Part 6 out of 11
I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of disgust,
horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to distortion;
but he only said -
"Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don't
"I wish I could forget it," was the answer.
"You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to
Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried -- or rather,
you need not think of her at all."
"Impossible to forget this night!"
"It is not impossible: have some energy, man. You thought you
were as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive
and talking now. There! -- Carter has done with you or nearly so;
I'll make you decent in a trice. Jane" (he turned to me for the
first time since his re-entrance), "take this key: go down into
my bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open
the top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and
neck-handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble."
I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles
named, and returned with them.
"Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his
toilet; but don't leave the room: you may be wanted again."
I retired as directed.
"Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired
Mr. Rochester presently.
"No, sir; all was very still."
"We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both
for your sake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder. I have
striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come
at last. Here, Carter, help him on with his waist-coat. Where
did you leave your furred cloak? You can't travel a mile without
that, I know, in this damned cold climate. In your room? -- Jane,
run down to Mr. Mason's room, -- the one next mine, -- and fetch
a cloak you will see there."
Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined
and edged with fur.
"Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you
must away to my room again. What a mercy you are shod with velvet,
Jane! -- a clod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.
You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a
little phial and a little glass you will find there, -- quick!"
I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.
"That's well! Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of administering
a dose myself, on my own responsibility. I got this cordial at
Rome, of an Italian charlatan -- a fellow you would have kicked,
Carter. It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but it is
good upon occasion: as now, for instance. Jane, a little water."
He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-bottle
on the washstand.
"That will do; -- now wet the lip of the phial."
I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and presented
it to Mason.
"Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour
"But will it hurt me? -- is it inflammatory?"
"Drink! drink! drink!"
Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist. He
was dressed now: he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory
and sullied. Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after
he had swallowed the liquid; he then took his arm -
"Now I am sure you can get on your feet," he said -- "try."
The patient rose.
"Carter, take him under the other shoulder. Be of good cheer,
Richard; step out -- that's it!"
"I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.
"I am sure you do. Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the
backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of
the post-chaise you will see in the yard -- or just outside, for I
told him not to drive his rattling wheels over the pavement -- to
be ready; we are coming: and, Jane, if any one is about, come to
the foot of the stairs and hem."
It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of
rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent. The side-
passage door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as
possible: all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open,
and there was a post-chaise, with horses ready harnessed, and driver
seated on the box, stationed outside. I approached him, and said
the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looked carefully round
and listened. The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;
the curtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;
little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard
trees, whose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wall
enclosing one side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped from
time to time in their closed stables: all else was still.
The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and
the surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted
him into the chaise; Carter followed.
"Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep
him at your house till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a
day or two to see how he gets on. Richard, how is it with you?"
"The fresh air revives me, Fairfax."
"Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind --
good- bye, Dick."
"Fairfax -- "
"Well what is it?"
"Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may
be: let her -- " he stopped and burst into tears.
"I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer:
he shut up the chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.
"Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr. Rochester,
as he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.
This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a
door in the wall bordering the orchard. I, supposing he had done
with me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I heard
him call "Jane!" He had opened feel portal and stood at it, waiting
"Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said;
"that house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?"
"It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."
"The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and
you see it through a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the
gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble
is sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly
bark. Now HERE" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)
"all is real, sweet, and pure."
He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees,
and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all
sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses,
pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various fragrant
herbs. They were fresh now as a succession of April showers and
gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make them: the
sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light illumined
the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the quiet walks
"Jane, will you have a flower?"
He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered
it to me.
"Thank you, sir."
"Do you like this sunrise, Jane? That sky with its high and light
clouds which are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm -- this
placid and balmly atmosphere?"
"I do, very much."
"You have passed a strange night, Jane."
"And it has made you look pale -- were you afraid when I left you
alone with Mason?"
"I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."
"But I had fastened the door -- I had the key in my pocket: I should
have been a careless shepherd if I had left a lamb -- my pet lamb
-- so near a wolf's den, unguarded: you were safe."
"Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?"
"Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her -- put the thing out
of your thoughts."
"Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."
"Never fear -- I will take care of myself."
"Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?"
"I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England: nor even
then. To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which
may crack and spue fire any day."
"But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led. Your influence, sir, is
evidently potent with him: he will never set you at defiance or
wilfully injure you."
"Oh, no! Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt
me -- but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless
word, deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of happiness."
"Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and
show him how to avert the danger."
He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw
it from him.
"If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be? Annihilated
in a moment. Ever since I have known Mason, I have only had to say
to him 'Do that,' and the thing has been done. But I cannot give
him orders in this case: I cannot say 'Beware of harming me,
Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him ignorant that
harm to me is possible. Now you look puzzled; and I will puzzle
you further. You are my little friend, are you not?"
"I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right."
"Precisely: I see you do. I see genuine contentment in your gait
and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing
me -- working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically
say, 'ALL THAT IS RIGHT:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrong,
there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed alacrity, no
lively glance and animated complexion. My friend would then turn
to me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is impossible:
I cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable
as a fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure
me: yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful
and friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once."
"If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me,
sir, you are very safe."
"God grant it may be so! Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."
The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained
a rustic seat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for
me: but I stood before him.
"Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two. You don't
hesitate to take a place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?"
I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been
"Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew -- while all
the flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds
fetch their young ones' breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the
early bees do their first spell of work -- I'll put a case to you,
which you must endeavour to suppose your own: but first, look
at me, and tell me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in
detaining you, or that you err in staying."
"No, sir; I am content."
"Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:- suppose you were no
longer a girl well reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged
from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;
conceive that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what
nature or from what motives, but one whose consequences must follow
you through life and taint all your existence. Mind, I don't say
a CRIME; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guilty
act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word
is ERROR. The results of what you have done become in time to you
utterly insupportable; you take measures to obtain relief: unusual
measures, but neither unlawful nor culpable. Still you are
miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:
your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not
leave it till the time of setting. Bitter and base associations
have become the sole food of your memory: you wander here and
there, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure -- I mean in
heartless, sensual pleasure -- such as dulls intellect and blights
feeling. Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years
of voluntary banishment: you make a new acquaintance -- how or
where no matter: you find in this stranger much of the good and
bright qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and never
before encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil
and without taint. Such society revives, regenerates: you feel
better days come back -- higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire
to recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days
in a way more worthy of an immortal being. To attain this end,
are you justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom -- a mere
conventional impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies
nor your judgment approves?"
He paused for an answer: and what was I to say? Oh, for some
good spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain
aspiration! The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no
gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech: the birds
sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however sweet, was inarticulate.
Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:
"Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant,
man justified in daring the world's opinion, in order to attach
to him for ever this gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby
securing his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"
"Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation
should never depend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die;
philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any
one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his
equals for strength to amend and solace to heal."
"But the instrument -- the instrument! God, who does the work,
ordains the instrument. I have myself -- I tell it you without
parable -- been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and
I believe I have found the instrument for my cure in -- "
He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly rustling.
I almost wondered they did not check their songs and whispers to
catch the suspended revelation; but they would have had to wait many
minutes -- so long was the silence protracted. At last I looked
up at the tardy speaker: he was looking eagerly at me.
"Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone -- while his
face changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming
harsh and sarcastic -- "you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss
Ingram: don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me
with a vengeance?"
He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and
when he came back he was humming a tune.
"Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with
your vigils: don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"
"Curse you? No, sir."
"Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers!
They were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the
mysterious chamber. Jane, when will you watch with me again?"
"Whenever I can be useful, sir."
"For instance, the night before I am married! I am sure I shall
not be able to sleep. Will you promise to sit up with me to bear
me company? To you I can talk of my lovely one: for now you have
seen her and know her."
"She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?"
"A strapper -- a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with
hair just such as the ladies of Carthage must have had. Bless me!
there's Dent and Lynn in the stables! Go in by the shrubbery,
through that wicket."
As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in
the yard, saying cheerfully -
"Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before
sunrise: I rose at four to see him off."
Presentiments are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so
are signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity
has not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in
my life, because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies,
I believe, exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent,
wholly estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their
alienation, the unity of the source to which each traces his origin)
whose workings baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught
we know, may be but the sympathies of Nature with man.
When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard
Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about
a little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of
trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying might have
worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately followed
which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was
sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.
Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for
during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that
had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes
hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched
playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in
running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing
one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me;
but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore,
it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I
entered the land of slumber.
I did not like this iteration of one idea -- this strange recurrence
of one image, and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the
hour of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this
baby-phantom I had been roused on that moonlight night when I heard
the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was
summoned downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs.
Fairfax's room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for
me, having the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed
in deep mourning, and the hat he held in his hand was surrounded
with a crape band.
"I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I
entered; "but my name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed
when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine years since, and I live
"Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used
to give me a ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony. And how
is Bessie? You are married to Bessie?"
"Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank you; she brought me
another little one about two months since -- we have three now --
and both mother and child are thriving."
"And are the family well at the house, Robert?"
"I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are
very badly at present -- in great trouble."
"I hope no one is dead," I said, glancing at his black dress. He
too looked down at the crape round his hat and replied -
"Mr. John died yesterday was a week, at his chambers in London."
"And how does his mother bear it?"
"Why, you see, Miss Eyre, it is not a common mishap: his life
has been very wild: these last three years he gave himself up to
strange ways, and his death was shocking."
"I heard from Bessie he was not doing well."
"Doing well! He could not do worse: he ruined his health and
his estate amongst the worst men and the worst women. He got into
debt and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon
as he was free he returned to his old companions and habits. His
head was not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond
anything I ever heard. He came down to Gateshead about three weeks
ago and wanted missis to give up all to him. Missis refused: her
means have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he went
back again, and the next news was that he was dead. How he died,
God knows! -- they say he killed himself."
I was silent: the things were frightful. Robert Leaven resumed -
"Missis had been out of health herself for some time: she had got
very stout, but was not strong with it; and the loss of money and
fear of poverty were quite breaking her down. The information
about Mr. John's death and the manner of it came too suddenly:
it brought on a stroke. She was three days without speaking; but
last Tuesday she seemed rather better: she appeared as if she wanted
to say something, and kept making signs to my wife and mumbling.
It was only yesterday morning, however, that Bessie understood
she was pronouncing your name; and at last she made out the words,
'Bring Jane -- fetch Jane Eyre: I want to speak to her.' Bessie
is not sure whether she is in her right mind, or means anything by
the words; but she told Miss Reed and Miss Georgiana, and advised
them to send for you. The young ladies put it off at first; but
their mother grew so restless, and said, 'Jane, Jane,' so many
times, that at last they consented. I left Gateshead yesterday:
and if you can get ready, Miss, I should like to take you back with
me early to-morrow morning."
"Yes, Robert, I shall be ready: it seems to me that I ought to
"I think so too, Miss. Bessie said she was sure you would not
refuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can
"Yes; and I will do it now;" and having directed him to the
servants' hall, and recommended him to the care of John's wife,
and the attentions of John himself, I went in search of Mr. Rochester.
He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the
stables, or the grounds. I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him;
-- yes: she believed he was playing billiards with Miss Ingram.
To the billiard-room I hastened: the click of balls and the hum
of voices resounded thence; Mr. Rochester, Miss Ingram, the two
Misses Eshton, and their admirers, were all busied in the game. It
required some courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errand,
however, was one I could not defer, so I approached the master
where he stood at Miss Ingram's side. She turned as I drew near,
and looked at me haughtily: her eyes seemed to demand, "What can
the creeping creature want now?" and when I said, in a low voice,
"Mr. Rochester," she made a movement as if tempted to order me away.
I remember her appearance at the moment -- it was very graceful and
very striking: she wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy
azure scarf was twisted in her hair. She had been all animation
with the game, and irritated pride did not lower the expression of
her haughty lineaments.
"Does that person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and
Mr. Rochester turned to see who the "person" was. He made a curious
grimace -- one of his strange and equivocal demonstrations -- threw
down his cue and followed me from the room.
"Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the schoolroom
door, which he had shut.
"If you please, sir, I want leave of absence for a week or two."
"What to do? -- where to go?"
"To see a sick lady who has sent for me."
"What sick lady? -- where does she live?"
"At Gateshead; in -shire."
"-shire? That is a hundred miles off! Who may she be that sends
for people to see her that distance?"
"Her name is Reed, sir -- Mrs. Reed."
"Reed of Gateshead? There was a Reed of Gateshead, a magistrate."
"It is his widow, sir."
"And what have you to do with her? How do you know her?"
"Mr. Reed was my uncle -- my mother's brother."
"The deuce he was! You never told me that before: you always said
you had no relations."
"None that would own me, sir. Mr. Reed is dead, and his wife cast
"Because I was poor, and burdensome, and she disliked me."
"But Reed left children? -- you must have cousins? Sir George
Lynn was talking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterday, who, he said,
was one of the veriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning
a Georgiana Reed of the same place, who was much admired for her
beauty a season or two ago in London."
"John Reed is dead, too, sir: he ruined himself and half-ruined
his family, and is supposed to have committed suicide. The news
so shocked his mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."
"And what good can you do her? Nonsense, Jane! I would never think
of running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps,
be dead before you reach her: besides, you say she cast you off."
"Yes, sir, but that is long ago; and when her circumstances were
very different: I could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."
"How long will you stay?"
"As short a time as possible, sir."
"Promise me only to stay a week -- "
"I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it."
"At all events you WILL come back: you will not be induced under
any pretext to take up a permanent residence with her?"
"Oh, no! I shall certainly return if all be well."
"And who goes with you? You don't travel a hundred miles alone."
"No, sir, she has sent her coachman."
"A person to be trusted?"
"Yes, sir, he has lived ten years in the family."
Mr. Rochester meditated. "When do you wish to go?"
"Early to-morrow morning, sir."
"Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money,
and I daresay you have not much: I have given you no salary yet.
How much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling.
I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, sir."
He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over
it as if its scantiness amused him. Soon he produced his pocket-
book: "Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty pounds,
and he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change.
"I don't want change; you know that. Take your wages."
I declined accepting more than was my due. He scowled
at first; then, as if recollecting something, he said -
"Right, right! Better not give you all now: you would, perhaps,
stay away three months if you had fifty pounds. There are ten; is
it not plenty?"
"Yes, sir, but now you owe me five."
"Come back for it, then; I am your banker for forty pounds."
"Mr. Rochester, I may as well mention another matter of business
to you while I have the opportunity."
"Matter of business? I am curious to hear it."
"You have as good as informed me, sir, that you are going shortly
to be married?"
"Yes; what then?"
"In that case, sir, Adele ought to go to school: I am sure you
will perceive the necessity of it."
"To get her out of my bride's way, who might otherwise walk over
her rather too emphatically? There's sense in the suggestion; not
a doubt of it. Adele, as you say, must go to school; and you, of
course, must march straight to -- the devil?"
"I hope not, sir; but I must seek another situation somewhere."
"In course!" he exclaimed, with a twang of voice and a distortion
of features equally fantastic and ludicrous. He looked at me some
"And old Madam Reed, or the Misses, her daughters, will be solicited
by you to seek a place, I suppose?"
"No, sir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justify
me in asking favours of them -- but I shall advertise."
"You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!" he growled. "At your
peril you advertise! I wish I had only offered you a sovereign
instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use
"And so have I, sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse
behind me. "I could not spare the money on any account."
"Little niggard!" said he, "refusing me a pecuniary request! Give
me five pounds, Jane."
"Not five shillings, sir; nor five pence."
"Just let me look at the cash."
"No, sir; you are not to be trusted."
"Promise me one thing."
"I'll promise you anything, sir, that I think I am likely to
"Not to advertise: and to trust this quest of a situation to me.
I'll find you one in time."
"I shall be glad so to do, sir, if you, in your turn, will promise
that I and Adele shall be both safe out of the house before your
bride enters it."
"Very well! very well! I'll pledge my word on it. You go to-morrow,
"Yes, sir; early."
"Shall you come down to the drawing-room after dinner?"
"No, sir, I must prepare for the journey."
"Then you and I must bid good-bye for a little while?"
"I suppose so, sir."
"And how do people perform that ceremony of parting, Jane? Teach
me; I'm not quite up to it."
"They say, Farewell, or any other form they prefer."
"Then say it."
"Farewell, Mr. Rochester, for the present."
"What must I say?"
"The same, if you like, sir."
"Farewell, Miss Eyre, for the present; is that all?"
"It seems stingy, to my notions, and dry, and unfriendly. I should
like something else: a little addition to the rite. If one shook
hands, for instance; but no -- that would not content me either.
So you'll do no more than say Farewell, Jane?"
"It is enough, sir: as much good-will may be conveyed in one hearty
word as in many."
"Very likely; but it is blank and cool -- 'Farewell.'"
"How long is he going to stand with his back against that door?"
I asked myself; "I want to commence my packing." The dinner-bell
rang, and suddenly away he bolted, without another syllable: I
saw him no more during the day, and was off before he had risen in
I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoon
of the first of May: I stepped in there before going up to the
hall. It was very clean and neat: the ornamental windows were
hung with little white curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate
and fire-irons were burnished bright, and the fire burnt clear.
Bessie sat on the hearth, nursing her last-born, and Robert and
his sister played quietly in a corner.
"Bless you! -- I knew you would come!" exclaimed Mrs. Leaven, as
"Yes, Bessie," said I, after I had kissed her; "and I trust I am
not too late. How is Mrs. Reed? -- Alive still, I hope."
"Yes, she is alive; and more sensible and collected than she was.
The doctor says she may linger a week or two yet; but he hardly
thinks she will finally recover."
"Has she mentioned me lately?"
"She was talking of you only this morning, and wishing you would
come, but she is sleeping now, or was ten minutes ago, when I was
up at the house. She generally lies in a kind of lethargy all the
afternoon, and wakes up about six or seven. Will you rest yourself
here an hour, Miss, and then I will go up with you?"
Robert here entered, and Bessie laid her sleeping child in the
cradle and went to welcome him: afterwards she insisted on my taking
off my bonnet and having some tea; for she said I looked pale and
tired. I was glad to accept her hospitality; and I submitted to
be relieved of my travelling garb just as passively as I used to
let her undress me when a child.
Old times crowded fast back on me as I watched her bustling about
-- setting out the tea-tray with her best china, cutting bread and
butter, toasting a tea-cake, and, between whiles, giving little
Robert or Jane an occasional tap or push, just as she used to give
me in former days. Bessie had retained her quick temper as well
as her light foot and good looks.
Tea ready, I was going to approach the table; but she desired me
to sit still, quite in her old peremptory tones. I must be served
at the fireside, she said; and she placed before me a little round
stand with my cup and a plate of toast, absolutely as she used to
accommodate me with some privately purloined dainty on a nursery
chair: and I smiled and obeyed her as in bygone days.
She wanted to know if I was happy at Thornfield Hall, and what sort
of a person the mistress was; and when I told her there was only
a master, whether he was a nice gentleman, and if I liked him. I
told her he was rather an ugly man, but quite a gentleman; and
that he treated me kindly, and I was content. Then I went on to
describe to her the gay company that had lately been staying at the
house; and to these details Bessie listened with interest: they
were precisely of the kind she relished.
In such conversation an hour was soon gone: Bessie restored to me
my bonnet, &c., and, accompanied by her, I quitted the lodge for
the hall. It was also accompanied by her that I had, nearly nine
years ago, walked down the path I was now ascending. On a dark,
misty, raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a
desperate and embittered heart -- a sense of outlawry and almost
of reprobation -- to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that
bourne so far away and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again
rose before me: my prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an
aching heart. I still felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth;
but I experienced firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and
less withering dread of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs,
too, was now quite healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished.
"You shall go into the breakfast-room first," said Bessie, as she
preceded me through the hall; "the young ladies will be there."
In another moment I was within that apartment. There was every
article of furniture looking just as it did on the morning I was
first introduced to Mr. Brocklehurst: the very rug he had stood upon
still covered the hearth. Glancing at the bookcases, I thought I
could distinguish the two volumes of Bewick's British Birds occupying
their old place on the third shelf, and Gulliver's Travels and the
Arabian Nights ranged just above. The inanimate objects were not
changed; but the living things had altered past recognition.
Two young ladies appeared before me; one very tall, almost as tall
as Miss Ingram -- very thin too, with a sallow face and severe
mien. There was something ascetic in her look, which was augmented
by the extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress,
a starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and
the nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix.
This I felt sure was Eliza, though I could trace little resemblance
to her former self in that elongated and colourless visage.
The other was as certainly Georgiana: but not the Georgiana
I remembered -- the slim and fairy-like girl of eleven. This was
a full-blown, very plump damsel, fair as waxwork, with handsome
and regular features, languishing blue eyes, and ringleted yellow
hair. The hue of her dress was black too; but its fashion was so
different from her sister's -- so much more flowing and becoming
-- it looked as stylish as the other's looked puritanical.
In each of the sisters there was one trait of the mother -- and only
one; the thin and pallid elder daughter had her parent's Cairngorm
eye: the blooming and luxuriant younger girl had her contour of
jaw and chin -- perhaps a little softened, but still imparting an
indescribable hardness to the countenance otherwise so voluptuous
Both ladies, as I advanced, rose to welcome me, and both addressed
me by the name of "Miss Eyre." Eliza's greeting was delivered in
a short, abrupt voice, without a smile; and then she sat down again,
fixed her eyes on the fire, and seemed to forget me. Georgiana
added to her "How d'ye do?" several commonplaces about my journey,
the weather, and so on, uttered in rather a drawling tone: and
accompanied by sundry side-glances that measured me from head to
foot -- now traversing the folds of my drab merino pelisse, and
now lingering on the plain trimming of my cottage bonnet. Young
ladies have a remarkable way of letting you know that they
think you a "quiz" without actually saying the words. A certain
superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone,
express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing
them by any positive rudeness in word or deed.
A sneer, however, whether covert or open, had now no longer that
power over me it once possessed: as I sat between my cousins, I
was surprised to find how easy I felt under the total neglect of
the one and the semi-sarcastic attentions of the other -- Eliza did
not mortify, nor Georgiana ruffle me. The fact was, I had other
things to think about; within the last few months feelings had
been stirred in me so much more potent than any they could raise
-- pains and pleasures so much more acute and exquisite had been
excited than any it was in their power to inflict or bestow -- that
their airs gave me no concern either for good or bad.
"How is Mrs. Reed?" I asked soon, looking calmly at Georgiana,
who thought fit to bridle at the direct address, as if it were an
"Mrs. Reed? Ah! mama, you mean; she is extremely poorly: I doubt
if you can see her to-night."
"If," said I, "you would just step upstairs and tell her I am come,
I should be much obliged to you."
Georgiana almost started, and she opened her blue eyes wild and
wide. "I know she had a particular wish to see me," I added, "and
I would not defer attending to her desire longer than is absolutely
"Mama dislikes being disturbed in an evening," remarked Eliza. I
soon rose, quietly took off my bonnet and gloves, uninvited, and
said I would just step out to Bessie -- who was, I dared say, in the
kitchen -- and ask her to ascertain whether Mrs. Reed was disposed
to receive me or not to-night. I went, and having found Bessie and
despatched her on my errand, I proceeded to take further measures.
It had heretofore been my habit always to shrink from arrogance:
received as I had been to-day, I should, a year ago, have resolved
to quit Gateshead the very next morning; now, it was disclosed
to me all at once that that would be a foolish plan. I had taken
a journey of a hundred miles to see my aunt, and I must stay with
her till she was better -- or dead: as to her daughters' pride or
folly, I must put it on one side, make myself independent of it.
So I addressed the housekeeper; asked her to show me a room, told
her I should probably be a visitor here for a week or two, had my
trunk conveyed to my chamber, and followed it thither myself: I
met Bessie on the landing.
"Missis is awake," said she; "I have told her you are here: come
and let us see if she will know you."
I did not need to be guided to the well-known room, to which I
had so often been summoned for chastisement or reprimand in former
days. I hastened before Bessie; I softly opened the door: a shaded
light stood on the table, for it was now getting dark. There was
the great four-post bed with amber hangings as of old; there the
toilet-table, the armchair, and the footstool, at which I had a
hundred times been sentenced to kneel, to ask pardon for offences
by me uncommitted. I looked into a certain corner near, half-expecting
to see the slim outline of a once dreaded switch which used to lurk
there, waiting to leap out imp-like and lace my quivering palm or
shrinking neck. I approached the bed; I opened the curtains and
leant over the high-piled pillows.
Well did I remember Mrs. Reed's face, and I eagerly sought the
familiar image. It is a happy thing that time quells the longings
of vengeance and hushes the promptings of rage and aversion. I had
left this woman in bitterness and hate, and I came back to her now
with no other emotion than a sort of ruth for her great sufferings,
and a strong yearning to forget and forgive all injuries -- to be
reconciled and clasp hands in amity.
The well-known face was there: stern, relentless as ever -- there
was that peculiar eye which nothing could melt, and the somewhat
raised, imperious, despotic eyebrow. How often had it lowered on me
menace and hate! and how the recollection of childhood's terrors
and sorrows revived as I traced its harsh line now! And yet I
stooped down and kissed her: she looked at me.
"Is this Jane Eyre?" she said.
"Yes, Aunt Reed. How are you, dear aunt?"
I had once vowed that I would never call her aunt again: I thought
it no sin to forget and break that vow now. My fingers had fastened
on her hand which lay outside the sheet: had she pressed mine
kindly, I should at that moment have experienced true pleasure. But
unimpressionable natures are not so soon softened, nor are natural
antipathies so readily eradicated. Mrs. Reed took her hand away,
and, turning her face rather from me, she remarked that the night
was warm. Again she regarded me so icily, I felt at once that
her opinion of me -- her feeling towards me -- was unchanged and
unchangeable. I knew by her stony eye -- opaque to tenderness,
indissoluble to tears -- that she was resolved to consider me bad
to the last; because to believe me good would give her no generous
pleasure: only a sense of mortification.
I felt pain, and then I felt ire; and then I felt a determination
to subdue her -- to be her mistress in spite both of her nature
and her will. My tears had risen, just as in childhood: I ordered
them back to their source. I brought a chair to the bed-head: I
sat down and leaned over the pillow.
"You sent for me," I said, "and I am here; and it is my intention
to stay till I see how you get on."
"Oh, of course! You have seen my daughters?"
"Well, you may tell them I wish you to stay till I can talk some
things over with you I have on my mind: to-night it is too late, and
I have a difficulty in recalling them. But there was something
I wished to say -- let me see -- "
The wandering look and changed utterance told what wreck had taken
place in her once vigorous frame. Turning restlessly, she drew the
bedclothes round her; my elbow, resting on a corner of the quilt,
fixed it down: she was at once irritated.
"Sit up!" said she; "don't annoy me with holding the clothes fast.
Are you Jane Eyre?"
"I am Jane Eyre."
"I have had more trouble with that child than any one would believe.
Such a burden to be left on my hands -- and so much annoyance as she
caused me, daily and hourly, with her incomprehensible disposition,
and her sudden starts of temper, and her continual, unnatural
watchings of one's movements! I declare she talked to me once like
something mad, or like a fiend -- no child ever spoke or looked as
she did; I was glad to get her away from the house. What did they
do with her at Lowood? The fever broke out there, and many of the
pupils died. She, however, did not die: but I said she did -- I
wish she had died!"
"A strange wish, Mrs. Reed; why do you hate her so?"
"I had a dislike to her mother always; for she was my husband's only
sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family's
disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of
her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby;
though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for
its maintenance. I hated it the first time I set my eyes on it --
a sickly, whining, pining thing! It would wail in its cradle all
night long -- not screaming heartily like any other child, but
whimpering and moaning. Reed pitied it; and he used to nurse it
and notice it as if it had been his own: more, indeed, than he
ever noticed his own at that age. He would try to make my children
friendly to the little beggar: the darlings could not bear it,
and he was angry with them when they showed their dislike. In his
last illness, he had it brought continually to his bedside; and but
an hour before he died, he bound me by vow to keep the creature.
I would as soon have been charged with a pauper brat out of a
workhouse: but he was weak, naturally weak. John does not at all
resemble his father, and I am glad of it: John is like me and like
my brothers -- he is quite a Gibson. Oh, I wish he would cease
tormenting me with letters for money? I have no more money to give
him: we are getting poor. I must send away half the servants and
shut up part of the house; or let it off. I can never submit to
do that -- yet how are we to get on? Two-thirds of my income goes
in paying the interest of mortgages. John gambles dreadfully, and
always loses -- poor boy! He is beset by sharpers: John is sunk
and degraded -- his look is frightful -- I feel ashamed for him
when I see him."
She was getting much excited. "I think I had better leave her
now," said I to Bessie, who stood on the other side of the bed.
"Perhaps you had, Miss: but she often talks in this way towards
night -- in the morning she is calmer."
I rose. "Stop!" exclaimed Mrs. Reed, "there is another thing
I wished to say. He threatens me -- he continually threatens me
with his own death, or mine: and I dream sometimes that I see him
laid out with a great wound in his throat, or with a swollen and
blackened face. I am come to a strange pass: I have heavy troubles.
What is to be done? How is the money to be had?"
Bessie now endeavoured to persuade her to take a sedative draught:
she succeeded with difficulty. Soon after, Mrs. Reed grew more
composed, and sank into a dozing state. I then left her.
More than ten days elapsed before I had again any conversation with
her. She continued either delirious or lethargic; and the doctor
forbade everything which could painfully excite her. Meantime,
I got on as well as I could with Georgiana and Eliza. They were
very cold, indeed, at first. Eliza would sit half the day sewing,
reading, or writing, and scarcely utter a word either to me or her
sister. Georgiana would chatter nonsense to her canary bird by the
hour, and take no notice of me. But I was determined not to seem
at a loss for occupation or amusement: I had brought my drawing
materials with me, and they served me for both.
Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used
to take a seat apart from them, near the window, and busy myself
in sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened
momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of
imagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moon,
and a ship crossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flags, and
a naiad's head, crowned with lotus-flowers, rising out of them; an
elf sitting in a hedge-sparrow's nest, under a wreath of hawthorn-bloom.
One morning I fell to sketching a face: what sort of a face it was
to be, I did not care or know. I took a soft black pencil, gave
it a broad point, and worked away. Soon I had traced on the paper
a broad and prominent forehead and a square lower outline of visage:
that contour gave me pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to
fill it with features. Strongly-marked horizontal eyebrows must
be traced under that brow; then followed, naturally, a well-defined
nose, with a straight ridge and full nostrils; then a flexible-
looking mouth, by no means narrow; then a firm chin, with a decided
cleft down the middle of it: of course, some black whiskers were
wanted, and some jetty hair, tufted on the temples, and waved above
the forehead. Now for the eyes: I had left them to the last,
because they required the most careful working. I drew them
large; I shaped them well: the eyelashes I traced long and sombre;
the irids lustrous and large. "Good! but not quite the thing,"
I thought, as I surveyed the effect: "they want more force and
spirit;" and I wrought the shades blacker, that the lights might
flash more brilliantly -- a happy touch or two secured success.
There, I had a friend's face under my gaze; and what did it signify
that those young ladies turned their backs on me? I looked at it;
I smiled at the speaking likeness: I was absorbed and content.
"Is that a portrait of some one you know?" asked Eliza, who had
approached me unnoticed. I responded that it was merely a fancy
head, and hurried it beneath the other sheets. Of course, I lied:
it was, in fact, a very faithful representation of Mr. Rochester.
But what was that to her, or to any one but myself? Georgiana
also advanced to look. The other drawings pleased her much, but
she called that "an ugly man." They both seemed surprised at my
skill. I offered to sketch their portraits; and each, in turn,
sat for a pencil outline. Then Georgiana produced her album. I
promised to contribute a water-colour drawing: this put her at once
into good humour. She proposed a walk in the grounds. Before we
had been out two hours, we were deep in a confidential conversation:
she had favoured me with a description of the brilliant winter she
had spent in London two seasons ago -- of the admiration she had
there excited -- the attention she had received; and I even got
hints of the titled conquest she had made. In the course of the
afternoon and evening these hints were enlarged on: various soft
conversations were reported, and sentimental scenes represented;
and, in short, a volume of a novel of fashionable life was that day
improvised by her for my benefit. The communications were renewed
from day to day: they always ran on the same theme -- herself, her
loves, and woes. It was strange she never once adverted either to
her mother's illness, or her brother's death, or the present gloomy
state of the family prospects. Her mind seemed wholly taken up with
reminiscences of past gaiety, and aspirations after dissipations
to come. She passed about five minutes each day in her mother's
sick-room, and no more.
Eliza still spoke little: she had evidently no time to talk. I
never saw a busier person than she seemed to be; yet it was
difficult to say what she did: or rather, to discover any result
of her diligence. She had an alarm to call her up early. I know
not how she occupied herself before breakfast, but after that meal
she divided her time into regular portions, and each hour had its
allotted task. Three times a day she studied a little book, which
I found, on inspection, was a Common Prayer Book. I asked her once
what was the great attraction of that volume, and she said, "the
Rubric." Three hours she gave to stitching, with gold thread,
the border of a square crimson cloth, almost large enough for a
carpet. In answer to my inquiries after the use of this article,
she informed me it was a covering for the altar of a new church
lately erected near Gateshead. Two hours she devoted to her diary;
two to working by herself in the kitchen-garden; and one to the
regulation of her accounts. She seemed to want no company; no
conversation. I believe she was happy in her way: this routine
sufficed for her; and nothing annoyed her so much as the occurrence
of any incident which forced her to vary its clockwork regularity.
She told me one evening, when more disposed to be communicative
than usual, that John's conduct, and the threatened ruin of the
family, had been a source of profound affliction to her: but she
had now, she said, settled her mind, and formed her resolution.
Her own fortune she had taken care to secure; and when her mother
died -- and it was wholly improbable, she tranquilly remarked,
that she should either recover or linger long -- she would execute
a long-cherished project: seek a retirement where punctual habits
would be permanently secured from disturbance, and place safe barriers
between herself and a frivolous world. I asked if Georgiana would
"Of course not. Georgiana and she had nothing in common: they
never had had. She would not be burdened with her society for
any consideration. Georgiana should take her own course; and she,
Eliza, would take hers."
Georgiana, when not unburdening her heart to me, spent most of her
time in lying on the sofa, fretting about the dulness of the house,
and wishing over and over again that her aunt Gibson would send
her an invitation up to town. "It would be so much better," she
said, "if she could only get out of the way for a month or two, till
all was over." I did not ask what she meant by "all being over,"
but I suppose she referred to the expected decease of her mother
and the gloomy sequel of funeral rites. Eliza generally took no
more notice of her sister's indolence and complaints than if no such
murmuring, lounging object had been before her. One day, however,
as she put away her account-book and unfolded her embroidery,
she suddenly took her up thus -
"Georgiana, a more vain and absurd animal than you was certainly
never allowed to cumber the earth. You had no right to be born,
for you make no use of life. Instead of living for, in, and with
yourself, as a reasonable being ought, you seek only to fasten
your feebleness on some other person's strength: if no one can be
found willing to burden her or himself with such a fat, weak, puffy,
useless thing, you cry out that you are ill-treated, neglected,
miserable. Then, too, existence for you must be a scene of continual
change and excitement, or else the world is a dungeon: you must
be admired, you must be courted, you must be flattered -- you must
have music, dancing, and society -- or you languish, you die away.
Have you no sense to devise a system which will make you independent
of all efforts, and all wills, but your own? Take one day; share
it into sections; to each section apportion its task: leave no
stray unemployed quarters of an hour, ten minutes, five minutes
-- include all; do each piece of business in its turn with method,
with rigid regularity. The day will close almost before you are
aware it has begun; and you are indebted to no one for helping you
to get rid of one vacant moment: you have had to seek no one's
company, conversation, sympathy, forbearance; you have lived,
in short, as an independent being ought to do. Take this advice:
the first and last I shall offer you; then you will not want me or
any one else, happen what may. Neglect it -- go on as heretofore,
craving, whining, and idling -- and suffer the results of your
idiocy, however bad and insuperable they may be. I tell you this
plainly; and listen: for though I shall no more repeat what I am
now about to say, I shall steadily act on it. After my mother's
death, I wash my hands of you: from the day her coffin is carried
to the vault in Gateshead Church, you and I will be as separate as
if we had never known each other. You need not think that because
we chanced to be born of the same parents, I shall suffer you to
fasten me down by even the feeblest claim: I can tell you this --
if the whole human race, ourselves excepted, were swept away, and
we two stood alone on the earth, I would leave you in the old world,
and betake myself to the new."
She closed her lips.
"You might have spared yourself the trouble of delivering that
tirade," answered Georgiana. "Everybody knows you are the most
selfish, heartless creature in existence: and I know your spiteful
hatred towards me: I have had a specimen of it before in the
trick you played me about Lord Edwin Vere: you could not bear me
to be raised above you, to have a title, to be received into circles
where you dare not show your face, and so you acted the spy and
informer, and ruined my prospects for ever." Georgiana took out
her handkerchief and blew her nose for an hour afterwards; Eliza
sat cold, impassable, and assiduously industrious.
True, generous feeling is made small account of by some, but here
were two natures rendered, the one intolerably acrid, the other
despicably savourless for the want of it. Feeling without judgment
is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is
too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.
It was a wet and windy afternoon: Georgiana had fallen asleep on
the sofa over the perusal of a novel; Eliza was gone to attend a
saint's-day service at the new church -- for in matters of religion
she was a rigid formalist: no weather ever prevented the punctual
discharge of what she considered her devotional duties; fair or foul,
she went to church thrice every Sunday, and as often on week-days
as there were prayers.
I bethought myself to go upstairs and see how the dying woman sped,
who lay there almost unheeded: the very servants paid her but a
remittent attention: the hired nurse, being little looked after,
would slip out of the room whenever she could. Bessie was faithful;
but she had her own family to mind, and could only come occasionally
to the hall. I found the sick-room unwatched, as I had expected:
no nurse was there; the patient lay still, and seemingly lethargic;
her livid face sunk in the pillows: the fire was dying in the
grate. I renewed the fuel, re-arranged the bedclothes, gazed awhile
on her who could not now gaze on me, and then I moved away to the
The rain beat strongly against the panes, the wind blew tempestuously:
"One lies there," I thought, "who will soon be beyond the war of
earthly elements. Whither will that spirit -- now struggling to
quit its material tenement -- flit when at length released?"
In pondering the great mystery, I thought of Helen Burns, recalled
her dying words -- her faith -- her doctrine of the equality
of disembodied souls. I was still listening in thought to her
well-remembered tones -- still picturing her pale and spiritual
aspect, her wasted face and sublime gaze, as she lay on her placid
deathbed, and whispered her longing to be restored to her divine
Father's bosom -- when a feeble voice murmured from the couch
behind: "Who is that?"
I knew Mrs. Reed had not spoken for days: was she reviving? I
went up to her.
"It is I, Aunt Reed."
"Who -- I?" was her answer. "Who are you?" looking at me with
surprise and a sort of alarm, but still not wildly. "You are quite
a stranger to me -- where is Bessie?"
"She is at the lodge, aunt."
"Aunt," she repeated. "Who calls me aunt? You are not one of the
Gibsons; and yet I know you -- that face, and the eyes and forehead,
are quiet familiar to me: you are like -- why, you are like Jane
I said nothing: I was afraid of occasioning some shock by declaring
"Yet," said she, "I am afraid it is a mistake: my thoughts deceive
me. I wished to see Jane Eyre, and I fancy a likeness where none
exists: besides, in eight years she must be so changed." I now
gently assured her that I was the person she supposed and desired
me to be: and seeing that I was understood, and that her senses
were quite collected, I explained how Bessie had sent her husband
to fetch me from Thornfield.
"I am very ill, I know," she said ere long. "I was trying to turn
myself a few minutes since, and find I cannot move a limb. It is
as well I should ease my mind before I die: what we think little
of in health, burdens us at such an hour as the present is to me.
Is the nurse here? or is there no one in the room but you?"
I assured her we were alone.
"Well, I have twice done you a wrong which I regret now. One was
in breaking the promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as
my own child; the other -- " she stopped. "After all, it is of no
great importance, perhaps," she murmured to herself: "and then I
may get better; and to humble myself so to her is painful."
She made an effort to alter her position, but failed: her face
changed; she seemed to experience some inward sensation -- the
precursor, perhaps, of the last pang.
"Well, I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better
tell her. -- Go to my dressing-case, open it, and take out a letter
you will see there."
I obeyed her directions. "Read the letter," she said.
It was short, and thus conceived:-
"Madam, -- Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my
niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to
write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence
has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am
unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and
bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave. -- I am,
Madam, &c., &c.,
"JOHN EYRE, Madeira."
It was dated three years back.
"Why did I never hear of this?" I asked.
"Because I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a
hand in lifting you to prosperity. I could not forget your conduct
to me, Jane -- the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone
in which you declared you abhorred me the worst of anybody in the
world; the unchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed that
the very thought of me made you sick, and asserted that I had treated
you with miserable cruelty. I could not forget my own sensations
when you thus started up and poured out the venom of your mind: I
felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed had looked
up at me with human eyes and cursed me in a man's voice. -- Bring
me some water! Oh, make haste!"
"Dear Mrs. Reed," said I, as I offered her the draught she
required, "think no more of all this, let it pass away from your
mind. Forgive me for my passionate language: I was a child then;
eight, nine years have passed since that day."
She heeded nothing of what I said; but when she had tasted
the water and drawn breath, she went on thus -
"I tell you I could not forget it; and I took my revenge: for
you to be adopted by your uncle, and placed in a state of ease
and comfort, was what I could not endure. I wrote to him; I said
I was sorry for his disappointment, but Jane Eyre was dead: she
had died of typhus fever at Lowood. Now act as you please: write
and contradict my assertion -- expose my falsehood as soon as you
like. You were born, I think, to be my torment: my last hour is
racked by the recollection of a deed which, but for you, I should
never have been tempted to commit."
"If you could but be persuaded to think no more of it, aunt, and
to regard me with kindness and forgiveness"
"You have a very bad disposition," said she, "and one to this day
I feel it impossible to understand: how for nine years you could
be patient and quiescent under any treatment, and in the tenth
break out all fire and violence, I can never comprehend."
"My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but
not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been
glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to
be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt."
I approached my cheek to her lips: she would not touch it. She
said I oppressed her by leaning over the bed, and again demanded
water. As I laid her down -- for I raised her and supported her
on my arm while she drank -- I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand
with mine: the feeble fingers shrank from my touch -- the glazing
eyes shunned my gaze.
"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have
my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's, and be at peace."
Poor, suffering woman! it was too late for her to make now the
effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever
hated me -- dying, she must hate me still.
The nurse now entered, and Bessie followed. I yet lingered
half-an-hour longer, hoping to see some sign of amity: but she
gave none. She was fast relapsing into stupor; nor did her mind
again rally: at twelve o'clock that night she died. I was not
present to close her eyes, nor were either of her daughters. They
came to tell us the next morning that all was over. She was by
that time laid out. Eliza and I went to look at her: Georgiana,
who had burst out into loud weeping, said she dared not go. There
was stretched Sarah Reed's once robust and active frame, rigid and
still: her eye of flint was covered with its cold lid; her brow
and strong traits wore yet the impress of her inexorable soul.
A strange and solemn object was that corpse to me. I gazed on it
with gloom and pain: nothing soft, nothing sweet, nothing pitying,
or hopeful, or subduing did it inspire; only a grating anguish
for HER woes -- not MY loss -- and a sombre tearless dismay at the
fearfulness of death in such a form.
Eliza surveyed her parent calmly. After a silence of some
minutes she observed -
"With her constitution she should have lived to a good old age:
her life was shortened by trouble." And then a spasm constricted
her mouth for an instant: as it passed away she turned and left
the room, and so did I. Neither of us had dropt a tear.
Mr. Rochester had given me but one week's leave of absence: yet
a month elapsed before I quitted Gateshead. I wished to leave
immediately after the funeral, but Georgiana entreated me to stay
till she could get off to London, whither she was now at last
invited by her uncle, Mr. Gibson, who had come down to direct his
sister's interment and settle the family affairs. Georgiana said
she dreaded being left alone with Eliza; from her she got neither
sympathy in her dejection, support in her fears, nor aid in her
preparations; so I bore with her feeble-minded wailings and selfish
lamentations as well as I could, and did my best in sewing for
her and packing her dresses. It is true, that while I worked, she
would idle; and I thought to myself, "If you and I were destined
to live always together, cousin, we would commence matters on a
different footing. I should not settle tamely down into being the
forbearing party; I should assign you your share of labour, and
compel you to accomplish it, or else it should be left undone: I
should insist, also, on your keeping some of those drawling,
half-insincere complaints hushed in your own breast. It is only
because our connection happens to be very transitory, and comes at
a peculiarly mournful season, that I consent thus to render it so
patient and compliant on my part."
At last I saw Georgiana off; but now it was Eliza's turn to
request me to stay another week. Her plans required all her time
and attention, she said; she was about to depart for some unknown
bourne; and all day long she stayed in her own room, her door
bolted within, filling trunks, emptying drawers, burning papers,
and holding no communication with any one. She wished me to look
after the house, to see callers, and answer notes of condolence.
One morning she told me I was at liberty. "And," she added, "I
am obliged to you for your valuable services and discreet conduct!
There is some difference between living with such an one as you
and with Georgiana: you perform your own part in life and burden
no one. To-morrow," she continued, "I set out for the Continent.
I shall take up my abode in a religious house near Lisle -- a
nunnery you would call it; there I shall be quiet and unmolested.
I shall devote myself for a time to the examination of the Roman
Catholic dogmas, and to a careful study of the workings of their
system: if I find it to be, as I half suspect it is, the one best
calculated to ensure the doing of all things decently and in order,
I shall embrace the tenets of Rome and probably take the veil."
I neither expressed surprise at this resolution nor attempted to
dissuade her from it. "The vocation will fit you to a hair," I
thought: "much good may it do you!"
When we parted, she said: "Good-bye, cousin Jane Eyre; I wish you
well: you have some sense."
I then returned: "You are not without sense, cousin Eliza; but
what you have, I suppose, in another year will be walled up alive
in a French convent. However, it is not my business, and so it
suits you, I don't much care."
"You are in the right," said she; and with these words we each went
our separate way. As I shall not have occasion to refer either to
her or her sister again, I may as well mention here, that Georgiana
made an advantageous match with a wealthy worn-out man of fashion,
and that Eliza actually took the veil, and is at this day superior
of the convent where she passed the period of her novitiate, and
which she endowed with her fortune.
How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long
or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation.
I had known what it was to come back to Gateshead when a child after
a long walk, to be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and later,
what it was to come back from church to Lowood, to long for
a plenteous meal and a good fire, and to be unable to get either.
Neither of these returnings was very pleasant or desirable: no
magnet drew me to a given point, increasing in its strength of
attraction the nearer I came. The return to Thornfield was yet to
My journey seemed tedious -- very tedious: fifty miles one day, a
night spent at an inn; fifty miles the next day. During the first
twelve hours I thought of Mrs. Reed in her last moments; I saw her
disfigured and discoloured face, and heard her strangely altered
voice. I mused on the funeral day, the coffin, the hearse, the black
train of tenants and servants -- few was the number of relatives
-- the gaping vault, the silent church, the solemn service. Then
I thought of Eliza and Georgiana; I beheld one the cynosure of a
ball-room, the other the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on
and analysed their separate peculiarities of person and character.
The evening arrival at the great town of -- scattered these thoughts;
night gave them quite another turn: laid down on my traveller's
bed, I left reminiscence for anticipation.
I was going back to Thornfield: but how long was I to stay there?
Not long; of that I was sure. I had heard from Mrs. Fairfax in
the interim of my absence: the party at the hall was dispersed;
Mr. Rochester had left for London three weeks ago, but he was then
expected to return in a fortnight. Mrs. Fairfax surmised that he
was gone to make arrangements for his wedding, as he had talked of
purchasing a new carriage: she said the idea of his marrying Miss
Ingram still seemed strange to her; but from what everybody said,
and from what she had herself seen, she could no longer doubt
that the event would shortly take place. "You would be strangely
incredulous if you did doubt it," was my mental comment. "I don't
The question followed, "Where was I to go?" I dreamt of Miss
Ingram all the night: in a vivid morning dream I saw her closing
the gates of Thornfield against me and pointing me out another
road; and Mr. Rochester looked on with his arms folded -- smiling
sardonically, as it seemed, at both her and me.
I had not notified to Mrs. Fairfax the exact day of my return; for
I did not wish either car or carriage to meet me at Millcote. I
proposed to walk the distance quietly by myself; and very quietly,
after leaving my box in the ostler's care, did I slip away from
the George Inn, about six o'clock of a June evening, and take the
old road to Thornfield: a road which lay chiefly through fields,
and was now little frequented.
It was not a bright or splendid summer evening, though fair and soft:
the haymakers were at work all along the road; and the sky, though
far from cloudless, was such as promised well for the future: its
blue -- where blue was visible -- was mild and settled, and its
cloud strata high and thin. The west, too, was warm: no watery
gleam chilled it -- it seemed as if there was a fire lit, an altar
burning behind its screen of marbled vapour, and out of apertures
shone a golden redness.
I felt glad as the road shortened before me: so glad that I stopped
once to ask myself what that joy meant: and to remind reason that
it was not to my home I was going, or to a permanent resting-place,
or to a place where fond friends looked out for me and waited my
arrival. "Mrs. Fairfax will smile you a calm welcome, to be sure,"
said I; "and little Adele will clap her hands and jump to see you:
but you know very well you are thinking of another than they, and
that he is not thinking of you."
But what is so headstrong as youth? What so blind as inexperience?
These affirmed that it was pleasure enough to have the privilege
of again looking on Mr. Rochester, whether he looked on me or not;
and they added -- "Hasten! hasten! be with him while you may:
but a few more days or weeks, at most, and you are parted from him
for ever!" And then I strangled a new-born agony -- a deformed
thing which I could not persuade myself to own and rear -- and ran
They are making hay, too, in Thornfield meadows: or rather, the
labourers are just quitting their work, and returning home with
their rakes on their shoulders, now, at the hour I arrive. I have
but a field or two to traverse, and then I shall cross the road and
reach the gates. How full the hedges are of roses! But I have no
time to gather any; I want to be at the house. I passed a tall
briar, shooting leafy and flowery branches across the path; I
see the narrow stile with stone steps; and I see -- Mr. Rochester
sitting there, a book and a pencil in his hand; he is writing.
Well, he is not a ghost; yet every nerve I have is unstrung: for
a moment I am beyond my own mastery. What does it mean? I did
not think I should tremble in this way when I saw him, or lose my
voice or the power of motion in his presence. I will go back as
soon as I can stir: I need not make an absolute fool of myself.
I know another way to the house. It does not signify if I knew
twenty ways; for he has seen me.
"Hillo!" he cries; and he puts up his book and his pencil. "There
you are! Come on, if you please."
I suppose I do come on; though in what fashion I know not; being
scarcely cognisant of my movements, and solicitous only to appear
calm; and, above all, to control the working muscles of my face
-- which I feel rebel insolently against my will, and struggle to
express what I had resolved to conceal. But I have a veil -- it
is down: I may make shift yet to behave with decent composure.
"And this is Jane Eyre? Are you coming from Millcote, and on foot?
Yes -- just one of your tricks: not to send for a carriage, and
come clattering over street and road like a common mortal, but to
steal into the vicinage of your home along with twilight, just as
if you were a dream or a shade. What the deuce have you done with
yourself this last month?"
"I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead."
"A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard! She comes from the
other world -- from the abode of people who are dead; and tells me
so when she meets me alone here in the gloaming! If I dared, I'd
touch you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf! -- but
I'd as soon offer to take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a
marsh. Truant! truant!" he added, when he had paused an instant.
"Absent from me a whole month, and forgetting me quite, I'll be
I knew there would be pleasure in meeting my master again, even
though broken by the fear that he was so soon to cease to be my
master, and by the knowledge that I was nothing to him: but there
was ever in Mr. Rochester (so at least I thought) such a wealth
of the power of communicating happiness, that to taste but of the
crumbs he scattered to stray and stranger birds like me, was to
feast genially. His last words were balm: they seemed to imply
that it imported something to him whether I forgot him or not.
And he had spoken of Thornfield as my home -- would that it were
He did not leave the stile, and I hardly liked to ask to go by. I
inquired soon if he had not been to London.
"Yes; I suppose you found that out by second-sight."
"Mrs. Fairfax told me in a letter."
"And did she inform you what I went to do?"
"Oh, yes, sir! Everybody knew your errand."
"You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don't think it
will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won't look like
Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish,
Jane, I were a trifle better adapted to match with her externally.
Tell me now, fairy as you are -- can't you give me a charm, or a
philter, or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?"
"It would be past the power of magic, sir;" and, in thought, I added,
"A loving eye is all the charm needed: to such you are handsome
enough; or rather your sternness has a power beyond beauty."
Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen
to me incomprehensible: in the present instance he took no notice
of my abrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certain
smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions.
He seemed to think it too good for common purposes: it was the
real sunshine of feeling -- he shed it over me now.
"Pass, Janet," said he, making room for me to cross the stile: "go
up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend's
All I had now to do was to obey him in silence: no need for me
to colloquise further. I got over the stile without a word, and
meant to leave him calmly. An impulse held me fast -- a force turned
me round. I said -- or something in me said for me, and in spite of me -
"Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely
glad to get back again to you: and wherever you are is my home --
my only home."
I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me
had he tried. Little Adele was half wild with delight when she saw
me. Mrs. Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness.
Leah smiled, and even Sophie bid me "bon soir" with glee. This
was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved
by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an
addition to their comfort.
I that evening shut my eyes resolutely against the future: I stopped
my cars against the voice that kept warning me of near separation
and coming grief. When tea was over and Mrs. Fairfax had taken
her knitting, and I had assumed a low seat near her, and Adele,
kneeling on the carpet, had nestled close up to me, and a sense of
mutual affection seemed to surround us with a ring of golden peace,
I uttered a silent prayer that we might not be parted far or soon;
but when, as we thus sat, Mr. Rochester entered, unannounced, and
looking at us, seemed to take pleasure in the spectacle of a group
so amicable -- when he said he supposed the old lady was all right
now that she had got her adopted daughter back again, and added
that he saw Adele was "prete e croquer sa petite maman Anglaise"
-- I half ventured to hope that he would, even after his marriage,
keep us together somewhere under the shelter of his protection,
and not quite exiled from the sunshine of his presence.
A fortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield Hall.
Nothing was said of the master's marriage, and I saw no preparation
going on for such an event. Almost every day I asked Mrs. Fairfax
if she had yet heard anything decided: her answer was always in
the negative. Once she said she had actually put the question to
Mr. Rochester as to when he was going to bring his bride home; but
he had answered her only by a joke and one of his queer looks, and
she could not tell what to make of him.
One thing specially surprised me, and that was, there were no
journeyings backward and forward, no visits to Ingram Park: to
be sure it was twenty miles off, on the borders of another county;
but what was that distance to an ardent lover? To so practised
and indefatigable a horseman as Mr. Rochester, it would be but a
morning's ride. I began to cherish hopes I had no right to conceive:
that the match was broken off; that rumour had been mistaken; that
one or both parties had changed their minds. I used to look at
my master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but I could not
remember the time when it had been so uniformly clear of clouds or
evil feelings. If, in the moments I and my pupil spent with him, I
lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he became even
gay. Never had he called me more frequently to his presence; never
been kinder to me when there -- and, alas! never had I loved him
A splendid Midsummer shone over England: skies so pure, suns so
radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favour even
singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days
had come from the South, like a flock of glorious passenger birds,
and lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion. The hay was
all got in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the
roads white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge
and wood, full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the
sunny hue of the cleared meadows between.
On Midsummer-eve, Adele, weary with gathering wild strawberries
in Hay Lane half the day, had gone to bed with the sun. I watched
her drop asleep, and when I left her, I sought the garden.
It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four:- "Day its fervid
fires had wasted," and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched
summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state -- pure of the
pomp of clouds -- spread a solemn purple, burning with the light
of red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill-peak, and
extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven.
The east had its own charm or fine deep blue, and its own modest
gem, a casino and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon;
but she was yet beneath the horizon.
I walked a while on the pavement; but a subtle, well-known scent
-- that of a cigar -- stole from some window; I saw the library
casement open a handbreadth; I knew I might be watched thence; so
I went apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered
and more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers:
a very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the
other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was
a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding
walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut,
circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence. Here one could
wander unseen. While such honey-dew fell, such silence reigned,
such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt such shade for
ever; but in threading the flower and fruit parterres at the upper
part of the enclosure, enticed there by the light the now rising
moon cast on this more open quarter, my step is stayed -- not by
sound, not by sight, but once more by a warning fragrance.
Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long
been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent
is neither of shrub nor flower; it is -- I know it well -- it is
Mr. Rochester's cigar. I look round and I listen. I see trees
laden with ripening fruit. I hear a nightingale warbling in a wood
half a mile off; no moving form is visible, no coming step audible;
but that perfume increases: I must flee. I make for the wicket
leading to the shrubbery, and I see Mr. Rochester entering. I step
aside into the ivy recess; he will not stay long: he will soon
return whence he came, and if I sit still he will never see me.
But no -- eventide is as pleasant to him as to me, and this antique
garden as attractive; and he strolls on, now lifting the gooseberry-
tree branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they
are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping
towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to
admire the dew-beads on their petals. A great moth goes humming
by me; it alights on a plant at Mr. Rochester's foot: he sees it,
and bends to examine it.
"Now, he has his back towards me," thought I, "and he is occupied
too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed."
I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel
might not betray me: he was standing among the beds at a yard or
two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged
him. "I shall get by very well," I meditated. As I crossed his
shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet
risen high, he said quietly, without turning -
"Jane, come and look at this fellow."
I had made no noise: he had not eyes behind -- could his shadow
feel? I started at first, and then I approached him.
"Look at his wings," said he, "he reminds me rather of a West Indian
insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in
England; there! he is flown."
The moth roamed away. I was sheepishly retreating also; but Mr.
Rochester followed me, and when we reached the wicket, he said -
"Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house;
and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at
meeting with moonrise."
It is one of my faults, that though my tongue is sometimes prompt
enough at an answer, there are times when it sadly fails me in
framing an excuse; and always the lapse occurs at some crisis, when
a facile word or plausible pretext is specially wanted to get me
out of painful embarrassment. I did not like to walk at this hour
alone with Mr. Rochester in the shadowy orchard; but I could not
find a reason to allege for leaving him. I followed with lagging
step, and thoughts busily bent on discovering a means of extrication;
but he himself looked so composed and so grave also, I became
ashamed of feeling any confusion: the evil -- if evil existent or
prospective there was -- seemed to lie with me only; his mind was
unconscious and quiet.
"Jane," he recommenced, as we entered the laurel walk, and slowly
strayed down in the direction of the sunk fence and the horse-chestnut,
"Thornfield is a pleasant place in summer, is it not?"
"You must have become in some degree attached to the house, --
you, who have an eye for natural beauties, and a good deal of the
organ of Adhesiveness?"
"I am attached to it, indeed."
"And though I don't comprehend how it is, I perceive you have
acquired a degree of regard for that foolish little child Adele,
too; and even for simple dame Fairfax?"
"Yes, sir; in different ways, I have an affection for both."
"And would be sorry to part with them?"
"Pity!" he said, and sighed and paused. "It is always the way
of events in this life," he continued presently: "no sooner have
you got settled in a pleasant resting-place, than a voice calls
out to you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired."
"Must I move on, sir?" I asked. "Must I leave Thornfield?"
"I believe you must, Jane. I am sorry, Janet, but I believe indeed
This was a blow: but I did not let it prostrate me.
"Well, sir, I shall be ready when the order to march comes."
"It is come now -- I must give it to-night."
"Then you ARE going to be married, sir?"
"Ex-act-ly -- pre-cise-ly: with your usual acuteness, you have
hit the nail straight on the head."
"Very soon, my -- that is, Miss Eyre: and you'll remember, Jane,
the first time I, or Rumour, plainly intimated to you that it was
my intention to put my old bachelor's neck into the sacred noose,
to enter into the holy estate of matrimony -- to take Miss Ingram
to my bosom, in short (she's an extensive armful: but that's not
to the point -- one can't have too much of such a very excellent
thing as my beautiful Blanche): well, as I was saying -- listen to
me, Jane! You're not turning your head to look after more moths,
are you? That was only a lady-clock, child, 'flying away home.'
I wish to remind you that it was you who first said to me, with
that discretion I respect in you -- with that foresight, prudence,
and humility which befit your responsible and dependent position
-- that in case I married Miss Ingram, both you and little Adele
had better trot forthwith. I pass over the sort of slur conveyed
in this suggestion on the character of my beloved; indeed, when
you are far away, Janet, I'll try to forget it: I shall notice
only its wisdom; which is such that I have made it my law of
action. Adele must go to school; and you, Miss Eyre, must get a
"Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately: and meantime, I suppose
-- " I was going to say, "I suppose I may stay here, till I find
another shelter to betake myself to:" but I stopped, feeling it
would not do to risk a long sentence, for my voice was not quite
"In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom," continued Mr. Rochester;
"and in the interim, I shall myself look out for employment and an
asylum for you."
"Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give -- "
"Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependent does
her duty as well as you have done yours, she has a sort of claim
upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently
render her; indeed I have already, through my future mother-in-law,
heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the
education of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of Bitternutt
Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You'll like Ireland, I think: they're
such warm-hearted people there, they say."
"It is a long way off, sir."
"No matter -- a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage
or the distance."
"Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier -- "
"From what, Jane?"
"From England and from Thornfield: and -- "
"From YOU, sir."
I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of
free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to be heard,
however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O'Gall and Bitternutt
Lodge struck cold to my heart; and colder the thought of all the
brine and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me and the
master at whose side I now walked, and coldest the remembrance of
the wider ocean -- wealth, caste, custom intervened between me and
what I naturally and inevitably loved.
"It is a long way," I again said.
"It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught,
Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane: that's morally certain.
I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for
the country. We have been good friends, Jane; have we not?"
"And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend
the little time that remains to them close to each other. Come!
we'll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour
or so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven
yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old
roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should
never more be destined to sit there together." He seated me and
"It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my
little friend on such weary travels: but if I can't do better,
how is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think,
I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
"Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard
to you -- especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I
had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably
knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter
of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two
hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that
cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I
should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, -- you'd forget me."
"That I NEVER should, sir: You know -- " Impossible to proceed.
"Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!"
In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I
endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was shaken from
head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only
to express an impetuous wish that I had never been born, or never
come to Thornfield.
"Because you are sorry to leave it?"
The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me,
was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting
a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at
last: yes, -- and to speak.
"I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield:- I love it, because
I have lived in it a full and delightful life, -- momentarily at
least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I
have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every
glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high.
I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I
delight in, -- with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I
have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and
anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see
the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity
"Where do you see the necessity?" he asked suddenly.
"Where? You, sir, have placed it before me."
"In what shape?"
"In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, -- your
"My bride! What bride? I have no bride!"
"But you will have."
"Yes; -- I will! -- I will!" He set his teeth.
"Then I must go:- you have said it yourself."
"No: you must stay! I swear it -- and the oath shall be kept."
"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like
passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do
you think I am an automaton? -- a machine without feelings? and
can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my
drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I
am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?
You think wrong! -- I have as much soul as you, -- and full as much
heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth,
I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for
me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium
of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; -- it is
my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed
through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, -- as we
"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester -- "so," he added, enclosing
me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on
my lips: "so, Jane!"
"Yes, so, sir," I rejoined: "and yet not so; for you are a married
man -- or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you
-- to one with whom you have no sympathy -- whom I do not believe
you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would