"Set me as a seal upon thine heart,
As a seal upon thine arm:
For love is strong as death;
Jealousy is cruel as the grave:
The coals thereof are coals of fire,
Which hath a most vehement flame."
~ The Song of Solomon 8:6 ~
By Charlotte Bronte
HE manor-house of Ferndean was a building of
considerable antiquity, moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried
in a wood. I had heard of it before. Mr. Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes
went there. His father had purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers.
He would have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible
and insalubrious site. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished, with the
exception of some two or three rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the squire
when he went there in the season to shoot.
To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics of
sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain. The last mile I performed
on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the double remuneration I had
promised. Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see
nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it. Iron
gates between granite pillars showed me where to enter, and passing through them,
I found myself at once in the twilight of close-ranked trees. There was a grass-grown
track descending the forest aisle between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched
arches. I followed it, expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on
and on, it wound far and farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The darkness of natural
as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I looked round in search of another road.
There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer foliage- no
I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld
a railing, then the house- scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees,
so dank and green were its decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a
latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the wood swept away
in a semicircle. There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk
girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented
two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow: the front
door was narrow too, one step led up to it. The whole looked, as the host of the
Rochester Arms had said, 'quite a desolate spot.' It was as still as a church on
a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest leaves was the only sound audible in
'Can there be life here?' I asked.
Yes, life of some kind there was; for I heard a movement- that narrow front-door
was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue from the grange.
It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on the step; a man
without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to feel whether it rained. Dusk
as it was, I had recognised him- it was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester, and
I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him- to examine him, myself
unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a sudden meeting, and one in which rapture
was kept well in check by pain. I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from
exclamation, my step from hasty advance.
His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his port was still
erect, his hair was still raven black; nor were his features altered or sunk: not
in one year's space, by any sorrow, could his athletic strength be quelled or his
vigorous prime blighted. But in his countenance I saw a change: that looked desperate
and brooding- that reminded me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous
to approach in his sullen woe. The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has
extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson.
And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity?- if you do, you little
know me. A soft hope blent with my sorrow that soon I should dare to drop a kiss
on that brow of rock, and on those lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet.
I would not accost him yet.
He descended the one step, and advanced slowly and gropingly towards the grass-plat.
Where was his daring stride now? Then he paused, as if he knew not which way to turn.
He lifted his hand and opened his eyelids; gazed blank, and with a straining effort,
on the sky, and toward the amphitheatre of trees: one saw that all to him was void
darkness. He stretched his right hand (the left arm, the mutilated one, he kept hidden
in his bosom); he seemed to wish by touch to gain an idea of what lay around him:
he met but vacancy still; for the trees were some yards off where he stood. He relinquished
the endeavour, folded his arms, and stood quiet and mute in the rain, now falling
fast on his uncovered head. At this moment John approached him from some quarter.
'Will you take my arm, sir?' he said; 'there is a heavy shower coming on: had you
not better go in?'
'Let me alone,' was the answer.
John withdrew without having observed me. Mr. Rochester now tried to walk about:
vainly,- all was too uncertain. He groped his way back to the house, and, re-entering
it, closed the door.
I now drew near and knocked: John's wife opened for me. 'Mary,' I said, 'how are
She started as if she had seen a ghost: I calmed her. To her hurried 'Is it really
you, miss, come at this late hour to this lonely place?' I answered by taking her
hand; and then I followed her into the kitchen, where John now sat by a good fire.
I explained to them, in a few words, that I had heard all which had happened since
I left Thornfield, and that I was come to see Mr. Rochester. I asked John to go down
to the turnpike-house, where I had dismissed the chaise, and bring my trunk, which
I had left there: and then, while I removed my bonnet and shawl, I questioned Mary
as to whether I could be accommodated at the Manor House for the night; and finding
that arrangements to that effect, though difficult, would not be impossible, I informed
her I should stay. just at this moment the parlour-bell rang.
'When you go in,' said I, 'tell your master that a person wishes to speak to him,
but do not give my name.'
'I don't think he will see you,' she answered; 'he refuses everybody.'
When she returned, I inquired what he had said.
'You are to send in your name and your business,' she replied. She then proceeded
to fill a glass with water, and place it on a tray, together with candles.
'Is that what he rang for?' I asked.
'Yes: he always has candles brought in at dark, though he is blind.'
'Give the tray to me; I will carry it in.'
I took it from her hand: she pointed me out the parlour door. The tray shook as I
held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heart struck my ribs loud and fast. Mary
opened the door for me, and shut it behind me.
This parlour looked gloomy: a neglected handful of fire burnt low in the grate; and,
leaning over it, with his head supported against the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece,
appeared the blind tenant of the room. His old dog, Pilot, lay on one side, removed
out of the way, and coiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon. Pilot
pricked up his ears when I came in: then he jumped up with a yelp and a whine, and
bounded towards me: he almost knocked the tray from my hands. I set it on the table;
then patted him, and said softly, 'Lie down!' Mr. Rochester turned mechanically to
see what the commotion was: but as he saw nothing, he returned and sighed.
'Give me the water, Mary,' he said.
I approached him with the now only half-filled glass; Pilot followed me, still excited.
'What is the matter?' he inquired.
'Down, Pilot!' I again said. He checked the water on its way to his lips, and seemed
to listen: he drank, and put the glass down. 'This is you, Mary, is it not?'
'Mary is in the kitchen,' I answered.
He put out his hand with a quick gesture, but not seeing where I stood, he did not
touch me. 'Who is this? Who is this?' he demanded, trying, as it seemed, to see with
those sightless eyes- unavailing and distressing attempt! 'Answer me- speak again!'
he ordered, imperiously and aloud.
'Will you have a little more water, sir? I spilt half of what was in the glass,'
'Who is it? What is it? Who speaks?'
'Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I am here. I came only this evening,' I answered.
'Great God!- what delusion has come over me? What sweet madness has seized me?'
'No delusion- no madness: your mind, sir, is too strong for delusion, your health
too sound for frenzy.'
'And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see, but I must feel,
or my heart will stop and my brain burst. Whatever- whoever you are- be perceptible
to the touch or I cannot live!'
He groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
'Her very fingers!' he cried; 'her small, slight fingers! If so there must be more
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder- neck- waist-
I was entwined and gathered to him.
'Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape- this is her size-'
'And this her voice,' I added. 'She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir!
I am glad to be so near you again.'
'Jane Eyre!- Jane Eyre,' was all he said.
'My dear master,' I answered, 'I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out- I am come back
'In truth?- in the flesh? My living Jane?'
'You touch me, sir,- you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor
vacant like air, am I?'
'My living darling! These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I
cannot be so blest, after all my misery. It is a dream; such dreams as I have had
at night when I have clasped her once more to my heart, as I do now; and kissed her,
as thus- and felt that she loved me, and trusted that she would not leave me.'
'Which I never will, sir, from this day.'
'Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and
I was desolate and abandoned- my life dark, lonely, hopeless- my soul athirst and
forbidden to drink- my heart famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling
in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before you: but
kiss me before you go- embrace me, Jane.'
'There, sir- and there!'
I pressed my lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes- I swept his hair from
his brow, and kissed that too. He suddenly seemed to arouse himself: the conviction
of the reality of all this seized him.
'It is you- is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?'
'And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining
outcast amongst strangers?'
'No, sir! I am an independent woman now.'
'Independent! What do you mean, Jane?'
'My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds.'
'Ah! this is practical- this is real!' he cried: 'I should never dream that. Besides,
there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as soft:
it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it.- What, Janet! Are you an independent
woman? A rich woman?'
'Quite rich, sir. If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own
close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company
of an evening.'
'But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you,
and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?'
'I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.'
'And you will stay with me?'
'Certainly- unless you object. I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper.
I find you lonely: I will be your companion- to read to you, to walk with you, to
sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy,
my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live.'
He replied not: he seemed serious- abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened his lips
as if to speak: he closed them again. I felt a little embarrassed. Perhaps I had
too rashly overleaped conventionalities; and he, like St. John, saw impropriety in
my inconsiderateness. I had indeed made my proposal from the idea that he wished
and would ask me to be his wife: an expectation, not the less certain because unexpressed,
had buoyed me up, that he would claim me at once as his own. But no hint to that
effect escaping him and his countenance becoming more overcast, I suddenly remembered
that I might have been all wrong, and was perhaps playing the fool unwittingly; and
I began gently to withdraw myself from his arms- but he eagerly snatched me closer.
'No- no- Jane; you must not go. No- I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort
of your presence- the sweetness of your consolation: I cannot give up these joys.
I have little left in myself- I must have you. The world may laugh- may call me absurd,
selfish- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied,
or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.'
'Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have said so.'
'Yes- but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another.
You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair- to wait on me
as a kind little nurse (for you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit,
which prompt you to make sacrifices for those you pity), and that ought to suffice
for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for
you: do you think so? Come- tell me.'
'I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think
'But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young- you must marry one day.'
'I don't care about being married.'
'You should care, Janet: if I were what I once was, I would try to make you care-
but- a sightless block!'
He relapsed again into gloom. I, on the contrary, became more cheerful, and took
fresh courage: these last words gave me an insight as to where the difficulty lay;
and as it was no difficulty with me, I felt quite relieved from my previous embarrassment.
I resumed a livelier vein of conversation.
'It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you,' said I, parting his thick and
long uncut locks; 'for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something
of that sort. You have a "faux air" of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about
you, that is certain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your nails
are grown like birds' claws or not, I have not yet noticed.'
'On this arm, I have neither hand nor nails,' he said, drawing the mutilated limb
from his breast, and showing it to me. 'It is a mere stump- a ghastly sight! Don't
you think so, Jane?'
'It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes- and the scar of fire on your
forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all
this; and making too much of you.'
'I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrised visage.'
'Did you? Don't tell me so- lest I should say something disparaging to your judgment.
Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a better fire, and have the hearth swept
up. Can you tell when there is a good fire?'
'Yes; with the right eye I see a glow- a ruddy haze.'
'And you see the candles?'
'Very dimly- each is a luminous cloud.'
'Can you see me?'
'No, my fairy: but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you.'
'When do you take supper?'
'I never take supper.'
'But you shall have some to-night. I am hungry: so are you, I daresay, only you forget.'
Summoning Mary, I soon had the room in more cheerful order: I prepared him, likewise,
a comfortable repast. My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked
to him during supper, and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint,
no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease,
because I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive
him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his
presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Blind as he was, smiles played
over his face, joy dawned on his forehead: his lineaments softened and warmed.
After supper, he began to ask me many questions, of where I had been, what I had
been doing, how I had found him out; but I gave him only very partial replies: it
was too late to enter into particulars that night. Besides, I wished to touch no
deep-thrilling chord- to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart: my sole present
aim was to cheer him. Cheered, as I have said, he was: and yet but by fits. If a
moment's silence broke the conversation, he would turn restless, touch me, then say,
'You are altogether a human being, Janet? You are certain of that?'
'I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester.'
'Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone
hearth? I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was
given me by you: I asked a question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your
voice spoke at my ear.'
'Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray.'
'And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you. Who can tell
what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past? Doing nothing,
expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I
let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow,
and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again. Yes: for her restoration
I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with
me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow,
I fear I shall find her no more.'
A commonplace, practical reply, out of the train of his own disturbed ideas, was,
I was sure, the best and most reassuring for him in this frame of mind. I passed
my finger over his eyebrows, and remarked that they were scorched, and that I would
apply something which would make them grow as broad and black as ever.
'Where is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit, when, at some fatal
moment, you will again desert me- passing like a shadow, whither and how to me unknown,
and for me remaining afterwards undiscoverable?'
'Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?'
'What for, Jane?'
'Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine
you close at hand: you talk of my being a fairy, but I am sure, you are more like
'Am I hideous, Jane?'
'Very, sir: you always were, you know.'
'Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned.'
'Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better people;
possessed of ideas and views you never entertained in your life: quite more refined
'Who the deuce have you been with?'
'If you twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of your head; and then
I think you will cease to entertain doubts of my substantiality.'
'Who have you been with, Jane?'
'You shall not get it out of me to-night, sir; you must wait till to-morrow; to leave
my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of security that I shall appear at your
breakfast table to finish it. By the bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth
with only a glass of water then: I must bring an egg at the least, to say nothing
of fried ham.'
'You mocking changeling- fairy-born and human-bred! You make me feel as I have not
felt these twelve months. If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit
would have been exorcised without the aid of the harp.'
'There, sir, you are redd up and made decent. Now I'll leave you: I have been travelling
these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good night.'
'Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?'
I laughed and made my escape, still laughing as I ran upstairs. 'A good idea!' I
thought with glee. 'I see I have the means of fretting him out of his melancholy
for some time to come.'
Very early the next morning I heard him up and astir, wandering from one room to
another. As soon as Mary came down I heard the question: 'Is Miss Eyre here?' Then:
'Which room did you put her into? Was it dry? Is she up? Go and ask if she wants
anything; and when she will come down.'
I came down as soon as I thought there was a prospect of breakfast. Entering the
room very softly, I had a view of him before he discovered my presence. It was mournful,
indeed, to witness the subjugation of that vigorous spirit to a corporeal infirmity.
He sat in his chair- still, but not at rest: expectant evidently; the lines of now
habitual sadness marking his strong features. His countenance reminded one of a lamp
quenched, waiting to be re-lit- and alas! it was not himself that could now kindle
the lustre of animated expression: he was dependent on another for that office! I
had meant to be gay and careless, but the powerlessness of the strong man touched
my heart to the quick: still I accosted him with what vivacity I could.
'It is a bright, sunny morning, sir,' I said. 'The rain is over and gone, and there
is a tender shining after it: you shall have a walk soon.'
I had wakened the glow: his features beamed.
'Oh, you are indeed there, my skylark! Come to me. You are not gone: not vanished?
I heard one of your kind an hour ago, singing high over the wood: but its song had
no music for me, any more than the rising sun had rays. All the melody on earth is
concentrated in my Jane's tongue to my ear (I am glad it is not naturally a silent
one): all the sunshine I can feel is in her presence.'
The water stood in my eyes to hear this avowal of his dependence; just as if a royal
eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor.
But I would not be lachrymose: I dashed off the salt drops, and busied myself with
Most of the morning was spent in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild
wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him how brilliantly green they were;
how the flowers and hedges looked refreshed; how sparklingly blue was the sky. I
sought a seat for him in a hidden and lovely spot, a dry stump of a tree; nor did
I refuse to let him, when seated, place me on his knee. Why should I, when both he
and I were happier near than apart? Pilot lay beside us: all was quiet. He broke
out suddenly while clasping me in his arms-
'Cruel, cruel deserter! Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered you had fled
from Thornfield, and when I could nowhere find you; and, after examining your apartment,
ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent!
A pearl necklace I had given you lay untouched in its little casket; your trunks
were left corded and locked as they had been prepared for the bridal tour. What could
my darling do, I asked, left destitute and penniless? And what did she do? Let me
Thus urged, I began the narrative of my experience for the last year. I softened
considerably what related to the three days of wandering and starvation, because
to have told him all would have been to inflict unnecessary pain: the little I did
say lacerated his faithful heart deeper than I wished.
I should not have left him thus, he said, without any means of making my way: I should
have told him my intention. I should have confided in him: he would never have forced
me to be his mistress. Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved
me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would have given
me half his fortune, without demanding so much as a kiss in return, rather than I
should have flung myself friendless on the wide world. I had endured, he was certain,
more than I had confessed to him.
'Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short,' I answered: and then
I proceeded to tell him how I had been received at Moor House; how I had obtained
the office of schoolmistress, etc. The accession of fortune, the discovery of my
relations, followed in due order. Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently
in the progress of my tale. When I had done, that name was immediately taken up.
'This St. John, then, is your cousin?'
'You have spoken of him often: do you like him?'
'He was a very good man, sir; I could not help liking him.'
'A good man. Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of fifty? Or what does
'St. John was only twenty-nine, sir.'
'"Jeune encore," as the French say. Is he a person of low stature, phlegmatic,
and plain? A person whose goodness consists rather in his guiltlessness of vice,
than in his prowess in virtue?'
'He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives to perform.'
'But his brain? That is probably rather soft? He means well: but you shrug your shoulders
to hear him talk?'
'He talks little, sir: what he does say is ever to the point. His brain is first-rate,
I should think not impressible, but vigorous.'
'Is he an able man, then?'
'A thoroughly educated man?'
'St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar.'
'His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste?- priggish and parsonic?'
'I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste, they must suit
it; they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike.'
'His appearance,- I forget what description you gave of his appearance;- a sort of
raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled
'St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian
(Aside.) 'Damn him!'- (To me.) 'Did you like him, Jane?'
'Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you asked me that before.'
I perceived, of course, the drift of my interlocutor. Jealousy had got hold of him:
she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it gave him respite from the gnawing fang
of melancholy. I would not, therefore, immediately charm the snake.
'Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?' was the next
somewhat unexpected observation.
'Why not, Mr. Rochester?'
'The picture you have just drawn is suggestive of a rather too overwhelming contrast.
Your words have delineated very prettily a graceful Apollo: he is present to your
imagination,- tall, fair, blue-eyed, and with a Grecian profile. Your eyes dwell
on a Vulcan,- a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and blind and lame into
'I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like Vulcan, sir.'
'Well, you can leave me, ma'am: but before you go' (and he retained me by a firmer
grasp than ever), 'you will be pleased just to answer me a question or two.' He paused.
'What questions, Mr. Rochester?'
Then followed this cross-examination.
'St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were his cousin?'
'You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?'
'He would approve of your plans, Jane? I know they would be clever, for you are a
'He approved of them- yes.'
'He would discover many things in you he could not have expected to find? Some of
your accomplishments are not ordinary.'
'I don't know about that.'
'You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever come there to see
'Now and then.'
'Of an evening?'
'Once or twice.'
'How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the cousinship was discovered?'
'Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies of his family?'
'Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the window, and we
by the table.'
'Did he study much?'
'A good deal.'
'And what did you do meantime?'
'I learnt German, at first.'
'Did he teach you?'
'He did not understand German.'
'Did he teach you nothing?'
'A little Hindostanee.'
'Rivers taught you Hindostanee?'
'And his sisters also?'
'Did you ask to learn?'
'He wished to teach you?'
A second pause.
'Why did he wish it? Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?'
'He intended me to go with him to India.'
'Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry him?'
'He asked me to marry him.'
'That is a fiction- an impudent invention to vex me.'
'I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than once, and was
as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be.'
'Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me. How often am I to say the same thing?
Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on my knee, when I have given you notice
'Because I am comfortable there.'
'No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not with me: it is
with this cousin- this St. John. Oh, till this moment, I thought my little Jane was
all mine! I had a belief she loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of
sweet in much bitter. Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over
our separation, I never thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another!
But it is useless grieving. Jane, leave me: go and marry Rivers.'
'Shake me off, then, sir,- push me away, for I'll not leave you of my own accord.'
'Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it still renews hope, it sounds so truthful.
When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I forget that you have formed a new tie.
But I am not a fool-'
'Where must I go, sir?'
'Your own way- with the husband you have chosen.'
'Who is that?'
'You know- this St. John Rivers.'
'He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him.
He loves (as he can love, and that is not as you love) a beautiful young lady called
Rosamond. He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable
missionary's wife, which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe;
and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, sir: I am not happy at his side,
nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence for me- no fondness. He sees nothing
attractive in me; not even youth- only a few useful mental points- Then I must leave
you, sir, to go to him?'
I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but beloved
master. He smiled.
'What, Jane! Is this true? Is such really the state of matters between you and Rivers?'
'Absolutely, sir! Oh, you need not be jealous! I wanted to tease you a little to
make you less sad: I thought anger would be better than grief. But if you wish me
to love you, could you but see how much I do love you, you would be proud and content.
All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were
fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever.'
Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.
'My seared vision! My crippled strength!' he murmured regretfully.
I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking, and wanted to
speak for him, but dared not. As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear
slide from under the sealed eyelid, and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.
'I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard,'
he remarked ere long. 'And what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine
cover its decay with freshness?'
'You are no ruin, sir- no lightning-struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants
will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight
in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round
you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop.'
Again he smiled: I gave him comfort.
'You speak of friends, Jane?' he asked.
'Yes, of friends,' I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I meant more than friends,
but could not tell what other word to employ. He helped me.
'Ah! Jane. But I want a wife.'
'Do you, sir?'
'Yes: is it news to you?'
'Of course: you said nothing about it before.'
'Is it unwelcome news?'
'That depends on circumstances, sir- on your choice.'
'Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.'
'Choose then, sir- her who loves you best.'
'I will at least choose- her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?'
'A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?'
'A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?'
'Most truly, sir.'
'Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!'
'Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life- if ever I thought a good thought-
if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer- if ever I wished a righteous wish,-
I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth.'
'Because you delight in sacrifice.'
'Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be
privileged to put my arms round what I value- to press my lips to what I love- to
repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight
'And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my deficiencies.'
'Which are none, sir, to me. I love you better now, when I can really be useful to
you, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part
but that of the giver and protector.'
'Hitherto I have hated to be helped- to be led: henceforth, I feel I shall hate it
no more. I did not like to put my hand into a hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel
it circled by Jane's little fingers. I preferred utter loneliness to the constant
attendance of servants; but Jane's soft ministry will be a perpetual joy. Jane suits
me: do I suit her?'
'To the finest fibre of my nature, sir.'
'The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we must be married
He looked and spoke with eagerness: his old impetuosity was rising.
'We must become one flesh without any delay, Jane: there is but the licence to get-
then we marry.'
'Mr. Rochester, I have just discovered the sun is far declined from its meridian,
and Pilot is actually gone home to his dinner. Let me look at your watch.'
'Fasten it into your girdle, Janet, and keep it henceforward: I have no use for it.'
'It is nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, sir. Don't you feel hungry?'
'The third day from this must be our wedding-day, Jane. Never mind fine clothes and
jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip.'
'The sun has dried up all the rain-drops, sir. The breeze is still: it is quite hot.'
'Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened round
my bronze scrag under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure,
as a memento of her.'
'We will go home through the wood: that will be the shadiest way.'
He pursued his own thoughts without heeding me.
'Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude
to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer:
judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied
my innocent flower- breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from
me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending
to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick
on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements
are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud
of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance,
as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane- only- only of late- I began to see and
acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance;
the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers
they were, but very sincere.
'Some days since: nay, I can number them- four; it was last Monday night, a singular
mood came over me: one in which grief replaced frenzy- sorrow, sullenness. I had
long had the impression that since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead. Late
that night- perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o'clock- ere I retired
to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon
be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come, where there was still
hope of rejoining Jane.
'I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to
feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars, and only by a vague, luminous
haze, knew the presence of a moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee
both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had
not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss
and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged- that I could scarcely
endure more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart's wishes broke involuntarily
from my lips in the words- "Jane! Jane! Jane!"'
'Did you speak these words aloud?'
'I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced
them with such frantic energy.'
'And it was last Monday night, somewhere near midnight?'
'Yes; but the time is of no consequence: what followed is the strange point. You
will think me superstitious- some superstition I have in my blood, and always had:
nevertheless, this is true- true at least it is that I heard what I now relate.
'As I exclaimed "Jane! Jane! Jane!" a voice- I cannot tell whence the voice
came, but I know whose voice it was- replied, "I am coming: wait for me;"
and a moment after, went whispering on the wind the words- "Where are you?"
'I'll tell you, if I can, the idea, the picture these words opened to my mind: yet
it is difficult to express what I want to express. Ferndean is buried, as you see,
in a heavy wood, where sound falls dull, and dies unreverberating. "Where are
you?" seemed spoken amongst mountains; for I heard a hill-sent echo repeat the
words. Cooler and fresher at the moment the gale seemed to visit my brow: I could
have deemed that in some wild, lone scene, I and Jane were meeting. In spirit, I
believe we must have met. You no doubt were, at that hour, in unconscious sleep,
Jane: perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine; for those were your
accents- as certain as I live- they were yours!'
Reader, it was on Monday night- near midnight- that I too had received the mysterious
summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester's
narrative, but made no disclosure in return. The coincidence struck me as too awful
and inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would
be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer:
and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper
shade of the supernatural. I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.
'You cannot now wonder,' continued my master, 'that when you rose upon me so unexpectedly
last night, I had difficulty in believing you any other than a mere voice and vision,
something that would melt to silence and annihilation, as the midnight whisper and
mountain echo had melted before. Now, I thank God! I know it to be otherwise. Yes,
I thank God!'
He put me off his knee, rose, and reverently lifting his hat from his brow, and bending
his sightless eyes to the earth, he stood in mute devotion. Only the last words of
the worship were audible.
'I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, He has remembered mercy. I humbly
entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have
Then he stretched his hand out to be led. I took that dear hand, held it a moment
to my lips, then let it pass round my shoulder: being so much lower of stature than
he, I served both for his prop and guide. We entered the wood, and wended homeward.
By Charlotte Bronte
EADER, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I,
the parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church, I went into
the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking the dinner and John cleaning
the knives, and I said-
'Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning.' The housekeeper and her
husband were both of that decent phlegmatic order of people, to whom one may at any
time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of
having one's ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by
a torrent of wordy wonderment. Mary did look up, and she did stare at me: the ladle
with which she was basting a pair of chickens roasting at the fire, did for some
three minutes hang suspended in air; and for the same space of time John's knives
also had rest from the polishing process: but Mary, bending again over the roast,
'Have you, Miss? Well, for sure!'
A short time after she pursued- 'I seed you go out with the master, but I didn't
know you were gone to church to be wed;' and she basted away. John, when I turned
to him, was grinning from ear to ear.
'I telled Mary how it would be,' he said: 'I knew what Mr. Edward' (John was an old
servant, and had known his master when he was the cadet of the house, therefore,
he often gave him his Christian name)- 'I knew what Mr. Edward would do; and I was
certain he would not wait long neither: and he's done right, for aught I know. I
wish you joy, Miss!' and he politely pulled his forelock.
'Thank you, John. Mr. Rochester told me to give you and Mary this.'
I put into his hand a five-pound note. Without waiting to hear more, I left the kitchen.
In passing the door of that sanctum some time after, I caught the words-
'She'll happen do better for him nor ony o' t' grand ladies.' And again, 'If she
ben't one o' th' handsomest, she's noan faal and varry good-natured; and i' his een
she's fair beautiful, onybody may see that.'
I wrote to Moor House and to Cambridge immediately, to say what I had done: fully
explaining also why I had thus acted. Diana and Mary approved the step unreservedly.
Diana announced that she would just give me time to get over the honeymoon, and then
she would come and see me.
'She had better not wait till then, Jane,' said Mr. Rochester, when I read her letter
to him; 'if she does, she will be too late, for our honeymoon will shine our life
long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine.'
How St. John received the news, I don't know: he never answered the letter in which
I communicated it: yet six months after he wrote to me, without, however, mentioning
Mr. Rochester's name or alluding to my marriage. His letter was then calm, and, though
very serious, kind. He has maintained a regular, though not frequent, correspondence
ever since: he hopes I am happy, and trusts I am not of those who live without God
in the world, and only mind earthly things.
You have not quite forgotten little Adele, have you, reader? I had not; I soon asked
and obtained leave of Mr. Rochester, to go and see her at the school where he had
placed her. Her frantic joy at beholding me again moved me much. She looked pale
and thin: she said she was not happy. I found the rules of the establishment were
too strict, its course of study too severe for a child of her age: I took her home
with me. I meant to become her governess once more, but I soon found this impracticable;
my time and cares were now required by another- my husband needed them all. So I
sought out a school conducted on a more indulgent system, and near enough to permit
of my visiting her often, and bringing her home sometimes. I took care she should
never want for anything that could contribute to her comfort: she soon settled in
her new abode, became very happy there, and made fair progress in her studies. As
she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects;
and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion: docile,
good-tempered, and well-principled. By her grateful attention to me and mine, she
has long since well repaid any little kindness I ever had it in my power to offer
My tale draws to its close: one word respecting my experience of married life, and
one brief glance at the fortunes of those whose names have most frequently recurred
in this narrative, and I have done.
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with
what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest- blest beyond what language
can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was
ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh
of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine,
any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate
bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once
as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to
talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence
is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited
in character-perfect concord is the result.
Mr. Rochester continued blind the first two years of our union: perhaps it was that
circumstance that drew us so very near- that knit us so very close: for I was then
his vision, as I am still his right hand. Literally, I was (what he often called
me) the apple of his eye. He saw nature- he saw books through me; and never did I
weary of gazing for his behalf, and of putting into words the effect of field, tree,
town, river, cloud, sunbeam- of the landscape before us; of the weather round us-
and impressing by sound on his ear what light could no longer stamp on his eye. Never
did I weary of reading to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he wished
to go: of doing for him what he wished to be done. And there was a pleasure in my
services, most full, most exquisite, even though sad- because he claimed these services
without painful shame or damping humiliation. He loved me so truly, that he knew
no reluctance in profiting by my attendance: he felt I loved him so fondly, that
to yield that attendance was to indulge my sweetest wishes.
One morning at the end of the two years, as I was writing a letter to his dictation,
he came and bent over me, and said-
'Jane, have you a glittering ornament round your neck?'
I had a gold watch-chain: I answered 'Yes.'
'And have you a pale-blue dress on?'
I had. He informed me then, that for some time he had fancied the obscurity clouding
one eye was becoming less dense; and that now he was sure of it.
He and I went up to London. He had the advice of an eminent oculist; and he eventually
recovered the sight of that one eye. He cannot now see very distinctly: he cannot
read or write much; but he can find his way without being led by the hand: the sky
is no longer a blank to him- the earth no longer a void. When his first-born was
put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited his own eyes, as they
once were- large, brilliant, and black. On that occasion, he again, with a full heart,
acknowledged that God had tempered judgment with mercy.
My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we most love are
happy likewise. Diana and Mary Rivers are both married: alternately, once every year,
they come to see us, and we go to see them. Diana's husband is a captain in the navy,
a gallant officer and a good man. Mary's is a clergyman, a college friend of her
brother's, and, from his attainments and principles, worthy of the connection. Both
Captain Fitzjames and Mr. Wharton love their wives, and are loved by them.
As to St. John Rivers, he left England: he went to India. He entered on the path
he had marked for himself; he pursues it still. A more resolute, indefatigable pioneer
never wrought amidst rocks and dangers. Firm, faithful, and devoted, full of energy,
and zeal, and truth, he labours for his race; he clears their painful way to improvement;
he hews down like a giant the prejudices of creed and caste that encumber it. He
may be stern; he may be exacting; he may be ambitious yet; but his is the sternness
of the warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon.
His is the exaction of the apostle, who speaks but for Christ, when he says- 'Whosoever
will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.' His
is the ambition of the high master-spirit, which aims to fill a place in the first
rank of those who are redeemed from the earth- who stand without fault before the
throne of God, who share the last mighty victories of the Lamb, who are called, and
chosen, and faithful.
St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has hitherto sufficed to
the toil, and the toil draws near its close: his glorious sun hastens to its setting.
The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled
my heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown.
I know that a stranger's hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful
servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord. And why weep for this?
No fear of death will darken St. John's last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his
heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast. His own words
are a pledge of this-
'My Master,' he says, 'has forewarned me. Daily He announces more distinctly,-
"Surely I come quickly!" and hourly I more eagerly respond,- "Amen;
even so come, Lord Jesus!"'