Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 28

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Chapter XXVIII

Two days are passed.  It is a summer evening; the coachman has set me down at a place called Whitcross;d he could take me no farther for the sum I had given, and I was not possessed of another shilling in the world.  The coach is a mile off by this time; I am alone.  At this moment I discover that I forgot to take my parcel out of the pocket of the coach, where I had placed it for safety; there it remains, there it must remain; and now, I am absolutely destitute.

Whitcross is no town, nor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet: whitewashed, I suppose, to be more obvious at a distance and in darkness.  Four arms spring from its summit: the nearest town to which these point is, according to the inscription, distant ten miles; the farthest, above twenty.  From the well-known names of these towns I learn in what county I have lighted; a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ridged with mountain:h this I see.  There are great moors behind and on each hand of me; there are waves of mountains far beyond that deep valley at my feet.  The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south—white, broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge.  Yet a chance traveller might pass by; and I wish no eye to see me now: strangers would wonder what I am doing, lingering here at the sign-post, evidently objectless and lost.  I might be questioned: I could give no answer but what would sound incredible and excite suspicion.  Not a tie holds me to human societyd at this moment—not a charm or hope calls me where my fellow-creatures are—none that saw me would have a kind thought or a good wish for me.  I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.d

I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside;d I waded knee-deep in its dark growth; I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it.  High banks of moor were about me; the crag protected my head: the sky was over that.

Some time passed before I felt tranquil even here: I had a vague dread that wild cattle might be near, or that some sportsman or poacher might discover me.  If a gust of wind swept the waste, I looked up, fearing it was the rush of a bull; if a plover whistled, I imagined it a man.  Finding my apprehensions unfounded, however, and calmed by the deep silence that reigned as evening declined at nightfall, I took confidence.  As yet I had not thought; I had only listened, watched, dreaded; now I regained the faculty of reflection.

What was I to do?  Where to go?  Oh, intolerable questions, when I could do nothing and go nowhere!—when a long way must yet be measured by my weary, trembling limbs before I could reach human habitation—when cold charity must be entreated before I could get a lodging: reluctant sympathy importuned, almost certain repulse incurred, before my tale could be listened to, or one of my wants relieved!

I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer day.  I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge.  The dew fell, but with propitiousw softness; no breeze whispered.  Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness.  To-night, at least, I would be her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price.  I had one morsel of bread yet: the remnant of a roll I had bought in a town we passed through at noon with a stray penny—my last coin.  I saw ripe bilberries gleaming here and there, like jet beads in the heath: I gathered a handful and ate them with the bread.  My hunger, sharp before, was, if not satisfied, appeased by this hermit’s meal.  I said my evening prayers at its conclusion, and then chose my couch.

X [d] Whitcross;

Writing & Reading

The chapter is a turning-point in Jane's spiritual pilgrimage, and thus it is appropriate that the place she finds herself is Whitcross or what once was likely White Cross, which continues the novel's color symbolism, though now suggesting a white associated with Christian purity.

X [h] a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland, ri…

Places

The area resembles that around Haworth, the village that was the Brontë home. The novel turns homeward. 

X [d] Not a tie holds me to human society

Illustration.

X [d] I have no relative but the universal mother, …

Arts

Image.

X [d] I struck straight into the heath; I held on t…

I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside....

X [w] propitious

Religion

Promising, with the possibility of having been ordained by a higher power. Later, she calls directly, "Oh, Providence! ...direct me!" into whose care she surrenders herself, a gesture of her submission to God's will as she interprets it.