Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 34


CHAPTER XXXIV


It was near Christmas by the time all was settled:  the season of
general holiday approached.  I now closed Morton school, taking care
that the parting should not be barren on my side.  Good fortune
opens the hand as well as the heart wonderfully; and to give
somewhat when we have largely received, is but to afford a vent to
the unusual ebullition of the sensations.  I had long felt with
pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we
parted, that consciousness was confirmed:  they manifested their
affection plainly and strongly.  Deep was my gratification to find I
had really a place in their unsophisticated hearts:  I promised them
that never a week should pass in future that I did not visit them,
and give them an hour's teaching in their school.

Mr. Rivers came up as, having seen the classes, now numbering sixty
girls, file out before me, and locked the door, I stood with the key
in my hand, exchanging a few words of special farewell with some
half-dozen of my best scholars:  as decent, respectable, modest, and
well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of the
British peasantry.  And that is saying a great deal; for after all,
the British peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most self-
respecting of any in Europe:  since those days I have seen paysannes
and Bauerinnen; and the best of them seemed to me ignorant, coarse,
and besotted, compared with my Morton girls.

"Do you consider you have got your reward for a season of exertion?"
asked Mr. Rivers, when they were gone.  "Does not the consciousness
of having done some real good in your day and generation give
pleasure?"

"Doubtless."

"And you have only toiled a few months!  Would not a life devoted to
the task of regenerating your race be well spent?"

"Yes," I said; "but I could not go on for ever so:  I want to enjoy
my own faculties as well as to cultivate those of other people.  I
must enjoy them now; don't recall either my mind or body to the
school; I am out of it and disposed for full holiday."

He looked grave.  "What now?  What sudden eagerness is this you
evince?  What are you going to do?"

"To be active:  as active as I can.  And first I must beg you to set
Hannah at liberty, and get somebody else to wait on you."

"Do you want her?"

"Yes, to go with me to Moor House.  Diana and Mary will be at home
in a week, and I want to have everything in order against their
arrival."

"I understand.  I thought you were for flying off on some excursion.
It is better so:  Hannah shall go with you."

"Tell her to be ready by to-morrow then; and here is the schoolroom
key:  I will give you the key of my cottage in the morning."

He took it.  "You give it up very gleefully," said he; "I don't
quite understand your light-heartedness, because I cannot tell what
employment you propose to yourself as a substitute for the one you
are relinquishing.  What aim, what purpose, what ambition in life
have you now?"

"My first aim will be to CLEAN DOWN (do you comprehend the full
force of the expression?)--to CLEAN DOWN Moor House from chamber to
cellar; my next to rub it up with bees-wax, oil, and an indefinite
number of cloths, till it glitters again; my third, to arrange every
chair, table, bed, carpet, with mathematical precision; afterwards I
shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in
every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your
sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a
beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding
of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and
solemnising of other culinary rites, as words can convey but an
inadequate notion of to the uninitiated like you.  My purpose, in
short, is to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of
readiness for Diana and Mary before next Thursday; and my ambition
is to give them a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come."

St. John smiled slightly:  still he was dissatisfied.

"It is all very well for the present," said he; "but seriously, I
trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a
little higher than domestic endearments and household joys."

"The best things the world has!" I interrupted.

"No, Jane, no:  this world is not the scene of fruition; do not
attempt to make it so:  nor of rest; do not turn slothful."

"I mean, on the contrary, to be busy."

"Jane, I excuse you for the present:  two months' grace I allow you
for the full enjoyment of your new position, and for pleasing
yourself with this late-found charm of relationship; but THEN, I
hope you will begin to look beyond Moor House and Morton, and
sisterly society, and the selfish calm and sensual comfort of
civilised affluence.  I hope your energies will then once more
trouble you with their strength."

I looked at him with surprise.  "St. John," I said, "I think you are
almost wicked to talk so.  I am disposed to be as content as a
queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness!  To what end?"

"To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed
to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict
account.  Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously--I warn you
of that.  And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with
which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures.  Don't
cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh; save your constancy and
ardour for an adequate cause; forbear to waste them on trite
transient objects.  Do you hear, Jane?"

"Yes; just as if you were speaking Greek.  I feel I have adequate
cause to be happy, and I WILL be happy.  Goodbye!"

Happy at Moor House I was, and hard I worked; and so did Hannah:
she was charmed to see how jovial I could be amidst the bustle of a
house turned topsy-turvy--how I could brush, and dust, and clean,
and cook.  And really, after a day or two of confusion worse
confounded, it was delightful by degrees to invoke order from the
chaos ourselves had made.  I had previously taken a journey to S- to
purchase some new furniture:  my cousins having given me CARTE
BLANCHE TO effect what alterations I pleased, and a sum having been
set aside for that purpose.  The ordinary sitting-room and bedrooms
I left much as they were:  for I knew Diana and Mary would derive
more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and chairs,
and beds, than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations.
Still some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the
piquancy with which I wished it to be invested.  Dark handsome new
carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected
antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and
mirrors, and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the
end:  they looked fresh without being glaring.  A spare parlour and
bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson
upholstery:  I laid canvas on the passage, and carpets on the
stairs.  When all was finished, I thought Moor House as complete a
model of bright modest snugness within, as it was, at this season, a
specimen of wintry waste and desert dreariness without.

The eventful Thursday at length came.  They were expected about
dark, and ere dusk fires were lit upstairs and below; the kitchen
was in perfect trim; Hannah and I were dressed, and all was in
readiness.

St. John arrived first.  I had entreated him to keep quite clear of
the house till everything was arranged:  and, indeed, the bare idea
of the commotion, at once sordid and trivial, going on within its
walls sufficed to scare him to estrangement.  He found me in the
kitchen, watching the progress of certain cakes for tea, then
baking.  Approaching the hearth, he asked, "If I was at last
satisfied with housemaid's work?"  I answered by inviting him to
accompany me on a general inspection of the result of my labours.
With some difficulty, I got him to make the tour of the house.  He
just looked in at the doors I opened; and when he had wandered
upstairs and downstairs, he said I must have gone through a great
deal of fatigue and trouble to have effected such considerable
changes in so short a time:  but not a syllable did he utter
indicating pleasure in the improved aspect of his abode.

This silence damped me.  I thought perhaps the alterations had
disturbed some old associations he valued.  I inquired whether this
was the case:  no doubt in a somewhat crest-fallen tone.

"Not at all; he had, on the contrary, remarked that I had
scrupulously respected every association:  he feared, indeed, I must
have bestowed more thought on the matter than it was worth.  How
many minutes, for instance, had I devoted to studying the
arrangement of this very room?--By-the-bye, could I tell him where
such a book was?"

I showed him the volume on the shelf:  he took it down, and
withdrawing to his accustomed window recess, he began to read it.

Now, I did not like this, reader.  St. John was a good man; but I
began to feel he had spoken truth of himself when he said he was
hard and cold.  The humanities and amenities of life had no
attraction for him--its peaceful enjoyments no charm.  Literally, he
lived only to aspire--after what was good and great, certainly; but
still he would never rest, nor approve of others resting round him.
As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone--
at his fine lineaments fixed in study--I comprehended all at once
that he would hardly make a good husband:  that it would be a trying
thing to be his wife.  I understood, as by inspiration, the nature
of his love for Miss Oliver; I agreed with him that it was but a
love of the senses.  I comprehended how he should despise himself
for the feverish influence it exercised over him; how he should wish
to stifle and destroy it; how he should mistrust its ever conducting
permanently to his happiness or hers.  I saw he was of the material
from which nature hews her heroes--Christian and Pagan--her
lawgivers, her statesmen, her conquerors:  a steadfast bulwark for
great interests to rest upon; but, at the fireside, too often a cold
cumbrous column, gloomy and out of place.

"This parlour is not his sphere," I reflected:  "the Himalayan ridge
or Caffre bush, even the plague-cursed Guinea Coast swamp would suit
him better.  Well may he eschew the calm of domestic life; it is not
his element:  there his faculties stagnate--they cannot develop or
appear to advantage.  It is in scenes of strife and danger--where
courage is proved, and energy exercised, and fortitude tasked--that
he will speak and move, the leader and superior.  A merry child
would have the advantage of him on this hearth.  He is right to
choose a missionary's career--I see it now."

"They are coming! they are coming!" cried Hannah, throwing open the
parlour door.  At the same moment old Carlo barked joyfully.  Out I
ran.  It was now dark; but a rumbling of wheels was audible.  Hannah
soon had a lantern lit.  The vehicle had stopped at the wicket; the
driver opened the door:  first one well-known form, then another,
stepped out.  In a minute I had my face under their bonnets, in
contact first with Mary's soft cheek, then with Diana's flowing
curls.  They laughed--kissed me--then Hannah:  patted Carlo, who was
half wild with delight; asked eagerly if all was well; and being
assured in the affirmative, hastened into the house.

They were stiff with their long and jolting drive from Whitcross,
and chilled with the frosty night air; but their pleasant
countenances expanded to the cheerful firelight.  While the driver
and Hannah brought in the boxes, they demanded St. John.  At this
moment he advanced from the parlour.  They both threw their arms
round his neck at once.  He gave each one quiet kiss, said in a low
tone a few words of welcome, stood a while to be talked to, and
then, intimating that he supposed they would soon rejoin him in the
parlour, withdrew there as to a place of refuge.

I had lit their candles to go upstairs, but Diana had first to give
hospitable orders respecting the driver; this done, both followed
me.  They were delighted with the renovation and decorations of
their rooms; with the new drapery, and fresh carpets, and rich
tinted china vases:  they expressed their gratification
ungrudgingly.  I had the pleasure of feeling that my arrangements
met their wishes exactly, and that what I had done added a vivid
charm to their joyous return home.

Sweet was that evening.  My cousins, full of exhilaration, were so
eloquent in narrative and comment, that their fluency covered St.
John's taciturnity:  he was sincerely glad to see his sisters; but
in their glow of fervour and flow of joy he could not sympathise.
The event of the day--that is, the return of Diana and Mary--pleased
him; but the accompaniments of that event, the glad tumult, the
garrulous glee of reception irked him:  I saw he wished the calmer
morrow was come.  In the very meridian of the night's enjoyment,
about an hour after tea, a rap was heard at the door.  Hannah
entered with the intimation that "a poor lad was come, at that
unlikely time, to fetch Mr. Rivers to see his mother, who was
drawing away."

"Where does she live, Hannah?"

"Clear up at Whitcross Brow, almost four miles off, and moor and
moss all the way."

"Tell him I will go."

"I'm sure, sir, you had better not.  It's the worst road to travel
after dark that can be:  there's no track at all over the bog.  And
then it is such a bitter night--the keenest wind you ever felt.  You
had better send word, sir, that you will be there in the morning."

But he was already in the passage, putting on his cloak; and without
one objection, one murmur, he departed.  It was then nine o'clock:
he did not return till midnight.  Starved and tired enough he was:
but he looked happier than when he set out.  He had performed an act
of duty; made an exertion; felt his own strength to do and deny, and
was on better terms with himself.

I am afraid the whole of the ensuing week tried his patience.  It
was Christmas week:  we took to no settled employment, but spent it
in a sort of merry domestic dissipation.  The air of the moors, the
freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and Mary's
spirits like some life-giving elixir:  they were gay from morning
till noon, and from noon till night.  They could always talk; and
their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such charms for me,
that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing anything
else.  St. John did not rebuke our vivacity; but he escaped from it:
he was seldom in the house; his parish was large, the population
scattered, and he found daily business in visiting the sick and poor
in its different districts.

One morning at breakfast, Diana, after looking a little pensive for
some minutes, asked him, "If his plans were yet unchanged."

"Unchanged and unchangeable," was the reply.  And he proceeded to
inform us that his departure from England was now definitively fixed
for the ensuing year.

"And Rosamond Oliver?" suggested Mary, the words seeming to escape
her lips involuntarily:  for no sooner had she uttered them, than
she made a gesture as if wishing to recall them.  St. John had a
book in his hand--it was his unsocial custom to read at meals--he
closed it, and looked up,

"Rosamond Oliver," said he, "is about to be married to Mr. Granby,
one of the best connected and most estimable residents in S-,
grandson and heir to Sir Frederic Granby:  I had the intelligence
from her father yesterday."

His sisters looked at each other and at me; we all three looked at
him:  he was serene as glass.

"The match must have been got up hastily," said Diana:  "they cannot
have known each other long."

"But two months:  they met in October at the county ball at S-.  But
where there are no obstacles to a union, as in the present case,
where the connection is in every point desirable, delays are
unnecessary:  they will be married as soon as S- Place, which Sir
Frederic gives up to them, can he refitted for their reception."

The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I
felt tempted to inquire if the event distressed him:  but he seemed
so little to need sympathy, that, so far from venturing to offer him
more, I experienced some shame at the recollection of what I had
already hazarded.  Besides, I was out of practice in talking to him:
his reserve was again frozen over, and my frankness was congealed
beneath it.  He had not kept his promise of treating me like his
sisters; he continually made little chilling differences between us,
which did not at all tend to the development of cordiality:  in
short, now that I was acknowledged his kinswoman, and lived under
the same roof with him, I felt the distance between us to be far
greater than when he had known me only as the village
schoolmistress.  When I remembered how far I had once been admitted
to his confidence, I could hardly comprehend his present frigidity.

Such being the case, I felt not a little surprised when he raised
his head suddenly from the desk over which he was stooping, and said
-

"You see, Jane, the battle is fought and the victory won."

Startled at being thus addressed, I did not immediately reply:
after a moment's hesitation I answered -

"But are you sure you are not in the position of those conquerors
whose triumphs have cost them too dear?  Would not such another ruin
you?"

"I think not; and if I were, it does not much signify; I shall never
be called upon to contend for such another.  The event of the
conflict is decisive:  my way is now clear; I thank God for it!"  So
saying, he returned to his papers and his silence.

As our mutual happiness (i.e., Diana's, Mary's, and mine) settled
into a quieter character, and we resumed our usual habits and
regular studies, St. John stayed more at home:  he sat with us in
the same room, sometimes for hours together.  While Mary drew, Diana
pursued a course of encyclopaedic reading she had (to my awe and
amazement) undertaken, and I fagged away at German, he pondered a
mystic lore of his own:  that of some Eastern tongue, the
acquisition of which he thought necessary to his plans.

Thus engaged, he appeared, sitting in his own recess, quiet and
absorbed enough; but that blue eye of his had a habit of leaving the
outlandish-looking grammar, and wandering over, and sometimes fixing
upon us, his fellow-students, with a curious intensity of
observation:  if caught, it would be instantly withdrawn; yet ever
and anon, it returned searchingly to our table.  I wondered what it
meant:  I wondered, too, at the punctual satisfaction he never
failed to exhibit on an occasion that seemed to me of small moment,
namely, my weekly visit to Morton school; and still more was I
puzzled when, if the day was unfavourable, if there was snow, or
rain, or high wind, and his sisters urged me not to go, he would
invariably make light of their solicitude, and encourage me to
accomplish the task without regard to the elements.

"Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her," he would say:
"she can bear a mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of
snow, as well as any of us.  Her constitution is both sound and
elastic;--better calculated to endure variations of climate than
many more robust."

And when I returned, sometimes a good deal tired, and not a little
weather-beaten, I never dared complain, because I saw that to murmur
would be to vex him:  on all occasions fortitude pleased him; the
reverse was a special annoyance.

One afternoon, however, I got leave to stay at home, because I
really had a cold.  His sisters were gone to Morton in my stead:  I
sat reading Schiller; he, deciphering his crabbed Oriental scrolls.
As I exchanged a translation for an exercise, I happened to look his
way:  there I found myself under the influence of the ever-watchful
blue eye.  How long it had been searching me through and through,
and over and over, I cannot tell:  so keen was it, and yet so cold,
I felt for the moment superstitious--as if I were sitting in the
room with something uncanny.

"Jane, what are you doing?"

"Learning German."

"I want you to give up German and learn Hindostanee."

"You are not in earnest?"

"In such earnest that I must have it so:  and I will tell you why."

He then went on to explain that Hindostanee was the language he was
himself at present studying; that, as he advanced, he was apt to
forget the commencement; that it would assist him greatly to have a
pupil with whom he might again and again go over the elements, and
so fix them thoroughly in his mind; that his choice had hovered for
some time between me and his sisters; but that he had fixed on me
because he saw I could sit at a task the longest of the three.
Would I do him this favour?  I should not, perhaps, have to make the
sacrifice long, as it wanted now barely three months to his
departure.

St. John was not a man to be lightly refused:  you felt that every
impression made on him, either for pain or pleasure, was deep-graved
and permanent.  I consented.  When Diana and Mary returned, the
former found her scholar transferred from her to her brother:  she
laughed, and both she and Mary agreed that St. John should never
have persuaded them to such a step.  He answered quietly -

"I know it."

I found him a very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting
master:  he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his
expectations, he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation.
By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away
my liberty of mind:  his praise and notice were more restraining
than his indifference.  I could no longer talk or laugh freely when
he was by, because a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me
that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him.  I was so
fully aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable,
that in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other
became vain:  I fell under a freezing spell.  When he said "go," I
went; "come," I came; "do this," I did it.  But I did not love my
servitude:  I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect me.

One evening when, at bedtime, his sisters and I stood round him,
bidding him good-night, he kissed each of them, as was his custom;
and, as was equally his custom, he gave me his hand.  Diana, who
chanced to be in a frolicsome humour (SHE was not painfully
controlled by his will; for hers, in another way, was as strong),
exclaimed -

"St. John! you used to call Jane your third sister, but you don't
treat her as such:  you should kiss her too."

She pushed me towards him.  I thought Diana very provoking, and felt
uncomfortably confused; and while I was thus thinking and feeling,
St. John bent his head; his Greek face was brought to a level with
mine, his eyes questioned my eyes piercingly--he kissed me.  There
are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say
my ecclesiastical cousin's salute belonged to one of these classes;
but there may be experiment kisses, and his was an experiment kiss.
When given, he viewed me to learn the result; it was not striking:
I am sure I did not blush; perhaps I might have turned a little
pale, for I felt as if this kiss were a seal affixed to my fetters.
He never omitted the ceremony afterwards, and the gravity and
quiescence with which I underwent it, seemed to invest it for him
with a certain charm.

As for me, I daily wished more to please him; but to do so, I felt
daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half
my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself
to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation.  He
wanted to train me to an elevation I could never reach; it racked me
hourly to aspire to the standard he uplifted.  The thing was as
impossible as to mould my irregular features to his correct and
classic pattern, to give to my changeable green eyes the sea-blue
tint and solemn lustre of his own.

Not his ascendancy alone, however, held me in thrall at present.  Of
late it had been easy enough for me to look sad:  a cankering evil
sat at my heart and drained my happiness at its source--the evil of
suspense.

Perhaps you think I had forgotten Mr. Rochester, reader, amidst
these changes of place and fortune.  Not for a moment.  His idea was
still with me, because it was not a vapour sunshine could disperse,
nor a sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a name
graven on a tablet, fated to last as long as the marble it
inscribed.  The craving to know what had become of him followed me
everywhere; when I was at Morton, I re-entered my cottage every
evening to think of that; and now at Moor House, I sought my bedroom
each night to brood over it.

In the course of my necessary correspondence with Mr. Briggs about
the will, I had inquired if he knew anything of Mr. Rochester's
present residence and state of health; but, as St. John had
conjectured, he was quite ignorant of all concerning him.  I then
wrote to Mrs. Fairfax, entreating information on the subject.  I had
calculated with certainty on this step answering my end:  I felt
sure it would elicit an early answer.  I was astonished when a
fortnight passed without reply; but when two months wore away, and
day after day the post arrived and brought nothing for me, I fell a
prey to the keenest anxiety.

I wrote again:  there was a chance of my first letter having missed.
Renewed hope followed renewed effort:  it shone like the former for
some weeks, then, like it, it faded, flickered:  not a line, not a
word reached me.  When half a year wasted in vain expectancy, my
hope died out, and then I felt dark indeed.

A fine spring shone round me, which I could not enjoy.  Summer
approached; Diana tried to cheer me:  she said I looked ill, and
wished to accompany me to the sea-side.  This St. John opposed; he
said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my present
life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose, by way
of supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still further my lessons in
Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment:
and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him--I could not
resist him.

One day I had come to my studies in lower spirits than usual; the
ebb was occasioned by a poignantly felt disappointment.  Hannah had
told me in the morning there was a letter for me, and when I went
down to take it, almost certain that the long-looked for tidings
were vouchsafed me at last, I found only an unimportant note from
Mr. Briggs on business.  The bitter check had wrung from me some
tears; and now, as I sat poring over the crabbed characters and
flourishing tropes of an Indian scribe, my eyes filled again.

St. John called me to his side to read; in attempting to do this my
voice failed me:  words were lost in sobs.  He and I were the only
occupants of the parlour:  Diana was practising her music in the
drawing-room, Mary was gardening--it was a very fine May day, clear,
sunny, and breezy.  My companion expressed no surprise at this
emotion, nor did he question me as to its cause; he only said -

"We will wait a few minutes, Jane, till you are more composed."  And
while I smothered the paroxysm with all haste, he sat calm and
patient, leaning on his desk, and looking like a physician watching
with the eye of science an expected and fully understood crisis in a
patient's malady.  Having stifled my sobs, wiped my eyes, and
muttered something about not being very well that morning, I resumed
my task, and succeeded in completing it.  St. John put away my books
and his, locked his desk, and said -

"Now, Jane, you shall take a walk; and with me."

"I will call Diana and Mary."

"No; I want only one companion this morning, and that must be you.
Put on your things; go out by the kitchen-door:  take the road
towards the head of Marsh Glen:  I will join you in a moment."

I know no medium:  I never in my life have known any medium in my
dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own,
between absolute submission and determined revolt.  I have always
faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting,
sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other; and as neither
present circumstances warranted, nor my present mood inclined me to
mutiny, I observed careful obedience to St. John's directions; and
in ten minutes I was treading the wild track of the glen, side by
side with him.

The breeze was from the west:  it came over the hills, sweet with
scents of heath and rush; the sky was of stainless blue; the stream
descending the ravine, swelled with past spring rains, poured along
plentiful and clear, catching golden gleams from the sun, and
sapphire tints from the firmament.  As we advanced and left the
track, we trod a soft turf, mossy fine and emerald green, minutely
enamelled with a tiny white flower, and spangled with a star-like
yellow blossom:  the hills, meantime, shut us quite in; for the
glen, towards its head, wound to their very core.

"Let us rest here," said St. John, as we reached the first
stragglers of a battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond
which the beck rushed down a waterfall; and where, still a little
farther, the mountain shook off turf and flower, had only heath for
raiment and crag for gem--where it exaggerated the wild to the
savage, and exchanged the fresh for the frowning--where it guarded
the forlorn hope of solitude, and a last refuge for silence.

I took a seat:  St. John stood near me.  He looked up the pass and
down the hollow; his glance wandered away with the stream, and
returned to traverse the unclouded heaven which coloured it:  he
removed his hat, let the breeze stir his hair and kiss his brow.  He
seemed in communion with the genius of the haunt:  with his eye he
bade farewell to something.

"And I shall see it again," he said aloud, "in dreams when I sleep
by the Ganges:  and again in a more remote hour--when another
slumber overcomes me--on the shore of a darker stream!"

Strange words of a strange love!  An austere patriot's passion for
his fatherland!  He sat down; for half-an-hour we never spoke;
neither he to me nor I to him:  that interval past, he recommenced -

"Jane, I go in six weeks; I have taken my berth in an East Indiaman
which sails on the 20th of June."

"God will protect you; for you have undertaken His work," I
answered.

"Yes," said he, "there is my glory and joy.  I am the servant of an
infallible Master.  I am not going out under human guidance, subject
to the defective laws and erring control of my feeble fellow-worms:
my king, my lawgiver, my captain, is the All-perfect.  It seems
strange to me that all round me do not burn to enlist under the same
banner,--to join in the same enterprise."

"All have not your powers, and it would be folly for the feeble to
wish to march with the strong."

"I do not speak to the feeble, or think of them:  I address only
such as are worthy of the work, and competent to accomplish it."

"Those are few in number, and difficult to discover."

"You say truly; but when found, it is right to stir them up--to urge
and exhort them to the effort--to show them what their gifts are,
and why they were given--to speak Heaven's message in their ear,--to
offer them, direct from God, a place in the ranks of His chosen."

"If they are really qualified for the task, will not their own
hearts be the first to inform them of it?"

I felt as if an awful charm was framing round and gathering over me:
I trembled to hear some fatal word spoken which would at once
declare and rivet the spell.

"And what does YOUR heart say?" demanded St. John.

"My heart is mute,--my heart is mute," I answered, struck and
thrilled.

"Then I must speak for it," continued the deep, relentless voice.
"Jane, come with me to India:  come as my helpmeet and fellow-
labourer."

The glen and sky spun round:  the hills heaved!  It was as if I had
heard a summons from Heaven--as if a visionary messenger, like him
of Macedonia, had enounced, "Come over and help us!"  But I was no
apostle,--I could not behold the herald,--I could not receive his
call.

"Oh, St. John!" I cried, "have some mercy!"

I appealed to one who, in the discharge of what he believed his
duty, knew neither mercy nor remorse.  He continued -

"God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife.  It is not
personal, but mental endowments they have given you:  you are formed
for labour, not for love.  A missionary's wife you must--shall be.
You shall be mine:  I claim you--not for my pleasure, but for my
Sovereign's service."

"I am not fit for it:  I have no vocation," I said.

He had calculated on these first objections:  he was not irritated
by them.  Indeed, as he leaned back against the crag behind him,
folded his arms on his chest, and fixed his countenance, I saw he
was prepared for a long and trying opposition, and had taken in a
stock of patience to last him to its close--resolved, however, that
that close should be conquest for him.

"Humility, Jane," said he, "is the groundwork of Christian virtues:
you say right that you are not fit for the work.  Who is fit for it?
Or who, that ever was truly called, believed himself worthy of the
summons?  I, for instance, am but dust and ashes.  With St. Paul, I
acknowledge myself the chiefest of sinners; but I do not suffer this
sense of my personal vileness to daunt me.  I know my Leader:  that
He is just as well as mighty; and while He has chosen a feeble
instrument to perform a great task, He will, from the boundless
stores of His providence, supply the inadequacy of the means to the
end.  Think like me, Jane--trust like me.  It is the Rock of Ages I
ask you to lean on:  do not doubt but it will bear the weight of
your human weakness."

"I do not understand a missionary life:  I have never studied
missionary labours."

"There I, humble as I am, can give you the aid you want:  I can set
you your task from hour to hour; stand by you always; help you from
moment to moment.  This I could do in the beginning:  soon (for I
know your powers) you would be as strong and apt as myself, and
would not require my help."

"But my powers--where are they for this undertaking?  I do not feel
them.  Nothing speaks or stirs in me while you talk.  I am sensible
of no light kindling--no life quickening--no voice counselling or
cheering.  Oh, I wish I could make you see how much my mind is at
this moment like a rayless dungeon, with one shrinking fear fettered
in its depths--the fear of being persuaded by you to attempt what I
cannot accomplish!"

"I have an answer for you--hear it.  I have watched you ever since
we first met:  I have made you my study for ten months.  I have
proved you in that time by sundry tests:  and what have I seen and
elicited?  In the village school I found you could perform well,
punctually, uprightly, labour uncongenial to your habits and
inclinations; I saw you could perform it with capacity and tact:
you could win while you controlled.  In the calm with which you
learnt you had become suddenly rich, I read a mind clear of the vice
of Demas:- lucre had no undue power over you.  In the resolute
readiness with which you cut your wealth into four shares, keeping
but one to yourself, and relinquishing the three others to the claim
of abstract justice, I recognised a soul that revelled in the flame
and excitement of sacrifice.  In the tractability with which, at my
wish, you forsook a study in which you were interested, and adopted
another because it interested me; in the untiring assiduity with
which you have since persevered in it--in the unflagging energy and
unshaken temper with which you have met its difficulties--I
acknowledge the complement of the qualities I seek.  Jane, you are
docile, diligent, disinterested, faithful, constant, and courageous;
very gentle, and very heroic:  cease to mistrust yourself--I can
trust you unreservedly.  As a conductress of Indian schools, and a
helper amongst Indian women, your assistance will be to me
invaluable."

My iron shroud contracted round me; persuasion advanced with slow
sure step.  Shut my eyes as I would, these last words of his
succeeded in making the way, which had seemed blocked up,
comparatively clear.  My work, which had appeared so vague, so
hopelessly diffuse, condensed itself as he proceeded, and assumed a
definite form under his shaping hand.  He waited for an answer.  I
demanded a quarter of an hour to think, before I again hazarded a
reply.

"Very willingly," he rejoined; and rising, he strode a little
distance up the pass, threw himself down on a swell of heath, and
there lay still.

"I CAN do what he wants me to do:  I am forced to see and
acknowledge that," I meditated,--"that is, if life be spared me.
But I feel mine is not the existence to be long protracted under an
Indian sun.  What then?  He does not care for that:  when my time
came to die, he would resign me, in all serenity and sanctity, to
the God who gave me.  The case is very plain before me.  In leaving
England, I should leave a loved but empty land--Mr. Rochester is not
there; and if he were, what is, what can that ever be to me?  My
business is to live without him now:  nothing so absurd, so weak as
to drag on from day to day, as if I were waiting some impossible
change in circumstances, which might reunite me to him.  Of course
(as St. John once said) I must seek another interest in life to
replace the one lost:  is not the occupation he now offers me truly
the most glorious man can adopt or God assign?  Is it not, by its
noble cares and sublime results, the one best calculated to fill the
void left by uptorn affections and demolished hopes?  I believe I
must say, Yes--and yet I shudder.  Alas!  If I join St. John, I
abandon half myself:  if I go to India, I go to premature death.
And how will the interval between leaving England for India, and
India for the grave, be filled?  Oh, I know well!  That, too, is
very clear to my vision.  By straining to satisfy St. John till my
sinews ache, I SHALL satisfy him--to the finest central point and
farthest outward circle of his expectations.  If I DO go with him--
if I DO make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it absolutely:  I
will throw all on the altar--heart, vitals, the entire victim.  He
will never love me; but he shall approve me; I will show him
energies he has not yet seen, resources he has never suspected.
Yes, I can work as hard as he can, and with as little grudging.

"Consent, then, to his demand is possible:  but for one item--one
dreadful item.  It is--that he asks me to be his wife, and has no
more of a husband's heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock,
down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge.  He prizes me as a
soldier would a good weapon; and that is all.  Unmarried to him,
this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his
calculations--coolly put into practice his plans--go through the
wedding ceremony?  Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure
all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously
observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent?  Can I bear the
consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made
on principle?  No:  such a martyrdom would be monstrous.  I will
never undergo it.  As his sister, I might accompany him--not as his
wife:  I will tell him so."

I looked towards the knoll:  there he lay, still as a prostrate
column; his face turned to me:  his eye beaming watchful and keen.
He started to his feet and approached me.

"I am ready to go to India, if I may go free."

"Your answer requires a commentary," he said; "it is not clear."

"You have hitherto been my adopted brother--I, your adopted sister:
let us continue as such:  you and I had better not marry."

He shook his head.  "Adopted fraternity will not do in this case.
If you were my real sister it would be different:  I should take
you, and seek no wife.  But as it is, either our union must be
consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist:  practical
obstacles oppose themselves to any other plan.  Do you not see it,
Jane?  Consider a moment--your strong sense will guide you."

I did consider; and still my sense, such as it was, directed me only
to the fact that we did not love each other as man and wife should:
and therefore it inferred we ought not to marry.  I said so.  "St.
John," I returned, "I regard you as a brother--you, me as a sister:
so let us continue."

"We cannot--we cannot," he answered, with short, sharp
determination:  "it would not do.  You have said you will go with me
to India:  remember--you have said that."

"Conditionally."

"Well--well.  To the main point--the departure with me from England,
the co-operation with me in my future labours--you do not object.
You have already as good as put your hand to the plough:  you are
too consistent to withdraw it.  You have but one end to keep in
view--how the work you have undertaken can best be done.  Simplify
your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge
all considerations in one purpose:  that of fulfilling with effect--
with power--the mission of your great Master.  To do so, you must
have a coadjutor:  not a brother--that is a loose tie--but a
husband.  I, too, do not want a sister:  a sister might any day be
taken from me.  I want a wife:  the sole helpmeet I can influence
efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death."

I shuddered as he spoke:  I felt his influence in my marrow--his
hold on my limbs.

"Seek one elsewhere than in me, St. John:  seek one fitted to you."

"One fitted to my purpose, you mean--fitted to my vocation.  Again I
tell you it is not the insignificant private individual--the mere
man, with the man's selfish senses--I wish to mate:  it is the
missionary."

"And I will give the missionary my energies--it is all he wants--but
not myself:  that would be only adding the husk and shell to the
kernel.  For them he has no use:  I retain them."

"You cannot--you ought not.  Do you think God will be satisfied with
half an oblation?  Will He accept a mutilated sacrifice?  It is the
cause of God I advocate:  it is under His standard I enlist you.  I
cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance:  it must be
entire."

"Oh!  I will give my heart to God," I said.  "YOU do not want it."

I will not swear, reader, that there was not something of repressed
sarcasm both in the tone in which I uttered this sentence, and in
the feeling that accompanied it.  I had silently feared St. John
till now, because I had not understood him.  He had held me in awe,
because he had held me in doubt.  How much of him was saint, how
much mortal, I could not heretofore tell:  but revelations were
being made in this conference:  the analysis of his nature was
proceeding before my eyes.  I saw his fallibilities:  I comprehended
them.  I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of
heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a
man, caring as I.  The veil fell from his hardness and despotism.
Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his
imperfection and took courage.  I was with an equal--one with whom I
might argue--one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.

He was silent after I had uttered the last sentence, and I presently
risked an upward glance at his countenance.

His eye, bent on me, expressed at once stern surprise and keen
inquiry.  "Is she sarcastic, and sarcastic to ME!" it seemed to say.
"What does this signify?"

"Do not let us forget that this is a solemn matter," he said ere
long; "one of which we may neither think nor talk lightly without
sin.  I trust, Jane, you are in earnest when you say you will serve
your heart to God:  it is all I want.  Once wrench your heart from
man, and fix it on your Maker, the advancement of that Maker's
spiritual kingdom on earth will be your chief delight and endeavour;
you will be ready to do at once whatever furthers that end.  You
will see what impetus would be given to your efforts and mine by our
physical and mental union in marriage:  the only union that gives a
character of permanent conformity to the destinies and designs of
human beings; and, passing over all minor caprices--all trivial
difficulties and delicacies of feeling--all scruple about the
degree, kind, strength or tenderness of mere personal inclination--
you will hasten to enter into that union at once."

"Shall I?" I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful
in their harmony, but strangely formidable in their still severity;
at his brow, commanding but not open; at his eyes, bright and deep
and searching, but never soft; at his tall imposing figure; and
fancied myself in idea HIS WIFE.  Oh! it would never do!  As his
curate, his comrade, all would be right:  I would cross oceans with
him in that capacity; toil under Eastern suns, in Asian deserts with
him in that office; admire and emulate his courage and devotion and
vigour; accommodate quietly to his masterhood; smile undisturbed at
his ineradicable ambition; discriminate the Christian from the man:
profoundly esteem the one, and freely forgive the other.  I should
suffer often, no doubt, attached to him only in this capacity:  my
body would be under rather a stringent yoke, but my heart and mind
would be free.  I should still have my unblighted self to turn to:
my natural unenslaved feelings with which to communicate in moments
of loneliness.  There would be recesses in my mind which would be
only mine, to which he never came, and sentiments growing there
fresh and sheltered which his austerity could never blight, nor his
measured warrior-march trample down:  but as his wife--at his side
always, and always restrained, and always checked--forced to keep
the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly
and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital
after vital--THIS would be unendurable.

"St. John!" I exclaimed, when I had got so far in my meditation.

"Well?" he answered icily.

"I repeat I freely consent to go with you as your fellow-missionary,
but not as your wife; I cannot marry you and become part of you."

"A part of me you must become," he answered steadily; "otherwise the
whole bargain is void.  How can I, a man not yet thirty, take out
with me to India a girl of nineteen, unless she be married to me?
How can we be for ever together--sometimes in solitudes, sometimes
amidst savage tribes--and unwed?"

"Very well," I said shortly; "under the circumstances, quite as well
as if I were either your real sister, or a man and a clergyman like
yourself."

"It is known that you are not my sister; I cannot introduce you as
such:  to attempt it would be to fasten injurious suspicions on us
both.  And for the rest, though you have a man's vigorous brain, you
have a woman's heart and--it would not do."

"It would do," I affirmed with some disdain, "perfectly well.  I
have a woman's heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I
have only a comrade's constancy; a fellow-soldier's frankness,
fidelity, fraternity, if you like; a neophyte's respect and
submission to his hierophant:  nothing more--don't fear."

"It is what I want," he said, speaking to himself; "it is just what
I want.  And there are obstacles in the way:  they must be hewn
down.  Jane, you would not repent marrying me--be certain of that;
we MUST be married.  I repeat it:  there is no other way; and
undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render the
union right even in your eyes."

"I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up
and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock.  "I scorn
the counterfeit sentiment you offer:  yes, St. John, and I scorn you
when you offer it."

He looked at me fixedly, compressing his well-cut lips while he did
so.  Whether he was incensed or surprised, or what, it was not easy
to tell:  he could command his countenance thoroughly.

"I scarcely expected to hear that expression from you," he said:  "I
think I have done and uttered nothing to deserve scorn."

I was touched by his gentle tone, and overawed by his high, calm
mien.

"Forgive me the words, St. John; but it is your own fault that I
have been roused to speak so unguardedly.  You have introduced a
topic on which our natures are at variance--a topic we should never
discuss:  the very name of love is an apple of discord between us.
If the reality were required, what should we do?  How should we
feel?  My dear cousin, abandon your scheme of marriage--forget it."

"No," said he; "it is a long-cherished scheme, and the only one
which can secure my great end:  but I shall urge you no further at
present.  To-morrow, I leave home for Cambridge:  I have many
friends there to whom I should wish to say farewell.  I shall be
absent a fortnight--take that space of time to consider my offer:
and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but
God.  Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife
only can you enter upon it.  Refuse to be my wife, and you limit
yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.
Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have
denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"

He had done.  Turning from me, he once more


"Looked to river, looked to hill."


But this time his feelings were all pent in his heart:  I was not
worthy to hear them uttered.  As I walked by his side homeward, I
read well in his iron silence all he felt towards me:  the
disappointment of an austere and despotic nature, which has met
resistance where it expected submission--the disapprobation of a
cool, inflexible judgment, which has detected in another feelings
and views in which it has no power to sympathise:  in short, as a
man, he would have wished to coerce me into obedience:  it was only
as a sincere Christian he bore so patiently with my perversity, and
allowed so long a space for reflection and repentance.

That night, after he had kissed his sisters, he thought proper to
forget even to shake hands with me, but left the room in silence.
I--who, though I had no love, had much friendship for him--was hurt
by the marked omission:  so much hurt that tears started to my eyes.

"I see you and St. John have been quarrelling, Jane," said Diana,
"during your walk on the moor.  But go after him; he is now
lingering in the passage expecting you--he will make it up."

I have not much pride under such circumstances:  I would always
rather be happy than dignified; and I ran after him--he stood at the
foot of the stairs.

"Good-night, St. John," said I.

"Good-night, Jane," he replied calmly.

"Then shake hands," I added.

What a cold, loose touch, he impressed on my fingers!  He was deeply
displeased by what had occurred that day; cordiality would not warm,
nor tears move him.  No happy reconciliation was to be had with him-
-no cheering smile or generous word:  but still the Christian was
patient and placid; and when I asked him if he forgave me, he
answered that he was not in the habit of cherishing the remembrance
of vexation; that he had nothing to forgive, not having been
offended.

And with that answer he left me.  I would much rather he had knocked
me down.


Charlotte Bronte