The month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being numbered.
There was no putting off the day that advanced—the bridal day; and al_reparations for its arrival were complete. _I_ , at least, had nothing mor_o do: there were my trunks, packed, locked, corded, ranged in a row along th_all of my little chamber; to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on thei_oad to London: and so should I (D.V.),—or rather, not I, but one Jan_ochester, a person whom as yet I knew not. The cards of address alon_emained to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer. Mr.
Rochester had himself written the direction, “Mrs. Rochester, — Hotel, London,” on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them, or to have the_ffixed. Mrs. Rochester! She did not exist: she would not be born till to- morrow, some time after eight o’clock a.m.; and I would wait to be assured sh_ad come into the world alive before I assigned to her all that property. I_as enough that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said t_e hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the pearl-coloure_obe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped portmanteau. I shut th_loset to conceal the strange, wraith-like apparel it contained; which, a_his evening hour—nine o’clock—gave out certainly a most ghostly shimme_hrough the shadow of my apartment. “I will leave you by yourself, whit_ream,” I said. “I am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out o_oors and feel it.”
It was not only the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; not only th_nticipation of the great change—the new life which was to commence to-morrow: both these circumstances had their share, doubtless, in producing tha_estless, excited mood which hurried me forth at this late hour into th_arkening grounds: but a third cause influenced my mind more than they.
I had at heart a strange and anxious thought. Something had happened which _ould not comprehend; no one knew of or had seen the event but myself: it ha_aken place the preceding night. Mr. Rochester that night was absent fro_ome; nor was he yet returned: business had called him to a small estate o_wo or three farms he possessed thirty miles off—business it was requisite h_hould settle in person, previous to his meditated departure from England. _aited now his return; eager to disburthen my mind, and to seek of him th_olution of the enigma that perplexed me. Stay till he comes, reader; and, when I disclose my secret to him, you shall share the confidence.
I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all day ha_lown strong and full from the south, without, however, bringing a speck o_ain. Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it seemed to augment its rus_nd deepen its roar: the trees blew steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back their boughs once in an hour; so continuous was th_train bending their branchy heads northward—the clouds drifted from pole t_ole, fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of blue sky had been visibl_hat July day.
It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, deliverin_y trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent thundering through space.
Descending the laurel walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stoo_p black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gasped ghastly. Th_loven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and stron_oots kept them unsundered below; though community of vitality wa_estroyed—the sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side wer_ead, and next winter’s tempests would be sure to fell one or both to earth: as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree—a ruin, but an entir_uin.
“You did right to hold fast to each other,” I said: as if the monster- splinters were living things, and could hear me. “I think, scathed as yo_ook, and charred and scorched, there must be a little sense of life in yo_et, rising out of that adhesion at the faithful, honest roots: you will neve_ave green leaves more—never more see birds making nests and singing idyls i_our boughs; the time of pleasure and love is over with you: but you are no_esolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his decay.” A_ looked up at them, the moon appeared momentarily in that part of the sk_hich filled their fissure; her disk was blood-red and half overcast; sh_eemed to throw on me one bewildered, dreary glance, and buried herself agai_nstantly in the deep drift of cloud. The wind fell, for a second, roun_hornfield; but far away over wood and water, poured a wild, melancholy wail: it was sad to listen to, and I ran off again.
Here and there I strayed through the orchard, gathered up the apples wit_hich the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then I employe_yself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried them into the house an_ut them away in the store-room. Then I repaired to the library to ascertai_hether the fire was lit, for, though summer, I knew on such a gloomy evenin_r. Rochester would like to see a cheerful hearth when he came in: yes, th_ire had been kindled some time, and burnt well. I placed his arm-chair b_he chimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it: I let down the curtain, an_ad the candles brought in ready for lighting. More restless than ever, whe_ had completed these arrangements I could not sit still, nor even remain i_he house: a little time-piece in the room and the old clock in the hal_imultaneously struck ten.
“How late it grows!” I said. “I will run down to the gates: it is moonligh_t intervals; I can see a good way on the road. He may be coming now, and t_eet him will save some minutes of suspense.”
The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates; but th_oad as far as I could see, to the right hand and the left, was all still an_olitary: save for the shadows of clouds crossing it at intervals as the moo_ooked out, it was but a long pale line, unvaried by one moving speck.
A puerile tear dimmed my eye while I looked—a tear of disappointment an_mpatience; ashamed of it, I wiped it away. I lingered; the moon shut hersel_holly within her chamber, and drew close her curtain of dense cloud: th_ight grew dark; rain came driving fast on the gale.
“I wish he would come! I wish he would come!” I exclaimed, seized wit_ypochondriac foreboding. I had expected his arrival before tea; now it wa_ark: what could keep him? Had an accident happened? The event of last nigh_gain recurred to me. I interpreted it as a warning of disaster. I feared m_opes were too bright to be realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss latel_hat I imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.
“Well, I cannot return to the house,” I thought; “I cannot sit by th_ireside, while he is abroad in inclement weather: better tire my limbs tha_train my heart; I will go forward and meet him.”
I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs; a horseman came on, full gallop; a dog ran by hi_ide. Away with evil presentiment! It was he: here he was, mounted o_esrour, followed by Pilot. He saw me; for the moon had opened a blue fiel_n the sky, and rode in it watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved i_ound his head. I now ran to meet him.
“There!” he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from the saddle: “You can’t do without me, that is evident. Step on my boot-toe; give me bot_ands: mount!”
I obeyed: joy made me agile: I sprang up before him. A hearty kissing I go_or a welcome, and some boastful triumph, which I swallowed as well as _ould. He checked himself in his exultation to demand, “But is there anythin_he matter, Janet, that you come to meet me at such an hour? Is ther_nything wrong?”
“No, but I thought you would never come. I could not bear to wait in th_ouse for you, especially with this rain and wind.”
“Rain and wind, indeed! Yes, you are dripping like a mermaid; pull my cloa_ound you: but I think you are feverish, Jane: both your cheek and hand ar_urning hot. I ask again, is there anything the matter?”
“Nothing now; I am neither afraid nor unhappy.”
“Then you have been both?”
“Rather: but I’ll tell you all about it by-and-bye, sir; and I daresay yo_ill only laugh at me for my pains.”
“I’ll laugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I dare not: m_rize is not certain. This is you, who have been as slippery as an eel thi_ast month, and as thorny as a briar-rose? I could not lay a finger anywher_ut I was pricked; and now I seem to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms.
You wandered out of the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?”
“I wanted you: but don’t boast. Here we are at Thornfield: now let me ge_own.”
He landed me on the pavement. As John took his horse, and he followed me int_he hall, he told me to make haste and put something dry on, and then retur_o him in the library; and he stopped me, as I made for the staircase, t_xtort a promise that I would not be long: nor was I long; in five minutes _ejoined him. I found him at supper.
“Take a seat and bear me company, Jane: please God, it is the last meal bu_ne you will eat at Thornfield Hall for a long time.”
I sat down near him, but told him I could not eat. “Is it because you hav_he prospect of a journey before you, Jane? Is it the thoughts of going t_ondon that takes away your appetite?”
“I cannot see my prospects clearly to-night, sir; and I hardly know wha_houghts I have in my head. Everything in life seems unreal.”
“Except me: I am substantial enough—touch me.”
“You, sir, are the most phantom-like of all: you are a mere dream.”
He held out his hand, laughing. “Is that a dream?” said he, placing it clos_o my eyes. He had a rounded, muscular, and vigorous hand, as well as a long, strong arm.
“Yes; though I touch it, it is a dream,” said I, as I put it down from befor_y face. “Sir, have you finished supper?”
I rang the bell and ordered away the tray. When we were again alone, _tirred the fire, and then took a low seat at my master’s knee.
“It is near midnight,” I said.
“Yes: but remember, Jane, you promised to wake with me the night before m_edding.”
“I did; and I will keep my promise, for an hour or two at least: I have n_ish to go to bed.”
“Are all your arrangements complete?”
“And on my part likewise,” he returned, “I have settled everything; and w_hall leave Thornfield to-morrow, within half-an-hour after our return fro_hurch.”
“Very well, sir.”
“With what an extraordinary smile you uttered that word—‘very well,’ Jane!
What a bright spot of colour you have on each cheek! and how strangely you_yes glitter! Are you well?”
“I believe I am.”
“Believe! What is the matter? Tell me what you feel.”
“I could not, sir: no words could tell you what I feel. I wish this presen_our would never end: who knows with what fate the next may come charged?”
“This is hypochondria, Jane. You have been over-excited, or over-fatigued.”
“Do you, sir, feel calm and happy?”
“Calm?—no: but happy—to the heart’s core.”
I looked up at him to read the signs of bliss in his face: it was ardent an_lushed.
“Give me your confidence, Jane,” he said: “relieve your mind of any weigh_hat oppresses it, by imparting it to me. What do you fear?—that I shall no_rove a good husband?”
“It is the idea farthest from my thoughts.”
“Are you apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter?—of the ne_ife into which you are passing?”
“You puzzle me, Jane: your look and tone of sorrowful audacity perplex an_ain me. I want an explanation.”
“Then, sir, listen. You were from home last night?”
“I was: I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something which ha_appened in my absence:—nothing, probably, of consequence; but, in short, i_as disturbed you. Let me hear it. Mrs. Fairfax has said something, perhaps?
or you have overheard the servants talk?—your sensitive self-respect has bee_ounded?”
“No, sir.” It struck twelve—I waited till the time-piece had concluded it_ilver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibrating stroke, and then _roceeded.
“All day yesterday I was very busy, and very happy in my ceaseless bustle; fo_ am not, as you seem to think, troubled by any haunting fears about the ne_phere, et cetera: I think it a glorious thing to have the hope of living wit_ou, because I love you. No, sir, don’t caress me now—let me tal_ndisturbed. Yesterday I trusted well in Providence, and believed that event_ere working together for your good and mine: it was a fine day, if yo_ecollect—the calmness of the air and sky forbade apprehensions respectin_our safety or comfort on your journey. I walked a little while on th_avement after tea, thinking of you; and I beheld you in imagination so nea_e, I scarcely missed your actual presence. I thought of the life that la_efore me— _your_ life, sir—an existence more expansive and stirring than m_wn: as much more so as the depths of the sea to which the brook runs are tha_he shallows of its own strait channel. I wondered why moralists call thi_orld a dreary wilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose. Just at sunset, the air turned cold and the sky cloudy: I went in, Sophie called me upstair_o look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought; and under it in th_ox I found your present—the veil which, in your princely extravagance, yo_ent for from London: resolved, I suppose, since I would not have jewels, t_heat me into accepting something as costly. I smiled as I unfolded it, an_evised how I would tease you about your aristocratic tastes, and your effort_o masque your plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress. I thought how _ould carry down to you the square of unembroidered blond I had mysel_repared as a covering for my low-born head, and ask if that was not goo_nough for a woman who could bring her husband neither fortune, beauty, no_onnections. I saw plainly how you would look; and heard your impetuou_epublican answers, and your haughty disavowal of any necessity on your par_o augment your wealth, or elevate your standing, by marrying either a purs_r a coronet.”
“How well you read me, you witch!” interposed Mr. Rochester: “but what did yo_ind in the veil besides its embroidery? Did you find poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?”
“No, no, sir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabric, I found nothin_ave Fairfax Rochester’s pride; and that did not scare me, because I am use_o the sight of the demon. But, sir, as it grew dark, the wind rose: it ble_esterday evening, not as it blows now—wild and high—but ‘with a sullen, moaning sound’ far more eerie. I wished you were at home. I came into thi_oom, and the sight of the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me. Fo_ome time after I went to bed, I could not sleep—a sense of anxious excitemen_istressed me. The gale still rising, seemed to my ear to muffle a mournfu_nder-sound; whether in the house or abroad I could not at first tell, but i_ecurred, doubtful yet doleful at every lull; at last I made out it must b_ome dog howling at a distance. I was glad when it ceased. On sleeping, _ontinued in dreams the idea of a dark and gusty night. I continued also th_ish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful consciousness o_ome barrier dividing us. During all my first sleep, I was following th_indings of an unknown road; total obscurity environed me; rain pelted me; _as burdened with the charge of a little child: a very small creature, to_oung and feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and waile_iteously in my ear. I thought, sir, that you were on the road a long wa_efore me; and I strained every nerve to overtake you, and made effort o_ffort to utter your name and entreat you to stop—but my movements wer_ettered, and my voice still died away inarticulate; while you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every moment.”
“And these dreams weigh on your spirits now, Jane, when I am close to you?
Little nervous subject! Forget visionary woe, and think only of rea_appiness! You say you love me, Janet: yes—I will not forget that; and yo_annot deny it. _Those_ words did not die inarticulate on your lips. I hear_hem clear and soft: a thought too solemn perhaps, but sweet as music—‘I thin_t is a glorious thing to have the hope of living with you, Edward, because _ove you.’ Do you love me, Jane?—repeat it.”
“I do, sir—I do, with my whole heart.”
“Well,” he said, after some minutes’ silence, “it is strange; but tha_entence has penetrated my breast painfully. Why? I think because you sai_t with such an earnest, religious energy, and because your upward gaze at m_ow is the very sublime of faith, truth, and devotion: it is too much as i_ome spirit were near me. Look wicked, Jane: as you know well how to look: coin one of your wild, shy, provoking smiles; tell me you hate me—tease me, vex me; do anything but move me: I would rather be incensed than saddened.”
“I will tease you and vex you to your heart’s content, when I have finished m_ale: but hear me to the end.”
“I thought, Jane, you had told me all. I thought I had found the source o_our melancholy in a dream.”
I shook my head. “What! is there more? But I will not believe it to b_nything important. I warn you of incredulity beforehand. Go on.”
The disquietude of his air, the somewhat apprehensive impatience of hi_anner, surprised me: but I proceeded.
“I dreamt another dream, sir: that Thornfield Hall was a dreary ruin, th_etreat of bats and owls. I thought that of all the stately front nothin_emained but a shell-like wall, very high and very fragile-looking. _andered, on a moonlight night, through the grass-grown enclosure within: her_ stumbled over a marble hearth, and there over a fallen fragment of cornice.
Wrapped up in a shawl, I still carried the unknown little child: I might no_ay it down anywhere, however tired were my arms—however much its weigh_mpeded my progress, I must retain it. I heard the gallop of a horse at _istance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you were departing for man_ears and for a distant country. I climbed the thin wall with franti_erilous haste, eager to catch one glimpse of you from the top: the stone_olled from under my feet, the ivy branches I grasped gave way, the chil_lung round my neck in terror, and almost strangled me; at last I gained th_ummit. I saw you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment. Th_last blew so strong I could not stand. I sat down on the narrow ledge; _ushed the scared infant in my lap: you turned an angle of the road: I ben_orward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; I was shaken; the child rolle_rom my knee, I lost my balance, fell, and woke.”
“Now, Jane, that is all.”
“All the preface, sir; the tale is yet to come. On waking, a gleam dazzled m_yes; I thought—Oh, it is daylight! But I was mistaken; it was onl_andlelight. Sophie, I supposed, had come in. There was a light in th_ressing-table, and the door of the closet, where, before going to bed, I ha_ung my wedding-dress and veil, stood open; I heard a rustling there. _sked, ‘Sophie, what are you doing?’ No one answered; but a form emerged fro_he closet; it took the light, held it aloft, and surveyed the garment_endent from the portmanteau. ‘Sophie! Sophie!’ I again cried: and still i_as silent. I had risen up in bed, I bent forward: first surprise, the_ewilderment, came over me; and then my blood crept cold through my veins.
Mr. Rochester, this was not Sophie, it was not Leah, it was not Mrs. Fairfax: it was not—no, I was sure of it, and am still—it was not even that strang_oman, Grace Poole.”
“It must have been one of them,” interrupted my master.
“No, sir, I solemnly assure you to the contrary. The shape standing before m_ad never crossed my eyes within the precincts of Thornfield Hall before; th_eight, the contour were new to me.”
“Describe it, Jane.”
“It seemed, sir, a woman, tall and large, with thick and dark hair hangin_ong down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white an_traight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I cannot tell.”
“Did you see her face?”
“Not at first. But presently she took my veil from its place; she held it up, gazed at it long, and then she threw it over her own head, and turned to th_irror. At that moment I saw the reflection of the visage and features quit_istinctly in the dark oblong glass.”
“And how were they?”
“Fearful and ghastly to me—oh, sir, I never saw a face like it! It was _iscoloured face—it was a savage face. I wish I could forget the roll of th_ed eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!”
“Ghosts are usually pale, Jane.”
“This, sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: th_lack eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes. Shall I tell you o_hat it reminded me?”
“Of the foul German spectre—the Vampyre.”
“Ah!—what did it do?”
“Sir, it removed my veil from its gaunt head, rent it in two parts, an_linging both on the floor, trampled on them.”
“It drew aside the window-curtain and looked out; perhaps it saw daw_pproaching, for, taking the candle, it retreated to the door. Just at m_edside, the figure stopped: the fiery eyes glared upon me—she thrust up he_andle close to my face, and extinguished it under my eyes. I was aware he_urid visage flamed over mine, and I lost consciousness: for the second tim_n my life—only the second time—I became insensible from terror.”
“Who was with you when you revived?”
“No one, sir, but the broad day. I rose, bathed my head and face in water, drank a long draught; felt that though enfeebled I was not ill, and determine_hat to none but you would I impart this vision. Now, sir, tell me who an_hat that woman was?”
“The creature of an over-stimulated brain; that is certain. I must be carefu_f you, my treasure: nerves like yours were not made for rough handling.”
“Sir, depend on it, my nerves were not in fault; the thing was real: th_ransaction actually took place.”
“And your previous dreams, were they real too? Is Thornfield Hall a ruin? A_ severed from you by insuperable obstacles? Am I leaving you without _ear—without a kiss—without a word?”
“Am I about to do it? Why, the day is already commenced which is to bind u_ndissolubly; and when we are once united, there shall be no recurrence o_hese mental terrors: I guarantee that.”
“Mental terrors, sir! I wish I could believe them to be only such: I wish i_ore now than ever; since even you cannot explain to me the mystery of tha_wful visitant.”
“And since I cannot do it, Jane, it must have been unreal.”
“But, sir, when I said so to myself on rising this morning, and when I looke_ound the room to gather courage and comfort from the cheerful aspect of eac_amiliar object in full daylight, there—on the carpet—I saw what gave th_istinct lie to my hypothesis,—the veil, torn from top to bottom in tw_alves!”
I felt Mr. Rochester start and shudder; he hastily flung his arms round me.
“Thank God!” he exclaimed, “that if anything malignant did come near you las_ight, it was only the veil that was harmed. Oh, to think what might hav_appened!”
He drew his breath short, and strained me so close to him, I could scarcel_ant. After some minutes’ silence, he continued, cheerily—
“Now, Janet, I’ll explain to you all about it. It was half dream, hal_eality. A woman did, I doubt not, enter your room: and that woman was—mus_ave been—Grace Poole. You call her a strange being yourself: from all yo_now, you have reason so to call her—what did she do to me? what to Mason? I_ state between sleeping and waking, you noticed her entrance and her actions; but feverish, almost delirious as you were, you ascribed to her a gobli_ppearance different from her own: the long dishevelled hair, the swelle_lack face, the exaggerated stature, were figments of imagination; results o_ightmare: the spiteful tearing of the veil was real: and it is like her. _ee you would ask why I keep such a woman in my house: when we have bee_arried a year and a day, I will tell you; but not now. Are you satisfied, Jane? Do you accept my solution of the mystery?”
I reflected, and in truth it appeared to me the only possible one: satisfied _as not, but to please him I endeavoured to appear so—relieved, I certainl_id feel; so I answered him with a contented smile. And now, as it was lon_ast one, I prepared to leave him.
“Does not Sophie sleep with Adèle in the nursery?” he asked, as I lit m_andle.
“And there is room enough in Adèle’s little bed for you. You must share i_ith her to-night, Jane: it is no wonder that the incident you have relate_hould make you nervous, and I would rather you did not sleep alone: promis_e to go to the nursery.”
“I shall be very glad to do so, sir.”
“And fasten the door securely on the inside. Wake Sophie when you g_pstairs, under pretence of requesting her to rouse you in good time to- morrow; for you must be dressed and have finished breakfast before eight. An_ow, no more sombre thoughts: chase dull care away, Janet. Don’t you hear t_hat soft whispers the wind has fallen? and there is no more beating of rai_gainst the window-panes: look here” (he lifted up the curtain)—“it is _ovely night!”
It was. Half heaven was pure and stainless: the clouds, now trooping befor_he wind, which had shifted to the west, were filing off eastward in long, silvered columns. The moon shone peacefully.
“Well,” said Mr. Rochester, gazing inquiringly into my eyes, “how is my Jane_ow?”
“The night is serene, sir; and so am I.”
“And you will not dream of separation and sorrow to-night; but of happy lov_nd blissful union.”
This prediction was but half fulfilled: I did not indeed dream of sorrow, bu_s little did I dream of joy; for I never slept at all. With little Adèle i_y arms, I watched the slumber of childhood—so tranquil, so passionless, s_nnocent—and waited for the coming day: all my life was awake and astir in m_rame: and as soon as the sun rose I rose too. I remember Adèle clung to m_s I left her: I remember I kissed her as I loosened her little hands from m_eck; and I cried over her with strange emotion, and quitted her because _eared my sobs would break her still sound repose. She seemed the emblem o_y past life; and here I was now to array myself to meet, the dread, bu_dored, type of my unknown future day.