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Chapter 12


CHAPTER XII


The promise of a smooth career, which my first calm introduction to
Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge, was not belied on a longer
acquaintance with the place and its inmates.  Mrs. Fairfax turned
out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured woman,
of competent education and average intelligence.  My pupil was a
lively child, who had been spoilt and indulged, and therefore was
sometimes wayward; but as she was committed entirely to my care, and
no injudicious interference from any quarter ever thwarted my plans
for her improvement, she soon forgot her little freaks, and became
obedient and teachable.  She had no great talents, no marked traits
of character, no peculiar development of feeling or taste which
raised her one inch above the ordinary level of childhood; but
neither had she any deficiency or vice which sunk her below it.  She
made reasonable progress, entertained for me a vivacious, though
perhaps not very profound, affection; and by her simplicity, gay
prattle, and efforts to please, inspired me, in return, with a
degree of attachment sufficient to make us both content in each
other's society.

This, par parenthese, will be thought cool language by persons who
entertain solemn doctrines about the angelic nature of children, and
the duty of those charged with their education to conceive for them
an idolatrous devotion:  but I am not writing to flatter parental
egotism, to echo cant, or prop up humbug; I am merely telling the
truth.  I felt a conscientious solicitude for Adele's welfare and
progress, and a quiet liking for her little self:  just as I
cherished towards Mrs. Fairfax a thankfulness for her kindness, and
a pleasure in her society proportionate to the tranquil regard she
had for me, and the moderation of her mind and character.

Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and
then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down
to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while
Adele played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the
storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of
the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over
sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line--that then I
longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which
might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard
of but never seen--that then I desired more of practical experience
than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance
with variety of character, than was here within my reach.  I valued
what was good in Mrs. Fairfax, and what was good in Adele; but I
believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness,
and what I believed in I wished to behold.

Who blames me?  Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented.
I could not help it:  the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated
me to pain sometimes.  Then my sole relief was to walk along the
corridor of the third storey, backwards and forwards, safe in the
silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind's eye to dwell
on whatever bright visions rose before it--and, certainly, they were
many and glowing; to let my heart be heaved by the exultant
movement, which, while it swelled it in trouble, expanded it with
life; and, best of all, to open my inward ear to a tale that was
never ended--a tale my imagination created, and narrated
continuously; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling,
that I desired and had not in my actual existence.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with
tranquillity:  they must have action; and they will make it if they
cannot find it.  Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine,
and millions are in silent revolt against their lot.  Nobody knows
how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the
masses of life which people earth.  Women are supposed to be very
calm generally:  but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise
for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their
brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a
stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded
in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to
confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to
playing on the piano and embroidering bags.  It is thoughtless to
condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn
more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

When thus alone, I not unfrequently heard Grace Poole's laugh:  the
same peal, the same low, slow ha! ha! which, when first heard, had
thrilled me:  I heard, too, her eccentric murmurs; stranger than her
laugh.  There were days when she was quite silent; but there were
others when I could not account for the sounds she made.  Sometimes
I saw her:  she would come out of her room with a basin, or a plate,
or a tray in her hand, go down to the kitchen and shortly return,
generally (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain
truth!) bearing a pot of porter.  Her appearance always acted as a
damper to the curiosity raised by her oral oddities:  hard-featured
and staid, she had no point to which interest could attach.  I made
some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she seemed a person
of few words:  a monosyllabic reply usually cut short every effort
of that sort.

The other members of the household, viz., John and his wife, Leah
the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but
in no respect remarkable; with Sophie I used to talk French, and
sometimes I asked her questions about her native country; but she
was not of a descriptive or narrative turn, and generally gave such
vapid and confused answers as were calculated rather to check than
encourage inquiry.

October, November, December passed away.  One afternoon in January,
Mrs. Fairfax had begged a holiday for Adele, because she had a cold;
and, as Adele seconded the request with an ardour that reminded me
how precious occasional holidays had been to me in my own childhood,
I accorded it, deeming that I did well in showing pliability on the
point.  It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of
sitting still in the library through a whole long morning:  Mrs.
Fairfax had just written a letter which was waiting to be posted, so
I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to carry it to Hay; the
distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk.
Having seen Adele comfortably seated in her little chair by Mrs.
Fairfax's parlour fireside, and given her her best wax doll (which I
usually kept enveloped in silver paper in a drawer) to play with,
and a story-book for change of amusement; and having replied to her
"Revenez bientot, ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeannette," with a
kiss I set out.

The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely; I walked
fast till I got warm, and then I walked slowly to enjoy and analyse
the species of pleasure brooding for me in the hour and situation.
It was three o'clock; the church bell tolled as I passed under the
belfry:  the charm of the hour lay in its approaching dimness, in
the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun.  I was a mile from Thornfield,
in a lane noted for wild roses in summer, for nuts and blackberries
in autumn, and even now possessing a few coral treasures in hips and
haws, but whose best winter delight lay in its utter solitude and
leafless repose.  If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here;
for there was not a holly, not an evergreen to rustle, and the
stripped hawthorn and hazel bushes were as still as the white, worn
stones which causewayed the middle of the path.  Far and wide, on
each side, there were only fields, where no cattle now browsed; and
the little brown birds, which stirred occasionally in the hedge,
looked like single russet leaves that had forgotten to drop.

This lane inclined up-hill all the way to Hay; having reached the
middle, I sat down on a stile which led thence into a field.
Gathering my mantle about me, and sheltering my hands in my muff, I
did not feel the cold, though it froze keenly; as was attested by a
sheet of ice covering the causeway, where a little brooklet, now
congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since.  From
my seat I could look down on Thornfield:  the grey and battlemented
hall was the principal object in the vale below me; its woods and
dark rookery rose against the west.  I lingered till the sun went
down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them.  I
then turned eastward.

On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud,
but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost
in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys:  it was yet a
mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin
murmurs of life.  My ear, too, felt the flow of currents; in what
dales and depths I could not tell:  but there were many hills beyond
Hay, and doubtless many becks threading their passes.  That evening
calm betrayed alike the tinkle of the nearest streams, the sough of
the most remote.

A rude noise broke on these fine ripplings and whisperings, at once
so far away and so clear:  a positive tramp, tramp, a metallic
clatter, which effaced the soft wave-wanderings; as, in a picture,
the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak, drawn
in dark and strong on the foreground, efface the aerial distance of
azure hill, sunny horizon, and blended clouds where tint melts into
tint.

The din was on the causeway:  a horse was coming; the windings of
the lane yet hid it, but it approached.  I was just leaving the
stile; yet, as the path was narrow, I sat still to let it go by.  In
those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies bright and dark
tenanted my mind:  the memories of nursery stories were there
amongst other rubbish; and when they recurred, maturing youth added
to them a vigour and vividness beyond what childhood could give.  As
this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the
dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a
North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of
horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came
upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.

It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the
tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the
hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made
him a distinct object against the trees.  It was exactly one form of
Bessie's Gytrash--a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge
head:  it passed me, however, quietly enough; not staying to look
up, with strange pretercanine eyes, in my face, as I half expected
it would.  The horse followed,--a tall steed, and on its back a
rider.  The man, the human being, broke the spell at once.  Nothing
ever rode the Gytrash:  it was always alone; and goblins, to my
notions, though they might tenant the dumb carcasses of beasts,
could scarce covet shelter in the commonplace human form.  No
Gytrash was this,--only a traveller taking the short cut to
Millcote.  He passed, and I went on; a few steps, and I turned:  a
sliding sound and an exclamation of "What the deuce is to do now?"
and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention.  Man and horse were
down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the
causeway.  The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a
predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening
hills echoed the sound, which was deep in proportion to his
magnitude.  He snuffed round the prostrate group, and then he ran up
to me; it was all he could do,--there was no other help at hand to
summon.  I obeyed him, and walked down to the traveller, by this
time struggling himself free of his steed.  His efforts were so
vigorous, I thought he could not be much hurt; but I asked him the
question -

"Are you injured, sir?"

I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was
pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me
directly.

"Can I do anything?" I asked again.

"You must just stand on one side," he answered as he rose, first to
his knees, and then to his feet.  I did; whereupon began a heaving,
stamping, clattering process, accompanied by a barking and baying
which removed me effectually some yards' distance; but I would not
be driven quite away till I saw the event.  This was finally
fortunate; the horse was re-established, and the dog was silenced
with a "Down, Pilot!"  The traveller now, stooping, felt his foot
and leg, as if trying whether they were sound; apparently something
ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen, and
sat down.

I was in the mood for being useful, or at least officious, I think,
for I now drew near him again.

"If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch some one either
from Thornfield Hall or from Hay."

"Thank you:  I shall do:  I have no broken bones,--only a sprain;"
and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an
involuntary "Ugh!"

Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing
bright:  I could see him plainly.  His figure was enveloped in a
riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not
apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and
considerable breadth of chest.  He had a dark face, with stern
features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked
ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached
middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five.  I felt no fear of him,
and but little shyness.  Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking
young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning
him against his will, and offering my services unasked.  I had
hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one.
I had a theoretical reverence and homage for beauty, elegance,
gallantry, fascination; but had I met those qualities incarnate in
masculine shape, I should have known instinctively that they neither
had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have
shunned them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is
bright but antipathetic.

If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured to me when I
addressed him; if he had put off my offer of assistance gaily and
with thanks, I should have gone on my way and not felt any vocation
to renew inquiries:  but the frown, the roughness of the traveller,
set me at my ease:  I retained my station when he waved to me to go,
and announced -

"I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this
solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse."

He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in
my direction before.

"I should think you ought to be at home yourself," said he, "if you
have a home in this neighbourhood:  where do you come from?"

"From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when
it is moonlight:  I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if
you wish it:  indeed, I am going there to post a letter."

"You live just below--do you mean at that house with the
battlements?" pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a
hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that,
by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.

"Yes, sir."

"Whose house is it?"

"Mr. Rochester's."

"Do you know Mr. Rochester?"

"No, I have never seen him."

"He is not resident, then?"

"No."

"Can you tell me where he is?"

"I cannot."

"You are not a servant at the hall, of course.  You are--"  He
stopped, ran his eye over my dress, which, as usual, was quite
simple:  a black merino cloak, a black beaver bonnet; neither of
them half fine enough for a lady's-maid.  He seemed puzzled to
decide what I was; I helped him.

"I am the governess."

"Ah, the governess!" he repeated; "deuce take me, if I had not
forgotten!  The governess!" and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.
In two minutes he rose from the stile:  his face expressed pain when
he tried to move.

"I cannot commission you to fetch help," he said; "but you may help
me a little yourself, if you will be so kind."

"Yes, sir."

"You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?"

"No."

"Try to get hold of my horse's bridle and lead him to me:  you are
not afraid?"

I should have been afraid to touch a horse when alone, but when told
to do it, I was disposed to obey.  I put down my muff on the stile,
and went up to the tall steed; I endeavoured to catch the bridle,
but it was a spirited thing, and would not let me come near its
head; I made effort on effort, though in vain:  meantime, I was
mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet.  The traveller waited
and watched for some time, and at last he laughed.

"I see," he said, "the mountain will never be brought to Mahomet, so
all you can do is to aid Mahomet to go to the mountain; I must beg
of you to come here."

I came.  "Excuse me," he continued:  "necessity compels me to make
you useful."  He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on me
with some stress, limped to his horse.  Having once caught the
bridle, he mastered it directly and sprang to his saddle; grimacing
grimly as he made the effort, for it wrenched his sprain.

"Now," said he, releasing his under lip from a hard bite, "just hand
me my whip; it lies there under the hedge."

I sought it and found it.

"Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as
fast as you can."

A touch of a spurred heel made his horse first start and rear, and
then bound away; the dog rushed in his traces; all three vanished,


"Like heath that, in the wilderness,
The wild wind whirls away."


I took up my muff and walked on.  The incident had occurred and was
gone for me:  it WAS an incident of no moment, no romance, no
interest in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a
monotonous life.  My help had been needed and claimed; I had given
it:  I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory
though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of
an existence all passive.  The new face, too, was like a new picture
introduced to the gallery of memory; and it was dissimilar to all
the others hanging there:  firstly, because it was masculine; and,
secondly, because it was dark, strong, and stern.  I had it still
before me when I entered Hay, and slipped the letter into the post-
office; I saw it as I walked fast down-hill all the way home.  When
I came to the stile, I stopped a minute, looked round and listened,
with an idea that a horse's hoofs might ring on the causeway again,
and that a rider in a cloak, and a Gytrash-like Newfoundland dog,
might be again apparent:  I saw only the hedge and a pollard willow
before me, rising up still and straight to meet the moonbeams; I
heard only the faintest waft of wind roaming fitful among the trees
round Thornfield, a mile distant; and when I glanced down in the
direction of the murmur, my eye, traversing the hall-front, caught a
light kindling in a window:  it reminded me that I was late, and I
hurried on.

I did not like re-entering Thornfield.  To pass its threshold was to
return to stagnation; to cross the silent hall, to ascend the
darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room, and then to
meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with
her, and her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened
by my walk,--to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of
an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very
privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of
appreciating.  What good it would have done me at that time to have
been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to
have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calm
amidst which I now repined!  Yes, just as much good as it would do a
man tired of sitting still in a "too easy chair" to take a long
walk:  and just as natural was the wish to stir, under my
circumstances, as it would be under his.

I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards
and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were
closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and
spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house--from the grey-hollow
filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me--to that sky
expanded before me,--a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the
moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she
left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther
below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its
fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling
stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins
glow when I viewed them.  Little things recall us to earth; the
clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and
stars, opened a side-door, and went in.

The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung
bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the
oak staircase.  This ruddy shine issued from the great dining-room,
whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial fire in the
grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons, and revealing
purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most pleasant
radiance.  It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece:  I had
scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful mingling
of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones of Adele,
when the door closed.

I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax's room; there was a fire there too, but
no candle, and no Mrs. Fairfax.  Instead, all alone, sitting upright
on the rug, and gazing with gravity at the blaze, I beheld a great
black and white long-haired dog, just like the Gytrash of the lane.
It was so like it that I went forward and said--"Pilot" and the
thing got up and came to me and snuffed me.  I caressed him, and he
wagged his great tail; but he looked an eerie creature to be alone
with, and I could not tell whence he had come.  I rang the bell, for
I wanted a candle; and I wanted, too, to get an account of this
visitant.  Leah entered.

"What dog is this?"

"He came with master."

"With whom?"

"With master--Mr. Rochester--he is just arrived."

"Indeed! and is Mrs. Fairfax with him?"

"Yes, and Miss Adele; they are in the dining-room, and John is gone
for a surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and
his ankle is sprained."

"Did the horse fall in Hay Lane?"

"Yes, coming down-hill; it slipped on some ice."

"Ah!  Bring me a candle will you Leah?"

Leah brought it; she entered, followed by Mrs. Fairfax, who repeated
the news; adding that Mr. Carter the surgeon was come, and was now
with Mr. Rochester:  then she hurried out to give orders about tea,
and I went upstairs to take off my things.


Charlotte Bronte