Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 25

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Chapter XXV

The month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being numbered.  There was no putting off the day that advanced—the bridal day; and all preparations for its arrival were complete.  I, at least, had nothing more to do: there were my trunks, packed, locked, corded, ranged in a row along the wall of my little chamber; to-morrow, at this time, they would be far on their road to London: and so should I (D.V.w),—or rather, not I, but one Jane Rochester, a person whom as yet I knew not.  The cards of address alone remained to nail on: they lay, four little squares, in the drawer.  Mr. Rochester had himself written the direction, “Mrs. Rochester, --- Hotel, London,” on each: I could not persuade myself to affix them, or to have them affixed.  Mrs. Rochester!  She did not exist: she would not be born till to-morrow, some time after eight o’clock a.m.; and I would wait to be assured she had come into the world alive before I assigned to her all that property.  It was enough that in yonder closet, opposite my dressing-table, garments said to be hers had already displaced my black stuff Lowood frock and straw bonnet: for not to me appertained that suit of wedding raiment; the pearl-coloured robe, the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped portmanteau.w  I shut the closet to conceal the strange, wraith-like apparel it contained; which, at this evening hour—nine o’clock—gave out certainly a most ghostly shimmer through the shadow of my apartment.  “I will leave you by yourself, white dream,” I said.  “I am feverish: I hear the wind blowing: I will go out of doors and feel it.”

It was not only the hurry of preparation that made me feverish; not only the anticipation of the great change—the new life which was to commence to-morrow: both these circumstances had their share, doubtless, in producing that restless, excited mood which hurried me forth at this late hour into the darkening grounds: but a third cause influenced my mind more than they.

I had at heart a strange and anxious thought.  Something had happened which I could not comprehend; no one knew of or had seen the event but myself: it had taken place the preceding night.  Mr. Rochester that night was absent from home; nor was he yet returned: business had called him to a small estate of two or three farms he possessed thirty miles off—business it was requisite he should settle in person, previous to his meditated departure from England.  I waited now his return; eager to disburthen my mind, and to seek of him the solution of the enigma that perplexed me.  Stay till he comes, reader; and, when I disclose my secret to him, you shall share the confidence.

I sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind, which all day had blown strong and full from the south, without, however, bringing a speck of rain.  Instead of subsiding as night drew on, it seemed to augment its rush and deepen its roar: the trees blew steadfastly one way, never writhing round, and scarcely tossing back their boughs once in an hour; so continuous was the strain bending their branchy heads northward—the clouds drifted from pole to pole, fast following, mass on mass: no glimpse of blue sky had been visible that July day.

It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent thundering through space.  Descending the laurel walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree;d it stood up black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gasped ghastly.  The cloven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed—the sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead, and next winter’s tempests would be sure to fell one or both to earth: as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree—a ruin, but an entire ruin.

“You did right to hold fast to each other,” I said: as if the monster-splinters were living things, and could hear me.  “I think, scathed as you look, and charred and scorched, there must be a little sense of life in you yet, rising out of that adhesion at the faithful, honest roots: you will never have green leaves more—never more see birds making nests and singing idyls in your boughs; the time of pleasure and love is over with you: but you are not desolate: each of you has a comrade to sympathise with him in his decay.”  As I looked up at them, the moon appeared momentarily in that part of the sky which filled their fissure; her disk was blood-red and half overcast; she seemed to throw on me one bewildered, dreary glance, and buried herself again instantly in the deep drift of cloud.  The wind fell, for a second, round Thornfield; but far away over wood and water, poured a wild, melancholy wail: it was sad to listen to, and I ran off again.

X [w] D.V.

Deo volente, or God willing.

X [w] the vapoury veil pendent from the usurped por…

Things

The veil hanging from the portmanteau, which is a case or bag for carrying clothes, etc., initially made for horseback. "Usurped" because this belonged to Jane Eyre and is now appropriated for Jane Rochester.

X [d] I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree;

Illustration.