As I rose and dressed, I thought over what had happened, and wondered if i_ere a dream. I could not be certain of the reality till I had seen Mr.
Rochester again, and heard him renew his words of love and promise.
While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was n_onger plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its colour; and my eye_eemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams fro_he lustrous ripple. I had often been unwilling to look at my master, becaus_ feared he could not be pleased at my look; but I was sure I might lift m_ace to his now, and not cool his affection by its expression. I took a plai_ut clean and light summer dress from my drawer and put it on: it seemed n_ttire had ever so well become me, because none had I ever worn in so blissfu_ mood.
I was not surprised, when I ran down into the hall, to see that a brillian_une morning had succeeded to the tempest of the night; and to feel, throug_he open glass door, the breathing of a fresh and fragrant breeze. Natur_ust be gladsome when I was so happy. A beggar-woman and her little boy—pale, ragged objects both—were coming up the walk, and I ran down and gave them al_he money I happened to have in my purse—some three or four shillings: good o_ad, they must partake of my jubilee. The rooks cawed, and blither bird_ang; but nothing was so merry or so musical as my own rejoicing heart.
Mrs. Fairfax surprised me by looking out of the window with a sad countenance, and saying gravely—“Miss Eyre, will you come to breakfast?” During the mea_he was quiet and cool: but I could not undeceive her then. I must wait fo_y master to give explanations; and so must she. I ate what I could, and the_ hastened upstairs. I met Adèle leaving the schoolroom.
“Where are you going? It is time for lessons.”
“Mr. Rochester has sent me away to the nursery.”
“Where is he?”
“In there,” pointing to the apartment she had left; and I went in, and ther_e stood.
“Come and bid me good-morning,” said he. I gladly advanced; and it was no_erely a cold word now, or even a shake of the hand that I received, but a_mbrace and a kiss. It seemed natural: it seemed genial to be so well loved, so caressed by him.
“Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,” said he: “truly prett_his morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? Thi_ittle sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smoot_azel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?” (I had green eyes, reader; but yo_ust excuse the mistake: for him they were new-dyed, I suppose.)
“It is Jane Eyre, sir.”
“Soon to be Jane Rochester,” he added: “in four weeks, Janet; not a day more.
Do you hear that?”
I did, and I could not quite comprehend it: it made me giddy. The feeling, the announcement sent through me, was something stronger than was consisten_ith joy—something that smote and stunned. It was, I think almost fear.
“You blushed, and now you are white, Jane: what is that for?”
“Because you gave me a new name—Jane Rochester; and it seems so strange.”
“Yes, Mrs. Rochester,” said he; “young Mrs. Rochester—Fairfax Rochester’_irl-bride.”
“It can never be, sir; it does not sound likely. Human beings never enjo_omplete happiness in this world. I was not born for a different destiny t_he rest of my species: to imagine such a lot befalling me is a fairy tale—_ay-dream.”
“Which I can and will realise. I shall begin to-day. This morning I wrote t_y banker in London to send me certain jewels he has in his keeping,—heirloom_or the ladies of Thornfield. In a day or two I hope to pour them into you_ap: for every privilege, every attention shall be yours that I would accord _eer’s daughter, if about to marry her.”
“Oh, sir!—never rain jewels! I don’t like to hear them spoken of. Jewels fo_ane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange: I would rather not have them.”
“I will myself put the diamond chain round your neck, and the circlet on you_orehead,—which it will become: for nature, at least, has stamped her paten_f nobility on this brow, Jane; and I will clasp the bracelets on these fin_rists, and load these fairy-like fingers with rings.”
“No, no, sir! think of other subjects, and speak of other things, and i_nother strain. Don’t address me as if I were a beauty; I am your plain, Quakerish governess.”
“You are a beauty in my eyes, and a beauty just after the desire of m_eart,—delicate and aërial.”
“Puny and insignificant, you mean. You are dreaming, sir,—or you ar_neering. For God’s sake don’t be ironical!”
“I will make the world acknowledge you a beauty, too,” he went on, while _eally became uneasy at the strain he had adopted, because I felt he wa_ither deluding himself or trying to delude me. “I will attire my Jane i_atin and lace, and she shall have roses in her hair; and I will cover th_ead I love best with a priceless veil.”
“And then you won’t know me, sir; and I shall not be your Jane Eyre an_onger, but an ape in a harlequin’s jacket—a jay in borrowed plumes. I woul_s soon see you, Mr. Rochester, tricked out in stage-trappings, as myself cla_n a court-lady’s robe; and I don’t call you handsome, sir, though I love yo_ost dearly: far too dearly to flatter you. Don’t flatter me.”
He pursued his theme, however, without noticing my deprecation. “This ver_ay I shall take you in the carriage to Millcote, and you must choose som_resses for yourself. I told you we shall be married in four weeks. Th_edding is to take place quietly, in the church down below yonder; and then _hall waft you away at once to town. After a brief stay there, I shall bea_y treasure to regions nearer the sun: to French vineyards and Italian plains; and she shall see whatever is famous in old story and in modern record: sh_hall taste, too, of the life of cities; and she shall learn to value hersel_y just comparison with others.”
“Shall I travel?—and with you, sir?”
“You shall sojourn at Paris, Rome, and Naples: at Florence, Venice, an_ienna: all the ground I have wandered over shall be re-trodden by you: wherever I stamped my hoof, your sylph’s foot shall step also. Ten year_ince, I flew through Europe half mad; with disgust, hate, and rage as m_ompanions: now I shall revisit it healed and cleansed, with a very angel a_y comforter.”
I laughed at him as he said this. “I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and _ill not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neithe_xpect nor exact anything celestial of me—for you will not get it, any mor_han I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”
“What do you anticipate of me?”
“For a little while you will perhaps be as you are now,—a very little while; and then you will turn cool; and then you will be capricious; and then yo_ill be stern, and I shall have much ado to please you: but when you get wel_sed to me, you will perhaps like me again,— _like_ me, I say, not _love_ me.
I suppose your love will effervesce in six months, or less. I have observe_n books written by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which _usband’s ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion, I hop_ever to become quite distasteful to my dear master.”
“Distasteful! and like you again! I think I shall like you again, and ye_gain: and I will make you confess I do not only _like_ , but _love_ you—wit_ruth, fervour, constancy.”
“Yet are you not capricious, sir?”
“To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil when I fin_ut they have neither souls nor hearts—when they open to me a perspective o_latness, triviality, and perhaps imbecility, coarseness, and ill-temper: bu_o the clear eye and eloquent tongue, to the soul made of fire, and th_haracter that bends but does not break—at once supple and stable, tractabl_nd consistent—I am ever tender and true.”
“Had you ever experience of such a character, sir? Did you ever love such a_ne?”
“I love it now.”
“But before me: if I, indeed, in any respect come up to your difficul_tandard?”
“I never met your likeness. Jane, you please me, and you master me—you see_o submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and while I am twinin_he soft, silken skein round my finger, it sends a thrill up my arm to m_eart. I am influenced—conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I ca_xpress; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I ca_in. Why do you smile, Jane? What does that inexplicable, that uncanny tur_f countenance mean?”
“I was thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary), I wa_hinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers—”
“You were, you little elfish—”
“Hush, sir! You don’t talk very wisely just now; any more than thos_entlemen acted very wisely. However, had they been married, they would n_oubt by their severity as husbands have made up for their softness a_uitors; and so will you, I fear. I wonder how you will answer me a yea_ence, should I ask a favour it does not suit your convenience or pleasure t_rant.”
“Ask me something now, Jane,—the least thing: I desire to be entreated—”
“Indeed I will, sir; I have my petition all ready.”
“Speak! But if you look up and smile with that countenance, I shall swea_oncession before I know to what, and that will make a fool of me.”
“Not at all, sir; I ask only this: don’t send for the jewels, and don’t crow_e with roses: you might as well put a border of gold lace round that plai_ocket handkerchief you have there.”
“I might as well ‘gild refined gold.’ I know it: your request is grante_hen—for the time. I will remand the order I despatched to my banker. Bu_ou have not yet asked for anything; you have prayed a gift to be withdrawn: try again.”
“Well then, sir, have the goodness to gratify my curiosity, which is muc_iqued on one point.”
He looked disturbed. “What? what?” he said hastily. “Curiosity is _angerous petition: it is well I have not taken a vow to accord ever_equest—”
“But there can be no danger in complying with this, sir.”
“Utter it, Jane: but I wish that instead of a mere inquiry into, perhaps, _ecret, it was a wish for half my estate.”
“Now, King Ahasuerus! What do I want with half your estate? Do you think _m a Jew-usurer, seeking good investment in land? I would much rather hav_ll your confidence. You will not exclude me from your confidence if yo_dmit me to your heart?”
“You are welcome to all my confidence that is worth having, Jane; but fo_od’s sake, don’t desire a useless burden! Don’t long for poison—don’t tur_ut a downright Eve on my hands!”
“Why not, sir? You have just been telling me how much you liked to b_onquered, and how pleasant over-persuasion is to you. Don’t you think I ha_etter take advantage of the confession, and begin and coax and entreat—eve_ry and be sulky if necessary—for the sake of a mere essay of my power?”
“I dare you to any such experiment. Encroach, presume, and the game is up.”
“Is it, sir? You soon give in. How stern you look now! Your eyebrows hav_ecome as thick as my finger, and your forehead resembles what, in some ver_stonishing poetry, I once saw styled, ‘a blue-piled thunderloft.’ That wil_e your married look, sir, I suppose?”
“If that will be _your_ married look, I, as a Christian, will soon give up th_otion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander. But what had you t_sk, thing,—out with it?”
“There, you are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a great deal bette_han flattery. I had rather be a _thing_ than an angel. This is what I hav_o ask,—Why did you take such pains to make me believe you wished to marr_iss Ingram?”
“Is that all? Thank God it is no worse!” And now he unknit his black brows; looked down, smiling at me, and stroked my hair, as if well pleased at seein_ danger averted. “I think I may confess,” he continued, “even although _hould make you a little indignant, Jane—and I have seen what a fire-spiri_ou can be when you are indignant. You glowed in the cool moonlight las_ight, when you mutinied against fate, and claimed your rank as my equal.
Janet, by-the-bye, it was you who made me the offer.”
“Of course I did. But to the point if you please, sir—Miss Ingram?”
“Well, I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to render you a_adly in love with me as I was with you; and I knew jealousy would be the bes_lly I could call in for the furtherance of that end.”
“Excellent! Now you are small—not one whit bigger than the end of my littl_inger. It was a burning shame and a scandalous disgrace to act in that way.
Did you think nothing of Miss Ingram’s feelings, sir?”
“Her feelings are concentrated in one—pride; and that needs humbling. Wer_ou jealous, Jane?”
“Never mind, Mr. Rochester: it is in no way interesting to you to know that.
Answer me truly once more. Do you think Miss Ingram will not suffer from you_ishonest coquetry? Won’t she feel forsaken and deserted?”
“Impossible!—when I told you how she, on the contrary, deserted me: the ide_f my insolvency cooled, or rather extinguished, her flame in a moment.”
“You have a curious, designing mind, Mr. Rochester. I am afraid you_rinciples on some points are eccentric.”
“My principles were never trained, Jane: they may have grown a little awry fo_ant of attention.”
“Once again, seriously; may I enjoy the great good that has been vouchsafed t_e, without fearing that any one else is suffering the bitter pain I mysel_elt a while ago?”
“That you may, my good little girl: there is not another being in the worl_as the same pure love for me as yourself—for I lay that pleasant unction t_y soul, Jane, a belief in your affection.”
I turned my lips to the hand that lay on my shoulder. I loved him ver_uch—more than I could trust myself to say—more than words had power t_xpress.
“Ask something more,” he said presently; “it is my delight to be entreated, and to yield.”
I was again ready with my request. “Communicate your intentions to Mrs.
Fairfax, sir: she saw me with you last night in the hall, and she was shocked.
Give her some explanation before I see her again. It pains me to be misjudge_y so good a woman.”
“Go to your room, and put on your bonnet,” he replied. “I mean you t_ccompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare for the drive, _ill enlighten the old lady’s understanding. Did she think, Janet, you ha_iven the world for love, and considered it well lost?”
“I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, sir.”
“Station! station!—your station is in my heart, and on the necks of those wh_ould insult you, now or hereafter.—Go.”
I was soon dressed; and when I heard Mr. Rochester quit Mrs. Fairfax’_arlour, I hurried down to it. The old lady, had been reading her mornin_ortion of Scripture—the Lesson for the day; her Bible lay open before her, and her spectacles were upon it. Her occupation, suspended by Mr. Rochester’_nnouncement, seemed now forgotten: her eyes, fixed on the blank wal_pposite, expressed the surprise of a quiet mind stirred by unwonted tidings.
Seeing me, she roused herself: she made a sort of effort to smile, and frame_ few words of congratulation; but the smile expired, and the sentence wa_bandoned unfinished. She put up her spectacles, shut the Bible, and pushe_er chair back from the table.
“I feel so astonished,” she began, “I hardly know what to say to you, Mis_yre. I have surely not been dreaming, have I? Sometimes I half fall aslee_hen I am sitting alone and fancy things that have never happened. It ha_eemed to me more than once when I have been in a doze, that my dear husband, who died fifteen years since, has come in and sat down beside me; and that _ave even heard him call me by my name, Alice, as he used to do. Now, can yo_ell me whether it is actually true that Mr. Rochester has asked you to marr_im? Don’t laugh at me. But I really thought he came in here five minute_go, and said that in a month you would be his wife.”
“He has said the same thing to me,” I replied.
“He has! Do you believe him? Have you accepted him?”
She looked at me bewildered. “I could never have thought it. He is a prou_an: all the Rochesters were proud: and his father, at least, liked money.
He, too, has always been called careful. He means to marry you?”
“He tells me so.”
She surveyed my whole person: in her eyes I read that they had there found n_harm powerful enough to solve the enigma.
“It passes me!” she continued; “but no doubt, it is true since you say so.
How it will answer, I cannot tell: I really don’t know. Equality of positio_nd fortune is often advisable in such cases; and there are twenty years o_ifference in your ages. He might almost be your father.”
“No, indeed, Mrs. Fairfax!” exclaimed I, nettled; “he is nothing like m_ather! No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for an instant. Mr.
Rochester looks as young, and is as young, as some men at five-and-twenty.”
“Is it really for love he is going to marry you?” she asked.
I was so hurt by her coldness and scepticism, that the tears rose to my eyes.
“I am sorry to grieve you,” pursued the widow; “but you are so young, and s_ittle acquainted with men, I wished to put you on your guard. It is an ol_aying that ‘all is not gold that glitters;’ and in this case I do fear ther_ill be something found to be different to what either you or I expect.”
“Why?—am I a monster?” I said: “is it impossible that Mr. Rochester shoul_ave a sincere affection for me?”
“No: you are very well; and much improved of late; and Mr. Rochester, _aresay, is fond of you. I have always noticed that you were a sort of pet o_is. There are times when, for your sake, I have been a little uneasy at hi_arked preference, and have wished to put you on your guard: but I did no_ike to suggest even the possibility of wrong. I knew such an idea woul_hock, perhaps offend you; and you were so discreet, and so thoroughly modes_nd sensible, I hoped you might be trusted to protect yourself. Last night _annot tell you what I suffered when I sought all over the house, and coul_ind you nowhere, nor the master either; and then, at twelve o’clock, saw yo_ome in with him.”
“Well, never mind that now,” I interrupted impatiently; “it is enough that al_as right.”
“I hope all will be right in the end,” she said: “but believe me, you canno_e too careful. Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a distance: distrust yoursel_s well as him. Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry thei_overnesses.”
I was growing truly irritated: happily, Adèle ran in.
“Let me go,—let me go to Millcote too!” she cried. “Mr. Rochester won’t: though there is so much room in the new carriage. Beg him to let me g_ademoiselle.”
“That I will, Adèle;” and I hastened away with her, glad to quit my gloom_onitress. The carriage was ready: they were bringing it round to the front, and my master was pacing the pavement, Pilot following him backwards an_orwards.
“Adèle may accompany us, may she not, sir?”
“I told her no. I’ll have no brats!—I’ll have only you.”
“Do let her go, Mr. Rochester, if you please: it would be better.”
“Not it: she will be a restraint.”
He was quite peremptory, both in look and voice. The chill of Mrs. Fairfax’_arnings, and the damp of her doubts were upon me: something o_nsubstantiality and uncertainty had beset my hopes. I half lost the sense o_ower over him. I was about mechanically to obey him, without furthe_emonstrance; but as he helped me into the carriage, he looked at my face.
“What is the matter?” he asked; “all the sunshine is gone. Do you really wis_he bairn to go? Will it annoy you if she is left behind?”
“I would far rather she went, sir.”
“Then off for your bonnet, and back like a flash of lightning!” cried he t_dèle.
She obeyed him with what speed she might.
“After all, a single morning’s interruption will not matter much,” said he, “when I mean shortly to claim you—your thoughts, conversation, and company—fo_ife.”
Adèle, when lifted in, commenced kissing me, by way of expressing he_ratitude for my intercession: she was instantly stowed away into a corner o_he other side of him. She then peeped round to where I sat; so stern _eighbour was too restrictive to him, in his present fractious mood, she dare_hisper no observations, nor ask of him any information.
“Let her come to me,” I entreated: “she will, perhaps, trouble you, sir: ther_s plenty of room on this side.”
He handed her over as if she had been a lapdog. “I’ll send her to schoo_et,” he said, but now he was smiling.
Adèle heard him, and asked if she was to go to school “sans mademoiselle?”
“Yes,” he replied, “absolutely sans mademoiselle; for I am to tak_ademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of the whit_alleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall live with me there, an_nly me.”
“She will have nothing to eat: you will starve her,” observed Adèle.
“I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and hillsides i_he moon are bleached with manna, Adèle.”
“She will want to warm herself: what will she do for a fire?”
“Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold, I’ll carry her up t_ peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater.”
“Oh, qu’ elle y sera mal—peu comfortable! And her clothes, they will wea_ut: how can she get new ones?”
Mr. Rochester professed to be puzzled. “Hem!” said he. “What would you do, Adèle? Cudgel your brains for an expedient. How would a white or a pin_loud answer for a gown, do you think? And one could cut a pretty enoug_carf out of a rainbow.”
“She is far better as she is,” concluded Adèle, after musing some time: “besides, she would get tired of living with only you in the moon. If I wer_ademoiselle, I would never consent to go with you.”
“She has consented: she has pledged her word.”
“But you can’t get her there; there is no road to the moon: it is all air; an_either you nor she can fly.”
“Adèle, look at that field.” We were now outside Thornfield gates, an_owling lightly along the smooth road to Millcote, where the dust was wel_aid by the thunderstorm, and, where the low hedges and lofty timber trees o_ach side glistened green and rain-refreshed.
“In that field, Adèle, I was walking late one evening about a fortnigh_ince—the evening of the day you helped me to make hay in the orchard meadows; and, as I was tired with raking swaths, I sat down to rest me on a stile; an_here I took out a little book and a pencil, and began to write about _isfortune that befell me long ago, and a wish I had for happy days to come: _as writing away very fast, though daylight was fading from the leaf, whe_omething came up the path and stopped two yards off me. I looked at it. I_as a little thing with a veil of gossamer on its head. I beckoned it to com_ear me; it stood soon at my knee. I never spoke to it, and it never spoke t_e, in words; but I read its eyes, and it read mine; and our speechles_olloquy was to this effect—
“It was a fairy, and come from Elf-land, it said; and its errand was to mak_e happy: I must go with it out of the common world to a lonely place—such a_he moon, for instance—and it nodded its head towards her horn, rising ove_ay-hill: it told me of the alabaster cave and silver vale where we migh_ive. I said I should like to go; but reminded it, as you did me, that I ha_o wings to fly.
“‘Oh,’ returned the fairy, ‘that does not signify! Here is a talisman wil_emove all difficulties;’ and she held out a pretty gold ring. ‘Put it,’ sh_aid, ‘on the fourth finger of my left hand, and I am yours, and you are mine; and we shall leave earth, and make our own heaven yonder.’ She nodded agai_t the moon. The ring, Adèle, is in my breeches-pocket, under the disguise o_ sovereign: but I mean soon to change it to a ring again.”
“But what has mademoiselle to do with it? I don’t care for the fairy: yo_aid it was mademoiselle you would take to the moon?”
“Mademoiselle is a fairy,” he said, whispering mysteriously. Whereupon I tol_er not to mind his badinage; and she, on her part, evinced a fund of genuin_rench scepticism: denominating Mr. Rochester “un vrai menteur,” and assurin_im that she made no account whatever of his “contes de fée,” and that “d_este, il n’y avait pas de fées, et quand même il y en avait:” she was sur_hey would never appear to him, nor ever give him rings, or offer to live wit_im in the moon.
The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr. Rocheste_bliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was ordered to choos_alf-a-dozen dresses. I hated the business, I begged leave to defer it: no—i_hould be gone through with now. By dint of entreaties expressed in energeti_hispers, I reduced the half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he woul_elect himself. With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: h_ixed on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pin_atin. I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as well buy me _old gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should certainly never venture t_ear his choice. With infinite difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, _ersuaded him to make an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl- grey silk. “It might pass for the present,” he said; “but he would yet see m_littering like a parterre.”
Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a jeweller_hop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense o_nnoyance and degradation. As we re-entered the carriage, and I sat bac_everish and fagged, I remembered what, in the hurry of events, dark an_right, I had wholly forgotten—the letter of my uncle, John Eyre, to Mrs.
Reed: his intention to adopt me and make me his legatee. “It would, indeed, be a relief,” I thought, “if I had ever so small an independency; I never ca_ear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a secon_anae with the golden shower falling daily round me. I will write to Madeir_he moment I get home, and tell my uncle John I am going to be married, and t_hom: if I had but a prospect of one day bringing Mr. Rochester an accessio_f fortune, I could better endure to be kept by him now.” And somewha_elieved by this idea (which I failed not to execute that day), I venture_nce more to meet my master’s and lover’s eye, which most pertinaciousl_ought mine, though I averted both face and gaze. He smiled; and I though_is smile was such as a sultan might, in a blissful and fond moment, bestow o_ slave his gold and gems had enriched: I crushed his hand, which was eve_unting mine, vigorously, and thrust it back to him red with the passionat_ressure.
“You need not look in that way,” I said; “if you do, I’ll wear nothing but m_ld Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter. I’ll be married in this lila_ingham: you may make a dressing-gown for yourself out of the pearl-grey silk, and an infinite series of waistcoats out of the black satin.”
He chuckled; he rubbed his hands. “Oh, it is rich to see and hear her?” h_xclaimed. “Is she original? Is she piquant? I would not exchange this on_ittle English girl for the Grand Turk’s whole seraglio, gazelle-eyes, hour_orms, and all!”
The Eastern allusion bit me again. “I’ll not stand you an inch in the stea_f a seraglio,” I said; “so don’t consider me an equivalent for one. If yo_ave a fancy for anything in that line, away with you, sir, to the bazaars o_tamboul without delay, and lay out in extensive slave-purchases some of tha_pare cash you seem at a loss to spend satisfactorily here.”
“And what will you do, Janet, while I am bargaining for so many tons of fles_nd such an assortment of black eyes?”
“I’ll be preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preach liberty to the_hat are enslaved—your harem inmates amongst the rest. I’ll get admitte_here, and I’ll stir up mutiny; and you, three-tailed bashaw as you are, sir, shall in a trice find yourself fettered amongst our hands: nor will I, fo_ne, consent to cut your bonds till you have signed a charter, the mos_iberal that despot ever yet conferred.”
“I would consent to be at your mercy, Jane.”
“I would have no mercy, Mr. Rochester, if you supplicated for it with an ey_ike that. While you looked so, I should be certain that whatever charter yo_ight grant under coercion, your first act, when released, would be to violat_ts conditions.”
“Why, Jane, what would you have? I fear you will compel me to go through _rivate marriage ceremony, besides that performed at the altar. You wil_tipulate, I see, for peculiar terms—what will they be?”
“I only want an easy mind, sir; not crushed by crowded obligations. Do yo_emember what you said of Céline Varens?—of the diamonds, the cashmeres yo_ave her? I will not be your English Céline Varens. I shall continue to ac_s Adèle’s governess; by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirt_ounds a year besides. I’ll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, an_ou shall give me nothing but—”
“Well, but what?”
“Your regard; and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be quit.”
“Well, for cool native impudence and pure innate pride, you haven’t you_qual,” said he. We were now approaching Thornfield. “Will it please you t_ine with me to-day?” he asked, as we re-entered the gates.
“No, thank you, sir.”
“And what for, ‘no, thank you?’ if one may inquire.”
“I never have dined with you, sir: and I see no reason why I should now: till—”
“Till what? You delight in half-phrases.”
“Till I can’t help it.”
“Do you suppose I eat like an ogre or a ghoul, that you dread being th_ompanion of my repast?”
“I have formed no supposition on the subject, sir; but I want to go on a_sual for another month.”
“You will give up your governessing slavery at once.”
“Indeed, begging your pardon, sir, I shall not. I shall just go on with it a_sual. I shall keep out of your way all day, as I have been accustomed to do: you may send for me in the evening, when you feel disposed to see me, and I’l_ome then; but at no other time.”
“I want a smoke, Jane, or a pinch of snuff, to comfort me under all this, ‘pour me donner une contenance,’ as Adèle would say; and unfortunately I hav_either my cigar-case, nor my snuff-box. But listen—whisper. It is your tim_ow, little tyrant, but it will be mine presently; and when once I have fairl_eized you, to have and to hold, I’ll just—figuratively speaking—attach you t_ chain like this” (touching his watch-guard). “Yes, bonny wee thing, I’l_ear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne.”
He said this as he helped me to alight from the carriage, and while h_fterwards lifted out Adèle, I entered the house, and made good my retrea_pstairs.
He duly summoned me to his presence in the evening. I had prepared a_ccupation for him; for I was determined not to spend the whole time in _tête-à-tête_ conversation. I remembered his fine voice; I knew he liked t_ing—good singers generally do. I was no vocalist myself, and, in hi_astidious judgment, no musician, either; but I delighted in listening whe_he performance was good. No sooner had twilight, that hour of romance, bega_o lower her blue and starry banner over the lattice, than I rose, opened th_iano, and entreated him, for the love of heaven, to give me a song. He sai_ was a capricious witch, and that he would rather sing another time; but _verred that no time was like the present.
“Did I like his voice?” he asked.
“Very much.” I was not fond of pampering that susceptible vanity of his; bu_or once, and from motives of expediency, I would e’en soothe and stimulat_t.
“Then, Jane, you must play the accompaniment.”
“Very well, sir, I will try.”
I did try, but was presently swept off the stool and denominated “a littl_ungler.” Being pushed unceremoniously to one side—which was precisely what _ished—he usurped my place, and proceeded to accompany himself: for he coul_lay as well as sing. I hied me to the window-recess. And while I sat ther_nd looked out on the still trees and dim lawn, to a sweet air was sung i_ellow tones the following strain:—
> “The truest love that ever heart > Felt at its kindled core, > Did through each vein, in quickened start, > The tide of being pour.
> Her coming was my hope each day, > Her parting was my pain; > The chance that did her steps delay > Was ice in every vein.
> I dreamed it would be nameless bliss, > As I loved, loved to be; > And to this object did I press > As blind as eagerly.
> But wide as pathless was the space > That lay our lives between, > And dangerous as the foamy race > Of ocean-surges green.
> And haunted as a robber-path > Through wilderness or wood; > For Might and Right, and Woe and Wrath, > Between our spirits stood.
> I dangers dared; I hindrance scorned; > I omens did defy: > Whatever menaced, harassed, warned, > I passed impetuous by.
> On sped my rainbow, fast as light; > I flew as in a dream; > For glorious rose upon my sight > That child of Shower and Gleam.
> Still bright on clouds of suffering dim > Shines that soft, solemn joy; > Nor care I now, how dense and grim > Disasters gather nigh.
> I care not in this moment sweet, > Though all I have rushed o’er > Should come on pinion, strong and fleet, > Proclaiming vengeance sore:
> Though haughty Hate should strike me down, > Right, bar approach to me, > And grinding Might, with furious frown, > Swear endless enmity.
> My love has placed her little hand > With noble faith in mine, > And vowed that wedlock’s sacred band > Our nature shall entwine.
> My love has sworn, with sealing kiss, > With me to live—to die; > I have at last my nameless bliss.
> As I love—loved am I!”
He rose and came towards me, and I saw his face all kindled, and his ful_alcon-eye flashing, and tenderness and passion in every lineament. I quaile_omentarily—then I rallied. Soft scene, daring demonstration, I would no_ave; and I stood in peril of both: a weapon of defence must be prepared—_hetted my tongue: as he reached me, I asked with asperity, “whom he was goin_o marry now?”
“That was a strange question to be put by his darling Jane.”
“Indeed! I considered it a very natural and necessary one: he had talked o_is future wife dying with him. What did he mean by such a pagan idea? _I_ad no intention of dying with him—he might depend on that.”
“Oh, all he longed, all he prayed for, was that I might live with him! Deat_as not for such as I.”
“Indeed it was: I had as good a right to die when my time came as he had: bu_ should bide that time, and not be hurried away in a suttee.”
“Would I forgive him for the selfish idea, and prove my pardon by _econciling kiss?”
“No: I would rather be excused.”
Here I heard myself apostrophised as a “hard little thing;” and it was added, “any other woman would have been melted to marrow at hearing such stanza_rooned in her praise.”
I assured him I was naturally hard—very flinty, and that he would often fin_e so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him divers rugged point_n my character before the ensuing four weeks elapsed: he should know full_hat sort of a bargain he had made, while there was yet time to rescind it.
“Would I be quiet and talk rationally?”
“I would be quiet if he liked, and as to talking rationally, I flattere_yself I was doing that now.”
He fretted, pished, and pshawed. “Very good,” I thought; “you may fume an_idget as you please: but this is the best plan to pursue with you, I a_ertain. I like you more than I can say; but I’ll not sink into a bathos o_entiment: and with this needle of repartee I’ll keep you from the edge of th_ulf too; and, moreover, maintain by its pungent aid that distance between yo_nd myself most conducive to our real mutual advantage.”
From less to more, I worked him up to considerable irritation; then, after h_ad retired, in dudgeon, quite to the other end of the room, I got up, an_aying, “I wish you good-night, sir,” in my natural and wonted respectfu_anner, I slipped out by the side-door and got away.
The system thus entered on, I pursued during the whole season of probation; and with the best success. He was kept, to be sure, rather cross and crusty; but on the whole I could see he was excellently entertained, and that a lamb- like submission and turtle-dove sensibility, while fostering his despotis_ore, would have pleased his judgment, satisfied his common-sense, and eve_uited his taste less.
In other people’s presence I was, as formerly, deferential and quiet; an_ther line of conduct being uncalled for: it was only in the evenin_onferences I thus thwarted and afflicted him. He continued to send for m_unctually the moment the clock struck seven; though when I appeared befor_im now, he had no such honeyed terms as “love” and “darling” on his lips: th_est words at my service were “provoking puppet,” “malicious elf,” “sprite,” “changeling,” &c. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a pressure o_he hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a severe tweak of th_ar. It was all right: at present I decidedly preferred these fierce favour_o anything more tender. Mrs. Fairfax, I saw, approved me: her anxiety on m_ccount vanished; therefore I was certain I did well. Meantime, Mr. Rocheste_ffirmed I was wearing him to skin and bone, and threatened awful vengeanc_or my present conduct at some period fast coming. I laughed in my sleeve a_is menaces. “I can keep you in reasonable check now,” I reflected; “and _on’t doubt to be able to do it hereafter: if one expedient loses its virtue, another must be devised.”
Yet after all my task was not an easy one; often I would rather have please_han teased him. My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; an_ore than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and ever_hought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun.
I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made a_dol.