“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
“When you are inquisitive, Jane, you always make me smile. You open your eyes like an eager bird, and make, every now and then, a restless movement, as if answers in speech did not flow fast enough for you, and you wanted to read the tablet of one’s heart.”
I wrestled with my own resolution; I wanted to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering I saw laid out for me; and conscience, turned tyrant, held passion by the throat, told her, tauntingly, she had yet but dipped her dainty foot in the slough, and swore that with that arm of iron he would thrust her down to unsounded depths of agony.
“You have a curious designing mind, Mr. Rochester. I am afraid your principles on some points are eccentric.”
“My principles were never trained, Jane; they may have grown a little awry for want of attention.”
“How stern you look now! Your eyebrows have become as thick as my finger, and your forehead resembles, what, in some very astonishing poetry, I once saw styled, ‘a blue-piled thunder-loft.’ That will be your married look, sir, I suppose?”
“If that will be your married look, I, as a Christian, will soon give up the notion of consorting with a mere sprite or salamander. But what had you to ask, thing?–out with it.”
“There, you are less than civil now; and I like rudeness a great deal better than flattery. I had rather be a thing than an angel.”
“Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal–as we are!”
“Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?”
I could risk no sort of answer by this time; my heart was full.
“Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you, especially when you are near me, as now; it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, you’d forget me.”
“That I never should, sir; you know–” impossible to proceed.
“Now he has his back toward me,” thought I, “and he is occupied, too; perhaps, if I walk softly, I can slip away unnoticed.”
I trod on an edging of turf, that the crackle of the pebbly gravel might not betray me; he was standing among the beds at a yard or two distant from where I had to pass; the moth apparently engaged him. “I shall get by very well,” I meditated. As I crossed his shadow, thrown long over the garden by the moon, not yet risen high, he said quietly, without turning,
“Jane, come and look at this fellow.”
I saw the library casement open a hand-breadth; I knew I might be watched thence, so I went apart into the orchard. No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like. It was full of trees; it bloomed with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one-side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was a sunk fence, its sole separation from lonely fields. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence. Here one could wander unseen. While such honeydew fell, such silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt such shade forever.
A splendid midsummer shone over England; skies so pure, suns so radiant, as were then seen in long succession, seldom favor, even singly, our wave-girt land. It was as if a band of Italian days had come from the south, like a flock of glorious passenger-birds, and lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion.