Part 9 out of 11
And indeed my head swam: I dropped, but a chair received me. I
still possessed my senses, though just now I could not speak.
"Perhaps a little water would restore her. Hannah, fetch some.
But she is worn to nothing. How very thin, and how very bloodless!"
"A mere spectre!"
"Is she ill, or only famished?"
"Famished, I think. Hannah, is that milk? Give it me, and a piece
Diana (I knew her by the long curls which I saw drooping between
me and the fire as she bent over me) broke some bread, dipped it
in milk, and put it to my lips. Her face was near mine: I saw
there was pity in it, and I felt sympathy in her hurried breathing.
In her simple words, too, the same balm-like emotion spoke: "Try
"Yes -- try," repeated Mary gently; and Mary's hand removed my
sodden bonnet and lifted my head. I tasted what they offered me:
feebly at first, eagerly soon.
"Not too much at first -- restrain her," said the brother; "she
has had enough." And he withdrew the cup of milk and the plate of
"A little more, St. John -- look at the avidity in her eyes."
"No more at present, sister. Try if she can speak now -- ask her
I felt I could speak, and I answered -- "My name is Jane Elliott."
Anxious as ever to avoid discovery, I had before resolved to assume
"And where do you live? Where are your friends?"
I was silent.
"Can we send for any one you know?"
I shook my head.
"What account can you give of yourself?"
Somehow, now that I had once crossed the threshold of this house,
and once was brought face to face with its owners, I felt no longer
outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world. I dared to put
off the mendicant -- to resume my natural manner and character.
I began once more to know myself; and when Mr. St. John demanded
an account -- which at present I was far too weak to render
-- I said after a brief pause -
"Sir, I can give you no details to-night."
"But what, then," said he, "do you expect me to do for you?"
"Nothing," I replied. My strength sufficed for but short
answers. Diana took the word -
"Do you mean," she asked, "that we have now given you what aid you
require? and that we may dismiss you to the moor and the rainy
I looked at her. She had, I thought, a remarkable countenance,
instinct both with power and goodness. I took sudden courage.
Answering her compassionate gaze with a smile, I said -- "I will
trust you. If I were a masterless and stray dog, I know that you
would not turn me from your hearth to-night: as it is, I really
have no fear. Do with me and for me as you like; but excuse me
from much discourse -- my breath is short -- I feel a spasm when
I speak." All three surveyed me, and all three were silent.
"Hannah," said Mr. St. John, at last, "let her sit there at
present, and ask her no questions; in ten minutes more, give her
the remainder of that milk and bread. Mary and Diana, let us go
into the parlour and talk the matter over."
They withdrew. Very soon one of the ladies returned -- I could
not tell which. A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me as
I sat by the genial fire. In an undertone she gave some directions
to Hannah. Ere long, with the servant's aid, I contrived to mount
a staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warm, dry
bed received me. I thanked God -- experienced amidst unutterable
exhaustion a glow of grateful joy -- and slept.
The recollection of about three days and nights succeeding this is
very dim in my mind. I can recall some sensations felt in that
interval; but few thoughts framed, and no actions performed. I knew
I was in a small room and in a narrow bed. To that bed I seemed
to have grown; I lay on it motionless as a stone; and to have torn
me from it would have been almost to kill me. I took no note of
the lapse of time -- of the change from morning to noon, from noon
to evening. I observed when any one entered or left the apartment:
I could even tell who they were; I could understand what was said
when the speaker stood near to me; but I could not answer; to
open my lips or move my limbs was equally impossible. Hannah, the
servant, was my most frequent visitor. Her coming disturbed me. I
had a feeling that she wished me away: that she did not understand
me or my circumstances; that she was prejudiced against me. Diana
and Mary appeared in the chamber once or twice a day. They
would whisper sentences of this sort at my bedside -
"It is very well we took her in."
"Yes; she would certainly have been found dead at the door in the
morning had she been left out all night. I wonder what she has
"Strange hardships, I imagine -- poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer?"
"She is not an uneducated person, I should think, by her manner of
speaking; her accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took off,
though splashed and wet, were little worn and fine."
"She has a peculiar face; fleshless and haggard as it is, I rather
like it; and when in good health and animated, I can fancy her
physiognomy would be agreeable."
Never once in their dialogues did I hear a syllable of regret at
the hospitality they had extended to me, or of suspicion of, or
aversion to, myself. I was comforted.
Mr. St. John came but once: he looked at me, and said my state of
lethargy was the result of reaction from excessive and protracted
fatigue. He pronounced it needless to send for a doctor: nature,
he was sure, would manage best, left to herself. He said every nerve
had been overstrained in some way, and the whole system must sleep
torpid a while. There was no disease. He imagined my recovery would
be rapid enough when once commenced. These opinions he delivered
in a few words, in a quiet, low voice; and added, after a pause, in
the tone of a man little accustomed to expansive comment, "Rather
an unusual physiognomy; certainly, not indicative of vulgarity or
"Far otherwise," responded Diana. "To speak truth, St. John, my
heart rather warms to the poor little soul. I wish we may be able
to benefit her permanently."
"That is hardly likely," was the reply. "You will find she is
some young lady who has had a misunderstanding with her friends,
and has probably injudiciously left them. We may, perhaps, succeed
in restoring her to them, if she is not obstinate: but I trace lines
of force in her face which make me sceptical of her tractability."
He stood considering me some minutes; then added, "She looks
sensible, but not at all handsome."
"She is so ill, St. John."
"Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of
beauty are quite wanting in those features."
On the third day I was better; on the fourth, I could speak, move,
rise in bed, and turn. Hannah had brought me some gruel and dry
toast, about, as I supposed, the dinner-hour. I had eaten with
relish: the food was good -- void of the feverish flavour which
had hitherto poisoned what I had swallowed. When she left me, I
felt comparatively strong and revived: ere long satiety of repose
and desire for action stirred me. I wished to rise; but what could
I put on? Only my damp and bemired apparel; in which I had slept
on the ground and fallen in the marsh. I felt ashamed to appear
before my benefactors so clad. I was spared the humiliation.
On a chair by the bedside were all my own things, clean and dry.
My black silk frock hung against the wall. The traces of the bog
were removed from it; the creases left by the wet smoothed out: it
was quite decent. My very shoes and stockings were purified and
rendered presentable. There were the means of washing in the room,
and a comb and brush to smooth my hair. After a weary process,
and resting every five minutes, I succeeded in dressing myself.
My clothes hung loose on me; for I was much wasted, but I covered
deficiencies with a shawl, and once more, clean and respectable looking
-- no speck of the dirt, no trace of the disorder I so hated, and
which seemed so to degrade me, left -- I crept down a stone staircase
with the aid of the banisters, to a narrow low passage, and found
my way presently to the kitchen.
It was full of the fragrance of new bread and the warmth of a
generous fire. Hannah was baking. Prejudices, it is well known,
are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never
been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm
as weeds among stones. Hannah had been cold and stiff, indeed,
at the first: latterly she had begun to relent a little; and when
she saw me come in tidy and well-dressed, she even smiled.
"What, you have got up!" she said. "You are better, then. You
may sit you down in my chair on the hearthstone, if you will."
She pointed to the rocking-chair: I took it. She bustled about,
examining me every now and then with the corner of her eye. Turning
to me, as she took some loaves from the oven, she asked bluntly -
"Did you ever go a-begging afore you came here?"
I was indignant for a moment; but remembering that anger was out
of the question, and that I had indeed appeared as a beggar to her,
I answered quietly, but still not without a certain marked firmness -
"You are mistaken in supposing me a beggar. I am no beggar; any
more than yourself or your young ladies."
After a pause she said, "I dunnut understand that: you've like no
house, nor no brass, I guess?"
"The want of house or brass (by which I suppose you mean money)
does not make a beggar in your sense of the word."
"Are you book-learned?" she inquired presently.
"But you've never been to a boarding-school?"
"I was at a boarding-school eight years."
She opened her eyes wide. "Whatever cannot ye keep yourself for,
"I have kept myself; and, I trust, shall keep myself again. What
are you going to do with these gooseberries?" I inquired, as she
brought out a basket of the fruit.
"Mak' 'em into pies."
"Give them to me and I'll pick them."
"Nay; I dunnut want ye to do nought."
"But I must do something. Let me have them."
She consented; and she even brought me a clean towel to spread over
my dress, "lest," as she said, "I should mucky it."
"Ye've not been used to sarvant's wark, I see by your hands," she
remarked. "Happen ye've been a dressmaker?"
"No, you are wrong. And now, never mind what I have been: don't
trouble your head further about me; but tell me the name of the
house where we are."
"Some calls it Marsh End, and some calls it Moor House."
"And the gentleman who lives here is called Mr. St. John?"
"Nay; he doesn't live here: he is only staying a while. When he
is at home, he is in his own parish at Morton."
"That village a few miles off?
"And what is he?"
"He is a parson."
I remembered the answer of the old housekeeper at the parsonage,
when I had asked to see the clergyman. "This, then, was his father's
"Aye; old Mr. Rivers lived here, and his father, and grandfather,
and gurt (great) grandfather afore him."
"The name, then, of that gentleman, is Mr. St. John Rivers?"
"Aye; St. John is like his kirstened name."
"And his sisters are called Diana and Mary Rivers?"
"Their father is dead?"
"Dead three weeks sin' of a stroke."
"They have no mother?"
"The mistress has been dead this mony a year."
"Have you lived with the family long?"
"I've lived here thirty year. I nursed them all three."
"That proves you must have been an honest and faithful servant.
I will say so much for you, though you have had the incivility to
call me a beggar."
She again regarded me with a surprised stare. "I believe," she
said, "I was quite mista'en in my thoughts of you: but there is
so mony cheats goes about, you mun forgie me."
"And though," I continued, rather severely, "you wished to turn me
from the door, on a night when you should not have shut out a dog."
"Well, it was hard: but what can a body do? I thought more o' th'
childer nor of mysel: poor things! They've like nobody to tak'
care on 'em but me. I'm like to look sharpish."
I maintained a grave silence for some minutes.
"You munnut think too hardly of me," she again remarked.
"But I do think hardly of you," I said; "and I'll tell you why --
not so much because you refused to give me shelter, or regarded me
as an impostor, as because you just now made it a species of reproach
that I had no 'brass' and no house. Some of the best people that
ever lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian,
you ought not to consider poverty a crime."
"No more I ought," said she: "Mr. St. John tells me so too; and
I see I wor wrang -- but I've clear a different notion on you now
to what I had. You look a raight down dacent little crater."
"That will do -- I forgive you now. Shake hands."
She put her floury and horny hand into mine; another and heartier
smile illumined her rough face, and from that moment we were friends.
Hannah was evidently fond of talking. While I picked the fruit,
and she made the paste for the pies, she proceeded to give me sundry
details about her deceased master and mistress, and "the childer,"
as she called the young people.
Old Mr. Rivers, she said, was a plain man enough, but a gentleman, and
of as ancient a family as could be found. Marsh End had belonged
to the Rivers ever since it was a house: and it was, she affirmed,
"aboon two hundred year old -- for all it looked but a small,
humble place, naught to compare wi' Mr. Oliver's grand hall down
i' Morton Vale. But she could remember Bill Oliver's father a
journeyman needlemaker; and th' Rivers wor gentry i' th' owd days
o' th' Henrys, as onybody might see by looking into th' registers
i' Morton Church vestry." Still, she allowed, "the owd maister was
like other folk -- naught mich out o' t' common way: stark mad o'
shooting, and farming, and sich like." The mistress was different.
She was a great reader, and studied a deal; and the "bairns" had
taken after her. There was nothing like them in these parts, nor
ever had been; they had liked learning, all three, almost from
the time they could speak; and they had always been "of a mak' of
their own." Mr. St. John, when he grew up, would go to college
and be a parson; and the girls, as soon as they left school, would
seek places as governesses: for they had told her their father had
some years ago lost a great deal of money by a man he had trusted
turning bankrupt; and as he was now not rich enough to give them
fortunes, they must provide for themselves. They had lived very
little at home for a long while, and were only come now to stay a
few weeks on account of their father's death; but they did so like
Marsh End and Morton, and all these moors and hills about. They
had been in London, and many other grand towns; but they always
said there was no place like home; and then they were so agreeable
with each other -- never fell out nor "threaped." She did not know
where there was such a family for being united.
Having finished my task of gooseberry picking, I asked where the
two ladies and their brother were now.
"Gone over to Morton for a walk; but they would be back in half-an-hour
They returned within the time Hannah had allotted them: they
entered by the kitchen door. Mr. St. John, when he saw me, merely
bowed and passed through; the two ladies stopped: Mary, in a few
words, kindly and calmly expressed the pleasure she felt in seeing
me well enough to be able to come down; Diana took my hand: she
shook her head at me.
"You should have waited for my leave to descend," she said. "You
still look very pale -- and so thin! Poor child! -- poor girl!"
Diana had a voice toned, to my ear, like the cooing of a dove.
She possessed eyes whose gaze I delighted to encounter. Her whole
face seemed to me full of charm. Mary's countenance was equally
intelligent -- her features equally pretty; but her expression
was more reserved, and her manners, though gentle, more distant.
Diana looked and spoke with a certain authority: she had a will,
evidently. It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to an
authority supported like hers, and to bend, where my conscience
and self-respect permitted, to an active will.
"And what business have you here?" she continued. "It is not your
place. Mary and I sit in the kitchen sometimes, because at home
we like to be free, even to license -- but you are a visitor, and
must go into the parlour."
"I am very well here."
"Not at all, with Hannah bustling about and covering you with
"Besides, the fire is too hot for you," interposed Mary.
"To be sure," added her sister. "Come, you must be obedient." And
still holding my hand she made me rise, and led me into the inner
"Sit there," she said, placing me on the sofa, "while we take
our things off and get the tea ready; it is another privilege we
exercise in our little moorland home -- to prepare our own meals
when we are so inclined, or when Hannah is baking, brewing, washing,
She closed the door, leaving me solus with Mr. St. John, who sat
opposite, a book or newspaper in his hand. I examined first, the
parlour, and then its occupant.
The parlour was rather a small room, very plainly furnished, yet
comfortable, because clean and neat. The old-fashioned chairs were
very bright, and the walnut-wood table was like a looking-glass. A
few strange, antique portraits of the men and women of other days
decorated the stained walls; a cupboard with glass doors contained
some books and an ancient set of china. There was no superfluous
ornament in the room -- not one modern piece of furniture, save a
brace of workboxes and a lady's desk in rosewood, which stood on
a side-table: everything -- including the carpet and curtains --
looked at once well worn and well saved.
Mr. St. John -- sitting as still as one of the dusty pictures on
the walls, keeping his eyes fixed on the page he perused, and his
lips mutely sealed -- was easy enough to examine. Had he been
a statue instead of a man, he could not have been easier. He was
young -- perhaps from twenty-eight to thirty -- tall, slender;
his face riveted the eye; it was like a Greek face, very pure in
outline: quite a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth
and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the
antique models as did his. He might well be a little shocked at
the irregularity of my lineaments, his own being so harmonious.
His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead,
colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks
of fair hair.
This is a gentle delineation, is it not, reader? Yet he whom
it describes scarcely impressed one with the idea of a gentle, a
yielding, an impressible, or even of a placid nature. Quiescent
as he now sat, there was something about his nostril, his mouth,
his brow, which, to my perceptions, indicated elements within either
restless, or hard, or eager. He did not speak to me one word, nor
even direct to me one glance, till his sisters returned. Diana,
as she passed in and out, in the course of preparing tea, brought
me a little cake, baked on the top of the oven.
"Eat that now," she said: "you must be hungry. Hannah says you
have had nothing but some gruel since breakfast."
I did not refuse it, for my appetite was awakened and keen. Mr.
Rivers now closed his book, approached the table, and, as he took
a seat, fixed his blue pictorial-looking eyes full on me. There
was an unceremonious directness, a searching, decided steadfastness
in his gaze now, which told that intention, and not diffidence,
had hitherto kept it averted from the stranger.
"You are very hungry," he said.
"I am, sir." It is my way -- it always was my way, by instinct --
ever to meet the brief with brevity, the direct with plainness.
"It is well for you that a low fever has forced you to abstain for
the last three days: there would have been danger in yielding to
the cravings of your appetite at first. Now you may eat, though
still not immoderately."
"I trust I shall not eat long at your expense, sir," was my very
clumsily-contrived, unpolished answer.
"No," he said coolly: "when you have indicated to us the residence
of your friends, we can write to them, and you may be restored to
"That, I must plainly tell you, is out of my power to do; being
absolutely without home and friends."
The three looked at me, but not distrustfully; I felt there was no
suspicion in their glances: there was more of curiosity. I speak
particularly of the young ladies. St. John's eyes, though clear
enough in a literal sense, in a figurative one were difficult
to fathom. He seemed to use them rather as instruments to search
other people's thoughts, than as agents to reveal his own: the
which combination of keenness and reserve was considerably more
calculated to embarrass than to encourage.
"Do you mean to say," he asked, "that you are completely isolated
from every connection?"
"I do. Not a tie links me to any living thing: not a claim do I
possess to admittance under any roof in England."
"A most singular position at your age!"
Here I saw his glance directed to my hands, which were folded on
the table before me. I wondered what he sought there: his words
soon explained the quest.
"You have never been married? You are a spinster?"
Diana laughed. "Why, she can't he above seventeen or eighteen
years old, St. John," said she.
"I am near nineteen: but I am not married. No."
I felt a burning glow mount to my face; for bitter and agitating
recollections were awakened by the allusion to marriage. They all
saw the embarrassment and the emotion. Diana and Mary relieved me
by turning their eyes elsewhere than to my crimsoned visage; but
the colder and sterner brother continued to gaze, till the trouble
he had excited forced out tears as well as colour.
"Where did you last reside?" he now asked.
"You are too inquisitive, St. John," murmured Mary in a low voice;
but he leaned over the table and required an answer by a second
firm and piercing look.
"The name of the place where, and of the person with whom I lived,
is my secret," I replied concisely.
"Which, if you like, you have, in my opinion, a right to keep, both
from St. John and every other questioner," remarked Diana.
"Yet if I know nothing about you or your history, I cannot help
you," he said. "And you need help, do you not?"
"I need it, and I seek it so far, sir, that some true philanthropist
will put me in the way of getting work which I can do, and the
remuneration for which will keep me, if but in the barest necessaries
"I know not whether I am a true philanthropist; yet I am willing to
aid you to the utmost of my power in a purpose so honest. First,
then, tell me what you have been accustomed to do, and what you
I had now swallowed my tea. I was mightily refreshed by the beverage;
as much so as a giant with wine: it gave new tone to my unstrung
nerves, and enabled me to address this penetrating young judge
"Mr. Rivers," I said, turning to him, and looking at him, as he
looked at me, openly and without diffidence, "you and your sisters
have done me a great service -- the greatest man can do his fellow-
being; you have rescued me, by your noble hospitality, from death.
This benefit conferred gives you an unlimited claim on my gratitude,
and a claim, to a certain extent, on my confidence. I will tell
you as much of the history of the wanderer you have harboured,
as I can tell without compromising my own peace of mind -- my own
security, moral and physical, and that of others.
"I am an orphan, the daughter of a clergyman. My parents died
before I could know them. I was brought up a dependant; educated
in a charitable institution. I will even tell you the name of the
establishment, where I passed six years as a pupil, and two as a
teacher -- Lowood Orphan Asylum, -shire: you will have heard of
it, Mr. Rivers? -- the Rev. Robert Brocklehurst is the treasurer."
"I have heard of Mr. Brocklehurst, and I have seen the school."
"I left Lowood nearly a year since to become a private governess.
I obtained a good situation, and was happy. This place I was
obliged to leave four days before I came here. The reason of my
departure I cannot and ought not to explain: it would be useless,
dangerous, and would sound incredible. No blame attached to me:
I am as free from culpability as any one of you three. Miserable
I am, and must be for a time; for the catastrophe which drove me
from a house I had found a paradise was of a strange and direful
nature. I observed but two points in planning my departure -- speed,
secrecy: to secure these, I had to leave behind me everything I
possessed except a small parcel; which, in my hurry and trouble of
mind, I forgot to take out of the coach that brought me to Whitcross.
To this neighbourhood, then, I came, quite destitute. I slept two
nights in the open air, and wandered about two days without crossing
a threshold: but twice in that space of time did I taste food;
and it was when brought by hunger, exhaustion, and despair almost
to the last gasp, that you, Mr. Rivers, forbade me to perish of
want at your door, and took me under the shelter of your roof. I
know all your sisters have done for me since -- for I have not
been insensible during my seeming torpor -- and I owe to their
spontaneous, genuine, genial compassion as large a debt as to your
"Don't make her talk any more now, St. John," said Diana, as I
paused; "she is evidently not yet fit for excitement. Come to the
sofa and sit down now, Miss Elliott."
I gave an involuntary half start at hearing the alias: I had
forgotten my new name. Mr. Rivers, whom nothing seemed to escape,
noticed it at once.
"You said your name was Jane Elliott?" he observed.
"I did say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient to
be called at present, but it is not my real name, and when I hear
it, it sounds strange to me."
"Your real name you will not give?"
"No: I fear discovery above all things; and whatever disclosure
would lead to it, I avoid."
"You are quite right, I am sure," said Diana. "Now do, brother,
let her be at peace a while."
But when St. John had mused a few moments he recommenced as
imperturbably and with as much acumen as ever.
"You would not like to be long dependent on our hospitality -- you
would wish, I see, to dispense as soon as may be with my sisters'
compassion, and, above all, with my CHARITY (I am quite sensible
of the distinction drawn, nor do I resent it -- it is just): you
desire to be independent of us?"
"I do: I have already said so. Show me how to work, or how to seek
work: that is all I now ask; then let me go, if it be but to the
meanest cottage; but till then, allow me to stay here: I dread
another essay of the horrors of homeless destitution."
"Indeed you SHALL stay here," said Diana, putting her white hand on
my head. "You SHALL," repeated Mary, in the tone of undemonstrative
sincerity which seemed natural to her.
"My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you," said Mr.
St. John, "as they would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing
a half-frozen bird, some wintry wind might have driven through
their casement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of
keeping yourself, and shall endeavour to do so; but observe, my
sphere is narrow. I am but the incumbent of a poor country parish:
my aid must be of the humblest sort. And if you are inclined to
despise the day of small things, seek some more efficient succour
than such as I can offer."
"She has already said that she is willing to do anything honest
she can do," answered Diana for me; "and you know, St. John, she
has no choice of helpers: she is forced to put up with such crusty
people as you."
"I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain-workwoman; I will be a
servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better," I answered.
"Right," said Mr. St. John, quite coolly. "If such is your spirit,
I promise to aid you, in my own time and way."
He now resumed the book with which he had been occupied before tea.
I soon withdrew, for I had talked as much, and sat up as long, as
my present strength would permit.
The more I knew of the inmates of Moor House, the better I liked
them. In a few days I had so far recovered my health that I could
sit up all day, and walk out sometimes. I could join with Diana
and Mary in all their occupations; converse with them as much as
they wished, and aid them when and where they would allow me. There
was a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted
by me for the first time -- the pleasure arising from perfect
congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles.
I liked to read what they liked to read: what they enjoyed,
delighted me; what they approved, I reverenced. They loved their
sequestered home. I, too, in the grey, small, antique structure,
with its low roof, its latticed casements, its mouldering walls,
its avenue of aged firs -- all grown aslant under the stress of
mountain winds; its garden, dark with yew and holly -- and where
no flowers but of the hardiest species would bloom -- found a charm
both potent and permanent. They clung to the purple moors behind
and around their dwelling -- to the hollow vale into which the
pebbly bridle-path leading from their gate descended, and which
wound between fern-banks first, and then amongst a few of the
wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of
heath, or gave sustenance to a flock of grey moorland sheep, with
their little mossy-faced lambs:- they clung to this scene, I say,
with a perfect enthusiasm of attachment. I could comprehend the
feeling, and share both its strength and truth. I saw the fascination
of the locality. I felt the consecration of its loneliness: my eye
feasted on the outline of swell and sweep -- on the wild colouring
communicated to ridge and dell by moss, by heath-bell, by
flower-sprinkled turf, by brilliant bracken, and mellow granite
crag. These details were just to me what they were to them -- so
many pure and sweet sources of pleasure. The strong blast and the
soft breeze; the rough and the halcyon day; the hours of sunrise
and sunset; the moonlight and the clouded night, developed for me,
in these regions, the same attraction as for them -- wound round
my faculties the same spell that entranced theirs.
Indoors we agreed equally well. They were both more accomplished
and better read than I was; but with eagerness I followed in the
path of knowledge they had trodden before me. I devoured the books
they lent me: then it was full satisfaction to discuss with them
in the evening what I had perused during the day. Thought fitted
thought; opinion met opinion: we coincided, in short, perfectly.
If in our trio there was a superior and a leader, it was Diana.
Physically, she far excelled me: she was handsome; she was vigorous.
In her animal spirits there was an affluence of life and certainty
of flow, such as excited my wonder, while it baffled my comprehension.
I could talk a while when the evening commenced, but the first
gush of vivacity and fluency gone, I was fain to sit on a stool at
Diana's feet, to rest my head on her knee, and listen alternately
to her and Mary, while they sounded thoroughly the topic on which
I had but touched. Diana offered to teach me German. I liked to
learn of her: I saw the part of instructress pleased and suited
her; that of scholar pleased and suited me no less. Our natures
dovetailed: mutual affection -- of the strongest kind -- was the
result. They discovered I could draw: their pencils and colour-boxes
were immediately at my service. My skill, greater in this one
point than theirs, surprised and charmed them. Mary would sit and
watch me by the hour together: then she would take lessons; and
a docile, intelligent, assiduous pupil she made. Thus occupied,
and mutually entertained, days passed like hours, and weeks like
As to Mr. St John, the intimacy which had arisen so naturally and
rapidly between me and his sisters did not extend to him. One
reason of the distance yet observed between us was, that he
was comparatively seldom at home: a large proportion of his time
appeared devoted to visiting the sick and poor among the scattered
population of his parish.
No weather seemed to hinder him in these pastoral excursions: rain
or fair, he would, when his hours of morning study were over, take
his hat, and, followed by his father's old pointer, Carlo, go out
on his mission of love or duty -- I scarcely know in which light
he regarded it. Sometimes, when the day was very unfavourable,
his sisters would expostulate. He would then say, with a peculiar
smile, more solemn than cheerful --
"And if I let a gust of wind or a sprinkling of rain turn me aside
from these easy tasks, what preparation would such sloth be for
the future I propose to myself?"
Diana and Mary's general answer to this question was a sigh, and
some minutes of apparently mournful meditation.
But besides his frequent absences, there was another barrier to
friendship with him: he seemed of a reserved, an abstracted, and
even of a brooding nature. Zealous in his ministerial labours,
blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy
that mental serenity, that inward content, which should be the
reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist.
Often, of an evening, when he sat at the window, his desk and papers
before him, he would cease reading or writing, rest his chin on his
hand, and deliver himself up to I know not what course of thought;
but that it was perturbed and exciting might be seen in the frequent
flash and changeful dilation of his eye.
I think, moreover, that Nature was not to him that treasury of
delight it was to his sisters. He expressed once, and but once in
my hearing, a strong sense of the rugged charm of the hills, and
an inborn affection for the dark roof and hoary walls he called
his home; but there was more of gloom than pleasure in the tone
and words in which the sentiment was manifested; and never did he
seem to roam the moors for the sake of their soothing silence --
never seek out or dwell upon the thousand peaceful delights they
Incommunicative as he was, some time elapsed before I had
an opportunity of gauging his mind. I first got an idea of its
calibre when I heard him preach in his own church at Morton. I wish
I could describe that sermon: but it is past my power. I cannot
even render faithfully the effect it produced on me.
It began calm -- and indeed, as far as delivery and pitch of voice
went, it was calm to the end: an earnestly felt, yet strictly
restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents, and prompted
the nervous language. This grew to force -- compressed, condensed,
controlled. The heart was thrilled, the mind astonished, by the
power of the preacher: neither were softened. Throughout there
was a strange bitterness; an absence of consolatory gentleness;
stern allusions to Calvinistic doctrines -- election, predestination,
reprobation -- were frequent; and each reference to these points
sounded like a sentence pronounced for doom. When he had done,
instead of feeling better, calmer, more enlightened by his discourse,
I experienced an inexpressible sadness; for it seemed to me -- I
know not whether equally so to others -- that the eloquence to which
I had been listening had sprung from a depth where lay turbid dregs
of disappointment -- where moved troubling impulses of insatiate
yearnings and disquieting aspirations. I was sure St. John Rivers
-- pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was -- had not yet
found that peace of God which passeth all understanding: he had no
more found it, I thought, than had I with my concealed and racking
regrets for my broken idol and lost elysium -- regrets to which I
have latterly avoided referring, but which possessed me and tyrannised
over me ruthlessly.
Meantime a month was gone. Diana and Mary were soon to leave Moor
House, and return to the far different life and scene which awaited
them, as governesses in a large, fashionable, south-of-England
city, where each held a situation in families by whose wealthy
and haughty members they were regarded only as humble dependants,
and who neither knew nor sought out their innate excellences, and
appreciated only their acquired accomplishments as they appreciated
the skill of their cook or the taste of their waiting-woman. Mr.
St. John had said nothing to me yet about the employment he had
promised to obtain for me; yet it became urgent that I should have
a vocation of some kind. One morning, being left alone with him a
few minutes in the parlour, I ventured to approach the window-recess
-- which his table, chair, and desk consecrated as a kind of study
-- and I was going to speak, though not very well knowing in what
words to frame my inquiry -- for it is at all times difficult to
break the ice of reserve glassing over such natures as his -- when
he saved me the trouble by being the first to commence a dialogue.
Looking up as I drew near -- "You have a question to ask of me?"
"Yes; I wish to know whether you have heard of any service I can
offer myself to undertake?"
"I found or devised something for you three weeks ago; but as you
seemed both useful and happy here -- as my sisters had evidently
become attached to you, and your society gave them unusual pleasure
-- I deemed it inexpedient to break in on your mutual comfort till
their approaching departure from Marsh End should render yours
"And they will go in three days now?" I said.
"Yes; and when they go, I shall return to the parsonage at Morton:
Hannah will accompany me; and this old house will be shut up."
I waited a few moments, expecting he would go on with the subject
first broached: but he seemed to have entered another train of
reflection: his look denoted abstraction from me and my business.
I was obliged to recall him to a theme which was of necessity one
of close and anxious interest to me.
"What is the employment you had in view, Mr. Rivers? I hope this
delay will not have increased the difficulty of securing it."
"Oh, no; since it is an employment which depends only on me to
give, and you to accept."
He again paused: there seemed a reluctance to continue. I grew
impatient: a restless movement or two, and an eager and exacting
glance fastened on his face, conveyed the feeling to him as
effectually as words could have done, and with less trouble.
"You need be in no hurry to hear," he said: "let me frankly tell
you, I have nothing eligible or profitable to suggest. Before I
explain, recall, if you please, my notice, clearly given, that if
I helped you, it must be as the blind man would help the lame. I
am poor; for I find that, when I have paid my father's debts, all
the patrimony remaining to me will be this crumbling grange, the
row of scathed firs behind, and the patch of moorish soil, with the
yew-trees and holly-bushes in front. I am obscure: Rivers is an
old name; but of the three sole descendants of the race, two earn
the dependant's crust among strangers, and the third considers
himself an alien from his native country -- not only for life, but
in death. Yes, and deems, and is bound to deem, himself honoured by
the lot, and aspires but after the day when the cross of separation
from fleshly ties shall be laid on his shoulders, and when the
Head of that church-militant of whose humblest members he is one,
shall give the word, 'Rise, follow Me!'"
St. John said these words as he pronounced his sermons, with
a quiet, deep voice; with an unflushed cheek, and a coruscating
radiance of glance. He resumed -
"And since I am myself poor and obscure, I can offer you but a
service of poverty and obscurity. YOU may even think it degrading
-- for I see now your habits have been what the world calls refined:
your tastes lean to the ideal, and your society has at least been
amongst the educated; but I consider that no service degrades which
can better our race. I hold that the more arid and unreclaimed
the soil where the Christian labourer's task of tillage is appointed
him -- the scantier the meed his toil brings -- the higher the honour.
His, under such circumstances, is the destiny of the pioneer; and
the first pioneers of the Gospel were the Apostles -- their captain
was Jesus, the Redeemer, Himself."
"Well?" I said, as he again paused -- "proceed."
He looked at me before he proceeded: indeed, he seemed leisurely
to read my face, as if its features and lines were characters
on a page. The conclusions drawn from this scrutiny he partially
expressed in his succeeding observations.
"I believe you will accept the post I offer you," said he, "and
hold it for a while: not permanently, though: any more than I
could permanently keep the narrow and narrowing -- the tranquil,
hidden office of English country incumbent; for in your nature
is an alloy as detrimental to repose as that in mine, though of a
"Do explain," I urged, when he halted once more.
"I will; and you shall hear how poor the proposal is, -- how trivial
-- how cramping. I shall not stay long at Morton, now that my
father is dead, and that I am my own master. I shall leave the
place probably in the course of a twelve-month; but while I do stay,
I will exert myself to the utmost for its improvement. Morton,
when I came to it two years ago, had no school: the children of
the poor were excluded from every hope of progress. I established
one for boys: I mean now to open a second school for girls. I
have hired a building for the purpose, with a cottage of two rooms
attached to it for the mistress's house. Her salary will be thirty
pounds a year: her house is already furnished, very simply, but
sufficiently, by the kindness of a lady, Miss Oliver; the only
daughter of the sole rich man in my parish -- Mr. Oliver, the
proprietor of a needle-factory and iron-foundry in the valley. The
same lady pays for the education and clothing of an orphan from
the workhouse, on condition that she shall aid the mistress in such
menial offices connected with her own house and the school as her
occupation of teaching will prevent her having time to discharge
in person. Will you be this mistress?"
He put the question rather hurriedly; he seemed half to expect an
indignant, or at least a disdainful rejection of the offer: not
knowing all my thoughts and feelings, though guessing some, he
could not tell in what light the lot would appear to me. In truth
it was humble -- but then it was sheltered, and I wanted a safe asylum:
it was plodding -- but then, compared with that of a governess in
a rich house, it was independent; and the fear of servitude with
strangers entered my soul like iron: it was not ignoble -- not
unworthy -- not mentally degrading, I made my decision.
"I thank you for the proposal, Mr. Rivers, and I accept it with
all my heart."
"But you comprehend me?" he said. "It is a village school: your
scholars will be only poor girls -- cottagers' children -- at the
best, farmers' daughters. Knitting, sewing, reading, writing,
ciphering, will be all you will have to teach. What will you do
with your accomplishments? What, with the largest portion of your
mind -- sentiments -- tastes?"
"Save them till they are wanted. They will keep."
"You know what you undertake, then?"
He now smiled: and not a bitter or a sad smile, but one well
pleased and deeply gratified.
"And when will you commence the exercise of your function?"
"I will go to my house to-morrow, and open the school, if you like,
"Very well: so be it."
He rose and walked through the room. Standing still, he again
looked at me. He shook his head.
"What do you disapprove of, Mr. Rivers?" I asked.
"You will not stay at Morton long: no, no!"
"Why? What is your reason for saying so?"
"I read it in your eye; it is not of that description which promises
the maintenance of an even tenor in life."
"I am not ambitious."
He started at the word "ambitious." He repeated, "No. What made
you think of ambition? Who is ambitious? I know I am: but how
did you find it out?"
"I was speaking of myself."
"Well, if you are not ambitious, you are -- " He paused.
"I was going to say, impassioned: but perhaps you would have
misunderstood the word, and been displeased. I mean, that human
affections and sympathies have a most powerful hold on you. I am
sure you cannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitude,
and to devote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly
void of stimulus: any more than I can be content," he added, with
emphasis, "to live here buried in morass, pent in with mountains
-- my nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties,
heaven-bestowed, paralysed -- made useless. You hear now how I
contradict myself. I, who preached contentment with a humble lot,
and justified the vocation even of hewers of wood and drawers of
water in God's service -- I, His ordained minister, almost rave
in my restlessness. Well, propensities and principles must be
reconciled by some means."
He left the room. In this brief hour I had learnt more of him than
in the whole previous month: yet still he puzzled me.
Diana and Mary Rivers became more sad and silent as the day
approached for leaving their brother and their home. They both
tried to appear as usual; but the sorrow they had to struggle against
was one that could not be entirely conquered or concealed. Diana
intimated that this would be a different parting from any they had
ever yet known. It would probably, as far as St. John was concerned,
be a parting for years: it might be a parting for life.
"He will sacrifice all to his long-framed resolves," she said:
"natural affection and feelings more potent still. St. John looks
quiet, Jane; but he hides a fever in his vitals. You would think
him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death; and the
worst of it is, my conscience will hardly permit me to dissuade him
from his severe decision: certainly, I cannot for a moment blame
him for it. It is right, noble, Christian: yet it breaks my
heart!" And the tears gushed to her fine eyes. Mary bent her head
low over her work.
"We are now without father: we shall soon be without home and
brother," she murmured,
At that moment a little accident supervened, which seemed decreed
by fate purposely to prove the truth of the adage, that "misfortunes
never come singly," and to add to their distresses the vexing one
of the slip between the cup and the lip. St. John passed the window
reading a letter. He entered.
"Our uncle John is dead," said he.
Both the sisters seemed struck: not shocked or appalled; the
tidings appeared in their eyes rather momentous than afflicting.
"Dead?" repeated Diana.
She riveted a searching gaze on her brother's face. "And what
then?" she demanded, in a low voice.
"What then, Die?" he replied, maintaining a marble immobility of
feature. "What then? Why -- nothing. Read."
He threw the letter into her lap. She glanced over it, and handed
it to Mary. Mary perused it in silence, and returned it to her
brother. All three looked at each other, and all three smiled --
a dreary, pensive smile enough.
"Amen! We can yet live," said Diana at last.
"At any rate, it makes us no worse off than we were before," remarked
"Only it forces rather strongly on the mind the picture of what
MIGHT HAVE BEEN," said Mr. Rivers, "and contrasts it somewhat too
vividly with what IS."
He folded the letter, locked it in his desk, and again went out.
For some minutes no one spoke. Diana then turned to me.
"Jane, you will wonder at us and our mysteries," she said, "and
think us hard-hearted beings not to be more moved at the death of
so near a relation as an uncle; but we have never seen him or known
him. He was my mother's brother. My father and he quarrelled
long ago. It was by his advice that my father risked most of his
property in the speculation that ruined him. Mutual recrimination
passed between them: they parted in anger, and were never reconciled.
My uncle engaged afterwards in more prosperous undertakings: it
appears he realised a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. He
was never married, and had no near kindred but ourselves and one
other person, not more closely related than we. My father always
cherished the idea that he would atone for his error by leaving his
possessions to us; that letter informs us that he has bequeathed
every penny to the other relation, with the exception of thirty
guineas, to be divided between St. John, Diana, and Mary Rivers, for
the purchase of three mourning rings. He had a right, of course,
to do as he pleased: and yet a momentary damp is cast on the
spirits by the receipt of such news. Mary and I would have esteemed
ourselves rich with a thousand pounds each; and to St. John such
a sum would have been valuable, for the good it would have enabled
him to do."
This explanation given, the subject was dropped, and no further
reference made to it by either Mr. Rivers or his sisters. The next
day I left Marsh End for Morton. The day after, Diana and Mary
quitted it for distant B-. In a week, Mr. Rivers and Hannah repaired
to the parsonage: and so the old grange was abandoned.
My home, then, when I at last find a home, -- is a cottage; a
little room with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing
four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, with two or
three plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things in delf. Above, a
chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead
and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my
scanty wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous
friends has increased that, by a modest stock of such things as
It is evening. I have dismissed, with the fee of an orange, the
little orphan who serves me as a handmaid. I am sitting alone on
the hearth. This morning, the village school opened. I had twenty
scholars. But three of the number can read: none write or cipher.
Several knit, and a few sew a little. They speak with the broadest
accent of the district. At present, they and I have a difficulty
in understanding each other's language. Some of them are unmannered,
rough, intractable, as well as ignorant; but others are docile,
have a wish to learn, and evince a disposition that pleases me.
I must not forget that these coarsely-clad little peasants are of
flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy; and
that the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind
feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the
best-born. My duty will be to develop these germs: surely I shall
find some happiness in discharging that office. Much enjoyment I
do not expect in the life opening before me: yet it will, doubtless,
if I regulate my mind, and exert my powers as I ought, yield me
enough to live on from day to day.
Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in
yonder bare, humble schoolroom this morning and afternoon? Not to
deceive myself, I must reply -- No: I felt desolate to a degree. I
felt -- yes, idiot that I am -- I felt degraded. I doubted I had
taken a step which sank instead of raising me in the scale of social
existence. I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty,
the coarseness of all I heard and saw round me. But let me not hate
and despise myself too much for these feelings; I know them to be
wrong -- that is a great step gained; I shall strive to overcome
them. To-morrow, I trust, I shall get the better of them partially;
and in a few weeks, perhaps, they will be quite subdued. In a
few months, it is possible, the happiness of seeing progress, and
a change for the better in my scholars may substitute gratification
Meantime, let me ask myself one question -- Which is better? -- To
have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion; made no painful
effort -- no struggle; -- but to have sunk down in the silken snare;
fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern
clime, amongst the luxuries of a pleasure villa: to have been
now living in France, Mr. Rochester's mistress; delirious with his
love half my time -- for he would -- oh, yes, he would have loved
me well for a while. He DID love me -- no one will ever love me so
again. I shall never more know the sweet homage given to beauty,
youth, and grace -- for never to any one else shall I seem to
possess these charms. He was fond and proud of me -- it is what
no man besides will ever be. -- But where am I wandering, and what
am I saying, and above all, feeling? Whether is it better, I ask,
to be a slave in a fool's paradise at Marseilles -- fevered with
delusive bliss one hour -- suffocating with the bitterest tears of
remorse and shame the next -- or to be a village-schoolmistress,
free and honest, in a breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of
Yes; I feel now that I was right when I adhered to principle and
law, and scorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied
moment. God directed me to a correct choice: I thank His providence
for the guidance!
Having brought my eventide musings to this point, I rose, went
to my door, and looked at the sunset of the harvest-day, and at
the quiet fields before my cottage, which, with the school, was
distant half a mile from the village. The birds were singing
their last strains -
"The air was mild, the dew was balm."
While I looked, I thought myself happy, and was surprised to find
myself ere long weeping -- and why? For the doom which had reft
me from adhesion to my master: for him I was no more to see; for
the desperate grief and fatal fury -- consequences of my departure --
which might now, perhaps, be dragging him from the path of right,
too far to leave hope of ultimate restoration thither. At this
thought, I turned my face aside from the lovely sky of eve and lonely
vale of Morton -- I say LONELY, for in that bend of it visible to
me there was no building apparent save the church and the parsonage,
half-hid in trees, and, quite at the extremity, the roof of Vale
Hall, where the rich Mr. Oliver and his daughter lived. I hid my
eyes, and leant my head against the stone frame of my door; but
soon a slight noise near the wicket which shut in my tiny garden
from the meadow beyond it made me look up. A dog -- old Carlo,
Mr. Rivers' pointer, as I saw in a moment -- was pushing the gate
with his nose, and St. John himself leant upon it with folded arms;
his brow knit, his gaze, grave almost to displeasure, fixed on me.
I asked him to come in.
"No, I cannot stay; I have only brought you a little parcel my
sisters left for you. I think it contains a colour-box, pencils,
I approached to take it: a welcome gift it was. He examined my
face, I thought, with austerity, as I came near: the traces of
tears were doubtless very visible upon it.
"Have you found your first day's work harder than you expected?"
"Oh, no! On the contrary, I think in time I shall get on with my
scholars very well."
"But perhaps your accommodations -- your cottage -- your furniture
-- have disappointed your expectations? They are, in truth,
scanty enough; but -- " I interrupted -
"My cottage is clean and weather-proof; my furniture sufficient
and commodious. All I see has made me thankful, not despondent.
I am not absolutely such a fool and sensualist as to regret the
absence of a carpet, a sofa, and silver plate; besides, five weeks
ago I had nothing -- I was an outcast, a beggar, a vagrant; now I
have acquaintance, a home, a business. I wonder at the goodness
of God; the generosity of my friends; the bounty of my lot. I do
"But you feel solitude an oppression? The little house there behind
you is dark and empty."
"I have hardly had time yet to enjoy a sense of tranquillity, much
less to grow impatient under one of loneliness."
"Very well; I hope you feel the content you express: at any rate,
your good sense will tell you that it is too soon yet to yield to
the vacillating fears of Lot's wife. What you had left before I
saw you, of course I do not know; but I counsel you to resist firmly
every temptation which would incline you to look back: pursue your
present career steadily, for some months at least."
"It is what I mean to do," I answered. St. John continued -
"It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn
the bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience.
God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate;
and when our energies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get
-- when our will strains after a path we may not follow -- we need
neither starve from inanition, nor stand still in despair: we
have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the
forbidden food it longed to taste -- and perhaps purer; and to hew
out for the adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one
Fortune has blocked up against us, if rougher than it.
"A year ago I was myself intensely miserable, because I thought I
had made a mistake in entering the ministry: its uniform duties
wearied me to death. I burnt for the more active life of the
world -- for the more exciting toils of a literary career -- for
the destiny of an artist, author, orator; anything rather than
that of a priest: yes, the heart of a politician, of a soldier,
of a votary of glory, a lover of renown, a luster after power, beat
under my curate's surplice. I considered; my life was so wretched,
it must be changed, or I must die. After a season of darkness and
struggling, light broke and relief fell: my cramped existence all
at once spread out to a plain without bounds -- my powers heard a
call from heaven to rise, gather their full strength, spread their
wings, and mount beyond ken. God had an errand for me; to bear which
afar, to deliver it well, skill and strength, courage and eloquence,
the best qualifications of soldier, statesman, and orator, were
all needed: for these all centre in the good missionary.
"A missionary I resolved to be. From that moment my state of mind
changed; the fetters dissolved and dropped from every faculty,
leaving nothing of bondage but its galling soreness -- which time
only can heal. My father, indeed, imposed the determination,
but since his death, I have not a legitimate obstacle to contend
with; some affairs settled, a successor for Morton provided, an
entanglement or two of the feelings broken through or cut asunder
-- a last conflict with human weakness, in which I know I shall
overcome, because I have vowed that I WILL overcome -- and I leave
Europe for the East."
He said this, in his peculiar, subdued, yet emphatic voice; looking,
when he had ceased speaking, not at me, but at the setting sun, at
which I looked too. Both he and I had our backs towards the path
leading up the field to the wicket. We had heard no step on that
grass-grown track; the water running in the vale was the one lulling
sound of the hour and scene; we might well then start when
a gay voice, sweet as a silver bell, exclaimed -
"Good evening, Mr. Rivers. And good evening, old Carlo. Your dog
is quicker to recognise his friends than you are, sir; he pricked
his ears and wagged his tail when I was at the bottom of the field,
and you have your back towards me now."
It was true. Though Mr. Rivers had started at the first of those
musical accents, as if a thunderbolt had split a cloud over his head,
he stood yet, at the close of the sentence, in the same attitude
in which the speaker had surprised him -- his arm resting on the
gate, his face directed towards the west. He turned at last, with
measured deliberation. A vision, as it seemed to me, had risen at
his side. There appeared, within three feet of him, a form clad
in pure white -- a youthful, graceful form: full, yet fine in
contour; and when, after bending to caress Carlo, it lifted up its
head, and threw back a long veil, there bloomed under his glance
a face of perfect beauty. Perfect beauty is a strong expression;
but I do not retrace or qualify it: as sweet features as ever the
temperate clime of Albion moulded; as pure hues of rose and lily
as ever her humid gales and vapoury skies generated and screened,
justified, in this instance, the term. No charm was wanting, no
defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate
lineaments; eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovely
pictures, large, and dark, and full; the long and shadowy eyelash
which encircles a fine eye with so soft a fascination; the pencilled
brow which gives such clearness; the white smooth forehead, which
adds such repose to the livelier beauties of tint and ray; the
cheek oval, fresh, and smooth; the lips, fresh too, ruddy, healthy,
sweetly formed; the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the
small dimpled chin; the ornament of rich, plenteous tresses -- all
advantages, in short, which, combined, realise the ideal of beauty,
were fully hers. I wondered, as I looked at this fair creature:
I admired her with my whole heart. Nature had surely formed her
in a partial mood; and, forgetting her usual stinted step-mother
dole of gifts, had endowed this, her darling, with a grand-dame's
What did St. John Rivers think of this earthly angel? I naturally
asked myself that question as I saw him turn to her and look at
her; and, as naturally, I sought the answer to the inquiry in his
countenance. He had already withdrawn his eye from the Peri, and
was looking at a humble tuft of daisies which grew by the wicket.
"A lovely evening, but late for you to be out alone," he said, as
he crushed the snowy heads of the closed flowers with his foot.
"Oh, I only came home from S-" (she mentioned the name of a large
town some twenty miles distant) "this afternoon. Papa told me you
had opened your school, and that the new mistress was come; and
so I put on my bonnet after tea, and ran up the valley to see her:
this is she?" pointing to me.
"It is," said St. John.
"Do you think you shall like Morton?" she asked of me, with a direct
and naive simplicity of tone and manner, pleasing, if child-like.
"I hope I shall. I have many inducements to do so."
"Did you find your scholars as attentive as you expected?"
"Do you like your house?"
"Have I furnished it nicely?"
"Very nicely, indeed."
"And made a good choice of an attendant for you in Alice Wood?"
"You have indeed. She is teachable and handy." (This then, I thought,
is Miss Oliver, the heiress; favoured, it seems, in the gifts of
fortune, as well as in those of nature! What happy combination of
the planets presided over her birth, I wonder?)
"I shall come up and help you to teach sometimes," she added. "It
will be a change for me to visit you now and then; and I like a
change. Mr. Rivers, I have been SO gay during my stay at S-. Last
night, or rather this morning, I was dancing till two o'clock. The
-th regiment are stationed there since the riots; and the officers
are the most agreeable men in the world: they put all our young
knife-grinders and scissor merchants to shame."
It seemed to me that Mr. St. John's under lip protruded, and his
upper lip curled a moment. His mouth certainly looked a good deal
compressed, and the lower part of his face unusually stern and
square, as the laughing girl gave him this information. He lifted
his gaze, too, from the daisies, and turned it on her. An unsmiling,
a searching, a meaning gaze it was. She answered it with a second
laugh, and laughter well became her youth, her roses, her dimples,
her bright eyes.
As he stood, mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo.
"Poor Carlo loves me," said she. "HE is not stern and distant to
his friends; and if he could speak, he would not be silent."
As she patted the dog's head, bending with native grace before his
young and austere master, I saw a glow rise to that master's face.
I saw his solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with
resistless emotion. Flushed and kindled thus, he looked nearly as
beautiful for a man as she for a woman. His chest heaved once, as
if his large heart, weary of despotic constriction, had expanded,
despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of
liberty. But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb
a rearing steed. He responded neither by word nor movement to the
gentle advances made him.
"Papa says you never come to see us now," continued Miss Oliver,
looking up. "You are quite a stranger at Vale Hall. He is alone
this evening, and not very well: will you return with me and visit
"It is not a seasonable hour to intrude on Mr. Oliver," answered
"Not a seasonable hour! But I declare it is. It is just the hour
when papa most wants company: when the works are closed and he
has no business to occupy him. Now, Mr. Rivers, DO come. Why are
you so very shy, and so very sombre?" She filled up the hiatus
his silence left by a reply of her own.
"I forgot!" she exclaimed, shaking her beautiful curled head, as
if shocked at herself. "I am so giddy and thoughtless! DO excuse
me. It had slipped my memory that you have good reasons to be
indisposed for joining in my chatter. Diana and Mary have left
you, and Moor House is shut up, and you are so lonely. I am sure
I pity you. Do come and see papa."
"Not to-night, Miss Rosamond, not to-night."
Mr. St. John spoke almost like an automaton: himself only knew
the effort it cost him thus to refuse.
"Well, if you are so obstinate, I will leave you; for I dare not
stay any longer: the dew begins to fall. Good evening!"
She held out her hand. He just touched it. "Good evening!" he
repeated, in a voice low and hollow as an echo. She turned, but
in a moment returned.
"Are you well?" she asked. Well might she put the question: his
face was blanched as her gown.
"Quite well," he enunciated; and, with a bow, he left the gate.
She went one way; he another. She turned twice to gaze after him
as she tripped fairy-like down the field; he, as he strode firmly
across, never turned at all.
This spectacle of another's suffering and sacrifice rapt my thoughts
from exclusive meditation on my own. Diana Rivers had designated
her brother "inexorable as death." She had not exaggerated.
I continued the labours of the village-school as actively and
faithfully as I could. It was truly hard work at first. Some time
elapsed before, with all my efforts, I could comprehend my scholars
and their nature. Wholly untaught, with faculties quite torpid,
they seemed to me hopelessly dull; and, at first sight, all dull
alike: but I soon found I was mistaken. There was a difference
amongst them as amongst the educated; and when I got to know them,
and they me, this difference rapidly developed itself. Their
amazement at me, my language, my rules, and ways, once subsided,
I found some of these heavy-looking, gaping rustics wake up into
sharp-witted girls enough. Many showed themselves obliging, and
amiable too; and I discovered amongst them not a few examples of
natural politeness, and innate self-respect, as well as of excellent
capacity, that won both my goodwill and my admiration. These soon
took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons
neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and
orderly manners. The rapidity of their progress, in some instances,
was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it:
besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they
liked me. I had amongst my scholars several farmers' daughters:
young women grown, almost. These could already read, write, and sew;
and to them I taught the elements of grammar, geography, history,
and the finer kinds of needlework. I found estimable characters
amongst them -- characters desirous of information and disposed
for improvement -- with whom I passed many a pleasant evening hour
in their own homes. Their parents then (the farmer and his wife)
loaded me with attentions. There was an enjoyment in accepting
their simple kindness, and in repaying it by a consideration
-- a scrupulous regard to their feelings -- to which they were
not, perhaps, at all times accustomed, and which both charmed and
benefited them; because, while it elevated them in their own eyes, it
made them emulous to merit the deferential treatment they received.
I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood. Whenever I went
out, I heard on all sides cordial salutations, and was welcomed with
friendly smiles. To live amidst general regard, though it be but
the regard of working people, is like "sitting in sunshine, calm
and sweet;" serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray.
At this period of my life, my heart far oftener swelled with
thankfulness than sank with dejection: and yet, reader, to tell
you all, in the midst of this calm, this useful existence -- after
a day passed in honourable exertion amongst my scholars, an evening
spent in drawing or reading contentedly alone -- I used to rush into
strange dreams at night: dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of
the ideal, the stirring, the stormy -- dreams where, amidst unusual
scenes, charged with adventure, with agitating risk and romantic
chance, I still again and again met Mr. Rochester, always at some
exciting crisis; and then the sense of being in his arms, hearing
his voice, meeting his eye, touching his hand and cheek, loving
him, being loved by him -- the hope of passing a lifetime at his
side, would be renewed, with all its first force and fire. Then
I awoke. Then I recalled where I was, and how situated. Then I
rose up on my curtainless bed, trembling and quivering; and then
the still, dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and
heard the burst of passion. By nine o'clock the next morning I
was punctually opening the school; tranquil, settled, prepared for
the steady duties of the day.
Rosamond Oliver kept her word in coming to visit me. Her call at
the school was generally made in the course of her morning ride.
She would canter up to the door on her pony, followed by a mounted
livery servant. Anything more exquisite than her appearance,
in her purple habit, with her Amazon's cap of black velvet placed
gracefully above the long curls that kissed her cheek and floated
to her shoulders, can scarcely be imagined: and it was thus she
would enter the rustic building, and glide through the dazzled ranks
of the village children. She generally came at the hour when Mr.
Rivers was engaged in giving his daily catechising lesson. Keenly,
I fear, did the eye of the visitress pierce the young pastor's
heart. A sort of instinct seemed to warn him of her entrance, even
when he did not see it; and when he was looking quite away from the
door, if she appeared at it, his cheek would glow, and his marble-
seeming features, though they refused to relax, changed indescribably,
and in their very quiescence became expressive of a repressed fervour,
stronger than working muscle or darting glance could indicate.
Of course, she knew her power: indeed, he did not, because he could
not, conceal it from her. In spite of his Christian stoicism, when
she went up and addressed him, and smiled gaily, encouragingly,
even fondly in his face, his hand would tremble and his eye burn.
He seemed to say, with his sad and resolute look, if he did not
say it with his lips, "I love you, and I know you prefer me. It is
not despair of success that keeps me dumb. If I offered my heart,
I believe you would accept it. But that heart is already laid on
a sacred altar: the fire is arranged round it. It will soon be
no more than a sacrifice consumed."
And then she would pout like a disappointed child; a pensive cloud
would soften her radiant vivacity; she would withdraw her hand
hastily from his, and turn in transient petulance from his aspect,
at once so heroic and so martyr-like. St. John, no doubt, would
have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus
left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor relinquish,
for the elysium of her love, one hope of the true, eternal Paradise.
Besides, he could not bind all that he had in his nature -- the
rover, the aspirant, the poet, the priest -- in the limits of a
single passion. He could not -- he would not -- renounce his wild
field of mission warfare for the parlours and the peace of Vale
Hall. I learnt so much from himself in an inroad I once, despite
his reserve, had the daring to make on his confidence.
Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage.
I had learnt her whole character, which was without mystery or
disguise: she was coquettish but not heartless; exacting, but not
worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was
not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she
could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such
a flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent
of the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay,
lively, and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to
a cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly
interesting or thoroughly impressive. A very different sort of
mind was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John.
Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adele; except that,
for a child whom we have watched over and taught, a closer affection is
engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult acquaintance.
She had taken an amiable caprice to me. She said I was like Mr.
Rivers, only, certainly, she allowed, "not one-tenth so handsome,
though I was a nice neat little soul enough, but he was an angel."
I was, however, good, clever, composed, and firm, like him. I was
a lusus naturae, she affirmed, as a village schoolmistress: she
was sure my previous history, if known, would make a delightful
One evening, while, with her usual child-like activity, and thoughtless
yet not offensive inquisitiveness, she was rummaging the cupboard
and the table-drawer of my little kitchen, she discovered first two
French books, a volume of Schiller, a German grammar and dictionary,
and then my drawing-materials and some sketches, including a
pencil-head of a pretty little cherub-like girl, one of my scholars,
and sundry views from nature, taken in the Vale of Morton and on
the surrounding moors. She was first transfixed with surprise,
and then electrified with delight.
"Had I done these pictures? Did I know French and German? What
a love -- what a miracle I was! I drew better than her master in
the first school in S-. Would I sketch a portrait of her, to show
"With pleasure," I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist-delight
at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model. She
had then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were
bare; her only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over
her shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls. I took a
sheet of fine card-board, and drew a careful outline. I promised
myself the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late
then, I told her she must come and sit another day.
She made such a report of me to her father, that Mr. Oliver
himself accompanied her next evening -- a tall, massive-featured,
middle-aged, and grey-headed man, at whose side his lovely daughter
looked like a bright flower near a hoary turret. He appeared
a taciturn, and perhaps a proud personage; but he was very kind
to me. The sketch of Rosamond's portrait pleased him highly: he
said I must make a finished picture of it. He insisted, too, on
my coming the next day to spend the evening at Vale Hall.
I went. I found it a large, handsome residence, showing abundant
evidences of wealth in the proprietor. Rosamond was full of glee
and pleasure all the time I stayed. Her father was affable; and
when he entered into conversation with me after tea, he expressed
in strong terms his approbation of what I had done in Morton school,
and said he only feared, from what he saw and heard, I was too good
for the place, and would soon quit it for one more suitable.
"Indeed," cried Rosamond, "she is clever enough to be a governess
in a high family, papa."
I thought I would far rather be where I am than in any high family
in the land. Mr. Oliver spoke of Mr. Rivers -- of the Rivers family
-- with great respect. He said it was a very old name in that
neighbourhood; that the ancestors of the house were wealthy; that
all Morton had once belonged to them; that even now he considered
the representative of that house might, if he liked, make an alliance
with the best. He accounted it a pity that so fine and talented a
young man should have formed the design of going out as a missionary;
it was quite throwing a valuable life away. It appeared, then,
that her father would throw no obstacle in the way of Rosamond's
union with St. John. Mr. Oliver evidently regarded the young
clergyman's good birth, old name, and sacred profession as sufficient
compensation for the want of fortune.
It was the 5th of November, and a holiday. My little servant,
after helping me to clean my house, was gone, well satisfied with
the fee of a penny for her aid. All about me was spotless and
bright -- scoured floor, polished grate, and well-rubbed chairs.
I had also made myself neat, and had now the afternoon before me
to spend as I would.
The translation of a few pages of German occupied an hour; then I
got my palette and pencils, and fell to the more soothing, because
easier occupation, of completing Rosamond Oliver's miniature. The
head was finished already: there was but the background to tint
and the drapery to shade off; a touch of carmine, too, to add to
the ripe lips -- a soft curl here and there to the tresses -- a
deeper tinge to the shadow of the lash under the azured eyelid. I
was absorbed in the execution of these nice details, when, after
one rapid tap, my door unclosed, admitting St. John Rivers.
"I am come to see how you are spending your holiday," he said. "Not,
I hope, in thought? No, that is well: while you draw you will
not feel lonely. You see, I mistrust you still, though you have
borne up wonderfully so far. I have brought you a book for evening
solace," and he laid on the table a new publication -- a poem: one
of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate
public of those days -- the golden age of modern literature. Alas!
the readers of our era are less favoured. But courage! I will
not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead,
nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind
or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence,
their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe
in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones
weep over their destruction. Poetry destroyed? Genius banished?
No! Mediocrity, no: do not let envy prompt you to the thought.
No; they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their
divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell -- the
hell of your own meanness.
While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of "Marmion" (for
"Marmion" it was), St. John stooped to examine my drawing. His
tall figure sprang erect again with a start: he said nothing. I
looked up at him: he shunned my eye. I knew his thoughts well,
and could read his heart plainly; at the moment I felt calmer and
cooler than he: I had then temporarily the advantage of him, and
I conceived an inclination to do him some good, if I could.
"With all his firmness and self-control," thought I, "he tasks
himself too far: locks every feeling and pang within -- expresses,
confesses, imparts nothing. I am sure it would benefit him to talk
a little about this sweet Rosamond, whom he thinks he ought not to
marry: I will make him talk."
I said first, "Take a chair, Mr. Rivers." But he answered, as
he always did, that he could not stay. "Very well," I responded,
mentally, "stand if you like; but you shall not go just yet, I am
determined: solitude is at least as bad for you as it is for me.
I'll try if I cannot discover the secret spring of your confidence,
and find an aperture in that marble breast through which I can shed
one drop of the balm of sympathy."
"Is this portrait like?" I asked bluntly.
"Like! Like whom? I did not observe it closely."
"You did, Mr. Rivers."
He almost started at my sudden and strange abruptness: he looked
at me astonished. "Oh, that is nothing yet," I muttered within.
"I don't mean to be baffled by a little stiffness on your part;
I'm prepared to go to considerable lengths." I continued, "You
observed it closely and distinctly; but I have no objection to your
looking at it again," and I rose and placed it in his hand.
"A well-executed picture," he said; "very soft, clear colouring;
very graceful and correct drawing."
"Yes, yes; I know all that. But what of the resemblance? Who is
Mastering some hesitation, he answered, "Miss Oliver, I presume."
"Of course. And now, sir, to reward you for the accurate guess, I
will promise to paint you a careful and faithful duplicate of this
very picture, provided you admit that the gift would be acceptable
to you. I don't wish to throw away my time and trouble on an
offering you would deem worthless."
He continued to gaze at the picture: the longer he looked, the
firmer he held it, the more he seemed to covet it. "It is like!"
he murmured; "the eye is well managed: the colour, light, expression,
are perfect. It smiles!"
"Would it comfort, or would it wound you to have a similar painting?
Tell me that. When you are at Madagascar, or at the Cape, or
in India, would it be a consolation to have that memento in your
possession? or would the sight of it bring recollections calculated
to enervate and distress?"
He now furtively raised his eyes: he glanced at me, irresolute,
disturbed: he again surveyed the picture.
"That I should like to have it is certain: whether it would be
judicious or wise is another question."
Since I had ascertained that Rosamond really preferred him, and that
her father was not likely to oppose the match, I -- less exalted
in my views than St. John -- had been strongly disposed in my
own heart to advocate their union. It seemed to me that, should
he become the possessor of Mr. Oliver's large fortune, he might
do as much good with it as if he went and laid his genius out to
wither, and his strength to waste, under a tropical sun. With
this persuasion I now answered -
"As far as I can see, it would be wiser and more judicious if you
were to take to yourself the original at once."
By this time he had sat down: he had laid the picture on the table
before him, and with his brow supported on both hands, hung fondly
over it. I discerned he was now neither angry nor shocked at my
audacity. I saw even that to be thus frankly addressed on a subject
he had deemed unapproachable -- to hear it thus freely handled --
was beginning to be felt by him as a new pleasure -- an unhoped-for
relief. Reserved people often really need the frank discussion
of their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive. The
sternest-seeming stoic is human after all; and to "burst" with
boldness and good-will into "the silent sea" of their souls is
often to confer on them the first of obligations.
"She likes you, I am sure," said I, as I stood behind his chair,
"and her father respects you. Moreover, she is a sweet girl --
rather thoughtless; but you would have sufficient thought for both
yourself and her. You ought to marry her."
"DOES she like me?" he asked.
"Certainly; better than she likes any one else. She talks of you
continually: there is no subject she enjoys so much or touches
upon so often."
"It is very pleasant to hear this," he said -- "very: go on for
another quarter of an hour." And he actually took out his watch
and laid it upon the table to measure the time.
"But where is the use of going on," I asked, "when you are probably
preparing some iron blow of contradiction, or forging a fresh chain
to fetter your heart?"
"Don't imagine such hard things. Fancy me yielding and melting,
as I am doing: human love rising like a freshly opened fountain
in my mind and overflowing with sweet inundation all the field I
have so carefully and with such labour prepared -- so assiduously
sown with the seeds of good intentions, of self-denying plans. And
now it is deluged with a nectarous flood -- the young germs swamped
-- delicious poison cankering them: now I see myself stretched on
an ottoman in the drawing-room at Vale Hall at my bride Rosamond
Oliver's feet: she is talking to me with her sweet voice -- gazing
down on me with those eyes your skilful hand has copied so well
-- smiling at me with these coral lips. She is mine -- I am hers
-- this present life and passing world suffice to me. Hush! say
nothing -- my heart is full of delight -- my senses are entranced
-- let the time I marked pass in peace."
I humoured him: the watch ticked on: he breathed fast and low: I
stood silent. Amidst this hush the quartet sped; he replaced the
watch, laid the picture down, rose, and stood on the hearth.
"Now," said he, "that little space was given to delirium and delusion.
I rested my temples on the breast of temptation, and put my neck
voluntarily under her yoke of flowers. I tasted her cup. The
pillow was burning: there is an asp in the garland: the wine has
a bitter taste: her promises are hollow -- her offers false: I
see and know all this."
I gazed at him in wonder.
"It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so
wildly -- with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the
object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, fascinating --
I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that
she would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited
to me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage;
and that to twelve months' rapture would succeed a lifetime of
regret. This I know."
"Strange indeed!" I could not help ejaculating.
"While something in me," he went on, "is acutely sensible to her
charms, something else is as deeply impressed with her defects: they
are such that she could sympathise in nothing I aspired to -- co-
operate in nothing I undertook. Rosamond a sufferer, a labourer,
a female apostle? Rosamond a missionary's wife? No!"
"But you need not be a missionary. You might relinquish that
"Relinquish! What! my vocation? My great work? My foundation
laid on earth for a mansion in heaven? My hopes of being numbered
in the band who have merged all ambitions in the glorious one of
bettering their race -- of carrying knowledge into the realms of
ignorance -- of substituting peace for war -- freedom for bondage
-- religion for superstition -- the hope of heaven for the fear of
hell? Must I relinquish that? It is dearer than the blood in my
veins. It is what I have to look forward to, and to live for."
After a considerable pause, I said -- "And Miss Oliver? Are her
disappointment and sorrow of no interest to you?"
"Miss Oliver is ever surrounded by suitors and flatterers: in less
than a month, my image will be effaced from her heart. She will
forget me; and will marry, probably, some one who will make her
far happier than I should do."
"You speak coolly enough; but you suffer in the conflict. You are
"No. If I get a little thin, it is with anxiety about my prospects,
yet unsettled -- my departure, continually procrastinated. Only
this morning, I received intelligence that the successor, whose
arrival I have been so long expecting, cannot be ready to replace
me for three months to come yet; and perhaps the three months may
extend to six."
"You tremble and become flushed whenever Miss Oliver enters the
Again the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined
that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at
home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication
with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female,
till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed
the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart's very
"You are original," said he, "and not timid. There is something
brave in your spirit, as well as penetrating in your eye; but allow
me to assure you that you partially misinterpret my emotions. You
think them more profound and potent than they are. You give me a
larger allowance of sympathy than I have a just claim to. When I
colour, and when I shade before Miss Oliver, I do not pity myself.
I scorn the weakness. I know it is ignoble: a mere fever of the
flesh: not, I declare, the convulsion of the soul. THAT is just
as fixed as a rock, firm set in the depths of a restless sea. Know
me to be what I am -- a cold hard man."
I smiled incredulously.
"You have taken my confidence by storm," he continued, "and now
it is much at your service. I am simply, in my original state --
stripped of that blood-bleached robe with which Christianity covers
human deformity -- a cold, hard, ambitious man. Natural affection
only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me. Reason,
and not feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited: my desire
to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable. I honour
endurance, perseverance, industry, talent; because these are the
means by which men achieve great ends and mount to lofty eminence.
I watch your career with interest, because I consider you a specimen
of a diligent, orderly, energetic woman: not because I deeply
compassionate what you have gone through, or what you still suffer."
"You would describe yourself as a mere pagan philosopher," I said.
"No. There is this difference between me and deistic philosophers:
I believe; and I believe the Gospel. You missed your epithet. I
am not a pagan, but a Christian philosopher -- a follower of the
sect of Jesus. As His disciple I adopt His pure, His merciful,
His benignant doctrines. I advocate them: I am sworn to spread
them. Won in youth to religion, she has cultivated my original
qualities thus:- From the minute germ, natural affection, she has
developed the overshadowing tree, philanthropy. From the wild
stringy root of human uprightness, she has reared a due sense of
the Divine justice. Of the ambition to win power and renown for
my wretched self, she has formed the ambition to spread my Master's
kingdom; to achieve victories for the standard of the cross. So
much has religion done for me; turning the original materials to
the best account; pruning and training nature. But she could not
eradicate nature: nor will it be eradicated 'till this mortal
shall put on immortality.'"
Having said this, he took his hat, which lay on the table beside
my palette. Once more he looked at the portrait.
"She IS lovely," he murmured. "She is well named the Rose of the
"And may I not paint one like it for you?"
"CUI BONO? No."
He drew over the picture the sheet of thin paper on which I was
accustomed to rest my hand in painting, to prevent the cardboard
from being sullied. What he suddenly saw on this blank paper, it
was impossible for me to tell; but something had caught his eye.
He took it up with a snatch; he looked at the edge; then shot a
glance at me, inexpressibly peculiar, and quite incomprehensible:
a glance that seemed to take and make note of every point in
my shape, face, and dress; for it traversed all, quick, keen as
lightning. His lips parted, as if to speak: but he checked the
coming sentence, whatever it was.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"Nothing in the world," was the reply; and, replacing the paper,
I saw him dexterously tear a narrow slip from the margin. It
disappeared in his glove; and, with one hasty nod and "good-afternoon,"
"Well!" I exclaimed, using an expression of the district, "that
caps the globe, however!"
I, in my turn, scrutinised the paper; but saw nothing on it save a
few dingy stains of paint where I had tried the tint in my pencil.
I pondered the mystery a minute or two; but finding it insolvable,
and being certain it could not be of much moment, I dismissed, and
soon forgot it.
When Mr. St. John went, it was beginning to snow; the whirling
storm continued all night. The next day a keen wind brought fresh
and blinding falls; by twilight the valley was drifted up and almost
impassable. I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to
prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and
after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled
fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, took down "Marmion," and beginning -
"Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Tweed's fair river broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone;
The massive towers, the donjon keep,
The flanking walls that round them sweep,
In yellow lustre shone" -
I soon forgot storm in music.
I heard a noise: the wind, I thought, shook the door. No; it was
St. John Rivers, who, lifting the latch, came in out of the frozen
hurricane -- the howling darkness -- and stood before me: the
cloak that covered his tall figure all white as a glacier. I was
almost in consternation, so little had I expected any guest from
the blocked-up vale that night.
"Any ill news?" I demanded. "Has anything happened?"
"No. How very easily alarmed you are!" he answered, removing his
cloak and hanging it up against the door, towards which he again
coolly pushed the mat which his entrance had deranged. He stamped
the snow from his boots.
"I shall sully the purity of your floor," said he, "but you must
excuse me for once." Then he approached the fire. "I have had
hard work to get here, I assure you," he observed, as he warmed his
hands over the flame. "One drift took me up to the waist; happily
the snow is quite soft yet."
"But why are you come?" I could not forbear saying.
"Rather an inhospitable question to put to a visitor; but since
you ask it, I answer simply to have a little talk with you; I got
tired of my mute books and empty rooms. Besides, since yesterday
I have experienced the excitement of a person to whom a tale has
been half- told, and who is impatient to hear the sequel."
He sat down. I recalled his singular conduct of yesterday, and
really I began to fear his wits were touched. If he were insane,
however, his was a very cool and collected insanity: I had never
seen that handsome-featured face of his look more like chiselled
marble than it did just now, as he put aside his snow-wet hair from
his forehead and let the firelight shine free on his pale brow and
cheek as pale, where it grieved me to discover the hollow trace of
care or sorrow now so plainly graved. I waited, expecting he would
say something I could at least comprehend; but his hand was now at
his chin, his finger on his lip: he was thinking. It struck me
that his hand looked wasted like his face. A perhaps uncalled-for
gush of pity came over my heart: I was moved to say -
"I wish Diana or Mary would come and live with you: it is too bad
that you should be quite alone; and you are recklessly rash about
your own health."
"Not at all," said he: "I care for myself when necessary. I am
well now. What do you see amiss in me?"
This was said with a careless, abstracted indifference, which showed
that my solicitude was, at least in his opinion, wholly superfluous.
I was silenced.
He still slowly moved his finger over his upper lip, and still his
eye dwelt dreamily on the glowing grate; thinking it urgent to say
something, I asked him presently if he felt any cold draught from