daylight came. I rose at dawn.
I busied myself for an hour or
two with arranging my things
in my chamber, drawers, and wardrobe,
in the order wherein I should
wish to leave them during a brief
absence. Meantime, I heard St.
John quit his room. He stopped
at my door: I feared he would
knock--no, but a slip of paper
was passed under the door. I
took it up. It bore these words
left me too
night. Had you stayed but a little
longer, you would have laid your
hand on the Christian's cross
and the angel's crown. I shall
expect your clear decision when
I return this day fortnight.
Meantime, watch and pray that
you enter not into temptation:
the spirit, I trust, is willing,
but the flesh, I see, is weak.
I shall pray for you hourly.--Yours,
"My spirit," I answered mentally, "is
willing to do what is right;
and my flesh, I hope, is strong
enough to accomplish the will
of Heaven, when once that will
is distinctly known to me. At
any rate, it shall be strong
enough to search--inquire--to
grope an outlet from this cloud
of doubt, and find the open day
It was the first of June; yet
the morning was overcast and
chilly: rain beat fast on my
casement. I heard the front-door
open, and St. John pass out.
Looking through the window, I
saw him traverse the garden.
He took the way over the misty
moors in the direction of Whitcross--there
he would meet the coach.
"In a few more hours I shall
succeed you in that track, cousin," thought
I: "I too have a coach to meet
at Whitcross. I too have some
to see and ask after in England,
before I depart for ever."
It wanted yet two hours of
breakfast-time. I filled the
interval in walking softly about
my room, and pondering the visitation
which had given my plans their
present bent. I recalled that
inward sensation I had experienced:
for I could recall it, with all
its unspeakable strangeness.
I recalled the voice I had heard;
again I questioned whence it
came, as vainly as before: it
seemed in ME--not in the external
world. I asked was it a mere
nervous impression--a delusion?
I could not conceive or believe:
it was more like an inspiration.
The wondrous shock of feeling
had come like the earthquake
which shook the foundations of
Paul and Silas's prison; it had
opened the doors of the soul's
cell and loosed its bands--it
had wakened it out of its sleep,
whence it sprang trembling, listening,
aghast; then vibrated thrice
a cry on my startled ear, and
in my quaking heart and through
my spirit, which neither feared
nor shook, but exulted as if
in joy over the success of one
effort it had been privileged
to make, independent of the cumbrous
"Ere many days," I said, as
I terminated my musings, "I will
know something of him whose voice
seemed last night to summon me.
Letters have proved of no avail--personal
inquiry shall replace them."
At breakfast I announced to
Diana and Mary that I was going
a journey, and should be absent
at least four days.
"Alone, Jane?" they
it was to see
or hear news
of a friend
had for some time been uneasy."
They might have said, as I
have no doubt they thought, that
they had believed me to be without
any friends save them: for, indeed,
I had often said so; but, with
their true natural delicacy,
they abstained from comment,
except that Diana asked me if
I was sure I was well enough
to travel. I looked very pale,
she observed. I replied, that
nothing ailed me save anxiety
of mind, which I hoped soon to
It was easy to make my further
arrangements; for I was troubled
with no inquiries--no surmises.
Having once explained to them
that I could not now be explicit
about my plans, they kindly and
wisely acquiesced in the silence
with which I pursued them, according
to me the privilege of free action
I should under similar circumstances
have accorded them.
I left Moor House at three
o'clock p.m., and soon after
four I stood at the foot of the
sign-post of Whitcross, waiting
the arrival of the coach which
was to take me to distant Thornfield.
Amidst the silence of those solitary
roads and desert hills, I heard
it approach from a great distance.
It was the same vehicle whence,
a year ago, I had alighted one
summer evening on this very spot--how
desolate, and hopeless, and objectless!
It stopped as I beckoned. I entered--not
now obliged to part with my whole
fortune as the price of its accommodation.
Once more on the road to Thornfield,
I felt like the messenger-pigeon
It was a journey of six-and-thirty
hours. I had set out from Whitcross
on a Tuesday afternoon, and early
on the succeeding Thursday morning
the coach stopped to water the
horses at a wayside inn, situated
in the midst of scenery whose
green hedges and large fields
and low pastoral hills (how mild
of feature and verdant of hue
compared with the stern North-Midland
moors of Morton!) met my eye
like the lineaments of a once
familiar face. Yes, I knew the
character of this landscape:
I was sure we were near my bourne.
"How far is Thornfield Hall
from here?" I asked of the ostler.
"My journey is closed," I thought
to myself. I got out of the coach,
gave a box I had into the ostler's
charge, to be kept till I called
for it; paid my fare; satisfied
the coachman, and was going:
the brightening day gleamed on
the sign of the inn, and I read
in gilt letters, "The Rochester
Arms." My heart leapt up: I was
already on my master's very lands.
It fell again: the thought struck
"Your master himself may be
beyond the British Channel, for
aught you know: and then, if
he is at Thornfield Hall, towards
which you hasten, who besides
him is there? His lunatic wife:
and you have nothing to do with
him: you dare not speak to him
or seek his presence. You have
lost your labour--you had better
go no farther," urged the monitor. "Ask
information of the people at
the inn; they can give you all
you seek: they can solve your
doubts at once. Go up to that
man, and inquire if Mr. Rochester
be at home."
The suggestion was sensible,
and yet I could not force myself
to act on it. I so dreaded a
reply that would crush me with
despair. To prolong doubt was
to prolong hope. I might yet
once more see the Hall under
the ray of her star. There was
the stile before me--the very
fields through which I had hurried,
blind, deaf, distracted with
a revengeful fury tracking and
scourging me, on the morning
I fled from Thornfield: ere I
well knew what course I had resolved
to take, I was in the midst of
them. How fast I walked! How
I ran sometimes! How I looked
forward to catch the first view
of the well-known woods! With
what feelings I welcomed single
trees I knew, and familiar glimpses
of meadow and hill between them!
last the woods
rose; the rookery
cawing broke the morning stillness.
Strange delight inspired me:
on I hastened. Another field
crossed--a lane threaded--and
there were the courtyard walls--the
back offices: the house itself,
the rookery still hid. "My first
view of it shall be in front," I
determined, "where its bold battlements
will strike the eye nobly at
once, and where I can single
out my master's very window:
perhaps he will be standing at
it--he rises early: perhaps he
is now walking in the orchard,
or on the pavement in front.
Could I but see him!--but a moment!
Surely, in that case, I should
not be so mad as to run to him?
I cannot tell--I am not certain.
And if I did--what then? God
bless him! What then? Who would
be hurt by my once more tasting
the life his glance can give
me? I rave: perhaps at this moment
he is watching the sun rise over
the Pyrenees, or on the tideless
sea of the south."
I had coasted along the lower
wall of the orchard--turned its
angle: there was a gate just
there, opening into the meadow,
between two stone pillars crowned
by stone balls. From behind one
pillar I could peep round quietly
at the full front of the mansion.
I advanced my head with precaution,
desirous to ascertain if any
bedroom window-blinds were yet
drawn up: battlements, windows,
long front--all from this sheltered
station were at my command.
while I took
this survey. I wonder what they
thought. They must have considered
I was very careful and timid
at first, and that gradually
I grew very bold and reckless.
A peep, and then a long stare;
and then a departure from my
niche and a straying out into
the meadow; and a sudden stop
full in front of the great mansion,
and a protracted, hardy gaze
towards it. "What affectation
of diffidence was this at first?" they
might have demanded; "what stupid
Hear an illustration, reader.
A lover finds his mistress
asleep on a mossy bank; he wishes
to catch a glimpse of her fair
face without waking her. He steals
softly over the grass, careful
to make no sound; he pauses--fancying
she has stirred: he withdraws:
not for worlds would he be seen.
All is still: he again advances:
he bends above her; a light veil
rests on her features: he lifts
it, bends lower; now his eyes
anticipate the vision of beauty--warm,
and blooming, and lovely, in
rest. How hurried was their first
glance! But how they fix! How
he starts! How he suddenly and
vehemently clasps in both arms
the form he dared not, a moment
since, touch with his finger!
How he calls aloud a name, and
drops his burden, and gazes on
it wildly! He thus grasps and
cries, and gazes, because he
no longer fears to waken by any
sound he can utter--by any movement
he can make. He thought his love
slept sweetly: he finds she is
I looked with timorous joy
towards a stately house: I saw
a blackened ruin.
No need to cower behind a gate-post,
indeed!--to peep up at chamber
lattices, fearing life was astir
behind them! No need to listen
for doors opening--to fancy steps
on the pavement or the gravel-walk!
The lawn, the grounds were trodden
and waste: the portal yawned
void. The front was, as I had
once seen it in a dream, but
a well- like wall, very high
and very fragile-looking, perforated
with paneless windows: no roof,
no battlements, no chimneys--all
had crashed in.
And there was the silence of
death about it: the solitude
of a lonesome wild. No wonder
that letters addressed to people
here had never received an answer:
as well despatch epistles to
a vault in a church aisle. The
grim blackness of the stones
told by what fate the Hall had
fallen--by conflagration: but
how kindled? What story belonged
to this disaster? What loss,
besides mortar and marble and
wood-work had followed upon it?
Had life been wrecked as well
as property? If so, whose? Dreadful
question: there was no one here
to answer it--not even dumb sign,
walls and through the devastated
interior, I gathered evidence
that the calamity was not of
late occurrence. Winter snows,
I thought, had drifted through
that void arch, winter rains
beaten in at those hollow casements;
for, amidst the drenched piles
of rubbish, spring had cherished
vegetation: grass and weed grew
here and there between the stones
and fallen rafters. And oh! where
meantime was the hapless owner
of this wreck? In what land?
Under what auspices? My eye involuntarily
wandered to the grey church tower
near the gates, and I asked, "Is
he with Damer de Rochester, sharing
the shelter of his narrow marble
Some answer must be had to
these questions. I could find
it nowhere but at the inn, and
thither, ere long, I returned.
The host himself brought my breakfast
into the parlour. I requested
him to shut the door and sit
down: I had some questions to
ask him. But when he complied,
I scarcely knew how to begin;
such horror had I of the possible
answers. And yet the spectacle
of desolation I had just left
prepared me in a measure for
a tale of misery. The host was
a respectable-looking, middle-aged
"You know Thornfield Hall,
of course?" I managed to say
ma'am; I lived
"Did you?" Not
in my time,
I thought: you are a stranger
"I was the late Mr. Rochester's
butler," he added.
The late! I seem to have received,
with full force, the blow I had
been trying to evade.
"The late!" gasped. "Is
"I mean the present gentleman,
Mr. Edward's father," he explained.
I breathed again: my blood resumed
its flow. Fully assured by these
words that Mr. Edward--MY Mr.
Rochester (God bless him, wherever
he was!)--was at least alive:
was, in short, "the present gentleman." Gladdening
words! It seemed I could hear
all that was to come--whatever
the disclosures might be--with
comparative tranquillity. Since
he was not in the grave, I could
bear, I thought, to learn that
he was at the Antipodes.
"Is Mr. Rochester living at
Thornfield Hall now?" I asked,
knowing, of course, what the
answer would be, but yet desirous
of deferring the direct question
as to where he really was.
no! No one
is living there.
I suppose you
are a stranger in these parts,
or you would have heard what
happened last autumn,--Thornfield
Hall is quite a ruin: it was
burnt down just about harvest-time.
A dreadful calamity! such an
immense quantity of valuable
property destroyed: hardly any
of the furniture could be saved.
The fire broke out at dead of
night, and before the engines
arrived from Millcote, the building
was one mass of flame. It was
a terrible spectacle: I witnessed
"At dead of night!" I muttered.
Yes, that was ever the hour of
fatality at Thornfield. "Was
it known how it originated?" I
"They guessed, ma'am: they
guessed. Indeed, I should say
it was ascertained beyond a doubt.
You are not perhaps aware," he
continued, edging his chair a
little nearer the table, and
speaking low, "that there was
a lady--a--a lunatic, kept in
was kept in
for some years was not absolutely
certain of her existence. No
one saw her: they only knew by
rumour that such a person was
at the Hall; and who or what
she was it was difficult to conjecture.
They said Mr. Edward had brought
her from abroad, and some believed
she had been his mistress. But
a queer thing happened a year
since--a very queer thing."
I feared now to hear my own
story. I endeavoured to recall
him to the main fact.
"This lady, ma'am," he answered, "turned
out to be Mr. Rochester's wife!
The discovery was brought about
in the strangest way. There was
a young lady, a governess at
the Hall, that Mr. Rochester
"But the fire," I
coming to that,
Mr. Edward fell in love with.
The servants say they never saw
anybody so much in love as he
was: he was after her continually.
They used to watch him--servants
will, you know, ma'am--and he
set store on her past everything:
for all, nobody but him thought
her so very handsome. She was
a little small thing, they say,
almost like a child. I never
saw her myself; but I've heard
Leah, the house-maid, tell of
her. Leah liked her well enough.
Mr. Rochester was about forty,
and this governess not twenty;
and you see, when gentlemen of
his age fall in love with girls,
they are often like as if they
were bewitched. Well, he would
"You shall tell me this part
of the story another time," I
said; "but now I have a particular
reason for wishing to hear all
about the fire. Was it suspected
that this lunatic, Mrs. Rochester,
had any hand in it?"
hit it, ma'am:
it was her,
and nobody but her, that set
it going. She had a woman to
take care of her called Mrs.
Poole--an able woman in her line,
and very trustworthy, but for
one fault--a fault common to
a deal of them nurses and matrons--she
KEPT A PRIVATE BOTTLE OF GIN
BY HER, and now and then took
a drop over-much. It is excusable,
for she had a hard life of it:
but still it was dangerous; for
when Mrs. Poole was fast asleep
after the gin and water, the
mad lady, who was as cunning
as a witch, would take the keys
out of her pocket, let herself
out of her chamber, and go roaming
about the house, doing any wild
mischief that came into her head.
They say she had nearly burnt
her husband in his bed once:
but I don't know about that.
However, on this night, she set
fire first to the hangings of
the room next her own, and then
she got down to a lower storey,
and made her way to the chamber
that had been the governess's--(she
was like as if she knew somehow
how matters had gone on, and
had a spite at her)--and she
kindled the bed there; but there
was nobody sleeping in it, fortunately.
The governess had run away two
months before; and 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 wild 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."
did he not
you, no! He
would not cross
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."
was at home
when the fire
he; and he
went up to
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."
Ay, dead as
on which her
may well say
it was frightful!"
"And afterwards?" I
the house was
burnt to the
there are only some bits of walls
any other lives
it would have
been better if there had."
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
yes: he is
he had better
"Why? How?" My blood was again
running cold. "Where is he?" I
demanded. "Is he in England?"
he can't get
out of England,
a fixture now."
What agony was this! And the
man seemed resolved to protract
"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
was all his
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. 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."
is he? Where
does he now
on a farm he has, about thirty
miles off: quite a desolate spot."
is with him?"
John and his
wife: he would
have none else.
He is quite
broken down, they say."
you any sort
have a chaise,
ma'am, a very
it be got ready
and if your
me to Ferndean before dark this
day, I'll pay both you and him
twice the hire you usually demand."