I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to let dow_y window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon, which was full an_right (for the night was fine), came in her course to that space in the sk_pposite my casement, and looked in at me through the unveiled panes, he_lorious gaze roused me. Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes o_er disk—silver-white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; _alf rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.
Good God! What a cry!
The night—its silence—its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a sharp, _hrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.
My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was paralysed. Th_ry died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever being uttered that fearfu_hriek could not soon repeat it: not the widest-winged condor on the Ande_ould, twice in succession, send out such a yell from the cloud shrouding hi_yrie. The thing delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat th_ffort.
It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And overhead—yes, i_he room just above my chamber-ceiling—I now heard a struggle: a deadly one i_eemed from the noise; and a half-smothered voice shouted—
“Help! help! help!” three times rapidly.
“Will no one come?” it cried; and then, while the staggering and stamping wen_n wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:—
“Rochester! Rochester! for God’s sake, come!”
A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery. Anothe_tep stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and there was silence.
I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I issued from m_partment. The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations, terrified murmur_ounded in every room; door after door unclosed; one looked out and anothe_ooked out; the gallery filled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted thei_eds; and “Oh! what is it?”—“Who is hurt?”—“What has happened?”—“Fetch _ight!”—“Is it fire?”—“Are there robbers?”—“Where shall we run?” was demande_onfusedly on all hands. But for the moonlight they would have been i_omplete darkness. They ran to and fro; they crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the confusion was inextricable.
“Where the devil is Rochester?” cried Colonel Dent. “I cannot find him in hi_ed.”
“Here! here!” was shouted in return. “Be composed, all of you: I’m coming.”
And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester advanced wit_ candle: he had just descended from the upper storey. One of the ladies ra_o him directly; she seized his arm: it was Miss Ingram.
“What awful event has taken place?” said she. “Speak! let us know the wors_t once!”
“But don’t pull me down or strangle me,” he replied: for the Misses Eshto_ere clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.
“All’s right!—all’s right!” he cried. “It’s a mere rehearsal of Much Ad_bout Nothing. Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax dangerous.”
And dangerous he looked: his black eyes darted sparks. Calming himself by a_ffort, he added—
“A servant has had the nightmare; that is all. She’s an excitable, nervou_erson: she construed her dream into an apparition, or something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright. Now, then, I must see you all bac_nto your rooms; for, till the house is settled, she cannot be looked after.
Gentlemen, have the goodness to set the ladies the example. Miss Ingram, I a_ure you will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors. Amy an_ouisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are. Mesdames” (t_he dowagers), “you will take cold to a dead certainty, if you stay in thi_hill gallery any longer.”
And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to get the_ll once more enclosed in their separate dormitories. I did not wait to b_rdered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as unnoticed I had left it.
Not, however, to go to bed: on the contrary, I began and dressed mysel_arefully. The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the words that ha_een uttered, had probably been heard only by me; for they had proceeded fro_he room above mine: but they assured me that it was not a servant’s drea_hich had thus struck horror through the house; and that the explanation Mr.
Rochester had given was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests. _ressed, then, to be ready for emergencies. When dressed, I sat a long tim_y the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered fields an_aiting for I knew not what. It seemed to me that some event must follow th_trange cry, struggle, and call.
No: stillness returned: each murmur and movement ceased gradually, and i_bout an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a desert. It seemed tha_leep and night had resumed their empire. Meantime the moon declined: she wa_bout to set. Not liking to sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I woul_ie down on my bed, dressed as I was. I left the window, and moved wit_ittle noise across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautiou_and tapped low at the door.
“Am I wanted?” I asked.
“Are you up?” asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master’s.
“Come out, then, quietly.”
I obeyed. Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.
“I want you,” he said: “come this way: take your time, and make no noise.”
My slippers were thin: I could walk the matted floor as softly as a cat. H_lided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the dark, low corrido_f the fateful third storey: I had followed and stood at his side.
“Have you a sponge in your room?” he asked in a whisper.
“Have you any salts—volatile salts?”
“Go back and fetch both.”
I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my drawer, an_nce more retraced my steps. He still waited; he held a key in his hand: approaching one of the small, black doors, he put it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.
“You don’t turn sick at the sight of blood?”
“I think I shall not: I have never been tried yet.”
I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no faintness.
“Just give me your hand,” he said: “it will not do to risk a fainting fit.”
I put my fingers into his. “Warm and steady,” was his remark: he turned th_ey and opened the door.
I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax showed m_ver the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the tapestry was now looped u_n one part, and there was a door apparent, which had then been concealed.
This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence _narling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling. Mr. Rochester, putting down his candle, said to me, “Wait a minute,” and he went forward t_he inner apartment. A shout of laughter greeted his entrance; noisy a_irst, and terminating in Grace Poole’s own goblin ha! ha! _She_ then wa_here. He made some sort of arrangement without speaking, though I heard _ow voice address him: he came out and closed the door behind him.
“Here, Jane!” he said; and I walked round to the other side of a large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable portion of the chamber.
An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man sat in it, dressed with th_xception of his coat; he was still; his head leant back; his eyes wer_losed. Mr. Rochester held the candle over him; I recognised in his pale an_eemingly lifeless face—the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on on_ide, and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.
“Hold the candle,” said Mr. Rochester, and I took it: he fetched a basin o_ater from the washstand: “Hold that,” said he. I obeyed. He took th_ponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like face; he asked for m_melling-bottle, and applied it to the nostrils. Mr. Mason shortly unclose_is eyes; he groaned. Mr. Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and shoulder were bandaged: he sponged away blood, trickling fas_own.
“Is there immediate danger?” murmured Mr. Mason.
“Pooh! No—a mere scratch. Don’t be so overcome, man: bear up! I’ll fetch _urgeon for you now, myself: you’ll be able to be removed by morning, I hope.
Jane,” he continued.
“I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an hour, o_erhaps two hours: you will sponge the blood as I do when it returns: if h_eels faint, you will put the glass of water on that stand to his lips, an_our salts to his nose. You will not speak to him on any pretext—and—Richard, it will be at the peril of your life if you speak to her: open you_ips—agitate yourself—and I’ll not answer for the consequences.”
Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear, either o_eath or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse him. Mr. Rocheste_ut the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I proceeded to use it as he ha_one. He watched me a second, then saying, “Remember!—No conversation,” h_eft the room. I experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.
Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes and hands; _urderess hardly separated from me by a single door: yes—that wa_ppalling—the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at the thought of Grace Pool_ursting out upon me.
I must keep to my post, however. I must watch this ghastly countenance—thes_lue, still lips forbidden to unclose—these eyes now shut, now opening, no_andering through the room, now fixing on me, and ever glazed with the dulnes_f horror. I must dip my hand again and again in the basin of blood an_ater, and wipe away the trickling gore. I must see the light of th_nsnuffed candle wane on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought, antique tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of the vast ol_ed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinet opposite—whos_ront, divided into twelve panels, bore, in grim design, the heads of th_welve apostles, each enclosed in its separate panel as in a frame; whil_bove them at the top rose an ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.
According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered here o_lanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that bent his brow; no_t. John’s long hair that waved; and anon the devilish face of Judas, tha_rew out of the panel, and seemed gathering life and threatening a revelatio_f the arch-traitor—of Satan himself—in his subordinate’s form.
Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch: to listen for the movement_f the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den. But since Mr. Rochester’_isit it seemed spellbound: all the night I heard but three sounds at thre_ong intervals,—a step creak, a momentary renewal of the snarling, canin_oise, and a deep human groan.
Then my own thoughts worried me. What crime was this that lived incarnate i_his sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by th_wner?—what mystery, that broke out now in fire and now in blood, at th_eadest hours of night? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinar_oman’s face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon o_ carrion-seeking bird of prey?
And this man I bent over—this commonplace, quiet stranger—how had he becom_nvolved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown at him? What mad_im seek this quarter of the house at an untimely season, when he should hav_een asleep in bed? I had heard Mr. Rochester assign him an apartmen_elow—what brought him here! And why, now, was he so tame under the violenc_r treachery done him? Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr.
Rochester enforced? Why _did_ Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment? Hi_uest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been hideousl_lotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy and sank i_blivion! Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr. Rochester; that th_mpetuous will of the latter held complete sway over the inertness of th_ormer: the few words which had passed between them assured me of this. I_as evident that in their former intercourse, the passive disposition of th_ne had been habitually influenced by the active energy of the other: whenc_hen had arisen Mr. Rochester’s dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason’s arrival?
Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual—whom his word no_ufficed to control like a child—fallen on him, a few hours since, as _hunderbolt might fall on an oak?
Oh! I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered: “Jane, _ave got a blow—I have got a blow, Jane.” I could not forget how the arm ha_rembled which he rested on my shoulder: and it was no light matter whic_ould thus bow the resolute spirit and thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfa_ochester.
“When will he come? When will he come?” I cried inwardly, as the nigh_ingered and lingered—as my bleeding patient drooped, moaned, sickened: an_either day nor aid arrived. I had, again and again, held the water t_ason’s white lips; again and again offered him the stimulating salts: m_fforts seemed ineffectual: either bodily or mental suffering, or loss o_lood, or all three combined, were fast prostrating his strength. He moane_o, and looked so weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; and I might no_ven speak to him.
The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived streaks o_rey light edging the window curtains: dawn was then approaching. Presently _eard Pilot bark far below, out of his distant kennel in the courtyard: hop_evived. Nor was it unwarranted: in five minutes more the grating key, th_ielding lock, warned me my watch was relieved. It could not have lasted mor_han two hours: many a week has seemed shorter.
Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to fetch.
“Now, Carter, be on the alert,” he said to this last: “I give you but half-an- hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages, getting the patien_ownstairs and all.”
“But is he fit to move, sir?”
“No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits must b_ept up. Come, set to work.”
Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland blind, let i_ll the daylight he could; and I was surprised and cheered to see how far daw_as advanced: what rosy streaks were beginning to brighten the east. Then h_pproached Mason, whom the surgeon was already handling.
“Now, my good fellow, how are you?” he asked.
“She’s done for me, I fear,” was the faint reply.
“Not a whit!—courage! This day fortnight you’ll hardly be a pin the worse o_t: you’ve lost a little blood; that’s all. Carter, assure him there’s n_anger.”
“I can do that conscientiously,” said Carter, who had now undone the bandages; “only I wish I could have got here sooner: he would not have bled so much—bu_ow is this? The flesh on the shoulder is torn as well as cut. This woun_as not done with a knife: there have been teeth here!”
“She bit me,” he murmured. “She worried me like a tigress, when Rochester go_he knife from her.”
“You should not have yielded: you should have grappled with her at once,” sai_r. Rochester.
“But under such circumstances, what could one do?” returned Mason. “Oh, i_as frightful!” he added, shuddering. “And I did not expect it: she looked s_uiet at first.”
“I warned you,” was his friend’s answer; “I said—be on your guard when you g_ear her. Besides, you might have waited till to-morrow, and had me with you: it was mere folly to attempt the interview to-night, and alone.”
“I thought I could have done some good.”
“You thought! you thought! Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you: but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for not taking m_dvice; so I’ll say no more. Carter—hurry!—hurry! The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off.”
“Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged. I must look to this othe_ound in the arm: she has had her teeth here too, I think.”
“She sucked the blood: she said she’d drain my heart,” said Mason.
I saw Mr. Rochester shudder: a singularly marked expression of disgust, horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to distortion; but he only said—
“Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish: don’t repeat it.”
“I wish I could forget it,” was the answer.
“You will when you are out of the country: when you get back to Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried—or rather, you need not think of he_t all.”
“Impossible to forget this night!”
“It is not impossible: have some energy, man. You thought you were as dead a_ herring two hours since, and you are all alive and talking now.
There!—Carter has done with you or nearly so; I’ll make you decent in a trice.
Jane” (he turned to me for the first time since his re-entrance), “take thi_ey: go down into my bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room: open the top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neck- handkerchief: bring them here; and be nimble.”
I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles named, an_eturned with them.
“Now,” said he, “go to the other side of the bed while I order his toilet; bu_on’t leave the room: you may be wanted again.”
I retired as directed.
“Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?” inquired Mr. Rocheste_resently.
“No, sir; all was very still.”
“We shall get you off cannily, Dick: and it will be better, both for you_ake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder. I have striven long t_void exposure, and I should not like it to come at last. Here, Carter, hel_im on with his waist-coat. Where did you leave your furred cloak? You can’_ravel a mile without that, I know, in this damned cold climate. In you_oom?—Jane, run down to Mr. Mason’s room,—the one next mine,—and fetch a cloa_ou will see there.”
Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined and edge_ith fur.
“Now, I’ve another errand for you,” said my untiring master; “you must away t_y room again. What a mercy you are shod with velvet, Jane!—a clod-hoppin_essenger would never do at this juncture. You must open the middle drawer o_y toilet-table and take out a little phial and a little glass you will fin_here,—quick!”
I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.
“That’s well! Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of administering a dos_yself, on my own responsibility. I got this cordial at Rome, of an Italia_harlatan—a fellow you would have kicked, Carter. It is not a thing to b_sed indiscriminately, but it is good upon occasion: as now, for instance.
Jane, a little water.”
He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-bottle on th_ashstand.
“That will do;—now wet the lip of the phial.”
I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and presented it t_ason.
“Drink, Richard: it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour or so.”
“But will it hurt me?—is it inflammatory?”
“Drink! drink! drink!”
Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist. He was dresse_ow: he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory and sullied. Mr.
Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had swallowed the liquid; he the_ook his arm—
“Now I am sure you can get on your feet,” he said—“try.”
The patient rose.
“Carter, take him under the other shoulder. Be of good cheer, Richard; ste_ut—that’s it!”
“I do feel better,” remarked Mr. Mason.
“I am sure you do. Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of the post-chaise you wil_ee in the yard—or just outside, for I told him not to drive his rattlin_heels over the pavement—to be ready; we are coming: and, Jane, if any one i_bout, come to the foot of the stairs and hem.”
It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent. The side-passage door wa_astened; I opened it with as little noise as possible: all the yard wa_uiet; but the gates stood wide open, and there was a post-chaise, with horse_eady harnessed, and driver seated on the box, stationed outside. _pproached him, and said the gentlemen were coming; he nodded: then I looke_arefully round and listened. The stillness of early morning slumbere_verywhere; the curtains were yet drawn over the servants’ chamber windows; little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard trees, whos_oughs drooped like white garlands over the wall enclosing one side of th_ard; the carriage horses stamped from time to time in their closed stables: all else was still.
The gentlemen now appeared. Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and th_urgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease: they assisted him into th_haise; Carter followed.
“Take care of him,” said Mr. Rochester to the latter, “and keep him at you_ouse till he is quite well: I shall ride over in a day or two to see how h_ets on. Richard, how is it with you?”
“The fresh air revives me, Fairfax.”
“Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind—good-bye, Dick.”
“Well what is it?”
“Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be: let her—” he stopped and burst into tears.
“I do my best; and have done it, and will do it,” was the answer: he shut u_he chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.
“Yet would to God there was an end of all this!” added Mr. Rochester, as h_losed and barred the heavy yard-gates.
This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door in th_all bordering the orchard. I, supposing he had done with me, prepared t_eturn to the house; again, however, I heard him call “Jane!” He had opene_eel portal and stood at it, waiting for me.
“Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments,” he said; “that hous_s a mere dungeon: don’t you feel it so?”
“It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir.”
“The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes,” he answered; “and you see i_hrough a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the gilding is slime and th_ilk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is sordid slate, and the polishe_oods mere refuse chips and scaly bark. Now _here_ ” (he pointed to the leaf_nclosure we had entered) “all is real, sweet, and pure.”
He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees, an_herry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all sorts of old- fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses, pansies, mingled wit_outhernwood, sweet-briar, and various fragrant herbs. They were fresh now a_ succession of April showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his ligh_llumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the quiet walk_nder them.
“Jane, will you have a flower?”
He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it to me.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Do you like this sunrise, Jane? That sky with its high and light cloud_hich are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm—this placid and balml_tmosphere?”
“I do, very much.”
“You have passed a strange night, Jane.”
“And it has made you look pale—were you afraid when I left you alone wit_ason?”
“I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room.”
“But I had fastened the door—I had the key in my pocket: I should have been _areless shepherd if I had left a lamb—my pet lamb—so near a wolf’s den, unguarded: you were safe.”
“Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?”
“Oh yes! don’t trouble your head about her—put the thing out of you_houghts.”
“Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays.”
“Never fear—I will take care of myself.”
“Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?”
“I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England: nor even then. T_ive, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which may crack and spu_ire any day.”
“But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led. Your influence, sir, is evidentl_otent with him: he will never set you at defiance or wilfully injure you.”
“Oh, no! Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me—but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless word, deprive me, i_ot of life, yet for ever of happiness.”
“Tell him to be cautious, sir: let him know what you fear, and show him how t_vert the danger.”
He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw it fro_im.
“If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be? Annihilated in _oment. Ever since I have known Mason, I have only had to say to him ‘D_hat,’ and the thing has been done. But I cannot give him orders in thi_ase: I cannot say ‘Beware of harming me, Richard;’ for it is imperative tha_ should keep him ignorant that harm to me is possible. Now you look puzzled; and I will puzzle you further. You are my little friend, are you not?”
“I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right.”
“Precisely: I see you do. I see genuine contentment in your gait and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing me—working for me, an_ith me, in, as you characteristically say, ‘ _all that is right_ :’ for if _id you do what you thought wrong, there would be no light-footed running, n_eat-handed alacrity, no lively glance and animated complexion. My frien_ould then turn to me, quiet and pale, and would say, ‘No, sir; that i_mpossible: I cannot do it, because it is wrong;’ and would become immutabl_s a fixed star. Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me: yet _are not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and friendly as yo_re, you should transfix me at once.”
“If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me, sir, yo_re very safe.”
“God grant it may be so! Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down.”
The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a rusti_eat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me: but I stoo_efore him.
“Sit,” he said; “the bench is long enough for two. You don’t hesitate to tak_ place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?”
I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been unwise.
“Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew—while all the flowers i_his old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch their young ones’ breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early bees do their first spell o_ork—I’ll put a case to you, which you must endeavour to suppose your own: bu_irst, look at me, and tell me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err i_etaining you, or that you err in staying.”
“No, sir; I am content.”
“Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:—suppose you were no longer a gir_ell reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land; conceive that you there commit _apital error, no matter of what nature or from what motives, but one whos_onsequences must follow you through life and taint all your existence. Mind, I don’t say a _crime_ ; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any othe_uilty act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law: my word i_error_. The results of what you have done become in time to you utterl_nsupportable; you take measures to obtain relief: unusual measures, bu_either unlawful nor culpable. Still you are miserable; for hope has quitte_ou on the very confines of life: your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not leave it till the time of setting. Bitter and bas_ssociations have become the sole food of your memory: you wander here an_here, seeking rest in exile: happiness in pleasure—I mean in heartless, sensual pleasure—such as dulls intellect and blights feeling. Heart-weary an_oul-withered, you come home after years of voluntary banishment: you make _ew acquaintance—how or where no matter: you find in this stranger much of th_ood and bright qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and neve_efore encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil and withou_aint. Such society revives, regenerates: you feel better days com_ack—higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to recommence your life, and t_pend what remains to you of days in a way more worthy of an immortal being.
To attain this end, are you justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom—_ere conventional impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor you_udgment approves?”
He paused for an answer: and what was I to say? Oh, for some good spirit t_uggest a judicious and satisfactory response! Vain aspiration! The wes_ind whispered in the ivy round me; but no gentle Ariel borrowed its breath a_ medium of speech: the birds sang in the tree-tops; but their song, howeve_weet, was inarticulate.
Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:
“Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant, ma_ustified in daring the world’s opinion, in order to attach to him for eve_his gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby securing his own peace of min_nd regeneration of life?”
“Sir,” I answered, “a wanderer’s repose or a sinner’s reformation should neve_epend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die; philosophers falter i_isdom, and Christians in goodness: if any one you know has suffered an_rred, let him look higher than his equals for strength to amend and solace t_eal.”
“But the instrument—the instrument! God, who does the work, ordains th_nstrument. I have myself—I tell it you without parable—been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I have found the instrument for m_ure in—”
He paused: the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly rustling. I almos_ondered they did not check their songs and whispers to catch the suspende_evelation; but they would have had to wait many minutes—so long was th_ilence protracted. At last I looked up at the tardy speaker: he was lookin_agerly at me.
“Little friend,” said he, in quite a changed tone—while his face changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh and sarcastic—“yo_ave noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram: don’t you think if I marrie_er she would regenerate me with a vengeance?”
He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and when he cam_ack he was humming a tune.
“Jane, Jane,” said he, stopping before me, “you are quite pale with you_igils: don’t you curse me for disturbing your rest?”
“Curse you? No, sir.”
“Shake hands in confirmation of the word. What cold fingers! They wer_armer last night when I touched them at the door of the mysterious chamber.
Jane, when will you watch with me again?”
“Whenever I can be useful, sir.”
“For instance, the night before I am married! I am sure I shall not be abl_o sleep. Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me company? To you _an talk of my lovely one: for now you have seen her and know her.”
“She’s a rare one, is she not, Jane?”
“A strapper—a real strapper, Jane: big, brown, and buxom; with hair just suc_s the ladies of Carthage must have had. Bless me! there’s Dent and Lynn i_he stables! Go in by the shrubbery, through that wicket.”
As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard, sayin_heerfully—
“Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before sunrise: _ose at four to see him off.”