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Chapter 20


CHAPTER XX


I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to
let down my window-blind.  The consequence was, that when the moon,
which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in her
course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in
at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me.
Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk--silver-
white and crystal clear.  It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half
rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.

Good God!  What a cry!

The night--its silence--its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a
sharp, a shrilly sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.

My pulse stopped:  my heart stood still; my stretched arm was
paralysed.  The cry died, and was not renewed.  Indeed, whatever
being uttered that fearful shriek could not soon repeat it:  not the
widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice in succession, send
out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie.  The thing
delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.

It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead.  And
overhead--yes, in the room just above my chamber-ceiling--I now
heard a struggle:  a deadly one it seemed from the noise; and a
half-smothered voice shouted -

"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.

"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and
stamping went on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:-

"Rochester!  Rochester! for God's sake, come!"

A chamber-door opened:  some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery.
Another step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and
there was silence.

I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I
issued from my apartment.  The sleepers were all aroused:
ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room; door after
door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out; the gallery
filled.  Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds; and "Oh!
what is it?"--"Who is hurt?"--"What has happened?"--"Fetch a
light!"--"Is it fire?"--"Are there robbers?"--"Where shall we run?"
was demanded confusedly on all hands.  But for the moonlight they
would have been in complete darkness.  They ran to and fro; they
crowded together:  some sobbed, some stumbled:  the confusion was
inextricable.

"Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent.  "I cannot find
him in his bed."

"Here! here!" was shouted in return.  "Be composed, all of you:  I'm
coming."

And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester
advanced with a candle:  he had just descended from the upper
storey.  One of the ladies ran to him directly; she seized his arm:
it was Miss Ingram.

"What awful event has taken place?" said she.  "Speak! let us know
the worst at once!"

"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied:  for the Misses
Eshton were clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast
white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.

"All's right!--all's right!" he cried.  "It's a mere rehearsal of
Much Ado about Nothing.  Ladies, keep off, or I shall wax
dangerous."

And dangerous he looked:  his black eyes darted sparks.  Calming
himself by an effort, he added -

"A servant has had the nightmare; that is all.  She's an excitable,
nervous person:  she construed her dream into an apparition, or
something of that sort, no doubt; and has taken a fit with fright.
Now, then, I must see you all back into your rooms; for, till the
house is settled, she cannot be looked after.  Gentlemen, have the
goodness to set the ladies the example.  Miss Ingram, I am sure you
will not fail in evincing superiority to idle terrors.  Amy and
Louisa, return to your nests like a pair of doves, as you are.
Mesdames" (to the dowagers), "you will take cold to a dead
certainty, if you stay in this chill gallery any longer."

And so, by dint of alternate coaxing and commanding, he contrived to
get them all once more enclosed in their separate dormitories.  I
did not wait to be ordered back to mine, but retreated unnoticed, as
unnoticed I had left it.

Not, however, to go to bed:  on the contrary, I began and dressed
myself carefully.  The sounds I had heard after the scream, and the
words that had been uttered, had probably been heard only by me; for
they had proceeded from the room above mine:  but they assured me
that it was not a servant's dream which had thus struck horror
through the house; and that the explanation Mr. Rochester had given
was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests.  I dressed,
then, to be ready for emergencies.  When dressed, I sat a long time
by the window looking out over the silent grounds and silvered
fields and waiting for I knew not what.  It seemed to me that some
event must follow the strange cry, struggle, and call.

No:  stillness returned:  each murmur and movement ceased gradually,
and in about an hour Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a
desert.  It seemed that sleep and night had resumed their empire.
Meantime the moon declined:  she was about to set.  Not liking to
sit in the cold and darkness, I thought I would lie down on my bed,
dressed as I was.  I left the window, and moved with little noise
across the carpet; as I stooped to take off my shoes, a cautious
hand tapped low at the door.

"Am I wanted?" I asked.

"Are you up?" asked the voice I expected to hear, viz., my master's.

"Yes, sir."

"And dressed?"

"Yes."

"Come out, then, quietly."

I obeyed.  Mr. Rochester stood in the gallery holding a light.

"I want you," he said:  "come this way:  take your time, and make no
noise."

My slippers were thin:  I could walk the matted floor as softly as a
cat.  He glided up the gallery and up the stairs, and stopped in the
dark, low corridor of the fateful third storey:  I had followed and
stood at his side.

"Have you a sponge in your room?" he asked in a whisper.

"Yes, sir."

"Have you any salts--volatile salts?  Yes."

"Go back and fetch both."

I returned, sought the sponge on the washstand, the salts in my
drawer, and once more retraced my steps.  He still waited; he held a
key in his hand:  approaching one of the small, black doors, he put
it in the lock; he paused, and addressed me again.

"You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?"

"I think I shall not:  I have never been tried yet."

I felt a thrill while I answered him; but no coldness, and no
faintness.

"Just give me your hand," he said:  "it will not do to risk a
fainting fit."

I put my fingers into his.  "Warm and steady," was his remark:  he
turned the key and opened the door.

I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax
showed me over the house:  it was hung with tapestry; but the
tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door
apparent, which had then been concealed.  This door was open; a
light shone out of the room within:  I heard thence a snarling,
snatching sound, almost like a dog quarrelling.  Mr. Rochester,
putting down his candle, said to me, "Wait a minute," and he went
forward to the inner apartment.  A shout of laughter greeted his
entrance; noisy at first, and terminating in Grace Poole's own
goblin ha! ha!  SHE then was there.  He made some sort of
arrangement without speaking, though I heard a low voice address
him:  he came out and closed the door behind him.

"Here, Jane!" he said; and I walked round to the other side of a
large bed, which with its drawn curtains concealed a considerable
portion of the chamber.  An easy-chair was near the bed-head:  a man
sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his
head leant back; his eyes were closed.  Mr. Rochester held the
candle over him; I recognised in his pale and seemingly lifeless
face--the stranger, Mason:  I saw too that his linen on one side,
and one arm, was almost soaked in blood.

"Hold the candle," said Mr. Rochester, and I took it:  he fetched a
basin of water from the washstand:  "Hold that," said he.  I obeyed.
He took the sponge, dipped it in, and moistened the corpse-like
face; he asked for my smelling-bottle, and applied it to the
nostrils.  Mr. Mason shortly unclosed his eyes; he groaned.  Mr.
Rochester opened the shirt of the wounded man, whose arm and
shoulder were bandaged:  he sponged away blood, trickling fast down.

"Is there immediate danger?" murmured Mr. Mason.

"Pooh!  No--a mere scratch.  Don't be so overcome, man:  bear up!
I'll fetch a surgeon for you now, myself:  you'll be able to be
removed by morning, I hope.  Jane," he continued.

"Sir?"

"I shall have to leave you in this room with this gentleman, for an
hour, or perhaps two hours:  you will sponge the blood as I do when
it returns:  if he feels faint, you will put the glass of water on
that stand to his lips, and your salts to his nose.  You will not
speak to him on any pretext--and--Richard, it will be at the peril
of your life if you speak to her:  open your lips--agitate yourself-
-and I'll not answer for the consequences."

Again the poor man groaned; he looked as if he dared not move; fear,
either of death or of something else, appeared almost to paralyse
him.  Mr. Rochester put the now bloody sponge into my hand, and I
proceeded to use it as he had done.  He watched me a second, then
saying, "Remember!--No conversation," he left the room.  I
experienced a strange feeling as the key grated in the lock, and the
sound of his retreating step ceased to be heard.

Here then I was in the third storey, fastened into one of its mystic
cells; night around me; a pale and bloody spectacle under my eyes
and hands; a murderess hardly separated from me by a single door:
yes--that was appalling--the rest I could bear; but I shuddered at
the thought of Grace Poole bursting out upon me.

I must keep to my post, however.  I must watch this ghastly
countenance--these blue, still lips forbidden to unclose--these eyes
now shut, now opening, now wandering through the room, now fixing on
me, and ever glazed with the dulness of horror.  I must dip my hand
again and again in the basin of blood and water, and wipe away the
trickling gore.  I must see the light of the unsnuffed candle wane
on my employment; the shadows darken on the wrought, antique
tapestry round me, and grow black under the hangings of the vast old
bed, and quiver strangely over the doors of a great cabinet
opposite--whose front, divided into twelve panels, bore, in grim
design, the heads of the twelve apostles, each enclosed in its
separate panel as in a frame; while above them at the top rose an
ebon crucifix and a dying Christ.

According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered
here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that
bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved; and anon the
devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed
gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor--of
Satan himself--in his subordinate's form.

Amidst all this, I had to listen as well as watch:  to listen for
the movements of the wild beast or the fiend in yonder side den.
But since Mr. Rochester's visit it seemed spellbound:  all the night
I heard but three sounds at three long intervals,--a step creak, a
momentary renewal of the snarling, canine noise, and a deep human
groan.

Then my own thoughts worried me.  What crime was this that lived
incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled
nor subdued by the owner?--what mystery, that broke out now in fire
and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night?  What creature was
it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the
voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of
prey?

And this man I bent over--this commonplace, quiet stranger--how had
he become involved in the web of horror? and why had the Fury flown
at him?  What made him seek this quarter of the house at an untimely
season, when he should have been asleep in bed?  I had heard Mr.
Rochester assign him an apartment below--what brought him here!  And
why, now, was he so tame under the violence or treachery done him?
Why did he so quietly submit to the concealment Mr. Rochester
enforced?  Why DID Mr. Rochester enforce this concealment?  His
guest had been outraged, his own life on a former occasion had been
hideously plotted against; and both attempts he smothered in secrecy
and sank in oblivion!  Lastly, I saw Mr. Mason was submissive to Mr.
Rochester; that the impetuous will of the latter held complete sway
over the inertness of the former:  the few words which had passed
between them assured me of this.  It was evident that in their
former intercourse, the passive disposition of the one had been
habitually influenced by the active energy of the other:  whence
then had arisen Mr. Rochester's dismay when he heard of Mr. Mason's
arrival?  Why had the mere name of this unresisting individual--whom
his word now sufficed to control like a child--fallen on him, a few
hours since, as a thunderbolt might fall on an oak?

Oh!  I could not forget his look and his paleness when he whispered:
"Jane, I have got a blow--I have got a blow, Jane."  I could not
forget how the arm had trembled which he rested on my shoulder:  and
it was no light matter which could thus bow the resolute spirit and
thrill the vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester.

"When will he come?  When will he come?" I cried inwardly, as the
night lingered and lingered--as my bleeding patient drooped, moaned,
sickened:  and neither day nor aid arrived.  I had, again and again,
held the water to Mason's white lips; again and again offered him
the stimulating salts:  my efforts seemed ineffectual:  either
bodily or mental suffering, or loss of blood, or all three combined,
were fast prostrating his strength.  He moaned so, and looked so
weak, wild, and lost, I feared he was dying; ant I might not even
speak to him.

The candle, wasted at last, went out; as it expired, I perceived
streaks of grey light edging the window curtains:  dawn was then
approaching.  Presently I heard Pilot bark far below, out of his
distant kennel in the courtyard:  hope revived.  Nor was it
unwarranted:  in five minutes more the grating key, the yielding
lock, warned me my watch was relieved.  It could not have lasted
more than two hours:  many a week has seemed shorter.

Mr. Rochester entered, and with him the surgeon he had been to
fetch.

"Now, Carter, be on the alert," he said to this last:  "I give you
but half-an-hour for dressing the wound, fastening the bandages,
getting the patient downstairs and all."

"But is he fit to move, sir?"

"No doubt of it; it is nothing serious; he is nervous, his spirits
must be kept up.  Come, set to work."

Mr. Rochester drew back the thick curtain, drew up the holland
blind, let in all the daylight he could; and I was surprised and
cheered to see how far dawn was advanced:  what rosy streaks were
beginning to brighten the east.  Then he approached Mason, whom the
surgeon was already handling.

"Now, my good fellow, how are you?" he asked.

"She's done for me, I fear," was the faint reply.

"Not a whit!--courage!  This day fortnight you'll hardly be a pin
the worse of it:  you've lost a little blood; that's all Carter,
assure him there's no danger."

"I can do that conscientiously," said Carter, who had now undone the
bandages; "only I wish I could have got here sooner:  he would not
have bled so much--but how is this?  The flesh on the shoulder is
torn as well as cut.  This wound was not done with a knife:  there
have been teeth here!"

"She bit me," he murmured.  "She worried me like a tigress, when
Rochester got the knife from her."

"You should not have yielded:  you should have grappled with her at
once," said Mr. Rochester.

"But under such circumstances, what could one do?" returned Mason.
"Oh, it was frightful!" he added, shuddering.  "And I did not expect
it:  she looked so quiet at first."

"I warned you," was his friend's answer; "I said--be on your guard
when you go near her.  Besides, you might have waited till to-
morrow, and had me with you:  it was mere folly to attempt the
interview to-night, and alone."

"I thought I could have done some good."

"You thought! you thought!  Yes, it makes me impatient to hear you:
but, however, you have suffered, and are likely to suffer enough for
not taking my advice; so I'll say no more.  Carter--hurry!--hurry!
The sun will soon rise, and I must have him off."

"Directly, sir; the shoulder is just bandaged.  I must look to this
other wound in the arm:  she has had her teeth here too, I think."

"She sucked the blood:  she said she'd drain my heart," said Mason.

I saw Mr. Rochester shudder:  a singularly marked expression of
disgust, horror, hatred, warped his countenance almost to
distortion; but he only said -

"Come, be silent, Richard, and never mind her gibberish:  don't
repeat it."

"I wish I could forget it," was the answer.

"You will when you are out of the country:  when you get back to
Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried--or rather,
you need not think of her at all."

"Impossible to forget this night!"

"It is not impossible:  have some energy, man.  You thought you were
as dead as a herring two hours since, and you are all alive and
talking now.  There!--Carter has done with you or nearly so; I'll
make you decent in a trice.  Jane" (he turned to me for the first
time since his re-entrance), "take this key:  go down into my
bedroom, and walk straight forward into my dressing-room:  open the
top drawer of the wardrobe and take out a clean shirt and neck-
handkerchief:  bring them here; and be nimble."

I went; sought the repository he had mentioned, found the articles
named, and returned with them.

"Now," said he, "go to the other side of the bed while I order his
toilet; but don't leave the room:  you may be wanted again."

I retired as directed.

"Was anybody stirring below when you went down, Jane?" inquired Mr.
Rochester presently.

"No, sir; all was very still."

"We shall get you off cannily, Dick:  and it will be better, both
for your sake, and for that of the poor creature in yonder.  I have
striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come at
last.  Here, Carter, help him on with his waist-coat.  Where did you
leave your furred cloak?  You can't travel a mile without that, I
know, in this damned cold climate.  In your room?--Jane, run down to
Mr. Mason's room,--the one next mine,--and fetch a cloak you will
see there."

Again I ran, and again returned, bearing an immense mantle lined and
edged with fur.

"Now, I've another errand for you," said my untiring master; "you
must away to my room again.  What a mercy you are shod with velvet,
Jane!--a clod-hopping messenger would never do at this juncture.
You must open the middle drawer of my toilet-table and take out a
little phial and a little glass you will find there,--quick!"

I flew thither and back, bringing the desired vessels.

"That's well!  Now, doctor, I shall take the liberty of
administering a dose myself, on my own responsibility.  I got this
cordial at Rome, of an Italian charlatan--a fellow you would have
kicked, Carter.  It is not a thing to be used indiscriminately, but
it is good upon occasion:  as now, for instance.  Jane, a little
water."

He held out the tiny glass, and I half filled it from the water-
bottle on the washstand.

"That will do;--now wet the lip of the phial."

I did so; he measured twelve drops of a crimson liquid, and
presented it to Mason.

"Drink, Richard:  it will give you the heart you lack, for an hour
or so."

"But will it hurt me?--is it inflammatory?"

"Drink! drink! drink!"

Mr. Mason obeyed, because it was evidently useless to resist.  He
was dressed now:  he still looked pale, but he was no longer gory
and sullied.  Mr. Rochester let him sit three minutes after he had
swallowed the liquid; he then took his arm -

"Now I am sure you can get on your feet," he said--"try."

The patient rose.

"Carter, take him under the other shoulder.  Be of good cheer,
Richard; step out--that's it!"

"I do feel better," remarked Mr. Mason.

"I am sure you do.  Now, Jane, trip on before us away to the
backstairs; unbolt the side-passage door, and tell the driver of the
post-chaise you will see in the yard--or just outside, for I told
him not to drive his rattling wheels over the pavement--to be ready;
we are coming:  and, Jane, if any one is about, come to the foot of
the stairs and hem."

It was by this time half-past five, and the sun was on the point of
rising; but I found the kitchen still dark and silent.  The side-
passage door was fastened; I opened it with as little noise as
possible:  all the yard was quiet; but the gates stood wide open,
and there was a post-chaise, with horses ready harnessed, and driver
seated on the box, stationed outside.  I approached him, and said
the gentlemen were coming; he nodded:  then I looked carefully round
and listened.  The stillness of early morning slumbered everywhere;
the curtains were yet drawn over the servants' chamber windows;
little birds were just twittering in the blossom-blanched orchard
trees, whose boughs drooped like white garlands over the wall
enclosing one side of the yard; the carriage horses stamped from
time to time in their closed stables:  all else was still.

The gentlemen now appeared.  Mason, supported by Mr. Rochester and
the surgeon, seemed to walk with tolerable ease:  they assisted him
into the chaise; Carter followed.

"Take care of him," said Mr. Rochester to the latter, "and keep him
at your house till he is quite well:  I shall ride over in a day or
two to see how he gets on.  Richard, how is it with you?"

"The fresh air revives me, Fairfax."

"Leave the window open on his side, Carter; there is no wind--good-
bye, Dick."

"Fairfax--"

"Well what is it?"

"Let her be taken care of; let her be treated as tenderly as may be:
let her--" he stopped and burst into tears.

"I do my best; and have done it, and will do it," was the answer:
he shut up the chaise door, and the vehicle drove away.

"Yet would to God there was an end of all this!" added Mr.
Rochester, as he closed and barred the heavy yard-gates.

This done, he moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door
in the wall bordering the orchard.  I, supposing he had done with
me, prepared to return to the house; again, however, I heard him
call "Jane!"  He had opened feel portal and stood at it, waiting for
me.

"Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments," he said;
"that house is a mere dungeon:  don't you feel it so?"

"It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir."

"The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes," he answered; "and
you see it through a charmed medium:  you cannot discern that the
gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is
sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly
bark.  Now HERE" (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered)
"all is real, sweet, and pure."

He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees,
and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all
sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses,
pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various
fragrant herbs.  They were fresh now as a succession of April
showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make
them:  the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light
illumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the
quiet walks under them.

"Jane, will you have a flower?"

He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it
to me.

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you like this sunrise, Jane?  That sky with its high and light
clouds which are sure to melt away as the day waxes warm--this
placid and balmly atmosphere?"

"I do, very much."

"You have passed a strange night, Jane."

"Yes, sir."

"And it has made you look pale--were you afraid when I left you
alone with Mason?"

"I was afraid of some one coming out of the inner room."

"But I had fastened the door--I had the key in my pocket:  I should
have been a careless shepherd if I had left a lamb--my pet lamb--so
near a wolf's den, unguarded:  you were safe."

"Will Grace Poole live here still, sir?"

"Oh yes! don't trouble your head about her--put the thing out of
your thoughts."

"Yet it seems to me your life is hardly secure while she stays."

"Never fear--I will take care of myself."

"Is the danger you apprehended last night gone by now, sir?"

"I cannot vouch for that till Mason is out of England:  nor even
then.  To live, for me, Jane, is to stand on a crater-crust which
may crack and spue fire any day."

"But Mr. Mason seems a man easily led.  Your influence, sir, is
evidently potent with him:  he will never set you at defiance or
wilfully injure you."

"Oh, no!  Mason will not defy me; nor, knowing it, will he hurt me--
but, unintentionally, he might in a moment, by one careless word,
deprive me, if not of life, yet for ever of happiness."

"Tell him to be cautious, sir:  let him know what you fear, and show
him how to avert the danger."

He laughed sardonically, hastily took my hand, and as hastily threw
it from him.

"If I could do that, simpleton, where would the danger be?
Annihilated in a moment.  Ever since I have known Mason, I have only
had to say to him 'Do that,' and the thing has been done.  But I
cannot give him orders in this case:  I cannot say 'Beware of
harming me, Richard;' for it is imperative that I should keep him
ignorant that harm to me is possible.  Now you look puzzled; and I
will puzzle you further.  You are my little friend, are you not?"

"I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is right."

"Precisely:  I see you do.  I see genuine contentment in your gait
and mien, your eye and face, when you are helping me and pleasing
me--working for me, and with me, in, as you characteristically say,
'ALL THAT IS RIGHT:' for if I bid you do what you thought wrong,
there would be no light-footed running, no neat-handed alacrity, no
lively glance and animated complexion.  My friend would then turn to
me, quiet and pale, and would say, 'No, sir; that is impossible:  I
cannot do it, because it is wrong;' and would become immutable as a
fixed star.  Well, you too have power over me, and may injure me:
yet I dare not show you where I am vulnerable, lest, faithful and
friendly as you are, you should transfix me at once."

"If you have no more to fear from Mr. Mason than you have from me,
sir, you are very safe."

"God grant it may be so!  Here, Jane, is an arbour; sit down."

The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a
rustic seat.  Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me:
but I stood before him.

"Sit," he said; "the bench is long enough for two.  You don't
hesitate to take a place at my side, do you?  Is that wrong, Jane?"

I answered him by assuming it:  to refuse would, I felt, have been
unwise.

"Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew--while all the
flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch
their young ones' breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early
bees do their first spell of work--I'll put a case to you, which you
must endeavour to suppose your own:  but first, look at me, and tell
me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in detaining you, or
that you err in staying."

"No, sir; I am content."

"Well then, Jane, call to aid your fancy:- suppose you were no
longer a girl well reared and disciplined, but a wild boy indulged
from childhood upwards; imagine yourself in a remote foreign land;
conceive that you there commit a capital error, no matter of what
nature or from what motives, but one whose consequences must follow
you through life and taint all your existence.  Mind, I don't say a
CRIME; I am not speaking of shedding of blood or any other guilty
act, which might make the perpetrator amenable to the law:  my word
is ERROR.  The results of what you have done become in time to you
utterly insupportable; you take measures to obtain relief:  unusual
measures, but neither unlawful nor culpable.  Still you are
miserable; for hope has quitted you on the very confines of life:
your sun at noon darkens in an eclipse, which you feel will not
leave it till the time of setting.  Bitter and base associations
have become the sole food of your memory:  you wander here and
there, seeking rest in exile:  happiness in pleasure--I mean in
heartless, sensual pleasure--such as dulls intellect and blights
feeling.  Heart-weary and soul-withered, you come home after years
of voluntary banishment:  you make a new acquaintance--how or where
no matter:  you find in this stranger much of the good and bright
qualities which you have sought for twenty years, and never before
encountered; and they are all fresh, healthy, without soil and
without taint.  Such society revives, regenerates:  you feel better
days come back--higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to
recommence your life, and to spend what remains to you of days in a
way more worthy of an immortal being.  To attain this end, are you
justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere conventional
impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your
judgment approves?"

He paused for an answer:  and what was I to say?  Oh, for some good
spirit to suggest a judicious and satisfactory response!  Vain
aspiration!  The west wind whispered in the ivy round me; but no
gentle Ariel borrowed its breath as a medium of speech:  the birds
sang in the tree-tops; but their song, however sweet, was
inarticulate.

Again Mr. Rochester propounded his query:

"Is the wandering and sinful, but now rest-seeking and repentant,
man justified in daring the world's opinion, in order to attach to
him for ever this gentle, gracious, genial stranger, thereby
securing his own peace of mind and regeneration of life?"

"Sir," I answered, "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation
should never depend on a fellow-creature.  Men and women die;
philosophers falter in wisdom, and Christians in goodness:  if any
one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his
equals for strength to amend and solace to heal."

"But the instrument--the instrument!  God, who does the work,
ordains the instrument.  I have myself--I tell it you without
parable--been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I
have found the instrument for my cure in--"

He paused:  the birds went on carolling, the leaves lightly
rustling.  I almost wondered they did not check their songs and
whispers to catch the suspended revelation; but they would have had
to wait many minutes--so long was the silence protracted.  At last I
looked up at the tardy speaker:  he was looking eagerly at me.

"Little friend," said he, in quite a changed tone--while his face
changed too, losing all its softness and gravity, and becoming harsh
and sarcastic--"you have noticed my tender penchant for Miss Ingram:
don't you think if I married her she would regenerate me with a
vengeance?"

He got up instantly, went quite to the other end of the walk, and
when he came back he was humming a tune.

"Jane, Jane," said he, stopping before me, "you are quite pale with
your vigils:  don't you curse me for disturbing your rest?"

"Curse you?  No, sir."

"Shake hands in confirmation of the word.  What cold fingers!  They
were warmer last night when I touched them at the door of the
mysterious chamber.  Jane, when will you watch with me again?"

"Whenever I can be useful, sir."

"For instance, the night before I am married!  I am sure I shall not
be able to sleep.  Will you promise to sit up with me to bear me
company?  To you I can talk of my lovely one:  for now you have seen
her and know her."

"Yes, sir."

"She's a rare one, is she not, Jane?"

"Yes, sir."

"A strapper--a real strapper, Jane:  big, brown, and buxom; with
hair just such as the ladies of Carthage must have had.  Bless me!
there's Dent and Lynn in the stables!  Go in by the shrubbery,
through that wicket."

As I went one way, he went another, and I heard him in the yard,
saying cheerfully -

"Mason got the start of you all this morning; he was gone before
sunrise:  I rose at four to see him off."


Charlotte Bronte