Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 29

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Chapter XXIX

The recollection of about three days and nights succeeding this is very dim in my mind.  I can recall some sensations felt in that interval; but few thoughts framed, and no actions performed.  I knew I was in a small room and in a narrow bed.  To that bed I seemed to have grown; I lay on it motionless as a stone; and to have torn me from it would have been almost to kill me.  I took no note of the lapse of time—of the change from morning to noon, from noon to evening.  I observed when any one entered or left the apartment: I could even tell who they were; I could understand what was said when the speaker stood near to me; but I could not answer; to open my lips or move my limbs was equally impossible.  Hannah, the servant, was my most frequent visitor.  Her coming disturbed me.  I had a feeling that she wished me away: that she did not understand me or my circumstances; that she was prejudiced against me.  Diana and Mary appeared in the chamber once or twice a day.  They would whisper sentences of this sort at my bedside—

“It is very well we took her in.”

“Yes; she would certainly have been found dead at the door in the morning had she been left out all night.  I wonder what she has gone through?”

“Strange hardships, I imagine—poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer?”

“She is not an uneducated person, I should think, by her manner of speaking; her accent was quite pure; and the clothes she took off, though splashed and wet, were little worn and fine.”

“She has a peculiar face; fleshless and haggard as it is, I rather like it; and when in good health and animated, I can fancy her physiognomy would be agreeable.”

Never once in their dialogues did I hear a syllable of regret at the hospitality they had extended to me, or of suspicion of, or aversion to, myself.  I was comforted.

Mr. St. John came but once: he looked at me, and said my state of lethargy was the result of reaction from excessive and protracted fatigue.  He pronounced it needless to send for a doctor: nature, he was sure, would manage best, left to herself.  He said every nerve had been overstrained in some way, and the whole system must sleep torpid a while.  There was no disease.  He imagined my recovery would be rapid enough when once commenced.  These opinions he delivered in a few words, in a quiet, low voice; and added, after a pause, in the tone of a man little accustomed to expansive comment, “Rather an unusual physiognomy;d certainly, not indicative of vulgarity or degradation.”

“Far otherwise,” responded Diana.  “To speak truth, St. John, my heart rather warms to the poor little soul.  I wish we may be able to benefit her permanently.”

“That is hardly likely,” was the reply.  “You will find she is some young lady who has had a misunderstanding with her friends, and has probably injudiciously left them.  We may, perhaps, succeed in restoring her to them, if she is not obstinate: but I trace lines of force in her face which make me sceptical of her tractability.”  He stood considering me some minutes; then added, “She looks sensible, but not at all handsome.”

“She is so ill, St. John.”

“Ill or well, she would always be plain.  The grace and harmony of beauty are quite wanting in those features.”

On the third day I was better; on the fourth, I could speak, move, rise in bed, and turn.  Hannah had brought me some gruel and dry toast, about, as I supposed, the dinner-hour.  I had eaten with relish: the food was good—void of the feverish flavour which had hitherto poisoned what I had swallowed.  When she left me, I felt comparatively strong and revived: ere long satiety of repose and desire for action stirred me.  I wished to rise; but what could I put on?  Only my damp and bemired apparel; in which I had slept on the ground and fallen in the marsh.  I felt ashamed to appear before my benefactors so clad.  I was spared the humiliation.

X [d] “Rather an unusual physiognomy;

Illustration.