?" exclaimed Mrs. Lynn.
"I cannot possibly countenance any such inconsistent proceeding,"
chimed in the Dowager Ingram.
"Indeed, mama, but you can -- and will," pronounced the haughty
voice of Blanche, as she turned round on the piano-stool; where
till now she had sat silent, apparently examining sundry sheets of
music. "I have a curiosity to hear my fortune told: therefore,
Sam, order the beldame forward."
"My darling Blanche! recollect -- "
"I do -- I recollect all you can suggest; and I must have my will
-- quick, Sam!"
"Yes -- yes -- yes!" cried all the juveniles, both ladies and
gentlemen. "Let her come -- it will be excellent sport!"
The footman still lingered. "She looks such a rough one," said
"Go!" ejaculated Miss Ingram, and the man went.
Excitement instantly seized the whole party: a running fire of
raillery and jests was proceeding when Sam returned.
"She won't come now," said he. "She says it's not her mission to
appear before the 'vulgar herd' (them's her words). I must show
her into a room by herself, and then those who wish to consult her
must go to her one by one."
"You see now, my queenly Blanche," began Lady Ingram, "she
encroaches. Be advised, my angel girl -- and -- "
"Show her into the library, of course," cut in the "angel girl." "It
is not my mission to listen to her before the vulgar herd either:
I mean to have her all to myself. Is there a fire in the library?"
"Yes, ma'am -- but she looks such a tinkler."
"Cease that chatter, blockhead! and do my bidding."
Again Sam vanished; and mystery, animation, expectation rose to
full flow once more.
"She's ready now," said the footman, as he reappeared. "She wishes
to know who will be her first visitor."
"I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies
go," said Colonel Dent.
"Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."
Sam went and returned.
"She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not
trouble themselves to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty
suppressing a titter, "any ladies either, except the young, and
"By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.
Miss Ingram rose solemnly: "I go first," she said, in a tone which
might have befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach
in the van of his men.
"Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause -- reflect!" was her mama's
cry; but she swept past her in stately silence, passed through
the door which Colonel Dent held open, and we heard her enter the
A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to
wring her hands: which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared
she felt, for her part, she never dared venture. Amy and Louisa
Eshton tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.
The minutes passed very slowly: fifteen were counted before the
library-door again opened. Miss Ingram returned to us through the
Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke? All eyes met her
with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of
rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry: she
walked stiffly to her seat, and took it in silence.
"Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram.
"What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.
"What did you think? How do you feel? -- Is she a real fortune-teller?"
demanded the Misses Eshton.
"Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon
me. Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited:
you seem, by the importance of you all -- my good mama included
-- ascribe to this matter, absolutely to believe we have a genuine
witch in the house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman.
I have seen a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion
the science of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell.
My whim is gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to
put the hag in the stocks to-morrow morning, as he threatened."
Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined
further conversation. I watched her for nearly half-an-hour: during
all that time she never turned a page, and her face grew momently
darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly expressive of disappointment.
She had obviously not heard anything to her advantage: and it
seemed to me, from her prolonged fit of gloom and taciturnity, that
she herself, notwithstanding her professed indifference, attached
undue importance to whatever revelations had been made her.
Meantime, Mary Ingram, Amy and Louisa Eshton, declared they dared
not go alone; and yet they all wished to go. A negotiation was opened
through the medium of the ambassador, Sam; and after much pacing
to and fro, till, I think, the said Sam's calves must have ached
with the exercise, permission was at last, with great difficulty,
extorted from the rigorous Sibyl, for the three to wait upon her
in a body.
Their visit was not so still as Miss Ingram's had been: we heard
hysterical giggling and little shrieks proceeding from the library;
and at the end of about twenty minutes they burst the door open,
and came running across the hall, as if they were half-scared out
of their wits.
"I am sure she is something not right!" they cried, one and all.
"She told us such things! She knows all about us!" and they sank
breathless into the various seats the gentlemen hastened to bring
Pressed for further explanation, they declared she had told them
of things they had said and done when they were mere children;
described books and ornaments they had in their boudoirs at home:
keepsakes that different relations had presented to them. They
affirmed that she had even divined their thoughts, and had whispered
in the ear of each the name of the person she liked best in the
world, and informed them of what they most wished for.
Here the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions to be further
enlightened on these two last-named points; but they got only
blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and titters, in return for their
importunity. The matrons, meantime, offered vinaigrettes and
wielded fans; and again and again reiterated the expression of
their concern that their warning had not been taken in time; and
the elder gentlemen laughed, and the younger urged their services
on the agitated fair ones.
In the midst of the tumult, and while my eyes and ears were fully
engaged in the scene before me, I heard a hem close at my elbow:
I turned, and saw Sam.
"If you please, miss, the gipsy declares that there is another
young single lady in the room who has not been to her yet, and she
swears she will not go till she has seen all. I thought it must
be you: there is no one else for it. What shall I tell her?"
"Oh, I will go by all means," I answered: and I was glad of the
unexpected opportunity to gratify my much-excited curiosity. I
slipped out of the room, unobserved by any eye -- for the company
were gathered in one mass about the trembling trio just returned
-- and I closed the door quietly behind me.
"If you like, miss," said Sam, "I'll wait in the hall for you; and
if she frightens you, just call and I'll come in."
"No, Sam, return to the kitchen: I am not in the least afraid."
Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited.
The library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibyl
-- if Sibyl she were -- was seated snugly enough in an easy-chair
at the chimney-corner. She had on a red cloak and a black bonnet:
or rather, a broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied down with a striped
handkerchief under her chin. An extinguished candle stood on
the table; she was bending over the fire, and seemed reading in a
little black book, like a prayer-book, by the light of the blaze:
she muttered the words to herself, as most old women do, while she
read; she did not desist immediately on my entrance: it appeared
she wished to finish a paragraph.
I stood on the rug and warmed my hands, which were rather cold with
sitting at a distance from the drawing-room fire. I felt now as
composed as ever I did in my life: there was nothing indeed in
the gipsy's appearance to trouble one's calm. She shut her book
and slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet
I could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one. It looked
all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white
band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks,
or rather jaws: her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and
"Well, and you want your fortune told?" she said, in a voice as
decided as her glance, as harsh as her features.
"I don't care about it, mother; you may please yourself: but I
ought to warn you, I have no faith."
"It's like your impudence to say so: I expected it of you; I heard
it in your step as you crossed the threshold."
"Did you? You've a quick ear."
"I have; and a quick eye and a quick brain."
"You need them all in your trade."
"I do; especially when I've customers like you to deal with. Why
don't you tremble?"
"I'm not cold."
"Why don't you turn pale?"
"I am not sick."
"Why don't you consult my art?"
"I'm not silly."
The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage; she
then drew out a short black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke.
Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body,
took the pipe from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire,
said very deliberately -- "You are cold; you are sick; and you are
"Prove it," I rejoined.
"I will, in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no
contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick;
because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given
to man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer
as you may, you will not beckon it to approach, nor will you stir
one step to meet it where it waits you."
She again put her short black pipe to her lips, and renewed her
smoking with vigour.
"You might say all that to almost any one who you knew lived as a
solitary dependent in a great house."
"I might say it to almost any one: but would it be true of almost
"In my circumstances."
"Yes; just so, in YOUR circumstances: but find me another precisely
placed as you are."
"It would be easy to find you thousands."
"You could scarcely find me one. If you knew it, you are peculiarly
situated: very near happiness; yes, within reach of it. The
materials are all prepared; there only wants a movement to combine
them. Chance laid them somewhat apart; let them be once approached
and bliss results."
"I don't understand enigmas. I never could guess a riddle in my
"If you wish me to speak more plainly, show me your palm."
"And I must cross it with silver, I suppose?"
"To be sure."
I gave her a shilling: she put it into an old stocking-foot which
she took out of her pocket, and having tied it round and returned
it, she told me to hold out my hand. I did. She arched her face
to the palm, and pored over it without touching it.
"It is too fine," said she. "I can make nothing of such a hand as
that; almost without lines: besides, what is in a palm? Destiny
is not written there."
"I believe you," said I.
"No," she continued, "it is in the face: on the forehead, about
the eyes, in the lines of the mouth. Kneel, and lift up your head."
"Ah! now you are coming to reality," I said, as I obeyed her. "I
shall begin to put some faith in you presently."
I knelt within half a yard of her. She stirred the fire, so
that a ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the glare,
however, as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine,
"I wonder with what feelings you came to me to-night," she said,
when she had examined me a while. "I wonder what thoughts are busy
in your heart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with the
fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic-lantern:
just as little sympathetic communion passing between you and them
as if they were really mere shadows of human forms, and not the
"I feel tired often, sleepy sometimes, but seldom sad."
"Then you have some secret hope to buoy you up and please you with
whispers of the future?"
"Not I. The utmost I hope is, to save money enough out of my earnings
to set up a school some day in a little house rented by myself."
"A mean nutriment for the spirit to exist on: and sitting
in that window-seat (you see I know your habits ) -- "
"You have learned them from the servants."
"Ah! you think yourself sharp. Well, perhaps I have: to speak
truth, I have an acquaintance with one of them, Mrs. Poole -- "
I started to my feet when I heard the name.
"You have -- have you?" thought I; "there is diablerie in the
business after all, then!"
"Don't be alarmed," continued the strange being; "she's a safe
hand is Mrs. Poole: close and quiet; any one may repose confidence
in her. But, as I was saying: sitting in that window-seat, do
you think of nothing but your future school? Have you no present
interest in any of the company who occupy the sofas and chairs
before you? Is there not one face you study? one figure whose
movements you follow with at least curiosity?"
"I like to observe all the faces and all the figures."
"But do you never single one from the rest -- or it may be, two?"
"I do frequently; when the gestures or looks of a pair seem telling
a tale: it amuses me to watch them."
"What tale do you like best to hear?"
"Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme
-- courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe -- marriage."
"And do you like that monotonous theme?"
"Positively, I don't care about it: it is nothing to me."
"Nothing to you? When a lady, young and full of life and
health, charming with beauty and endowed with the gifts of rank
and fortune, sits and smiles in the eyes of a gentleman you -- "
"You know -- and perhaps think well of."
"I don't know the gentlemen here. I have scarcely interchanged
a syllable with one of them; and as to thinking well of them, I
consider some respectable, and stately, and middle-aged, and others
young, dashing, handsome, and lively: but certainly they are all
at liberty to be the recipients of whose smiles they please, without
my feeling disposed to consider the transaction of any moment to
"You don't know the gentlemen here? You have not exchanged a
syllable with one of them? Will you say that of the master of the
"He is not at home."
"A profound remark! A most ingenious quibble! He went to Millcote
this morning, and will be back here to-night or to-morrow: does
that circumstance exclude him from the list of your acquaintance
-- blot him, as it were, out of existence?"
"No; but I can scarcely see what Mr. Rochester has to do with the
theme you had introduced."
"I was talking of ladies smiling in the eyes of gentlemen; and of
late so many smiles have been shed into Mr. Rochester's eyes that
they overflow like two cups filled above the brim: have you never
"Mr. Rochester has a right to enjoy the society of his guests."
"No question about his right: but have you never observed that,
of all the tales told here about matrimony, Mr. Rochester has been
favoured with the most lively and the most continuous?"
"The eagerness of a listener quickens the tongue of a narrator." I
said this rather to myself than to the gipsy, whose strange talk,
voice, manner, had by this time wrapped me in a kind of dream. One
unexpected sentence came from her lips after another, till I got
involved in a web of mystification; and wondered what unseen spirit
had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and
taking record of every pulse.
"Eagerness of a listener!" repeated she: "yes; Mr. Rochester has
sat by the hour, his ear inclined to the fascinating lips that took
such delight in their task of communicating; and Mr. Rochester was
so willing to receive and looked so grateful for the pastime given
him; you have noticed this?"
"Grateful! I cannot remember detecting gratitude in his face."
"Detecting! You have analysed, then. And what did you detect, if
I said nothing.
"You have seen love: have you not? -- and, looking forward, you
have seen him married, and beheld his bride happy?"
"Humph! Not exactly. Your witch's skill is rather at fault
"What the devil have you seen, then?"
"Never mind: I came here to inquire, not to confess. Is it known
that Mr. Rochester is to be married?"
"Yes; and to the beautiful Miss Ingram."
"Appearances would warrant that conclusion: and, no doubt (though,
with an audacity that wants chastising out of you, you seem to
question it), they will be a superlatively happy pair. He must
love such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably
she loves him, or, if not his person, at least his purse. I know
she considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree;
though (God pardon me!) I told her something on that point about
an hour ago which made her look wondrous grave: the corners of her
mouth fell half an inch. I would advise her blackaviced suitor to
look out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll,
-- he's dished -- "
"But, mother, I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I
came to hear my own; and you have told me nothing of it."
"Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait
contradicted another. Chance has meted you a measure of happiness:
that I know. I knew it before I came here this evening. She has
laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends
on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether
you will do so, is the problem I study. Kneel again on the rug."
"Don't keep me long; the fire scorches me."
I knelt. She did not stoop towards me, but only gazed,
leaning back in her chair. She began muttering, -
"The flame flickers in the eye; the eye shines like dew; it looks
soft and full of feeling; it smiles at my jargon: it is susceptible;
impression follows impression through its clear sphere; where it
ceases to smile, it is sad; an unconscious lassitude weighs on the
lid: that signifies melancholy resulting from loneliness. It turns
from me; it will not suffer further scrutiny; it seems to deny,
by a mocking glance, the truth of the discoveries I have already
made, -- to disown the charge both of sensibility and chagrin:
its pride and reserve only confirm me in my opinion. The eye is
"As to the mouth, it delights at times in laughter; it is disposed
to impart all that the brain conceives; though I daresay it would
be silent on much the heart experiences. Mobile and flexible,
it was never intended to be compressed in the eternal silence of
solitude: it is a mouth which should speak much and smile often,
and have human affection for its interlocutor. That feature too
"I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that
brow professes to say, -- 'I can live alone, if self-respect, and
circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy
bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me
alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered
only at a price I cannot afford to give.' The forehead declares,
'Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the
feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may
rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires
may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still
have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in
every decision. Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass
by: but I shall follow the guiding of that still small voice which
interprets the dictates of conscience.'
"Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected. I have
formed my plans -- right plans I deem them -- and in them I have
attended to the claims of conscience, the counsels of reason. I
know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup
of bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse
were detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution --
such is not my taste. I wish to foster, not to blight -- to earn
gratitude, not to wring tears of blood -- no, nor of brine: my
harvest must be in smiles, in endearments, in sweet -- That will
do. I think I rave in a kind of exquisite delirium. I should wish
now to protract this moment ad infinitum; but I dare not. So far
I have governed myself thoroughly. I have acted as I inwardly swore
I would act; but further might try me beyond my strength. Rise,
Miss Eyre: leave me; the play is played out'."
Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I
dream still? The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her
gesture, and all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass
-- as the speech of my own tongue. I got up, but did not go. I
looked; I stirred the fire, and I looked again: but she drew her
bonnet and her bandage closer about her face, and again beckoned me
to depart. The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused
now, and on the alert for discoveries, I at once noticed that
hand. It was no more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was
a rounded supple member, with smooth fingers, symmetrically turned;
a broad ring flashed on the little finger, and stooping forward,
I looked at it, and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before.
Again I looked at the face; which was no longer turned from me --
on the contrary, the bonnet was doffed, the bandage displaced, the
"Well, Jane, do you know me?" asked the familiar voice.
"Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then -- "
"But the string is in a knot -- help me."
"Break it, sir."
"There, then -- 'Off, ye lendings!'" And Mr. Rochester stepped
out of his disguise.
"Now, sir, what a strange idea!"
"But well carried out, eh? Don't you think so?"
"With the ladies you must have managed well."
"But not with you?"
"You did not act the character of a gipsy with me."
"What character did I act? My own?"
"No; some unaccountable one. In short, I believe you have been
trying to draw me out -- or in; you have been talking nonsense to
make me talk nonsense. It is scarcely fair, sir."
"Do you forgive me, Jane?"
"I cannot tell till I have thought it all over. If, on reflection,
I find I have fallen into no great absurdity, I shall try to forgive
you; but it was not right."
"Oh, you have been very correct -- very careful, very sensible."
I reflected, and thought, on the whole, I had. It was a comfort;
but, indeed, I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of
the interview. Something of masquerade I suspected. I knew gipsies
and fortune-tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old
woman had expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice,
her anxiety to conceal her features. But my mind had been running
on Grace Poole -- that living enigma, that mystery of mysteries,
as I considered her. I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.
"Well," said he, "what are you musing about? What does that grave
"Wonder and self-congratulation, sir. I have your permission to
retire now, I suppose?"
"No; stay a moment; and tell me what the people in the drawing-room
yonder are doing."
"Discussing the gipsy, I daresay."
"Sit down! -- Let me hear what they said about me."
"I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near eleven o'clock.
Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger has arrived here
since you left this morning?"
"A stranger! -- no; who can it be? I expected no one; is he gone?"
"No; he said he had known you long, and that he could take the
liberty of installing himself here till you returned."
"The devil he did! Did he give his name?"
"His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the West Indies; from
Spanish Town, in Jamaica, I think."
Mr. Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my hand, as if
to lead me to a chair. As I spoke he gave my wrist a convulsive
grip; the smile on his lips froze: apparently a spasm caught his
"Mason! -- the West Indies!" he said, in the tone one might fancy
a speaking automaton to enounce its single words; "Mason! -- the
West Indies!" he reiterated; and he went over the syllables three
times, growing, in the intervals of speaking, whiter than ashes:
he hardly seemed to know what he was doing.
"Do you feel ill, sir?" I inquired.
"Jane, I've got a blow; I've got a blow, Jane!" He staggered.
"Oh, lean on me, sir."
"Jane, you offered me your shoulder once before; let me have it
"Yes, sir, yes; and my arm."
He sat down, and made me sit beside him. Holding my hand in both
his own, he chafed it; gazing on me, at the same time, with the
most troubled and dreary look.
"My little friend!" said he, "I wish I were in a quiet island
with only you; and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections
removed from me."
"Can I help you, sir? -- I'd give my life to serve you."
"Jane, if aid is wanted, I'll seek it at your hands; I promise you
"Thank you, sir. Tell me what to do, -- I'll try, at least, to do
"Fetch me now, Jane, a glass of wine from the dining-room: they
will be at supper there; and tell me if Mason is with them, and
what he is doing."
I went. I found all the party in the dining-room at supper, as Mr.
Rochester had said; they were not seated at table, -- the supper was
arranged on the sideboard; each had taken what he chose, and they
stood about here and there in groups, their plates and glasses in
their hands. Every one seemed in high glee; laughter and conversation
were general and animated. Mr. Mason stood near the fire, talking
to Colonel and Mrs. Dent, and appeared as merry as any of them. I
filled a wine-glass (I saw Miss Ingram watch me frowningly as I did
so: she thought I was taking a liberty, I daresay), and I returned
to the library.
Mr. Rochester's extreme pallor had disappeared, and he looked once
more firm and stern. He took the glass from my hand.
"Here is to your health, ministrant spirit!" he said. He swallowed
the contents and returned it to me. "What are they doing, Jane?"
"Laughing and talking, sir."
"They don't look grave and mysterious, as if they had heard something
"Not at all: they are full of jests and gaiety."
"He was laughing too."
"If all these people came in a body and spat at me, what would you
"Turn them out of the room, sir, if I could."
He half smiled. "But if I were to go to them, and they only looked
at me coldly, and whispered sneeringly amongst each other, and then
dropped off and left me one by one, what then? Would you go with
"I rather think not, sir: I should have more pleasure in staying
"To comfort me?"
"Yes, sir, to comfort you, as well as I could."
"And if they laid you under a ban for adhering to me?"
"I, probably, should know nothing about their ban; and if I did,
I should care nothing about it."
"Then, you could dare censure for my sake?"
"I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my adherence;
as you, I am sure, do."
"Go back now into the room; step quietly up to Mason, and whisper
in his ear that Mr. Rochester is come and wishes to see him: show
him in here and then leave me."
I did his behest. The company all stared at me as I passed straight
among them. I sought Mr. Mason, delivered the message, and preceded
him from the room: I ushered him into the library, and then I went
At a late hour, after I had been in bed some time, I heard the
visitors repair to their chambers: I distinguished Mr. Rochester's
voice, and heard him say, "This way, Mason; this is your room."
He spoke cheerfully: the gay tones set my heart at ease. I was
I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also
to let down my window-blind. The consequence was, that when the
moon, which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in
her course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked
in at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.
Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk --
silver-white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn;
I half rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.
Good God! What a cry!
The night -- its silence -- its rest, was rent in twain by a savage,
a sharp, a shrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield
My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was
paralysed. The cry died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever
being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it: not
the widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession,
send out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie. The thing
delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.
It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And
overhead -- yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling -- I now
heard a struggle: a deadly one it seemed from the noise;
and a half-smothered voice shouted -
"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.
"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and
stamping went on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:-
"Rochester! Rochester! for God's sake, come!"
A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery.
Another step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and
there was silence.
I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I issued
from my apartment. The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations,
terrified murmurs sounded in every room; door after door unclosed;
one looked out and another looked out; the gallery filled. Gentlemen
and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh! what is it?" --
"Who is hurt?" -- "What has happened?" -- "Fetch a light!" -- "Is
it fire?" -- "Are there robbers?" -- "Where shall we run?" was
demanded confusedly on all hands. But for the moonlight they would
have been in complete darkness. They ran to and fro; they crowded
together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion was inextricable.
"Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent. "I cannot
find him in his bed."
"Here! here!" was shouted in return. "Be composed, all of you:
And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester
advanced with a candle: he had just descended from the upper storey.
One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm: it was
"What awful event has taken place?" said she. "Speak! let us
know the worst at once!"
"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses
Eshton were clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast
white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.
"All's right! -- all's right!" he cried. "It's a mere rehearsal of
Much Ado about Nothing. Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax dangerous."
And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks. Calming
himself by an effort, he added -
"A servant has had the nightmare; that is all. She's an excitable,
nervous person: she construed her dream into an apparition, or
something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.
Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the
house is settled, she cannot be looked after. Gentlemen, have the
goodness to set the ladies the example. Miss Ingram, I am sure
you will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors. Amy and
Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.
Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead certainty,
if you stay in this chill gallery any longer."
And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived
to get them all once more enclosed in their separate dormitories.
I did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed,
as unnoticed I had left it.
Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed
myself carefully. The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the
words that had been uttered, had probably been heard only by me;
for they had proceeded from the room above mine: but they assured
me that it was not a servant's dream which had thus struck horror
through the house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had given
was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests. I dressed,
then, to be ready for emergencies. When dressed, I sat a long
time by the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered
fields and waiting for I knew not what. It seemed to me that some
event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.
No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually,
and in about an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a
desert. It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
Meantime the moon declined: she was about to set. Not liking to
sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,
dressed as I was. I left the window, and moved with little noise
across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautious
hand tapped low at the door.
"Am I wanted?" I asked.
"Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master's.
"Come out, then, quietly."
I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.
"I want you," he said: "come this way: take your time, and make
My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as
a cat. He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in
the dark, low corridor of the fateful third storey: I had followed
and stood at his side.
"Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.
"Have you any salts -- volatile salts?"
"Go back and fetch both."
I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my
drawer, and once more retraced my steps. He still waited; he held
a key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors, he
put it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.
"You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"
"I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet."
I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no
"Just give me your hand," he said: "it will not do to risk a
I put my fingers into his. "Warm and steady," was his remark: he
turned the key and opened the door.
I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs.
Fairfax showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but
the tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door
apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open;
a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling,
snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling. Mr. Rochester,
putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went
forward to the inner apartment. A shout of laughter greeted his
entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace Poole's own goblin
ha! ha! SHE then was there. He made some sort of arrangement
without speaking, though I heard a low voice address him: he came
out and closed the door behind him.
"Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a
large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable
portion of the chamber. An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a
man sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still;
his head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the
candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifeless
face -- the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side,
and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.
"Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched
a basin of water from the washstand: "Hold that," said he. I
obeyed. He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the
corpse-like face; he asked for my smelling-bottle, and applied it
to the nostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned.
Mr. Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and
shoulder were bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fast
"Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.
"Pooh! No -- a mere scratch. Don't be so overcome, man: bear
up! I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself: you'll be able to
be removed by morning, I hope. Jane," he continued.
"I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for
an hour, or perhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I
do when it returns: if he feels faint, you will put the glass of
water on that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose. You
will not speak to him on any pretext -- and -- Richard, it will be
at the peril of your life if you speak to her: open your lips --
agitate yourself- -and I'll not answer for the consequences."
Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear,
either of death or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse
him. Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and
I proceeded to use it as he had done. He watched me a second,
then saying, "Remember! -- No conversation," he left the room. I
experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and
the sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.
Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic
cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes
and hands; a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:
yes -- that was appalling -- the rest I could bear; but I shuddered
at the thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.
I must keep to my post, however. I must watch this ghastly
countenance -- these blue, still lips forbidden to unclose --
these eyes now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room,
now fixing on me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror. I must
dip my hand again and again in the basin of blood and water, and
wipe away the trickling gore. I must see the light of the unsnuffed
candle wane on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought,
antique tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of
the vast old bed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great
cabinet opposite -- whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore,
in grim design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in
its separate panel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose
an ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.
According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered
here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke,
that bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon
the devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed
gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor --
of Satan himself -- in his subordinate's form.
Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for
the movements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.
But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound: all the
night I heard but three sounds at three long intervals, -- a step
creak, a momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a
deep human groan.
Then my own thoughts worried me. What crime was this that lived
incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled
nor subdued by the owner? -- what mystery, that broke out now in
fire and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature
was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered
the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking
bird of prey?
And this man I bent over -- this commonplace, quiet stranger --
how had he become involved in the web of horror? and why had the
Fury flown at him? What made him seek this quarter of the house
at an untimely season, when he should have been asleep in bed? I
had heard Mr. Rochester assign him an apartment below -- what
brought him here! And why, now, was he so tame under the violence
or treachery done him? Why did he so quietly submit to the
concealment Mr. Rochester enforced? Why DID Mr. Rochester enforce
this concealment? His guest had been outraged, his own life
on a former occasion had been hideously plotted against; and both
attempts he smothered in secrecy and sank in oblivion! Lastly, I
saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr. Rochester; that the impetuous
will of the latter held complete sway over the inertness of the
former: the few words which had passed between them assured me of
this. It was evident that in their former intercourse, the passive
disposition of the one had been habitually influenced by the active
energy of the other: whence then had arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay
when he heard of Mr. Mason's arrival? Why had the mere name of
this unresisting individual -- whom his word now sufficed to control
like a child -- fallen on him, a few hours since, as a thunderbolt
might fall on an oak?
Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:
"Jane, I have got a blow -- I have got a blow, Jane." I could not
forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder:
and it was no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit
and thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.
"When will he come? When will he come?" I cried inwardly, as
the night lingered and lingered -- as my bleeding patient drooped,
moaned, sickened: and neither day nor aid arrived. I had, again
and again, held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again
offered him the stimulating salts: my efforts seemed ineffectual:
either bodily or mental suffering, or loss of blood, or all three
combined, were fast prostrating his strength. He moaned so, and
looked so weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; and I might
not even speak to him.
The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived
streaks of grey light edging the window curtains: dawn was
then approaching. Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of
his distant kennel in the courtyard: hope revived. Nor was it
unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding
lock, warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted
more than two hours: many a week has seemed shorter.
Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to
"Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last: "I give you
but half-an-hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages,
getting the patient downstairs and all."
"But is he fit to move, sir?"
"No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits
must be kept up. Come, set to work."
Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland
blind, let in all the daylight he could; and I was surprised and
cheered to see how far dawn was advanced: what rosy streaks were
beginning to brighten the east. Then he approached Mason, whom
the surgeon was already handling.
"Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.
"She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.
"Not a whit! -- courage! This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin
the worse of it: you've lost a little blood; that's all. Carter,
assure him there's no danger."
"I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone
the bandages; "only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would
not have bled so much -- but how is this? The flesh on the shoulder
is torn as well as cut. This wound was not done with a knife:
there have been teeth here!"
"She bit me," he murmured. "She worried me like a tigress, when
Rochester got the knife from her."
"You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her
at once," said Mr. Rochester.
"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.
"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering. "And I did not
expect it: she looked so quiet at first."
"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said -- be on your
guard when you go near her. Besides, you might have waited till
to- morrow, and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the
interview to-night, and alone."
"I thought I could have done some good."
"You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear
you: but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer
enough for not taking my advice; so I'll say no more. Carter --
hurry! -- hurry! The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."
"Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this
other wound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think."
"She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.