Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • CHAPTER XXI

  • Presentiments are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are signs; and the

  • three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key.

  • I never laughed at presentiments in my life, because I have had strange ones of my

  • own.

  • Sympathies, I believe, exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly

  • estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the unity

  • of the source to which each traces his

  • origin) whose workings baffle mortal comprehension.

  • And signs, for aught we know, may be but the sympathies of Nature with man.

  • When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to

  • Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a little child; and that to dream of

  • children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin.

  • The saying might have worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately

  • followed which served indelibly to fix it there.

  • The next day Bessie was sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.

  • Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week

  • scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an

  • infant, which I sometimes hushed in my

  • arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a

  • lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in running water.

  • It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close

  • to me, and now it ran from me; but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever

  • aspect it wore, it failed not for seven

  • successive nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of slumber.

  • I did not like this iteration of one idea-- this strange recurrence of one image, and I

  • grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour of the vision drew near.

  • It was from companionship with this baby- phantom I had been roused on that moonlight

  • night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was

  • summoned downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax's room.

  • On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having the appearance of a

  • gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep mourning, and the hat he held in his hand

  • was surrounded with a crape band.

  • "I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I entered; "but my name

  • is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine

  • years since, and I live there still."

  • "Oh, Robert! how do you do? I remember you very well: you used to give

  • me a ride sometimes on Miss Georgiana's bay pony.

  • And how is Bessie?

  • You are married to Bessie?" "Yes, Miss: my wife is very hearty, thank

  • you; she brought me another little one about two months since--we have three now--

  • and both mother and child are thriving."

  • "And are the family well at the house, Robert?"

  • "I am sorry I can't give you better news of them, Miss: they are very badly at present-

  • -in great trouble."

  • "I hope no one is dead," I said, glancing at his black dress.

  • He too looked down at the crape round his hat and replied--

  • "Mr. John died yesterday was a week, at his chambers in London."

  • "Mr. John?" "Yes."

  • "And how does his mother bear it?"

  • "Why, you see, Miss Eyre, it is not a common mishap: his life has been very wild:

  • these last three years he gave himself up to strange ways, and his death was

  • shocking."

  • "I heard from Bessie he was not doing well."

  • "Doing well!

  • He could not do worse: he ruined his health and his estate amongst the worst men and

  • the worst women.

  • He got into debt and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon as he was

  • free he returned to his old companions and habits.

  • His head was not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anything I

  • ever heard.

  • He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago and wanted missis to give up all to

  • him.

  • Missis refused: her means have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he

  • went back again, and the next news was that he was dead.

  • How he died, God knows!--they say he killed himself."

  • I was silent: the things were frightful. Robert Leaven resumed--

  • "Missis had been out of health herself for some time: she had got very stout, but was

  • not strong with it; and the loss of money and fear of poverty were quite breaking her

  • down.

  • The information about Mr. John's death and the manner of it came too suddenly: it

  • brought on a stroke.

  • She was three days without speaking; but last Tuesday she seemed rather better: she

  • appeared as if she wanted to say something, and kept making signs to my wife and

  • mumbling.

  • It was only yesterday morning, however, that Bessie understood she was pronouncing

  • your name; and at last she made out the words, 'Bring Jane--fetch Jane Eyre: I want

  • to speak to her.'

  • Bessie is not sure whether she is in her right mind, or means anything by the words;

  • but she told Miss Reed and Miss Georgiana, and advised them to send for you.

  • The young ladies put it off at first; but their mother grew so restless, and said,

  • 'Jane, Jane,' so many times, that at last they consented.

  • I left Gateshead yesterday: and if you can get ready, Miss, I should like to take you

  • back with me early to-morrow morning." "Yes, Robert, I shall be ready: it seems to

  • me that I ought to go."

  • "I think so too, Miss. Bessie said she was sure you would not

  • refuse: but I suppose you will have to ask leave before you can get off?"

  • "Yes; and I will do it now;" and having directed him to the servants' hall, and

  • recommended him to the care of John's wife, and the attentions of John himself, I went

  • in search of Mr. Rochester.

  • He was not in any of the lower rooms; he was not in the yard, the stables, or the

  • grounds.

  • I asked Mrs. Fairfax if she had seen him;-- yes: she believed he was playing billiards

  • with Miss Ingram.

  • To the billiard- room I hastened: the click of balls and the hum of voices resounded

  • thence; Mr. Rochester, Miss Ingram, the two Misses Eshton, and their admirers, were all

  • busied in the game.

  • It required some courage to disturb so interesting a party; my errand, however,

  • was one I could not defer, so I approached the master where he stood at Miss Ingram's

  • side.

  • She turned as I drew near, and looked at me haughtily: her eyes seemed to demand, "What

  • can the creeping creature want now?" and when I said, in a low voice, "Mr.

  • Rochester," she made a movement as if tempted to order me away.

  • I remember her appearance at the moment--it was very graceful and very striking: she

  • wore a morning robe of sky-blue crape; a gauzy azure scarf was twisted in her hair.

  • She had been all animation with the game, and irritated pride did not lower the

  • expression of her haughty lineaments.

  • "Does that person want you?" she inquired of Mr. Rochester; and Mr. Rochester turned

  • to see who the "person" was.

  • He made a curious grimace--one of his strange and equivocal demonstrations--threw

  • down his cue and followed me from the room.

  • "Well, Jane?" he said, as he rested his back against the schoolroom door, which he

  • had shut. "If you please, sir, I want leave of

  • absence for a week or two."

  • "What to do?--where to go?" "To see a sick lady who has sent for me."

  • "What sick lady?--where does she live?" "At Gateshead; in ---shire."

  • "-shire?

  • That is a hundred miles off! Who may she be that sends for people to see

  • her that distance?" "Her name is Reed, sir--Mrs. Reed."

  • "Reed of Gateshead?

  • There was a Reed of Gateshead, a magistrate."

  • "It is his widow, sir." "And what have you to do with her?

  • How do you know her?"

  • "Mr. Reed was my uncle--my mother's brother."

  • "The deuce he was! You never told me that before: you always

  • said you had no relations."

  • "None that would own me, sir. Mr. Reed is dead, and his wife cast me

  • off." "Why?"

  • "Because I was poor, and burdensome, and she disliked me."

  • "But Reed left children?--you must have cousins?

  • Sir George Lynn was talking of a Reed of Gateshead yesterday, who, he said, was one

  • of the veriest rascals on town; and Ingram was mentioning a Georgiana Reed of the same

  • place, who was much admired for her beauty a season or two ago in London."

  • "John Reed is dead, too, sir: he ruined himself and half-ruined his family, and is

  • supposed to have committed suicide.

  • The news so shocked his mother that it brought on an apoplectic attack."

  • "And what good can you do her? Nonsense, Jane!

  • I would never think of running a hundred miles to see an old lady who will, perhaps,

  • be dead before you reach her: besides, you say she cast you off."

  • "Yes, sir, but that is long ago; and when her circumstances were very different: I

  • could not be easy to neglect her wishes now."

  • "How long will you stay?"

  • "As short a time as possible, sir." "Promise me only to stay a week--"

  • "I had better not pass my word: I might be obliged to break it."

  • "At all events you will come back: you will not be induced under any pretext to

  • take up a permanent residence with her?" "Oh, no!

  • I shall certainly return if all be well."

  • "And who goes with you? You don't travel a hundred miles alone."

  • "No, sir, she has sent her coachman." "A person to be trusted?"

  • "Yes, sir, he has lived ten years in the family."

  • Mr. Rochester meditated. "When do you wish to go?"

  • "Early to-morrow morning, sir."

  • "Well, you must have some money; you can't travel without money, and I daresay you

  • have not much: I have given you no salary yet.

  • How much have you in the world, Jane?" he asked, smiling.

  • I drew out my purse; a meagre thing it was. "Five shillings, sir."

  • He took the purse, poured the hoard into his palm, and chuckled over it as if its

  • scantiness amused him.

  • Soon he produced his pocket-book: "Here," said he, offering me a note; it was fifty

  • pounds, and he owed me but fifteen. I told him I had no change.

  • "I don't want change; you know that.

  • Take your wages." I declined accepting more than was my due.

  • He scowled at first; then, as if recollecting something, he said--

  • "Right, right!

  • Better not give you all now: you would, perhaps, stay away three months if you had

  • fifty pounds. There are ten; is it not plenty?"

  • "Yes, sir, but now you owe me five."

  • "Come back for it, then; I am your banker for forty pounds."

  • "Mr. Rochester, I may as well mention another matter of business to you while I

  • have the opportunity."

  • "Matter of business? I am curious to hear it."

  • "You have as good as informed me, sir, that you are going shortly to be married?"

  • "Yes; what then?"

  • "In that case, sir, Adele ought to go to school: I am sure you will perceive the

  • necessity of it."

  • "To get her out of my bride's way, who might otherwise walk over her rather too

  • emphatically? There's sense in the suggestion; not a

  • doubt of it.

  • Adele, as you say, must go to school; and you, of course, must march straight to--the

  • devil?" "I hope not, sir; but I must seek another

  • situation somewhere."

  • "In course!" he exclaimed, with a twang of voice and a distortion of features equally

  • fantastic and ludicrous. He looked at me some minutes.

  • "And old Madam Reed, or the Misses, her daughters, will be solicited by you to seek

  • a place, I suppose?"

  • "No, sir; I am not on such terms with my relatives as would justify me in asking

  • favours of them--but I shall advertise." "You shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!"

  • he growled.

  • "At your peril you advertise! I wish I had only offered you a sovereign

  • instead of ten pounds. Give me back nine pounds, Jane; I've a use

  • for it."

  • "And so have I, sir," I returned, putting my hands and my purse behind me.

  • "I could not spare the money on any account."

  • "Little niggard!" said he, "refusing me a pecuniary request!

  • Give me five pounds, Jane." "Not five shillings, sir; nor five pence."

  • "Just let me look at the cash."

  • "No, sir; you are not to be trusted." "Jane!"

  • "Sir?" "Promise me one thing."

  • "I'll promise you anything, sir, that I think I am likely to perform."

  • "Not to advertise: and to trust this quest of a situation to me.

  • I'll find you one in time."

  • "I shall be glad so to do, sir, if you, in your turn, will promise that I and Adele

  • shall be both safe out of the house before your bride enters it."

  • "Very well! very well!

  • I'll pledge my word on it. You go to-morrow, then?"

  • "Yes, sir; early." "Shall you come down to the drawing-room

  • after dinner?"

  • "No, sir, I must prepare for the journey." "Then you and I must bid good-bye for a

  • little while?" "I suppose so, sir."

  • "And how do people perform that ceremony of parting, Jane?

  • Teach me; I'm not quite up to it." "They say, Farewell, or any other form they

  • prefer."

  • "Then say it." "Farewell, Mr. Rochester, for the present."

  • "What must I say?" "The same, if you like, sir."

  • "Farewell, Miss Eyre, for the present; is that all?"

  • "Yes?" "It seems stingy, to my notions, and dry,

  • and unfriendly.

  • I should like something else: a little addition to the rite.

  • If one shook hands, for instance; but no-- that would not content me either.

  • So you'll do no more than say Farewell, Jane?"

  • "It is enough, sir: as much good-will may be conveyed in one hearty word as in many."

  • "Very likely; but it is blank and cool-- 'Farewell.'"

  • "How long is he going to stand with his back against that door?"

  • I asked myself; "I want to commence my packing."

  • The dinner-bell rang, and suddenly away he bolted, without another syllable: I saw him

  • no more during the day, and was off before he had risen in the morning.

  • I reached the lodge at Gateshead about five o'clock in the afternoon of the first of

  • May: I stepped in there before going up to the hall.

  • It was very clean and neat: the ornamental windows were hung with little white

  • curtains; the floor was spotless; the grate and fire-irons were burnished bright, and

  • the fire burnt clear.

  • Bessie sat on the hearth, nursing her last- born, and Robert and his sister played