Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 25

  • 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?”
  • “Yes, Jane.”
  • 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?”
  • “All, sir.”
  • “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?”
  • “No.”
  • “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?”
  • “You may.”
  • “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.”
  • “Afterwards?”
  • “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?”
  • “Not yet.”
  • “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.
  • “Yes, sir.”
  • “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.