Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 25

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Here and there I strayed through the orchard, gathered up the apples with which the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn; then I employed myself in dividing the ripe from the unripe; I carried them into the house and put them away in the store-room.  Then I repaired to the library to ascertain whether the fire was lit, for, though summer, I knew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like to see a cheerful hearth when he came in: yes, the fire had been kindled some time, and burnt well.  I placed his arm-chair by the chimney-corner: I wheeled the table near it: I let down the curtain, and had the candles brought in ready for lighting.  More restless than ever, when I had completed these arrangements I could not sit still, nor even remain in the house: a little time-piece in the room and the old clock in the hall simultaneously struck ten.

“How late it grows!” I said.  “I will run down to the gates: it is moonlight at intervals; I can see a good way on the road.  He may be coming now, and to meet him will save some minutes of suspense.”

The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates; but the road as far as I could see, to the right hand and the left, was all still and solitary: save for the shadows of clouds crossing it at intervals as the moon looked out, it was but a long pale line, unvaried by one moving speck.

A puerilew tear dimmed my eye while I looked—a tear of disappointment and impatience; ashamed of it, I wiped it away.  I lingered; the moon shut herself wholly within her chamber, and drew close her curtain of dense cloud: the night grew dark; rain came driving fast on the gale.

“I wish he would come!  I wish he would come!” I exclaimed, seized with hypochondriac foreboding.  I had expected his arrival before tea; now it was dark: what could keep him?  Had an accident happened?  The event of last night again recurred to me.  I interpreted it as a warning of disaster.  I feared my hopes were too bright to be realised; and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that I imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.

“Well, I cannot return to the house,” I thought; “I cannot sit by the fireside, while he is abroad in inclement weather: better tire my limbs than strain my heart; I will go forward and meet him.”

I set out; I walked fast, but not far: ere I had measured a quarter of a mile, I heard the tramp of hoofs;(d) a horseman came on, full gallop; a dog ran by his side.  Away with evil presentiment!  It was he: here he was, mounted on Mesrour, followed by Pilot.  He saw me; for the moon had opened a blue field in the sky, and rode in it watery bright: he took his hat off, and waved it round his head.  I now ran to meet him.

“There!” he exclaimed, as he stretched out his hand and bent from the saddle: “You can’t do without me, that is evident.  Step on my boot-toe; give me both hands: mount!”

I obeyed: joy made me agile: I sprang up before him.  A hearty kissing I got for a welcome, and some boastful triumph, which I swallowed as well as I could.  He checked himself in his exultation to demand, “But is there anything the matter, Janet, that you come to meet me at such an hour?  Is there anything wrong?”

“No, but I thought you would never come.  I could not bear to wait in the house for you, especially with this rain and wind.”

“Rain and wind, indeed!  Yes, you are dripping like a mermaid; pull my cloak round you: but I think you are feverish, Jane: both your cheek and hand are burning hot.  I ask again, is there anything the matter?”

“Nothing now; I am neither afraid nor unhappy.”

“Then you have been both?”

“Rather: but I’ll tell you all about it by-and-bye, sir; and I daresay you will only laugh at me for my pains.”

“I’ll laugh at you heartily when to-morrow is past; till then I dare not: my prize is not certain.  This is you, who have been as slippery as an eel this last month,(d) and as thorny as a briar-rose?  I could not lay a finger anywhere but I was pricked; and now I seem to have gathered up a stray lamb in my arms.  You wandered out of the fold to seek your shepherd, did you, Jane?”

X [w] puerile

Childish.

X [(d)] I heard the tramp of hoofs;

Illustration.

X [(d)] This is you, who have been as slippery as an …

Illustration.