Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 36

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Chapter XXXVI

The daylight came.  I rose at dawn.  I busied myself for an hour or two with arranging my things in my chamber, drawers, and wardrobe, in the order wherein I should wish to leave them during a brief absence.  Meantime, I heard St. John quit his room.  He stopped at my door: I feared he would knock—no, but a slip of paper was passed under the door.  I took it up.  It bore these words—

“You left me too suddenly last night.  Had you stayed but a little longer, you would have laid your hand on the Christian’s cross and the angel’s crown.  I shall expect your clear decision when I return this day fortnight.  Meantime, watch and pray that you enter not into temptation: the spirit, I trust, is willing, but the flesh, I see, is weak.h  I shall pray for you hourly.—Yours, St. John.”

“My spirit,” I answered mentally, “is willing to do what is right; and my flesh, I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of Heaven, when once that will is distinctly known to me.  At any rate, it shall be strong enough to search—inquire—to grope an outlet from this cloud of doubt, and find the open day of certainty.”

It was the first of June; yet the morning was overcast and chilly: rain beat fast on my casement.  I heard the front-door open, and St. John pass out.  Looking through the window, I saw him traverse the garden.  He took the way over the misty moors in the direction of Whitcross—there he would meet the coach.

“In a few more hours I shall succeed you in that track, cousin,” thought I: “I too have a coach to meet at Whitcross.  I too have some to see and ask after in England, before I depart for ever.”

It wanted yet two hours of breakfast-time.  I filled the interval in walking softly about my room, and pondering the visitation which had given my plans their present bent.  I recalled that inward sensation I had experienced: for I could recall it, with all its unspeakable strangeness.  I recalled the voice I had heard; again I questioned whence it came, as vainly as before: it seemed in me—not in the external world.  I asked was it a mere nervous impression—a delusion?  I could not conceive or believe: it was more like an inspiration.d  The wondrous shock of feeling had come like the earthquake which shook the foundations of Paul and Silas’s prison;h it had opened the doors of the soul’s cell and loosed its bands—it had wakened it out of its sleep, whence it sprang trembling, listening, aghast; then vibrated thrice a cry on my startled ear, and in my quaking heart and through my spirit, which neither feared nor shook, but exulted as if in joy over the success of one effort it had been privileged to make, independent of the cumbrous body.

“Ere many days,” I said, as I terminated my musings, “I will know something of him whose voice seemed last night to summon me.  Letters have proved of no avail—personal inquiry shall replace them.”

At breakfast I announced to Diana and Mary that I was going a journey, and should be absent at least four days.

“Alone, Jane?” they asked.

“Yes; it was to see or hear news of a friend about whom I had for some time been uneasy.”

They might have said, as I have no doubt they thought, that they had believed me to be without any friends save them: for, indeed, I had often said so; but, with their true natural delicacy, they abstained from comment, except that Diana asked me if I was sure I was well enough to travel.  I looked very pale, she observed.  I replied, that nothing ailed me save anxiety of mind, which I hoped soon to alleviate.

X [h] the spirit, I trust, is willing, but the fles…


St. John appeals to a poignant moment in Matthew 26:40-43. But in taking it out of its context and casting his breath upon it, he hardens it. Following the Last Supper, Jesus finds the disciples asleep, wakens Peter, and asks, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Knowing His death is imminent, Jesus remains generous and forgiving, and only admonishes in 41, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 

X [d] inspiration.

Jane means the word literally, being breathed into (by God).

X [h] Paul and Silas’s prison;


This passage from Acts follows quickly upon that quoted earlier when Paul writes, "Come over unto Macedonia, and help us" Now Paul is with Silas, and both are beaten and imprisoned for being Jews who also were teaching the gospel. 

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. …

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