Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 25

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“Are you apprehensive of the new sphere you are about to enter?—of the new life into which you are passing?”

“No.”

“You puzzle me, Jane: your look and tone of sorrowful audacity perplex and pain me.  I want an explanation.”

“Then, sir, listen.  You were from home last night?”

“I was: I know that; and you hinted a while ago at something which had happened in my absence:—nothing, probably, of consequence; but, in short, it has disturbed you.  Let me hear it.  Mrs. Fairfax has said something, perhaps? or you have overheard the servants talk?—your sensitive self-respect has been wounded?”

“No, sir.”  It struck twelve—I waited till the time-piece had concluded its silver chime, and the clock its hoarse, vibrating stroke, and then I proceeded.

“All day yesterday I was very busy, and very happy in my ceaseless bustle; for I am not, as you seem to think, troubled by any haunting fears about the new sphere, et cetera: I think it a glorious thing to have the hope of living with you, because I love you.  No, sir, don’t caress me now—let me talk undisturbed.  Yesterday I trusted well in Providence, and believed that events were working together for your good and mine: it was a fine day, if you recollect—the calmness of the air and sky forbade apprehensions respecting your safety or comfort on your journey.  I walked a little while on the pavement after tea, thinking of you; and I beheld you in imagination so near me, I scarcely missed your actual presence.  I thought of the life that lay before me—your life, sir—an existence more expansive and stirring than my own: as much more so as the depths of the sea to which the brook runs are than the shallows of its own strait channel.  I wondered why moralists call this world a dreary wilderness: for me it blossomed like a rose.  Just at sunset, the air turned cold and the sky cloudy: I went in, Sophie called me upstairs to look at my wedding-dress, which they had just brought; and under it in the box I found your present—the veil which, in your princely extravagance, you sent for from London: resolved, I suppose, since I would not have jewels, to cheat me into accepting something as costly.  I smiled as I unfolded it, and devised how I would tease you about your aristocratic tastes, and your efforts to masque your plebeian bride in the attributes of a peeress.  I thought how I would carry down to you the square of unembroidered blondw I had myself prepared as a covering for my low-born head, and ask if that was not good enough for a woman who could bring her husband neither fortune, beauty, nor connections.  I saw plainly how you would look; and heard your impetuous republican answers, and your haughty disavowal of any necessity on your part to augment your wealth, or elevate your standing, by marrying either a purse or a coronet.”w

“How well you read me, you witch!” interposed Mr. Rochester: “but what did you find in the veil besides its embroidery?  Did you find poison, or a dagger, that you look so mournful now?”

“No, no, sir; besides the delicacy and richness of the fabric, I found nothing save Fairfax Rochester’s pride; and that did not scare me, because I am used to the sight of the demon.  But, sir, as it grew dark, the wind rose: it blew yesterday evening, not as it blows now—wild and high—but ‘with a sullen, moaning sound’h far more eerie.  I wished you were at home.  I came into this room, and the sight of the empty chair and fireless hearth chilled me.  For some time after I went to bed, I could not sleep—a sense of anxious excitement distressed me.  The gale still rising, seemed to my ear to muffle a mournful under-sound; whether in the house or abroad I could not at first tell, but it recurred, doubtful yet doleful at every lull; at last I made out it must be some dog howling at a distance.  I was glad when it ceased.  On sleeping, I continued in dreams the idea of a dark and gusty night.  I continued also the wish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier dividing us.  During all my first sleep,w I was following the windings of an unknown road; total obscurity environed me; rain pelted me; I was burdened with the charge of a little child: a very small creature, too young and feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and wailed piteously in my ear.  I thought, sir, that you were on the road a long way before me; and I strained every nerve to overtake you, and made effort on effort to utter your name and entreat you to stop—but my movements were fettered, and my voice still died away inarticulate; while you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every moment.”

X [w] blond

Things

"A silk lace of two threads, twisted and formed in hexagonal meshes; orig. of the colour of raw silk, but now white or black" (OED). 

X [w] a purse or a coronet.”

Writing & Reading

Two figures of speech or tropes known in rhetoric as a synechdoche, which is when a part of a thing stands for the whole. The purse stands for a wealthy man, and the coronet for a nobleman. 

X [h] but ‘with a sullen, moaning sound’

Writing & Reading

The line comes from Scott's immensely popular poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Canto I, stanza xiii.

At the sullen, moaning sound,

    • The ban-dogs* bay and howl;

      And, from the turrets round,

      Loud whoops the startled owl.

       

      In the hall, both squire and knight

      Swore that a storm was near,

      And looked forth to view the night,

      But the night was still and clear!


      *chained

X [w] my first sleep,

Custom & Law

Jane may mean simply early in sleep. Yet there was until at least well into the 18th c. the custom of sleeping in two phases, separated by a period of an hour or so in which some people read, some prayed, some reflected upon dreams from the first sleep, and some, who fatigued from the days' labor, had sex during this time before returning to the so-called morning sleep. The Industrial Revolution dictated new habits.