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Chapter 35


CHAPTER XXXV


He did not leave for Cambridge the next day, as he had said he
would.  He deferred his departure a whole week, and during that time
he made me feel what severe punishment a good yet stern, a
conscientious yet implacable man can inflict on one who has offended
him.  Without one overt act of hostility, one upbraiding word, he
contrived to impress me momently with the conviction that I was put
beyond the pale of his favour.

Not that St. John harboured a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness--
not that he would have injured a hair of my head, if it had been
fully in his power to do so.  Both by nature and principle, he was
superior to the mean gratification of vengeance:  he had forgiven me
for saying I scorned him and his love, but he had not forgotten the
words; and as long as he and I lived he never would forget them.  I
saw by his look, when he turned to me, that they were always written
on the air between me and him; whenever I spoke, they sounded in my
voice to his ear, and their echo toned every answer he gave me.

He did not abstain from conversing with me:  he even called me as
usual each morning to join him at his desk; and I fear the corrupt
man within him had a pleasure unimparted to, and unshared by, the
pure Christian, in evincing with what skill he could, while acting
and speaking apparently just as usual, extract from every deed and
every phrase the spirit of interest and approval which had formerly
communicated a certain austere charm to his language and manner.  To
me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye
was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue a speaking instrument--
nothing more.

All this was torture to me--refined, lingering torture.  It kept up
a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which
harassed and crushed me altogether.  I felt how--if I were his wife,
this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me,
without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving
on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime.
Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him.
No ruth met my ruth.  HE experienced no suffering from estrangement-
-no yearning after reconciliation; and though, more than once, my
fast falling tears blistered the page over which we both bent, they
produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been really a
matter of stone or metal.  To his sisters, meantime, he was somewhat
kinder than usual:  as if afraid that mere coldness would not
sufficiently convince me how completely I was banished and banned,
he added the force of contrast; and this I am sure he did not by
force, but on principle.

The night before he left home, happening to see him walking in the
garden about sunset, and remembering, as I looked at him, that this
man, alienated as he now was, had once saved my life, and that we
were near relations, I was moved to make a last attempt to regain
his friendship.  I went out and approached him as he stood leaning
over the little gate; I spoke to the point at once.

"St. John, I am unhappy because you are still angry with me.  Let us
be friends."

"I hope we are friends," was the unmoved reply; while he still
watched the rising of the moon, which he had been contemplating as I
approached.

"No, St. John, we are not friends as we were.  You know that."

"Are we not?  That is wrong.  For my part, I wish you no ill and all
good."

"I believe you, St. John; for I am sure you are incapable of wishing
any one ill; but, as I am your kinswoman, I should desire somewhat
more of affection than that sort of general philanthropy you extend
to mere strangers."

"Of course," he said.  "Your wish is reasonable, and I am far from
regarding you as a stranger."

This, spoken in a cool, tranquil tone, was mortifying and baffling
enough.  Had I attended to the suggestions of pride and ire, I
should immediately have left him; but something worked within me
more strongly than those feelings could.  I deeply venerated my
cousin's talent and principle.  His friendship was of value to me:
to lose it tried me severely.  I would not so soon relinquish the
attempt to reconquer it.

"Must we part in this way, St. John?  And when you go to India, will
you leave me so, without a kinder word than you have yet spoken?"

He now turned quite from the moon and faced me.

"When I go to India, Jane, will I leave you!  What! do you not go to
India?"

"You said I could not unless I married you."

"And you will not marry me!  You adhere to that resolution?"

Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put
into the ice of their questions?  How much of the fall of the
avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in
their displeasure?

"No.  St. John, I will not marry you.  I adhere to my resolution."

The avalanche had shaken and slid a little forward, but it did not
yet crash down.

"Once more, why this refusal?" he asked.

"Formerly," I answered, "because you did not love me; now, I reply,
because you almost hate me.  If I were to marry you, you would kill
me.  You are killing me now."

His lips and cheeks turned white--quite white.

"I SHOULD KILL YOU--I AM KILLING YOU?  Your words are such as ought
not to be used:  violent, unfeminine, and untrue.  They betray an
unfortunate state of mind:  they merit severe reproof:  they would
seem inexcusable, but that it is the duty of man to forgive his
fellow even until seventy-and-seven times."

I had finished the business now.  While earnestly wishing to erase
from his mind the trace of my former offence, I had stamped on that
tenacious surface another and far deeper impression, I had burnt it
in.

"Now you will indeed hate me," I said.  "It is useless to attempt to
conciliate you:  I see I have made an eternal enemy of you."

A fresh wrong did these words inflict:  the worse, because they
touched on the truth.  That bloodless lip quivered to a temporary
spasm.  I knew the steely ire I had whetted.  I was heart-wrung.

"You utterly misinterpret my words," I said, at once seizing his
hand:  "I have no intention to grieve or pain you--indeed, I have
not."

Most bitterly he smiled--most decidedly he withdrew his hand from
mine.  "And now you recall your promise, and will not go to India at
all, I presume?" said he, after a considerable pause.

"Yes, I will, as your assistant," I answered.

A very long silence succeeded.  What struggle there was in him
between Nature and Grace in this interval, I cannot tell:  only
singular gleams scintillated in his eyes, and strange shadows passed
over his face.  He spoke at last.

"I before proved to you the absurdity of a single woman of your age
proposing to accompany abroad a single man of mine.  I proved it to
you in such terms as, I should have thought, would have prevented
your ever again alluding to the plan.  That you have done so, I
regret--for your sake."

I interrupted him.  Anything like a tangible reproach gave me
courage at once.  "Keep to common sense, St. John:  you are verging
on nonsense.  You pretend to be shocked by what I have said.  You
are not really shocked:  for, with your superior mind, you cannot be
either so dull or so conceited as to misunderstand my meaning.  I
say again, I will be your curate, if you like, but never your wife."

Again he turned lividly pale; but, as before, controlled his passion
perfectly.  He answered emphatically but calmly -

"A female curate, who is not my wife, would never suit me.  With me,
then, it seems, you cannot go:  but if you are sincere in your
offer, I will, while in town, speak to a married missionary, whose
wife needs a coadjutor.  Your own fortune will make you independent
of the Society's aid; and thus you may still be spared the dishonour
of breaking your promise and deserting the band you engaged to
join."

Now I never had, as the reader knows, either given any formal
promise or entered into any engagement; and this language was all
much too hard and much too despotic for the occasion.  I replied -

"There is no dishonour, no breach of promise, no desertion in the
case.  I am not under the slightest obligation to go to India,
especially with strangers.  With you I would have ventured much,
because I admire, confide in, and, as a sister, I love you; but I am
convinced that, go when and with whom I would, I should not live
long in that climate."

"Ah! you are afraid of yourself," he said, curling his lip.

"I am.  God did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you
wish me would, I begin to think, be almost equivalent to committing
suicide.  Moreover, before I definitively resolve on quitting
England, I will know for certain whether I cannot be of greater use
by remaining in it than by leaving it."

"What do you mean?"

"It would be fruitless to attempt to explain; but there is a point
on which I have long endured painful doubt, and I can go nowhere
till by some means that doubt is removed."

"I know where your heart turns and to what it clings.  The interest
you cherish is lawless and unconsecrated.  Long since you ought to
have crushed it:  now you should blush to allude to it.  You think
of Mr. Rochester?"

It was true.  I confessed it by silence.

"Are you going to seek Mr. Rochester?"

"I must find out what is become of him."

"It remains for me, then," he said, "to remember you in my prayers,
and to entreat God for you, in all earnestness, that you may not
indeed become a castaway.  I had thought I recognised in you one of
the chosen.  But God sees not as man sees:  HIS will be done--"

He opened the gate, passed through it, and strayed away down the
glen.  He was soon out of sight.

On re-entering the parlour, I found Diana standing at the window,
looking very thoughtful.  Diana was a great deal taller than I:  she
put her hand on my shoulder, and, stooping, examined my face.

"Jane," she said, "you are always agitated and pale now.  I am sure
there is something the matter.  Tell me what business St. John and
you have on hands.  I have watched you this half hour from the
window; you must forgive my being such a spy, but for a long time I
have fancied I hardly know what.  St. John is a strange being--"

She paused--I did not speak:  soon she resumed -

"That brother of mine cherishes peculiar views of some sort
respecting you, I am sure:  he has long distinguished you by a
notice and interest he never showed to any one else--to what end?  I
wish he loved you--does he, Jane?"

I put her cool hand to my hot forehead; "No, Die, not one whit."

"Then why does he follow you so with his eyes, and get you so
frequently alone with him, and keep you so continually at his side?
Mary and I had both concluded he wished you to marry him."

"He does--he has asked me to be his wife."

Diana clapped her hands.  "That is just what we hoped and thought!
And you will marry him, Jane, won't you?  And then he will stay in
England."

"Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to
procure a fitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils."

"What!  He wishes you to go to India?"

"Yes."

"Madness!" she exclaimed.  "You would not live three months there, I
am certain.  You never shall go:  you have not consented, have you,
Jane?"

"I have refused to marry him--"

"And have consequently displeased him?" she suggested.

"Deeply:  he will never forgive me, I fear:  yet I offered to
accompany him as his sister."

"It was frantic folly to do so, Jane.  Think of the task you
undertook--one of incessant fatigue, where fatigue kills even the
strong, and you are weak.  St. John--you know him--would urge you to
impossibilities:  with him there would be no permission to rest
during the hot hours; and unfortunately, I have noticed, whatever he
exacts, you force yourself to perform.  I am astonished you found
courage to refuse his hand.  You do not love him then, Jane?"

"Not as a husband."

"Yet he is a handsome fellow."

"And I am so plain, you see, Die.  We should never suit."

"Plain!  You?  Not at all.  You are much too pretty, as well as too
good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta."  And again she earnestly
conjured me to give up all thoughts of going out with her brother.

"I must indeed," I said; "for when just now I repeated the offer of
serving him for a deacon, he expressed himself shocked at my want of
decency.  He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in
proposing to accompany him unmarried:  as if I had not from the
first hoped to find in him a brother, and habitually regarded him as
such."

"What makes you say he does not love you, Jane?"

"You should hear himself on the subject.  He has again and again
explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to mate.
He has told me I am formed for labour--not for love:  which is true,
no doubt.  But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it
follows that I am not formed for marriage.  Would it not be strange,
Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but as a
useful tool?"

"Insupportable--unnatural--out of the question!"

"And then," I continued, "though I have only sisterly affection for
him now, yet, if forced to be his wife, I can imagine the
possibility of conceiving an inevitable, strange, torturing kind of
love for him, because he is so talented; and there is often a
certain heroic grandeur in his look, manner, and conversation.  In
that case, my lot would become unspeakably wretched.  He would not
want me to love him; and if I showed the feeling, he would make me
sensible that it was a superfluity, unrequired by him, unbecoming in
me.  I know he would."

"And yet St. John is a good man," said Diana.

"He is a good and a great man; but he forgets, pitilessly, the
feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large
views.  It is better, therefore, for the insignificant to keep out
of his way, lest, in his progress, he should trample them down.
Here he comes!  I will leave you, Diana."  And I hastened upstairs
as I saw him entering the garden.

But I was forced to meet him again at supper.  During that meal he
appeared just as composed as usual.  I had thought he would hardly
speak to me, and I was certain he had given up the pursuit of his
matrimonial scheme:  the sequel showed I was mistaken on both
points.  He addressed me precisely in his ordinary manner, or what
had, of late, been his ordinary manner--one scrupulously polite.  No
doubt he had invoked the help of the Holy Spirit to subdue the anger
I had roused in him, and now believed he had forgiven me once more.

For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first
chapter of Revelation.  It was at all times pleasant to listen while
from his lips fell the words of the Bible:  never did his fine voice
sound at once so sweet and full--never did his manner become so
impressive in its noble simplicity, as when he delivered the oracles
of God:  and to-night that voice took a more solemn tone--that
manner a more thrilling meaning--as he sat in the midst of his
household circle (the May moon shining in through the uncurtained
window, and rendering almost unnecessary the light of the candle on
the table):  as he sat there, bending over the great old Bible, and
described from its page the vision of the new heaven and the new
earth--told how God would come to dwell with men, how He would wipe
away all tears from their eyes, and promised that there should be no
more death, neither sorrow nor crying, nor any more pain, because
the former things were passed away.

The succeeding words thrilled me strangely as he spoke them:
especially as I felt, by the slight, indescribable alteration in
sound, that in uttering them, his eye had turned on me.

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God,
and he shall be my son.  But," was slowly, distinctly read, "the
fearful, the unbelieving, &c., shall have their part in the lake
which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.

A calm, subdued triumph, blent with a longing earnestness, marked
his enunciation of the last glorious verses of that chapter.  The
reader believed his name was already written in the Lamb's book of
life, and he yearned after the hour which should admit him to the
city to which the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour;
which has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, because the glory
of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

In the prayer following the chapter, all his energy gathered--all
his stern zeal woke:  he was in deep earnest, wrestling with God,
and resolved on a conquest.  He supplicated strength for the weak-
hearted; guidance for wanderers from the fold:  a return, even at
the eleventh hour, for those whom the temptations of the world and
the flesh were luring from the narrow path.  He asked, he urged, he
claimed the boon of a brand snatched from the burning.  Earnestness
is ever deeply solemn:  first, as I listened to that prayer, I
wondered at his; then, when it continued and rose, I was touched by
it, and at last awed.  He felt the greatness and goodness of his
purpose so sincerely:  others who heard him plead for it, could not
but feel it too.

The prayer over, we took leave of him:  he was to go at a very early
hour in the morning.  Diana and Mary having kissed him, left the
room--in compliance, I think, with a whispered hint from him:  I
tendered my hand, and wished him a pleasant journey.

"Thank you, Jane.  As I said, I shall return from Cambridge in a
fortnight:  that space, then, is yet left you for reflection.  If I
listened to human pride, I should say no more to you of marriage
with me; but I listen to my duty, and keep steadily in view my first
aim--to do all things to the glory of God.  My Master was long-
suffering:  so will I be.  I cannot give you up to perdition as a
vessel of wrath:  repent--resolve, while there is yet time.
Remember, we are bid to work while it is day--warned that 'the night
cometh when no man shall work.'  Remember the fate of Dives, who had
his good things in this life.  God give you strength to choose that
better part which shall not be taken from you!"

He laid his hand on my head as he uttered the last words.  He had
spoken earnestly, mildly:  his look was not, indeed, that of a lover
beholding his mistress, but it was that of a pastor recalling his
wandering sheep--or better, of a guardian angel watching the soul
for which he is responsible.  All men of talent, whether they be men
of feeling or not; whether they be zealots, or aspirants, or
despots--provided only they be sincere--have their sublime moments,
when they subdue and rule.  I felt veneration for St. John--
veneration so strong that its impetus thrust me at once to the point
I had so long shunned.  I was tempted to cease struggling with him--
to rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existence,
and there lose my own.  I was almost as hard beset by him now as I
had been once before, in a different way, by another.  I was a fool
both times.  To have yielded then would have been an error of
principle; to have yielded now would have been an error of judgment.
So I think at this hour, when I look back to the crisis through the
quiet medium of time:  I was unconscious of folly at the instant.

I stood motionless under my hierophant's touch.  My refusals were
forgotten--my fears overcome--my wrestlings paralysed.  The
Impossible--I.E., my marriage with St. John--was fast becoming the
Possible.  All was changing utterly with a sudden sweep.  Religion
called--Angels beckoned--God commanded--life rolled together like a
scroll--death's gates opening, showed eternity beyond:  it seemed,
that for safety and bliss there, all here might be sacrificed in a
second.  The dim room was full of visions.

"Could you decide now?" asked the missionary.  The inquiry was put
in gentle tones:  he drew me to him as gently.  Oh, that gentleness!
how far more potent is it than force!  I could resist St. John's
wrath:  I grew pliant as a reed under his kindness.  Yet I knew all
the time, if I yielded now, I should not the less be made to repent,
some day, of my former rebellion.  His nature was not changed by one
hour of solemn prayer:  it was only elevated.

"I could decide if I were but certain," I answered:  "were I but
convinced that it is God's will I should marry you, I could vow to
marry you here and now--come afterwards what would!"

"My I prayers are heard!" ejaculated St. John.  He pressed his hand
firmer on my head, as if he claimed me:  he surrounded me with his
arm, ALMOST as if he loved me (I say ALMOST--I knew the difference--
for I had felt what it was to be loved; but, like him, I had now put
love out of the question, and thought only of duty).  I contended
with my inward dimness of vision, before which clouds yet rolled.  I
sincerely, deeply, fervently longed to do what was right; and only
that.  "Show me, show me the path!" I entreated of Heaven.  I was
excited more than I had ever been; and whether what followed was the
effect of excitement the reader shall judge.

All the house was still; for I believe all, except St. John and
myself, were now retired to rest.  The one candle was dying out:
the room was full of moonlight.  My heart beat fast and thick:  I
heard its throb.  Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible
feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and
extremities.  The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was
quite as sharp, as strange, as startling:  it acted on my senses as
if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which
they were now summoned and forced to wake.  They rose expectant:
eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.

"What have you heard?  What do you see?" asked St. John.  I saw
nothing, but I heard a voice somewhere cry -

"Jane!  Jane!  Jane!"--nothing more.

"O God! what is it?" I gasped.

I might have said, "Where is it?" for it did not seem in the room--
nor in the house--nor in the garden; it did not come out of the air-
-nor from under the earth--nor from overhead.  I had heard it--
where, or whence, for ever impossible to know!  And it was the voice
of a human being--a known, loved, well-remembered voice--that of
Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly,
eerily, urgently.

"I am coming!" I cried.  "Wait for me!  Oh, I will come!"  I flew to
the door and looked into the passage:  it was dark.  I ran out into
the garden:  it was void.

"Where are you?" I exclaimed.

The hills beyond Marsh Glen sent the answer faintly back--"Where are
you?"  I listened.  The wind sighed low in the firs:  all was
moorland loneliness and midnight hush.

"Down superstition!" I commented, as that spectre rose up black by
the black yew at the gate.  "This is not thy deception, nor thy
witchcraft:  it is the work of nature.  She was roused, and did--no
miracle--but her best."

I broke from St. John, who had followed, and would have detained me.
It was MY time to assume ascendency.  MY powers were in play and in
force.  I told him to forbear question or remark; I desired him to
leave me:  I must and would be alone.  He obeyed at once.  Where
there is energy to command well enough, obedience never fails.  I
mounted to my chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; and
prayed in my way--a different way to St. John's, but effective in
its own fashion.  I seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit;
and my soul rushed out in gratitude at His feet.  I rose from the
thanksgiving--took a resolve--and lay down, unscared, enlightened--
eager but for the daylight.


Charlotte Bronte