Edward Fairfax Rochester, the more than beautiful, romantic, passionate, charismatic, enigmatic, electrifying, titanic, godlike, and Byronic master of Thornfield Hall and Ferndean Manor, is the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. Rochester, (I think you can tell I like him, just a little bit :)
An avaricious, grasping man, Mr. Rochester sent his son Edward to Spanish Town, Jamaica, in order to court a bride that, unbeknownst to Edward, was already espoused for him. Mr. Rochester intended that Edward's elder brother, Rowland, should inherit everything, as he hated the property to be divided; yet, his pride would not allow his younger son to live in poverty. After making inquiries, he found that Bertha Mason, the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty, would inherit a fortune of 30,000 pounds (18 million in today's money) Though he and Rowland knew of her family's genetic tendency toward madness, they thought only of the money, and disguised the Mason family secret. When Edward arrived in Spanish Town, he became infatuated-
"...Her family wished to secure me because I was of a good race and so did she....She flattered me, and lavishly displayed for my pleasure her charms and accomplishments. All the men in her circle seemed to admire her and envy me. I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her.....a marriage was achieved almost before I knew where I was."
Soon after the honeymoon, he realized his mistake and discovered her many vices-- a violent temper, an imbecilic mind, drunkeness, intemperateness, and unchasteliness-- For four years he lived with her, and, in the interval, both his father and brother died, and the medical doctors discovered his wife's insanity. During a fiery West Indian night, awakened by her yells and curses; he unlocked a trunk with pistols, and contemplated suicide. At that moment, a fresh wind from Europe blew across the ocean, and he looked to a new life in Europe for hope.
"Place her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her."
His marriage was not known amongst his acquaintance--Edward had written to his father asking him to keep it secret, and, in time, Bertha's conduct made 'him blush to own her as his daugher-in-law.' After arriving in England, he placed her in Thornfield, and hired Grace Poole to watch over her as he traveled all over the Continent, desiring to find a good and intelligent woman that he could love and marry.
Jane: "But you could not marry, sir."
Edward: "I had determined, and was convinced that I could and ought. It was not my original intention to deceive, as I have deceived you. I meant to tell my tale plainly, and make my proposals openly: and it appeared to me so absolutely rational that I should be considered free to love and be loved, I never doubted some woman might be found willing and able to understand my case and accept me, in spite of the curse with which I was burdened."
For ten years, he roamed about Europe, and in spite of his wealth and good blood, allowing him to choose his own society, he could not find that woman. "You are not to suppose I desired perfection, either of mind or person I longed only for what suited me--for the antipodes of the Creole, and I longed vainly."
Disappointed and reckless, he eventually took to the companionship of mistresses, beginning with Celine Varens. On a warm July night, he called on her when she was not expecting him. When she arrived home in her 'voiture', Edward meant to murmur 'mon ange' down to her; however the masculine form that followed her prevented that. They entered her boudoir, and, when they saw Edward's card on the table, 'they insulted me as coarsely as they could in their little way, especially Celine, who even waxed rather brilliant on my personal defects--deformities she termed them.' Entering the room from the balcony, he released Celine from his protection, 'disregarded screams, hysterics, prayers, protestations, convulsions..' and challenged the vicomte to a duel, leaving him 'with a bullet in one of his poor, etiolated arms...'
Celine had two successors--Giacinta, an Italian, and Clara, a German. Both were considered singularly handsome, but their beauty meant nothing to him in a few months.
That January, recalled by business, he returned to Thornfield Hall in a bitter frame of mind, not expecting peace or pleasure in that long-abhorred spot. He passed Jane, 'a quiet little figure', without notice, until he fell off his horse which slipped on ice. Having a sprain, he accepted Jane's assistance in getting to his horse.
'When once I had pressed the frail shoulder, something new--a fresh sap and sense--stole into my frame."
After riding away, Jane possessed his mind that night. The next day, he watched her, himself unseen, while she taught Adele and dreamed. When leaving the room to see Mrs. Fairfax, he was angry that she left his sight. Impatiently he waited for evening, when he could summon her to his presence--in her he sensed a perfectly new character that he desired to know better.
"I was at once content and stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to see more."
For a while, however, he rarely saw Jane, and at times passed her gruffly, others kindly. He wanted to 'prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant acquaintance: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade.'
Eventually however, he allowed himself to be kind to her, "and when I stretched my hand out cordially, such bloom and light and bliss rose to your young, wistful features I had much ado often to avoid straining then and there to my heart." He became more open with her, sharing his past with Celine Varens and telling Jane of Adele's parentage, Celine Varens and an unknown man. Celine had told Edward that he was the father, but there was nothing in Adele that remotely resembled him. But even when Celine abandoned her child, Edward decided to care for Adele, though he acknowledged no parental tie between them.
That night, Edward Rochester was almost burned in his bedroom; only saved when Jane doused him and his bed liberally with water. Telling her to
remain there without waking anyone, he slipped up to the third story, finding out it was Bertha who set it afire. He returned, filled with strange emotion.
"You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have been
tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an obligation: but you: it is different;--I feel your benefits no burden, Jane.....
He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips,--but his voice was checked.I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some time;--I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not"--(again he stopped)--"did not" (he proceeded hastily)
"strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, goodnight!"
The next morning, feeling that Jane did not have the same amount of feeling for him as he for her, he set off for the Leas, inviting many of the gentry to Thornfield, in an attempt to make Jane jealous as the quickest way to that end. After two weeks' absence, he returned to Thornfield, apparantly courting Miss Blanche Ingram, an extremely beautiful and accomplished lady of rank, yet who is proud and shallow. One morning, he declares to set off for Millcote on business, but instead disguises himself as a Gypsy to find more of Jane's feelings for him. First, he talks to Blanche Ingram, whose interest for Edward Rochester fades when the Gypsy tells her of his insolvency. Later, he talks to Jane, who, on her guard from the beginning of the interview, makes it difficult for Edward to discover anything. After revealing his masquerade, Jane mentions Richard Mason, a 'friend' from Spanish Town. He cannot hide his emotions, and becomes pale and staggers with the fear that Richard has revealed his long-hidden secret of a wife. After assistance at Jane's hands, he invites Mason to the library.
That night, Richard visits his sister, Bertha, who both bites and stabs him, and swears she'll drain his heart. While Edward goes for a surgeon, he requests Jane to keep Richard from going into shock. After the surgeon takes Mason to his home, Edward walks with Jane, offers her a flower, and asks her, during their conversation,
"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."
As some of the gentry are in the stables, he tells Jane to go through a back entrance, and cheerfully tells them that Mason had left before sunrise. The next day, Jane is sent for by her dying Aunt Reed; reluctantly, Edward allows her a leave of absence.
After Jane is gone for a week, he leaves for London, presumably to make arrangements for his marriage to Miss Ingram. When Jane returns after a month, he meets her when she returns.
"A fortnight of dubious calm succeeded my return to Thornfield Hall. Nothing was said of the master's marriage, and I saw no preparation going
on for such an event.....One thing specially surprised me, and that was, there were no journeyings backward and forward, no visits to Ingram Park: to be sure it was twenty miles off, on the borders of another county; but what was that distance to an ardent lover? To so practised and indefatigable a horseman as Mr. Rochester, it would be but a morning's ride. I began to cherish hopes I had no right to conceive: that the match was broken off; that rumour had been mistaken; that one or both parties had changed their minds. I used to look at my master's face to see if it were sad or fierce; but I could
not remember the time when it had been so uniformly clear of clouds or evil feelings. If, in the moments I and my pupil spent with him, I lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he became even gay. (joyful) Never had he called me more frequently to his presence; never been kinder to me when there--and, alas! never had I loved him so well."
On a beautiful Mid-summer's Eve, Jane and Edward walk together in the orchard. He indicates that in a month, he will be a bridegroom, and he mentions his looking for a new situation for Jane in Ireland. Eventually, Jane can repress her emotions no longer, and Edward proposes to her.
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
"And your will shall decide your destiny," he said: "I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions...."
......"My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, 'because my equal is here, and my likeness Jane, will you marry me?"......
Again and again he said, "Are you happy, Jane?" And again and again I answered, "Yes." After which he murmured, "It will
atone--it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world's judgment--I wash my hands thereof. For man's opinion--I defy it."
At twelve that morning, they run in from the rain.
"'Hasten to take off your wet things," said he; "and before you go, good-night--good-night, my darling!"'
He kissed me repeatedly. When I looked up, on leaving his arms, there stood the widow, pale, grave, and amazed. "
The next morning, he meets Jane in the school-room, kisses her, and takes her shopping--much to her displeasure.
"Go to your room, and put on your bonnet," he replied. "I mean you to accompany me to Millcote this morning; and while you prepare for the
drive, I will enlighten the old lady's understanding. Did she think, Janet, you had given the world for love, and considered it well lost?"
"I believe she thought I had forgotten my station, and yours, sir."
"Station! station!--your station is in my heart, and on the necks of those who would insult you, now or hereafter.--Go." (Compare this to Mr. Darcy)
That night, Jane asks Edward to give her a song; Jane attempts to accompany him on the piano, but after being named 'a little bungler', he accompanies himself while singing..... (These are just three of the stanzas, and compare this to Mr. Darcy)
The truest love that ever heart
Felt at its kindled core,
Did through each vein, in quickened start,
The tide of being pour.
Her coming was my hope each day,
Her parting was my pain;
The chance that did her steps delay
Was ice in every vein.
I dreamed it would be nameless bliss,
As I loved, loved to be;
And to this object did I press
As blind as eagerly.
After courting for a month, Edward is called from Thornfield for a day on business. When returning, he is ecstatic to find Jane walking toward him. However, he is disturbed by her 'look and tone of sorrowful audacity.' She explains that she is not worried that he will fail to be a good husband, nor is she apprehensive about the new sphere she is entering.
"I think it a glorious thing to have the hope of living with you, Edward, because I love you"
Rather, she had had two dreams which disturbed her--she had found Thornfield Hall a ruin, and she and Edward were separated by insuperable obstacles. She was awakened by candlelight, held by what she described as a tall, large woman, with long thick and dark hair. Her face reminded her of a Vampire, and she saw Bertha putting on Jane's veil, and, afterwards, trampling on them. Jane fainted from terror, and when rising, found the veil torn in half.
After telling her story, 'I felt Mr. Rochester start and shudder; he hastily flung his arms round me. "Thank God!" he exclaimed, "that if anything malignant did come near you last night, it was only the veil that was harmed. Oh, to think what might have happened!" He drew his breath short, and strained me so close to him, I could scarcely pant. After some minutes' silence, he continued, cheerily--
"Now, Janet, I'll explain to you all about it. It was half dream, halfreality. A woman did, I doubt not, enter your room: and that woman was--must have been--Grace Poole. You call her a strange being yourself: from all you know, you have reason so to call her--what did she do to me? what to Mason? In a state between sleeping and waking, you noticed her entrance and her actions; but feverish, almost delirious as you were, you ascribed to her a goblin appearance different from her own: the long dishevelled hair, the swelled black face, the exaggerated stature, were figments of imagination; results of nightmare: the spiteful tearing of the veil was real: and it is like her. I see you would ask why I keep such a woman in my house: when we have been married a year and a day, I will tell you; but not now. Are you satisfied, Jane? Do you accept my solution of the mystery?"
Relieved (though not completely satisfied) at his explanation, Jane agrees to Edward's request to sleep in Adele's room.
Unable to sleep, Jane leaves Adele's bedroom before sunrise, and, with Sophie's help, dresses for her wedding. When she decends, the impatient Edward calls her 'fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life but the desire of his eyes.' (And again compare this to Darcy.)
After giving her ten minutes to eat breakfast, they head for the church.
'I rose. There were no groomsmen, no bridesmaids, no relatives to wait for or marshal: none but Mr. Rochester and I. Mrs. Fairfax stood in the hall as we passed. I would fain have spoken to her, but my hand was held by a grasp of iron: I was hurried along by a stride I could hardly follow; and to look at Mr. Rochester's face was to feel that not a second of delay would be tolerated for any purpose. I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did--so bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such steadfast brows, ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes. I know not whether the day was fair or foul; in descending the drive, I gazed neither on sky nor earth: my heart was with my eyes; and both seemed migrated into Mr. Rochester's frame. I wanted to see the invisible thing on which, as we went along, he appeared to fasten a glance fierce and fell. I wanted to feel the thoughts whose force he seemed breasting and resisting. At the churchyard wicket he stopped: he discovered I was quite out of breath. "Am I cruel in my love?" he said. "Delay an instant: lean on me, Jane." '
When they arrive, Jane sees two men entering the chapel; the marriage proceeds, until...
'The clergyman, who had not lifted his eyes from his book, and had held his breath but for a moment, was proceeding: his hand was already stretched
towards Mr. Rochester, as his lips unclosed to ask, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?"--when a distinct and near voice said--
"The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment."
The clergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk did the same; Mr. Rochester moved slightly, as if an earthquake had rolled under
his feet: taking a firmer footing, and not turning his head or eyes, he said, "Proceed."
Profound silence fell when he had uttered that word, with deep but low intonation. Presently Mr. Wood said-- "I cannot proceed without some investigation into what has been asserted, and evidence of its truth or falsehood."
"The ceremony is quite broken off," subjoined the voice behind us. "I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable impediment to this
Mr. Rochester heard, but heeded not: he stood stubborn and rigid, making no movement but to possess himself of my hand. What a hot and strong
grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone, still watchful, and yet wild
beneath! Mr. Wood seemed at a loss. "What is the nature of the impediment?" he asked. "Perhaps it may be got over--explained away?"
"Hardly," was the answer. "I have called it insuperable, and I speak advisedly. "The speaker came forward and leaned on the rails. He continued, uttering each word distinctly, calmly, steadily, but not loudly-- "It simply consists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living."
My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never vibrated to thunder--my blood felt their subtle violence as it had never felt
frost or fire; but I was collected, and in no danger of swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His whole face was colourless rock: his eye was both spark and flint. He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things. Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognise in me a human being, he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted me to his side.'
Briggs, the solicitor, produces the wedding certificate, as well as the witness, Richard Mason.
'Mr. Rochester turned and glared at him. His eye, as I have often said, was a black eye: it now had a tawny, nay, a bloody light in its gloom; and his face flushed--olive cheek and hueless forehead recieved a glow, as from spreading, ascending heart-fire...."
Though his white lips tremble, Mason declares that his sister resides at Thornfield Hall. For ten minutes after this announcement, Edward muses, then finally announces his resolve. He admits to the existence of his wife, and takes Jane and the other men to the third-story chamber where Grace Poole is watching his wife. Suddenly, Bertha attacks, and Mr. Rochester pushes Jane behind him.
"..The lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled. She was a big woman, in stature almost equalling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the contest--more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with
a well-planted blow; but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. The operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells and the most convulsive plunges. Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators: he looked at them with a smile both acrid and desolate.
"That is _my wife_," said he. "Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know--such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And _this_ is what I wished to have" (laying his hand on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon, I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the
difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder--this face with that mask--this form with that bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and remember with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged! Off with you now. I must shut up my prize."
Everyone leaves, and Mr. Rochester remains to give some further order to Mrs. Poole. Afterwards, he descends to Jane's chamber, and for at least six hours he waits for her to reenter the corridor. When she finally does, she stumbles because of excitement and inanition, but Edward catches her.
"You come out at last," he said. "Well, I have been waiting for you long, and listening: yet not one movement have I heard, nor one sob: five minutes more of that death-like hush, and I should have forced the lock like a burglar. So you shun me?--you shut yourself up and grieve alone! I would rather you had come and upbraided me with vehemence. You are passionate. I expected a scene of some kind. I was prepared for the hot rain of tears; only I wanted them to be shed on my breast: now a senseless floor has received them, or your drenched handkerchief. But I err: you have not wept at all! I see a white cheek and a faded eye, but
no trace of tears. I suppose, then, your heart has been weeping blood?" Well, Jane! not a word of reproach? Nothing bitter--nothing poignant? Nothing to cut a feeling or sting a passion? You sit quietly where I have placed you, and regard me with a weary, passive look. Jane, I never meant to wound you thus. If the man who had but one little ewe lamb that was dear to him as a daughter, that ate of his bread and drank of his cup, and lay in his bosom, had by some mistake slaughtered it at the shambles, he would not have rued his bloody blunder more than I now rue mine. Will you ever forgive me?"
Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot. There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien--I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart's core.
"You know I am a scoundrel, Jane?" ere long he inquired wistfully--wondering, I suppose, at my continued silence and tameness, the result rather of weakness than of will.
"Then tell me so roundly and sharply--don't spare me."
"I cannot: I am tired and sick. I want some water." He heaved a sort of shuddering sigh, and taking me in his arms, carried me downstairs. At first I did not know to what room he had borne me; all was cloudy to my glazed sight: presently I felt the reviving warmth of a fire; for, summer as it was, I had become icy cold in my chamber. He put wine to my lips; I tasted it and revived; then I ate something he offered me, and was soon
myself. I was in the library--sitting in his chair--he was quite near.......
"How are you now, Jane?"
"Much better, sir; I shall be well soon."
"Taste the wine again, Jane."
I obeyed him; then he put the glass on the table, stood before me, and looked at me attentively. Suddenly he turned away, with an inarticulate exclamation, full of passionate emotion of some kind; he walked fast through the room and came back; he stooped towards me as if to kiss me; but I remembered caresses were now forbidden. I turned my face away and put his aside.
"What!--How is this?" he exclaimed hastily. "Oh, I know! you won't kiss the husband of Bertha Mason? You consider my arms filled and my embraces appropriated?"
"At any rate, there is neither room nor claim for me, sir."
"Why, Jane? I will spare you the trouble of much talking; I will answer for you--Because I have a wife already, you would reply.--I guess rightly?"
"If you think so, you must have a strange opinion of me; you must regard me as a plotting profligate--a base and low rake who has been simulating disinterested love in order to draw you into a snare deliberately laid,
and strip you of honour and rob you of self-respect. What do you say to that? I see you can say nothing in the first place, you are faint still, and have enough to do to draw your breath; in the second place, you
cannot yet accustom yourself to accuse and revile me, and besides, the flood-gates of tears are opened, and they would rush out if you spoke much; and you have no desire to expostulate, to upbraid, to make a scene:
you are thinking how _to act_--_talking_ you consider is of no use. I know you--I am on my guard."
"Sir, I do not wish to act against you," I said; and my unsteady voice warned me to curtail my sentence.
"Not in your sense of the word, but in mine you are scheming to destroy me. You have as good as said that I am a married man--as a married man you will shun me, keep out of my way: just now you have refused to kiss
me. You intend to make yourself a complete stranger to me: to live under this roof only as Adele's governess; if ever I say a friendly word to you, if ever a friendly feeling inclines you again to me, you will say,--'That man had nearly made me his mistress: I must be ice and rock to him;' and ice and rock you will accordingly become."
I cleared and steadied my voice to reply: "All is changed about me, sir; I must change too--there is no doubt of that; and to avoid fluctuations of feeling, and continual combats with recollections and associations, there is only one way--Adele must have a new governess, sir."
"Oh, Adele will go to school--I have settled that already; nor do I mean to torment you with the hideous associations and recollections of Thornfield Hall--this accursed place--this tent of Achan--this insolent
vault, offering the ghastliness of living death to the light of the open sky--this narrow stone hell, with its one real fiend, worse than a legion of such as we imagine. Jane, you shall not stay here, nor will I. I was
wrong ever to bring you to Thornfield Hall, knowing as I did how it was haunted. I charged them to conceal from you, before I ever saw you, all knowledge of the curse of the place; merely because I feared Adele never
would have a governess to stay if she knew with what inmate she was housed, and my plans would not permit me to remove the maniac elsewhere--though I possess an old house, Ferndean Manor, even more
retired and hidden than this, where I could have lodged her safely enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation, in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the arrangement.
Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me of her charge: but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.
Concealing the mad-woman's neighbourhood from you, however, was something like covering a child with a cloak and laying it down near a upas-tree: that demon's vicinage is poisoned, and always was. But I'll shut up Thornfield Hall: I'll nail up the front door and board the lower windows: I'll give Mrs. Poole two hundred a year to live here with _my wife_, as you term that fearful hag: Grace will do much for money, and she shall have her son, the keeper at Grimsby Retreat, to bear her company and be at hand to give her aid in the paroxysms, when _my wife_ is prompted by her familiar to burn people in their beds at night, to
stab them, to bite their flesh from their bones, and so on--"
"Sir," I interrupted him, "you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate--with vindictive antipathy. It is cruel--she cannot help being mad."
"Jane, my little darling (so I will call you, for so you are), you don't know what you are talking about; you misjudge me again: it is not because she is mad I hate her. If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?"
"I do indeed, sir."
"Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat--your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you
flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you
should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of
recognition for me.--But why do I follow that train of ideas? I was talking of removing you from Thornfield. All, you know, is prepared for prompt departure: to-morrow you shall go. I only ask you to endure one more night under this roof, Jane; and then, farewell to its miseries and terrors for ever! I have a place to repair to, which will be a secure sanctuary from hateful reminiscences, from unwelcome intrusion--even from falsehood and slander."
"And take Adele with you, sir," I interrupted; "she will be a companion for you."
"What do you mean, Jane? I told you I would send Adele to school; and what do I want with a child for a companion, and not my own child,--a French dancer's bastard? Why do you importune me about her! I say, why do you assign Adele to me for a companion?"
"You spoke of a retirement, sir; and retirement and solitude are dull: too dull for you."
"Solitude! solitude!" he reiterated with irritation. "I see I must come to an explanation. I don't know what sphynx-like expression is forming in your countenance. You are to share my solitude. Do you understand?"
I shook my head: it required a degree of courage, excited as he was becoming, even to risk that mute sign of dissent. He had been walking fast about the room, and he stopped, as if suddenly rooted to one spot. He looked at me long and hard: I turned my eyes from him, fixed them on the fire, and tried to assume and maintain a quiet, collected aspect.
"Now for the hitch in Jane's character," he said at last, speaking more calmly than from his look I had expected him to speak. "The reel of silk has run smoothly enough so far; but I always knew there would come a knot and a puzzle: here it is. Now for vexation, and exasperation, and endless trouble! By God! I long to exert a fraction of Samson's strength, and break the entanglement like tow!" He recommenced his walk, but soon again stopped, and this time just before me.
"Jane! will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips to my ear); "because, if you won't, I'll try violence." His voice was hoarse; his look that of a man who is just about to burst an insufferable bond and plunge headlong into wild license. I saw that in another moment, and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be able to do nothing with him. The present--the passing second of time--was all I had in which to
control and restrain him--a movement of repulsion, flight, fear would have sealed my doom,--and his. But I was not afraid: not in the least. I felt an inward power; a sense of influence, which supported me. The crisis was perilous; but not without its charm: such as the Indian, perhaps, feels when he slips over the rapid in his canoe. I took hold of his clenched hand, loosened the contorted fingers, and said to him,
"Sit down; I'll talk to you as long as you like, and hear all you have to say, whether reasonable or unreasonable."
He sat down: but he did not get leave to speak directly. I had been struggling with tears for some time: I had taken great pains to repress them, because I knew he would not like to see me weep. Now, however, I
considered it well to let them flow as freely and as long as they liked. If the flood annoyed him, so much the better. So I gave way and cried heartily. Soon I heard him earnestly entreating me to be composed. I said I could not while he was in such a passion.
"But I am not angry, Jane: I only love you too well; and you had steeled your little pale face with such a resolute, frozen look, I could not endure it. Hush, now, and wipe your eyes."
His softened voice announced that he was subdued; so I, in my turn, became calm. Now he made an effort to rest his head on my shoulder, but I would not permit it. Then he would draw me to him: no.
"Jane! Jane!" he said, in such an accent of bitter sadness it thrilled along every nerve I had; "you don't love me, then? It was only my station, and the rank of my wife, that you valued? Now that you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my touch as if I were some toad or ape."
These words cut me: yet what could I do or I say? I ought probably to have done or said nothing; but I was so tortured by a sense of remorse at thus hurting his feelings, I could not control the wish to drop balm where I had wounded.
"I _do_ love you," I said, "more than ever: but I must not show or indulge the feeling: and this is the last time I must express it."
"The last time, Jane! What! do you think you can live with me, and see me daily, and yet, if you still love me, be always cold and distant?"
"No, sir; that I am certain I could not; and therefore I see there is but one way: but you will be furious if I mention it."
"Oh, mention it! If I storm, you have the art of weeping."
"Mr. Rochester, I must leave you."
"For how long, Jane? For a few minutes, while you smooth your hair--which is somewhat dishevelled; and bathe your face--which looks feverish?"
"I must leave Adele and Thornfield. I must part with you for my whole life: I must begin a new existence among strange faces and strange scenes."
"Of course: I told you you should. I pass over the madness about parting from me. You mean you must become a part of me. As to the new existence, it is all right: you shall yet be my wife: I am not married. You shall be Mrs. Rochester--both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. You shall go to a place I have in the south of France: a whitewashed villa on the shores of the Mediterranean. There you shall live a happy, and guarded, and most innocent life. Never fear that I wish to lure you into error--to make you my mistress. Why did you shake your head? Jane, you must be reasonable, or in truth I shall again become frantic."
His voice and hand quivered: his large nostrils dilated; his eye blazed: still I dared to speak. "Sir, your wife is living: that is a fact acknowledged this morning by yourself. If I lived with you as you desire, I should then be your mistress: to say otherwise is sophistical--is false."
"Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man--you forget that: I am not long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and--beware!"
He bared his wrist, and offered it to me: the blood was forsaking his cheek and lips, they were growing livid; I was distressed on all hands. To agitate him thus deeply, by a resistance he so abhorred, was cruel: to yield was out of the question. I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity--looked for aid to one higher than man: the words "God help me!" burst involuntarily from my lips.
"I am a fool!" cried Mr. Rochester suddenly. "I keep telling her I am not married, and do not explain to her why. I forget she knows nothing of the character of that woman, or of the circumstances attending my infernal union with her. Oh, I am certain Jane will agree with me in opinion, when she knows all that I know! Just put your hand in mine, Janet--that I may have the evidence of touch as well as sight, to prove you are near me--and I will in a few words show you the real state of the case. Can you listen to me?"
"Yes, sir; for hours if you will."
Edward begins to tell her of his history, previously stated before. He begins with how he married Bertha, and ends with how he fell in love with Jane.
"I believe you felt the existence of sympathy between you and your grim and cross master, Jane; for it was astonishing to see how quickly a certain pleasant ease tranquillised your manner: snarl as I would, you showed no surprise, fear, annoyance, or displeasure at my moroseness; you watched me, and now and then smiled at me with a simple yet sagacious grace I cannot describe. I was at once content and stimulated with what I saw: I liked what I had seen, and wished to see more. Yet, for a long time, I treated you distantly, and
sought your company rarely. I was an intellectual epicure, and wished to prolong the gratification of making this novel and piquant acquaintance: besides, I was for a while troubled with a haunting fear that if I handled the flower freely its bloom would fade--the sweet charm of freshness would leave it. I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem. Moreover, I wished to see whether you would seek me if I shunned you--but you did not; you kept in the schoolroom as still as your own desk and easel; if by chance I met you, you passed me as soon, and with as little token of recognition, as was consistent with respect. Your habitual expression in those days, Jane, was a thoughtful look; not despondent, for you were not sickly; but not buoyant, for you had little hope, and no actual pleasure. I wondered what you thought of me, or if you ever thought of me, and resolved to find this out.
"I resumed my notice of you. There was something glad in your glance, and genial in your manner, when you conversed: I saw you had a social heart; it was the silent schoolroom--it was the tedium of your life--that made you mournful. I permitted myself the delight of being kind to you; kindness stirred emotion soon: your face became soft in expression, your tones gentle; I liked my name pronounced by your lips in a grateful happy accent. I used to enjoy a chance meeting with you, Jane, at this time: there was a curious hesitation in your manner: you glanced at me with a slight trouble--a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be--whether I was going to play the master and be stern, or the friend and be benignant. I was now too fond of you often to simulate the first whim; and, when I stretched my hand out cordially, such bloom and light and bliss rose to your young, wistful features, I had much ado often to avoid straining you then and there to my heart."
"Don't talk any more of those days, sir," I interrupted, furtively dashing away some tears from my eyes; his language was torture to me; for I knew what I must do--and do soon--and all these reminiscences, and
these revelations of his feelings only made my work more difficult.
"No, Jane," he returned: "what necessity is there to dwell on the Past, when the Present is so much surer--the Future so much brighter?"
I shuddered to hear the infatuated assertion.
"You see now how the case stands--do you not?" he continued. "After a youth and manhood passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love--I have
found you. You are my sympathy--my better self--my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
"It was because I felt and knew this, that I resolved to marry you. To tell me that I had already a wife is empty mockery: you know now that I had but a hideous demon. I was wrong to attempt to deceive you; but I feared a stubbornness that exists in your character. I feared early instilled prejudice: I wanted to have you safe before hazarding confidences. This was cowardly: I should have appealed to your nobleness and magnanimity at first, as I do now--opened to you plainly my life of agony--described to you my hunger and thirst after a higher and worthier existence--shown to you, not my _resolution_ (that word is weak), but my
resistless _bent_ to love faithfully and well, where I am faithfully and well loved in return. Then I should have asked you to accept my pledge of fidelity and to give me yours. Jane--give it me now."
"Why are you silent, Jane?"
I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him
who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised my intolerable duty--"Depart!"
"Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise--'I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.'"
"Mr. Rochester, I will _not_ be yours."
Another long silence.
"Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror--for this still voice was the pant of a lion rising--"Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world,
and to let me go another?"
"Jane" (bending towards and embracing me), "do you mean it now?"
"And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.
"I do," extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.
"Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This--this is wicked. It would not be wicked to love me."
"It would to obey you."
A wild look raised his brows--crossed his features: he rose; but he forebore yet. I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support: I shook, I feared--but I resolved.
"One instant, Jane. Give one glance to my horrible life when you are gone. All happiness will be torn away with you. What then is left? For a wife I have but the maniac upstairs: as well might you refer me to some corpse in yonder churchyard. What shall I do, Jane? Where turn for a companion and for some hope?"
"Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there."
"Then you will not yield?"
"Then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?" His voice rose.
"I advise you to live sinless, and I wish you to die tranquil."
"Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion--vice for an occupation?"
"Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure--you as well as I: do so. You will forget me before I forget you."
"You make me a liar by such language: you sully my honour. I declared I could not change: you tell me to my face I shall change soon. And what a distortion in your judgment, what a perversity in your ideas, is proved by your conduct! Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than to transgress a mere human law, no man being injured by the breach? for you have neither relatives nor acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me?"
Although Jane faces an intense internal struggle, her countenance reveals her final resolve.
His fury was wrought to the highest: he must yield to it for a moment, whatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my arm and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance: physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace: mentally, I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety. The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter--often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter--in the eye. My eye rose to his; and while I looked in his fierce face I gave an involuntary sigh; his gripe was painful, and my over-taxed strength almost exhausted.
"Never," said he, as he ground his teeth, "never was anything at once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my hand!" (And he shook me with the force of his hold.) "I could bend her with my fingerand thumb: and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? Consider that eye: consider the resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it, defying me, with more than courage--with a stern triumph. Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it--the savage, beautiful creature! If I tear, if I rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose. Conqueror I might be of the house; but the inmate would escape to heaven before I could call myself possessor of its clay dwelling-place. And it is you, spirit--with will and energy, and virtue
and purity--that I want: not alone your brittle frame. Of yourself you could come with soft flight and nestle against my heart, if you would: seized against your will, you will elude the grasp like an essence--you will vanish ere I inhale your fragrance. Oh! come, Jane, come!"
As he said this, he released me from his clutch, and only looked at me. The look was far worse to resist than the frantic strain: only an idiot, however, would have succumbed now. I had dared and baffled his fury; I must elude his sorrow: I retired to the door.
"You are going, Jane?"
"I am going, sir."
"You are leaving me?"
"You will not come? You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?"
What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to reiterate firmly, "I am going."
"Withdraw, then,--I consent; but remember, you leave me here in anguish. Go up to your own room; think over all I have said, and, Jane, cast a
glance on my sufferings--think of me."
He turned away; he threw himself on his face on the sofa. "Oh, Jane! my hope--my love--my life!" broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a
deep, strong sob.
I had already gained the door; but, reader, I walked back--walked back as determinedly as I had retreated. I knelt down by him; I turned his face
from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek; I smoothed his hair with my hand.
"God bless you, my dear master!" I said. "God keep you from harm and wrong--direct you, solace you--reward you well for your past kindness to
"Little Jane's love would have been my best reward," he answered; "without it, my heart is broken. But Jane will give me her love:
Up the blood rushed to his face; forth flashed the fire from his eyes; erect he sprang; he held his arms out; but I evaded the embrace, and at
once quitted the room.
"Farewell!" was the cry of my heart as I left him. Despair added, "Farewell for ever!"
That night, Edward suffers from insomnia, and impatiently awaits day, and the next morning, he sends for Jane, unaware of her decision to leave Thornfield. Once he realizes she is gone, he examines her apartment. Finding that she has taken nothing with her, he is devastated.
"What could my darling do, I asked, left destitute and penniless?"
When he finds that she has left her pearl necklace, 'I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her.' And for two months, Edward exists without her.
"....For all Mr. Rochester sought her as if she had been the most precious thing he had in the world, he never could hear a word of her; and he grew savage--quite savage on his disappointment: he never was a mild man, but he got dangerous after he lost her. He would be alone, too. He sent Mrs.
Fairfax, the housekeeper, away to her friends at a distance; but he did it handsomely, for he settled an annuity on her for life: and she deserved it--she was a very good woman. Miss Adele, a ward he had, was put to school. He broke off acquaintance with all the gentry, and shut himself up like a hermit at the Hall."
"What! did he not leave England?"
"Leave England? Bless you, no! He would not cross the door-stones of the house, except at night, when he walked just like a ghost about the grounds and in the orchard as if he had lost his senses--which it is my opinion he had; for a more spirited, bolder, keener gentleman than he was before that midge of a governess crossed him, you never saw, ma'am. He was not a man given to wine, or cards, or racing, as some are, and he was
not so very handsome; but he had a courage and a will of his own, if ever man had. I knew him from a boy, you see: and for my part, I have often
wished that Miss Eyre had been sunk in the sea before she came to Thornfield Hall."
One night, however, Mrs. Poole is lulled to sleep by gin and water, and Bertha creeps out of her room, and sets fire to what once was Jane's bedroom.
"Then Mr. Rochester was at home when the fire broke out?"
"Yes, indeed was he; and he went up to the attics when all was burning above and below, and got the servants out of their beds and helped them down himself, and went back to get his mad wife out of her cell. And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the sky-light on to the roof; we heard him call 'Bertha!' We saw him approach her; and then, ma'am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement."
"Dead! Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were scattered."
"You may well say so, ma'am: it was frightful!"
"And afterwards?" I urged.
"Well, ma'am, afterwards the house was burnt to the ground: there are only some bits of walls standing now."
"Were any other lives lost?"
"No--perhaps it would have been better if there had."
"What do you mean?"
"Poor Mr. Edward!" he ejaculated, "I little thought ever to have seen it! Some say it was a just judgment on him for keeping his first marriage secret, and wanting to take another wife while he had one living: but I pity him, for my part."
"You said he was alive?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, yes: he is alive; but many think he had better be dead."
"Why? How?" My blood was again running cold. "Where is he?" I demanded. "Is he in England?"
"Ay--ay--he's in England; he can't get out of England, I fancy--he's a fixture now."
What agony was this! And the man seemed resolved to protract it.
"He is stone-blind," he said at last. "Yes, he is stone-blind, is Mr. Edward."
I had dreaded worse. I had dreaded he was mad. I summoned strength to ask what had caused this calamity.
"It was all his own courage, and a body may say, his kindness, in a way, ma'am: he wouldn't leave the house till every one else was out before
him. (And compare this to Darcy) As he came down the great staircase at last, after Mrs. Rochester had flung herself from the battlements, there was a great crash--all fell. He was taken out from under the ruins, alive, but sadly hurt: a beam had fallen in such a way as to protect him partly; but one eye was knocked out, and one hand so crushed that Mr. Carter, the surgeon, had to amputate it directly. The other eye inflamed: he lost the sight of that
also. He is now helpless, indeed--blind and a cripple."
"Where is he? Where does he now live?"
"At Ferndean, a manor-house on a farm he has, about thirty miles off: quite a desolate spot."
"Who is with him?"
"Old John and his wife: he would have none else. He is quite broken down, they say.
For about 10 months Edward lives in Ferndean with John and Mary. One night, though, in a moment of pure passion and longing for Jane, he calls her name three times, and he hears her voice reply. "Where are you? I am coming!"
Three days later, Jane finds him at Ferndean.
'I heard a movement--that narrow front-door was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue from the grange. It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on the step; a man without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to feel whether it rained. Dusk as it was, I had recognised him--it was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester, and no other. I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him--to examine him, myself unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a sudden meeting and one in which rapture was kept well in check by pain. I had no difficulty in restraining my voice from exclamation, my step from hasty advance. His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his port was still erect, his hair was still raven black; nor were his features altered or sunk: not in one year's space, by any sorrow, could his athletic strength be quelled or his vigorous prime blighted. But in his countenance I saw a change: that looked desperate and brooding--that reminded me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to approach in his sullen woe. The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson. And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity?--if you do, you little know me. A soft hope blest with my sorrow that soon I should dare to drop a kiss on that brow of rock, and on those lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet. I would not accost him yet.
He descended the one step, and advanced slowly and gropingly towards the grass-plat. Where was his daring stride now? Then he paused, as if he
knew not which way to turn. He lifted his hand and opened his eyelids; gazed blank, and with a straining effort, on the sky, and toward the
amphitheatre of trees: one saw that all to him was void darkness. He stretched his right hand (the left arm, the mutilated one, he kept hidden
in his bosom); he seemed to wish by touch to gain an idea of what lay around him: he met but vacancy still; for the trees were some yards off
where he stood. He relinquished the endeavour, folded his arms, and stood quiet and mute in the rain, now falling fast on his uncovered head.
At this moment John approached him from some quarter.
"Will you take my arm, sir?" he said; "there is a heavy shower coming on: had you not better go in?"
"Let me alone," was the answer.
John withdrew without having observed me. Mr. Rochester now tried to walk about: vainly,--all was too uncertain. He groped his way back to
the house, and, re-entering it, closed the door. I now drew near and knocked: John's wife opened for me. "Mary," I said, "how are you?"
She started as if she had seen a ghost: I calmed her. To her hurried "Is it really you, miss, come at this late hour to this lonely place?" I
answered by taking her hand; and then I followed her into the kitchen, where John now sat by a good fire. I explained to them, in few words,
that I had heard all which had happened since I left Thornfield, and that I was come to see Mr. Rochester. I asked John to go down to the turn-
pike-house, where I had dismissed the chaise, and bring my trunk, which I had left there: and then, while I removed my bonnet and shawl, I
questioned Mary as to whether I could be accommodated at the Manor House for the night; and finding that arrangements to that effect, though
difficult, would not be impossible, I informed her I should stay. Just at this moment the parlour-bell rang.
"When you go in," said I, "tell your master that a person wishes to speak to him, but do not give my name."
"I don't think he will see you," she answered; "he refuses everybody."
When she returned, I inquired what he had said. "You are to send in your name and your business," she replied. She then proceeded to fill a glass
with water, and place it on a tray, together with candles.
"Is that what he rang for?" I asked.
"Yes: he always has candles brought in at dark, though he is blind."
"Give the tray to me; I will carry it in."
I took it from her hand: she pointed me out the parlour door. The tray shook as I held it; the water spilt from the glass; my heart struck my
ribs loud and fast. Mary opened the door for me, and shut it behind me. This parlour looked gloomy: a neglected handful of fire burnt low in the
grate; and, leaning over it, with his head supported against the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece, appeared the blind tenant of the room. His
old dog, Pilot, lay on one side, removed out of the way, and coiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon. Pilot pricked up his ears
when I came in: then he jumped up with a yelp and a whine, and bounded towards me: he almost knocked the tray from my hands. I set it on the
table; then patted him, and said softly, "Lie down!" Mr. Rochester turned mechanically to _see_ what the commotion was: but as he _saw_
nothing, he returned and sighed.
"Give me the water, Mary," he said.
I approached him with the now only half-filled glass; Pilot followed me, still excited.
"What is the matter?" he inquired.
"Down, Pilot!" I again said. He checked the water on its way to his lips, and seemed to listen: he drank, and put the glass down. "This is
you, Mary, is it not?"
"Mary is in the kitchen," I answered.
He put out his hand with a quick gesture, but not seeing where I stood, he did not touch me. "Who is this? Who is this?" he demanded, trying, as it seemed, to _see_ with those sightless eyes--unavailing and distressing attempt! "Answer me--speak again!" he ordered, imperiously and aloud.
"Will you have a little more water, sir? I spilt half of what was in the glass," I said.
"_Who_ is it? _What_ is it? Who speaks?"
"Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I am here. I came only this evening," I answered.
"Great God!--what delusion has come over me? What sweet madness has seized me?"
"No delusion--no madness: your mind, sir, is too strong for delusion, your health too sound for frenzy."
"And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I _cannot_ see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst. Whatever--whoever
you are--be perceptible to the touch or I cannot live!"
He groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
"Her very fingers!" he cried; "her small, slight fingers! If so there must be more of her."
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder--neck--waist--I was entwined and gathered to him.
"Is it Jane? _What_ is it? This is her shape--this is her size--"
"And this her voice," I added. "She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again."
"Jane Eyre!--Jane Eyre," was all he said.
"My dear master," I answered, "I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out--I am come back to you."
"In truth?--in the flesh? My living Jane?"
"You touch me, sir,--you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?"
"My living darling! These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I cannot be so blest, after all my misery. It is a dream; such dreams as I have had at night when I have clasped her once more to my heart, as I do now; and kissed her, as thus--and felt that she loved me, and trusted that she would not leave me."
"Which I never will, sir, from this day."
"Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned--my life dark, lonely, hopeless--my soul athirst and forbidden to drink--my heart famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before you: but kiss me before you go--embrace me, Jane."
"There, sir--and there!"'
I pressed my lips to his once brilliant and now rayless eyes--I swept his hair from his brow, and kissed that too. He suddenly seemed to arouse
himself: the conviction of the reality of all this seized him.
"It is you--is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?"
"And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast amongst strangers?"
"No, sir! I am an independent woman now."
"Independent! What do you mean, Jane?"
"My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds."
"Ah! this is practical--this is real!" he cried: "I should never dream that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as soft: it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it.--What, Janet! Are you an independent woman? A rich woman?"
"If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening."
"But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?"
"I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress."
"And you will stay with me?"
"Certainly--unless you object. I will be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your companion--to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live."