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 -
is very well
we took her
she would certainly
have been found
dead at the
the morning had she been left
out all night. I wonder what
she has gone through?"
emaciated, pallid wanderer?"
is not an uneducated
person, I should
think, by her
of speaking; her accent was quite
pure; and the clothes she took
off, though splashed and wet,
were little worn and fine."
has a peculiar
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.
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;
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."
is so ill,
or well, she
be plain. The grace and harmony
of beauty are quite wanting in
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.
On a chair by the bedside were
all my own things, clean and
dry. My black silk frock hung
against the wall. The traces
of the bog were removed from
it; the creases left by the wet
smoothed out: it was quite decent.
My very shoes and stockings were
purified and rendered presentable.
There were the means of washing
in the room, and a comb and brush
to smooth my hair. After a weary
process, and resting every five
minutes, I succeeded in dressing
myself. My clothes hung loose
on me; for I was much wasted,
but I covered deficiencies with
a shawl, and once more, clean
and respectable looking--no speck
of the dirt, no trace of the
disorder I so hated, and which
seemed so to degrade me, left--I
crept down a stone staircase
with the aid of the banisters,
to a narrow low passage, and
found my way presently to the
It was full of the fragrance
of new bread and the warmth of
a generous fire. Hannah was baking.
Prejudices, it is well known,
are most difficult to eradicate
from the heart whose soil has
never been loosened or fertilised
by education: they grow there,
firm as weeds among stones. Hannah
had been cold and stiff, indeed,
at the first: latterly she had
begun to relent a little; and
when she saw me come in tidy
and well-dressed, she even smiled.
"What, you have got up!" she
said. "You are better, then.
You may sit you down in my chair
on the hearthstone, if you will."
She pointed to the rocking-chair:
I took it. She bustled about,
examining me every now and then
with the corner of her eye. Turning
to me, as she took some loaves
from the oven, she asked bluntly
you ever go
you came here?"
I was indignant for a moment;
but remembering that anger was
out of the question, and that
I had indeed appeared as a beggar
to her, I answered quietly, but
still not without a certain marked
me a beggar. I am no beggar;
any more than yourself or your
a pause she
dunnut understand that: you've
like no house, nor no brass,
want of house
or brass (by
which I suppose
money) does not make a beggar
in your sense of the word."
"Are you book-learned?" she
been to a boarding-school?"
was at a boarding-school
eyes wide. "Whatever
cannot ye keep yourself for,
"I have kept myself; and, I
trust, shall keep myself again.
What are you going to do with
these gooseberries?" I inquired,
as she brought out a basket of
'em into pies."
them to me
and I'll pick
I dunnut want
ye to do nought."
I must do something.
Let me have
and she even
brought me a clean towel to spread
over my dress, "lest," as she
said, "I should mucky it."
"Ye've not been used to sarvant's
wark, I see by your hands," she
remarked. "Happen ye've been
you are wrong.
And now, never
mind what I
don't trouble your head further
about me; but tell me the name
of the house where we are."
calls it Marsh
End, and some
calls it Moor
who lives here
is called Mr.
he is only
staying a while.
he is at home, he is in his own
parish at Morton."
village a few
what is he?"
is a parson."
of the old
at the parsonage,
when I had asked to see the clergyman. "This,
then, was his father's residence?"
old Mr. Rivers
and his father,
and gurt (great) grandfather
of that gentleman,
is Mr. St. John Rivers?"
St. John is
like his kirstened
Diana and Mary
father is dead?"
sin' of a stroke."
have no mother?"
been dead this
mony a year."
you lived with
I nursed them all three."
must have been
an honest and
I will say so much for you, though
you have had the incivility to
call me a beggar."
me with a surprised
stare. "I believe," she
said, "I was quite mista'en in
my thoughts of you: but there
is so mony cheats goes about,
you mun forgie me."
"And though," I continued,
rather severely, "you wished
to turn me from the door, on
a night when you should not have
shut out a dog."
it was hard:
but what can
a body do?
I thought more
o' th' childer nor of mysel:
poor things! They've like nobody
to tak' care on 'em but me. I'm
like to look sharpish."
I maintained a grave silence
for some minutes.
"You munnut think too hardly
of me," she again remarked.
"But I do think hardly of you," I
said; "and I'll tell you why--not
so much because you refused to
give me shelter, or regarded
me as an impostor, as because
you just now made it a species
of reproach that I had no 'brass'
and no house. Some of the best
people that ever lived have been
as destitute as I am; and if
you are a Christian, you ought
not to consider poverty a crime."
"No more I ought," said she: "Mr.
St. John tells me so too; and
I see I wor wrang--but I've clear
a different notion on you now
to what I had. You look a raight
down dacent little crater."
now. Shake hands."
She put her floury and horny
hand into mine; another and heartier
smile illumined her rough face,
and from that moment we were
fond of talking.
While I picked
and she made the paste for the
pies, she proceeded to give me
sundry details about her deceased
master and mistress, and "the
childer," as she called the young
she said, was
a plain man enough, but a gentleman,
and of as ancient a family as
could be found. Marsh End had
belonged to the Rivers ever since
it was a house: and it was, she
affirmed, "aboon two hundred
year old--for all it looked but
a small, humble place, naught
to compare wi' Mr. Oliver's grand
hall down i' Morton Vale. But
she could remember Bill Oliver's
father a journeyman needlemaker;
and th' Rivers wor gentry i'
th' owd days o' th' Henrys, as
onybody might see by looking
into th' registers i' Morton
Church vestry." Still, she allowed, "the
owd maister was like other folk--naught
mich out o' t' common way: stark
mad o' shooting, and farming,
and sich like." The mistress
was different. She was a great
reader, and studied a deal; and
the "bairns" had taken after
her. There was nothing like them
in these parts, nor ever had
been; they had liked learning,
all three, almost from the time
they could speak; and they had
always been "of a mak' of their
own." Mr. St. John, when he grew
up, would go to college and be
a parson; and the girls, as soon
as they left school, would seek
places as governesses: for they
had told her their father had
some years ago lost a great deal
of money by a man he had trusted
turning bankrupt; and as he was
now not rich enough to give them
fortunes, they must provide for
themselves. They had lived very
little at home for a long while,
and were only come now to stay
a few weeks on account of their
father's death; but they did
so like Marsh End and Morton,
and all these moors and hills
about. They had been in London,
and many other grand towns; but
they always said there was no
place like home; and then they
were so agreeable with each other-
-never fell out nor "threaped." She
did not know where there was
such a family for being united.
Having finished my task of
gooseberry picking, I asked where
the two ladies and their brother
over to Morton
for a walk;
but they would
in half-an- hour to tea."
They returned within the time
Hannah had allotted them: they
entered by the kitchen door.
Mr. St. John, when he saw me,
merely bowed and passed through;
the two ladies stopped: Mary,
in a few words, kindly and calmly
expressed the pleasure she felt
in seeing me well enough to be
able to come down; Diana took
my hand: she shook her head at
"You should have waited for
my leave to descend," she said. "You
still look very pale--and so
thin! Poor child!--poor girl!"
Diana had a voice toned, to
my ear, like the cooing of a
dove. She possessed eyes whose
gaze I delighted to encounter.
Her whole face seemed to me fill
of charm. Mary's countenance
was equally intelligent--her
features equally pretty; but
her expression was more reserved,
and her manners, though gentle,
more distant. Diana looked and
spoke with a certain authority:
she had a will, evidently. It
was my nature to feel pleasure
in yielding to an authority supported
like hers, and to bend, where
my conscience and self-respect
permitted, to an active will.
"And what business have you
here?" she continued. "It is
not your place. Mary and I sit
in the kitchen sometimes, because
at home we like to be free, even
to license--but you are a visitor,
and must go into the parlour."
am very well
at all, with
about and covering you with flour."
"Besides, the fire is too hot
for you," interposed Mary.
"To be sure," added her sister. "Come,
you must be obedient." And still
holding my hand she made me rise,
and led me into the inner room.
"Sit there," she said, placing
me on the sofa, "while we take
our things off and get the tea
ready; it is another privilege
we exercise in our little moorland
home--to prepare our own meals
when we are so inclined, or when
Hannah is baking, brewing, washing,
She closed the door, leaving
me solus with Mr. St. John, who
sat opposite, a book or newspaper
in his hand. I examined first,
the parlour, and then its occupant.
The parlour was rather a small
room, very plainly furnished,
yet comfortable, because clean
and neat. The old-fashioned chairs
were very bright, and the walnut-wood
table was like a looking-glass.
A few strange, antique portraits
of the men and women of other
days decorated the stained walls;
a cupboard with glass doors contained
some books and an ancient set
of china. There was no superfluous
ornament in the room--not one
modern piece of furniture, save
a brace of workboxes and a lady's
desk in rosewood, which stood
on a side-table: everything--including
the carpet and curtains--looked
at once well worn and well saved.
Mr. St. John--sitting as still
as one of the dusty pictures
on the walls, keeping his eyes
fixed on the page he perused,
and his lips mutely sealed--was
easy enough to examine. Had he
been a statue instead of a man,
he could not have been easier.
He was young-- perhaps from twenty-eight
to thirty--tall, slender; his
face riveted the eye; it was
like a Greek face, very pure
in outline: quite a straight,
classic nose; quite an Athenian
mouth and chin. It is seldom,
indeed, an English face comes
so near the antique models as
did his. He might well be a little
shocked at the irregularity of
my lineaments, his own being
so harmonious. His eyes were
large and blue, with brown lashes;
his high forehead, colourless
as ivory, was partially streaked
over by careless locks of fair
This is a gentle delineation,
is it not, reader? Yet he whom
it describes scarcely impressed
one with the idea of a gentle,
a yielding, an impressible, or
even of a placid nature. Quiescent
as he now sat, there was something
about his nostril, his mouth,
his brow, which, to my perceptions,
indicated elements within either
restless, or hard, or eager.
He did not speak to me one word,
nor even direct to me one glance,
till his sisters returned. Diana,
as she passed in and out, in
the course of preparing tea,
brought me a little cake, baked
on the top of the oven.
"Eat that now," she said: "you
must be hungry. Hannah says you
have had nothing but some gruel
I did not refuse it, for my
appetite was awakened and keen.
Mr. Rivers now closed his book,
approached the table, and, as
he took a seat, fixed his blue
pictorial-looking eyes full on
me. There was an unceremonious
directness, a searching, decided
steadfastness in his gaze now,
which told that intention, and
not diffidence, had hitherto
kept it averted from the stranger.
"You are very hungry," he
"I am, sir." It
is my way--it
always was my way, by instinct--ever
to meet the brief with brevity,
the direct with plainness.
is well for
you that a
low fever has
for the last three days: there
would have been danger in yielding
to the cravings of your appetite
at first. Now you may eat, though
still not immoderately."
"I trust I shall not eat long
at your expense, sir," was my
very clumsily-contrived, unpolished
"No," he said coolly: "when
you have indicated to us the
residence of your friends, we
can write to them, and you may
be restored to home."
I must plainly
tell you, is
out of my power
being absolutely without home
The three looked at me, but
not distrustfully; I felt there
was no suspicion in their glances:
there was more of curiosity.
I speak particularly of the young
ladies. St. John's eyes, though
clear enough in a literal sense,
in a figurative one were difficult
to fathom. He seemed to use them
rather as instruments to search
other people's thoughts, than
as agents to reveal his own:
the which combination of keenness
and reserve was considerably
more calculated to embarrass
than to encourage.
"Do you mean to say," he asked, "that
you are completely isolated from
do. Not a tie
links me to
any living thing: not a claim
do I possess to admittance under
any roof in England."
Here I saw his glance directed
to my hands, which were folded
on the table before me. I wondered
what he sought there: his words
soon explained the quest.
You are a spinster?"
laughed. "Why, she can't
he above seventeen or eighteen
years old, St. John," said she.
am near nineteen:
but I am not
I felt a burning glow mount
to my face; for bitter and agitating
recollections were awakened by
the allusion to marriage. They
all saw the embarrassment and
the emotion. Diana and Mary relieved
me by turning their eyes elsewhere
than to my crimsoned visage;
but the colder and sterner brother
continued to gaze, till the trouble
he had excited forced out tears
as well as colour.
"Where did you last reside?" he
"You are too inquisitive, St.
John," murmured Mary in a low
voice; but he leaned over the
table and required an answer
by a second firm and piercing
"The name of the place where,
and of the person with whom I
lived, is my secret," I replied
"Which, if you like, you have,
in my opinion, a right to keep,
both from St. John and every
other questioner," remarked Diana.
"Yet if I know nothing about
you or your history, I cannot
help you," he said. "And you
need help, do you not?"
need it, and
I seek it so
far, sir, that some true philanthropist
will put me in the way of getting
work which I can do, and the
remuneration for which will keep
me, if but in the barest necessaries
know not whether
I am a true
yet I am
willing to aid you to the utmost
of my power in a purpose so honest.
First, then, tell me what you
have been accustomed to do, and
what you CAN do."
I had now swallowed my tea.
I was mightily refreshed by the
beverage; as much so as a giant
with wine: it gave new tone to
my unstrung nerves, and enabled
me to address this penetrating
young judge steadily.
"Mr. Rivers," I said, turning
to him, and looking at him, as
he looked at me, openly and without
diffidence, "you and your sisters
have done me a great service--the
greatest man can do his fellow-
being; you have rescued me, by
your noble hospitality, from
death. This benefit conferred
gives you an unlimited claim
on my gratitude, and a claim,
to a certain extent, on my confidence.
I will tell you as much of the
history of the wanderer you have
harboured, as I can tell without
compromising my own peace of
mind--my own security, moral
and physical, and that of others.
am an orphan,
of a clergyman. My parents died
before I could know them. I was
brought up a dependant; educated
in a charitable institution.
I will even tell you the name
of the establishment, where I
passed six years as a pupil,
and two as a teacher--Lowood
Orphan Asylum, -shire: you will
have heard of it, Mr. Rivers?--the
Rev. Robert Brocklehurst is the
of Mr. Brocklehurst,
and I have seen the school."
nearly a year
since to become a private governess.
I obtained a good situation,
and was happy. This place I was
obliged to leave four days before
I came here. The reason of my
departure I cannot and ought
not to explain: it would be useless,
dangerous, and would sound incredible.
No blame attached to me: I am
as free from culpability as any
one of you three. Miserable I
am, and must be for a time; for
the catastrophe which drove me
from a house I had found a paradise
was of a strange and direful
nature. I observed but two points
in planning my departure--speed,
secrecy: to secure these, I had
to leave behind me everything
I possessed except a small parcel;
which, in my hurry and trouble
of mind, I forgot to take out
of the coach that brought me
to Whitcross. To this neighbourhood,
then, I came, quite destitute.
I slept two nights in the open
air, and wandered about two days
without crossing a threshold:
but twice in that space of time
did I taste food; and it was
when brought by hunger, exhaustion,
and despair almost to the last
gasp, that you, Mr. Rivers, forbade
me to perish of want at your
door, and took me under the shelter
of your roof. I know all your
sisters have done for me since--for
I have not been insensible during
my seeming torpor--and I owe
to their spontaneous, genuine,
genial compassion as large a
debt as to your evangelical charity."
"Don't make her talk any more
now, St. John," said Diana, as
I paused; "she is evidently not
yet fit for excitement. Come
to the sofa and sit down now,
I gave an involuntary half
start at hearing the alias: I
had forgotten my new name. Mr.
Rivers, whom nothing seemed to
escape, noticed it at once.
"You said your name was Jane
Elliott?" he observed.
did say so;
and it is the
name by which I think it expedient
to be called at present, but
it is not my real name, and when
I hear it, it sounds strange
real name you
will not give?"
I fear discovery
above all things;
would lead to it, I avoid."
"You are quite right, I am
sure," said Diana. "Now do, brother,
let her be at peace a while."
But when St. John had mused
a few moments he recommenced
as imperturbably and with as
much acumen as ever.
would not like
to be long
would wish, I see, to dispense
as soon as may be with my sisters'
compassion, and, above all, with
my CHARITY (I am quite sensible
of the distinction drawn, nor
do I resent it--it is just):
you desire to be independent
do: I have
so. Show me how to work, or how
to seek work: that is all I now
ask; then let me go, if it be
but to the meanest cottage; but
till then, allow me to stay here:
I dread another essay of the
horrors of homeless destitution."
"Indeed you SHALL stay here," said
Diana, putting her white hand
on my head. "You SHALL," repeated
Mary, in the tone of undemonstrative
sincerity which seemed natural
"My sisters, you see, have
a pleasure in keeping you," said
Mr. St. John, "as they would
have a pleasure in keeping and
cherishing a half-frozen bird,
some wintry wind might have driven
through their casement. I feel
more inclination to put you in
the way of keeping yourself,
and shall endeavour to do so;
but observe, my sphere is narrow.
I am but the incumbent of a poor
country parish: my aid must be
of the humblest sort. And if
you are inclined to despise the
day of small things, seek some
more efficient succour than such
as I can offer."
"She has already said that
she is willing to do anything
honest she can do," answered
Diana for me; "and you know,
St. John, she has no choice of
helpers: she is forced to put
up with such crusty people as
"I will be a dressmaker; I
will be a plain-workwoman; I
will be a servant, a nurse-girl,
if I can be no better," I answered.
"Right," said Mr. St. John,
quite coolly. "If such is your
spirit, I promise to aid you,
in my own time and way."
He now resumed the book with
which he had been occupied before
tea. I soon withdrew, for I had
talked as much, and sat up as
long, as my present strength