“You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don’t think it will suit Mrs. Rochester exactly; and whether she won’t look like Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish, Jane, I were a trifle better adapted to match with her externally. Tell me now, fairy as you are, can’t you give me a charm, or a philter, or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?”
“It would be past the power of magic, sir!” and, in thought, I added, “A loving eye is all the charm needed; to such you are handsome enough, or, rather, your sternness has a power beyond beauty.”
Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen to me incomprehensible; in the present instance he took no notice of my abrupt vocal response, but he smiled at me with a certain smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions. He seemed to think it too good for common purposes; it was the real sunshine of feeling–he shed it over me now.
“Pass, Janet,” said he, making room for me to cross the stile; “go up home, and stay your weary little wandering feet at a friend’s threshold.”
“And this is Jane Eyre! Are you coming from Millcote, and on foot? Yes, just one of your tricks–not to send for a carriage, and come clattering over street and road, like a common mortal, but to steal into the vicinage of your home along with twilight, just as if you were a dream or a shade. What the deuce have you done with yourself this last month?”
“I have been with my aunt, sir, who is dead.”
“A true Janian reply! Good angels be my guard! She comes from the other world–from the abode of people who are dead–and tells me so when she meets me alone here in the gloaming! If I dared, I’d touch you, to see if you are substance or shadow, you elf! but I’d as soon offer to take hold of a blue ignis fatuus light in a marsh. Truant! truant!” he added, when he had paused an instant, “absent from me a whole month, and forgetting me quite, I’ll be sworn!”
I never saw a busier person than she seemed to be; yet it was difficult to say what she did: or rather, to discover any result of her diligence.
Young ladies have a remarkable way of letting you know that they think you a “quiz,” without actually saying the words. A certain superciliousness of look, coolness of manner, nonchalance of tone, express fully their sentiments on the point, without committing them by any positive rudeness in word or deed.
“I see no enemy to a fortunate issue but in the brow; and that brow professes to say–‘I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me to do so. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.’ The forehead declares, ‘Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision. Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the dictates of conscience.’
“Well said, forehead; your declaration shall be respected.”
I saw them smile, laugh–it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much soul in it as their smile, the tinkle of the bell as much significance as their laugh.
She had Roman features and a double-chin, disappearing into a throat like a pillar. These features appeared to me not only inflated and darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural erectness.
“I was thinking, sir, that very few masters would trouble themselves to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were piqued and hurt by their orders.”
“Paid subordinates! What! you are my paid subordinate, are you? Oh, yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well, then, on that mercenary ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?”
“No, sir, not on that ground; but on the ground that you did forget it, and that you care whether or not a dependent is comfortable in his dependency, I agree heartily.”
“And will you consent to dispense with a great many conventional forms and phrases, without thinking that the omission arises from insolence?”
“I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence; one, I rather like; the other, nothing free-born would submit to, even for a salary.”
“Humbug! Most things free-born will submit to anything for a salary; therefore, keep to yourself, and don’t venture on generalities of which you are intensely ignorant. However, I mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its inaccuracy; and as much for the manner in which it was said, as for the substance of the speech; the manner was frank and sincere; one does not often see such a manner; no, on the contrary, affectation or coldness, or stupid, coarse-minded misapprehension of one’s meaning, are the usual rewards of candor.”
“A new servitude! There is something in that,” I soliloquized (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud). “I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment; delightful sounds, truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them.”
Sometimes, on a sunny day, it began even to be pleasant and genial; and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.