chapter xi a new chapter in a novel is something likea new scene in a play; and when i draw up the curtain this time, reader, you mustfancy you see a room in the george inn at millcote, with such large figured papering on the walls as inn rooms have; such acarpet, such furniture, such ornaments on the mantelpiece, such prints, including aportrait of george the third, and another of the prince of wales, and arepresentation of the death of wolfe. all this is visible to you by the light ofan oil lamp hanging from the ceiling, and by that of an excellent fire, near which isit in my cloak and bonnet; my muff and
umbrella lie on the table, and i am warming away the numbness and chill contracted bysixteen hours' exposure to the rawness of an october day: i left lowton at fouro'clock a.m., and the millcote town clock is now just striking eight. reader, though i look comfortablyaccommodated, i am not very tranquil in my mind. i thought when the coach stopped here therewould be some one to meet me; i looked anxiously round as i descended the woodensteps the "boots" placed for my convenience, expecting to hear my name
pronounced, and to see some description ofcarriage waiting to convey me to thornfield. nothing of the sort was visible; and when iasked a waiter if any one had been to inquire after a miss eyre, i was answeredin the negative: so i had no resource but to request to be shown into a private room: and here i am waiting, while all sorts ofdoubts and fears are troubling my thoughts. it is a very strange sensation toinexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from everyconnection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and
prevented by many impediments fromreturning to that it has quitted. the charm of adventure sweetens thatsensation, the glow of pride warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; andfear with me became predominant when half- an-hour elapsed and still i was alone. i bethought myself to ring the bell."is there a place in this neighbourhood called thornfield?"i asked of the waiter who answered the summons. "thornfield?i don't know, ma'am; i'll inquire at the bar."he vanished, but reappeared instantly--
"is your name eyre, miss?" "yes.""person here waiting for you." i jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, andhastened into the inn-passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit street i dimly saw a one-horse conveyance. "this will be your luggage, i suppose?"said the man rather abruptly when he saw me, pointing to my trunk in the passage."yes." he hoisted it on to the vehicle, which wasa sort of car, and then i got in; before he shut me up, i asked him how far it was tothornfield.
"a matter of six miles." "how long shall we be before we get there?""happen an hour and a half." he fastened the car door, climbed to hisown seat outside, and we set off. our progress was leisurely, and gave meample time to reflect; i was content to be at length so near the end of my journey;and as i leaned back in the comfortable though not elegant conveyance, i meditatedmuch at my ease. "i suppose," thought i, "judging from theplainness of the servant and carriage, mrs. fairfax is not a very dashing person: somuch the better; i never lived amongst fine people but once, and i was very miserablewith them.
i wonder if she lives alone except thislittle girl; if so, and if she is in any degree amiable, i shall surely be able toget on with her; i will do my best; it is a pity that doing one's best does not alwaysanswer. at lowood, indeed, i took that resolution,kept it, and succeeded in pleasing; but with mrs. reed, i remember my best wasalways spurned with scorn. i pray god mrs. fairfax may not turn out asecond mrs. reed; but if she does, i am not bound to stay with her! let the worst cometo the worst, i can advertise again. how far are we on our road now, i wonder?" i let down the window and looked out;millcote was behind us; judging by the
number of its lights, it seemed a place ofconsiderable magnitude, much larger than lowton. we were now, as far as i could see, on asort of common; but there were houses scattered all over the district; i felt wewere in a different region to lowood, more populous, less picturesque; more stirring,less romantic. the roads were heavy, the night misty; myconductor let his horse walk all the way, and the hour and a half extended, i verilybelieve, to two hours; at last he turned in his seat and said-- "you're noan so far fro' thornfield now."
again i looked out: we were passing achurch; i saw its low broad tower against the sky, and its bell was tolling aquarter; i saw a narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village orhamlet. about ten minutes after, the driver gotdown and opened a pair of gates: we passed through, and they clashed to behind us. we now slowly ascended a drive, and cameupon the long front of a house: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; allthe rest were dark. the car stopped at the front door; it wasopened by a maid-servant; i alighted and went in.
"will you walk this way, ma'am?" said thegirl; and i followed her across a square hall with high doors all round: she usheredme into a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me, contrasting as it did with the darkness towhich my eyes had been for two hours inured; when i could see, however, a cosyand agreeable picture presented itself to my view. a snug small room; a round table by acheerful fire; an arm-chair high- backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatestimaginable little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown, and snowy muslin
apron; exactly like what i had fancied mrs.fairfax, only less stately and milder looking. she was occupied in knitting; a large catsat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau-ideal ofdomestic comfort. a more reassuring introduction for a newgoverness could scarcely be conceived; there was no grandeur to overwhelm, nostateliness to embarrass; and then, as i entered, the old lady got up and promptlyand kindly came forward to meet me. "how do you do, my dear? i am afraid you have had a tedious ride;john drives so slowly; you must be cold,
come to the fire.""mrs. fairfax, i suppose?" said i. "yes, you are right: do sit down." she conducted me to her own chair, and thenbegan to remove my shawl and untie my bonnet-strings; i begged she would not giveherself so much trouble. "oh, it is no trouble; i dare say your ownhands are almost numbed with cold. leah, make a little hot negus and cut asandwich or two: here are the keys of the storeroom." and she produced from her pocket a mosthousewifely bunch of keys, and delivered them to the servant."now, then, draw nearer to the fire," she
continued. "you've brought your luggage with you,haven't you, my dear?" "yes, ma'am.""i'll see it carried into your room," she said, and bustled out. "she treats me like a visitor," thought i. "i little expected such a reception; ianticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not like what i have heard of thetreatment of governesses; but i must not exult too soon." she returned; with her own hands clearedher knitting apparatus and a book or two
from the table, to make room for the traywhich leah now brought, and then herself handed me the refreshments. i felt rather confused at being the objectof more attention than i had ever before received, and, that too, shown by myemployer and superior; but as she did not herself seem to consider she was doing anything out of her place, i thought itbetter to take her civilities quietly. "shall i have the pleasure of seeing missfairfax to-night?" i asked, when i had partaken of what sheoffered me. "what did you say, my dear?i am a little deaf," returned the good
lady, approaching her ear to my mouth. i repeated the question more distinctly."miss fairfax? oh, you mean miss varens!varens is the name of your future pupil." "indeed! then she is not your daughter?""no,--i have no family." i should have followed up my first inquiry,by asking in what way miss varens was connected with her; but i recollected itwas not polite to ask too many questions: besides, i was sure to hear in time. "i am so glad," she continued, as she satdown opposite to me, and took the cat on
her knee; "i am so glad you are come; itwill be quite pleasant living here now with a companion. to be sure it is pleasant at any time; forthornfield is a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps, but stillit is a respectable place; yet you know in winter-time one feels dreary quite alone inthe best quarters. i say alone--leah is a nice girl to besure, and john and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are onlyservants, and one can't converse with them on terms of equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing one'sauthority.
i'm sure last winter (it was a very severeone, if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a creaturebut the butcher and postman came to the house, from november till february; and i really got quite melancholy with sittingnight after night alone; i had leah in to read to me sometimes; but i don't think thepoor girl liked the task much: she felt it confining. in spring and summer one got on better:sunshine and long days make such a difference; and then, just at thecommencement of this autumn, little adela varens came and her nurse: a child makes a
house alive all at once; and now you arehere i shall be quite gay." my heart really warmed to the worthy ladyas i heard her talk; and i drew my chair a little nearer to her, and expressed mysincere wish that she might find my company as agreeable as she anticipated. "but i'll not keep you sitting up late to-night," said she; "it is on the stroke of twelve now, and you have been travellingall day: you must feel tired. if you have got your feet well warmed, i'llshow you your bedroom. i've had the room next to mine prepared foryou; it is only a small apartment, but i thought you would like it better than oneof the large front chambers: to be sure
they have finer furniture, but they are so dreary and solitary, i never sleep in themmyself." i thanked her for her considerate choice,and as i really felt fatigued with my long journey, expressed my readiness to retire. she took her candle, and i followed herfrom the room. first she went to see if the hall-door wasfastened; having taken the key from the lock, she led the way upstairs. the steps and banisters were of oak; thestaircase window was high and latticed; both it and the long gallery into which thebedroom doors opened looked as if they
belonged to a church rather than a house. a very chill and vault-like air pervadedthe stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude; andi was glad, when finally ushered into my chamber, to find it of small dimensions,and furnished in ordinary, modern style. when mrs. fairfax had bidden me a kindgood-night, and i had fastened my door, gazed leisurely round, and in some measureeffaced the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious staircase, and that long, cold gallery, bythe livelier aspect of my little room, i remembered that, after a day of bodilyfatigue and mental anxiety, i was now at
last in safe haven. the impulse of gratitude swelled my heart,and i knelt down at the bedside, and offered up thanks where thanks were due;not forgetting, ere i rose, to implore aid on my further path, and the power of meriting the kindness which seemed sofrankly offered me before it was earned. my couch had no thorns in it that night; mysolitary room no fears. at once weary and content, i slept soon andsoundly: when i awoke it was broad day. the chamber looked such a bright littleplace to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window curtains, showingpapered walls and a carpeted floor, so
unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of lowood, that my spirits rose at theview. externals have a great effect on the young:i thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that was to have itsflowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. my faculties, roused by the change ofscene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all astir. i cannot precisely define what theyexpected, but it was something pleasant: not perhaps that day or that month, but atan indefinite future period.
i rose; i dressed myself with care: obligedto be plain--for i had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity--i was still by nature solicitous to be neat. it was not my habit to be disregardful ofappearance or careless of the impression i made: on the contrary, i ever wished tolook as well as i could, and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. i sometimes regretted that i was nothandsomer; i sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherrymouth; i desired to be tall, stately, and finely developed in figure; i felt it a
misfortune that i was so little, so pale,and had features so irregular and so marked.and why had i these aspirations and these regrets? it would be difficult to say: i could notthen distinctly say it to myself; yet i had a reason, and a logical, natural reasontoo. however, when i had brushed my hair verysmooth, and put on my black frock--which, quakerlike as it was, at least had themerit of fitting to a nicety--and adjusted my clean white tucker, i thought i should do respectably enough to appear before mrs.fairfax, and that my new pupil would not at
least recoil from me with antipathy. having opened my chamber window, and seenthat i left all things straight and neat on the toilet table, i ventured forth. traversing the long and matted gallery, idescended the slippery steps of oak; then i gained the hall: i halted there a minute; ilooked at some pictures on the walls (one, i remember, represented a grim man in a cuirass, and one a lady with powdered hairand a pearl necklace), at a bronze lamp pendent from the ceiling, at a great clockwhose case was of oak curiously carved, and ebon black with time and rubbing.
everything appeared very stately andimposing to me; but then i was so little accustomed to grandeur.the hall-door, which was half of glass, stood open; i stepped over the threshold. it was a fine autumn morning; the early sunshone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to thelawn, i looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. it was three storeys high, of proportionsnot vast, though considerable: a gentleman's manor-house, not a nobleman'sseat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.
its grey front stood out well from thebackground of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flewover the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where anarray of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at onceexplained the etymology of the mansion's designation. farther off were hills: not so lofty asthose round lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the livingworld; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace thornfield
with a seclusion i had not expected to findexistent so near the stirring locality of millcote. a little hamlet, whose roofs were blentwith trees, straggled up the side of one of these hills; the church of the districtstood nearer thornfield: its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house andgates. i was yet enjoying the calm prospect andpleasant fresh air, yet listening with delight to the cawing of the rooks, yetsurveying the wide, hoary front of the hall, and thinking what a great place it was for one lonely little dame like mrs.fairfax to inhabit, when that lady appeared
at the door."what! out already?" said she. "i see you are an early riser." i went up to her, and was received with anaffable kiss and shake of the hand. "how do you like thornfield?" she asked.i told her i liked it very much. "yes," she said, "it is a pretty place; buti fear it will be getting out of order, unless mr. rochester should take it intohis head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it rather oftener: great houses and fine groundsrequire the presence of the proprietor." "mr. rochester!"i exclaimed.
"who is he?" "the owner of thornfield," she respondedquietly. "did you not know he was called rochester?" of course i did not--i had never heard ofhim before; but the old lady seemed to regard his existence as a universallyunderstood fact, with which everybody must be acquainted by instinct. "i thought," i continued, "thornfieldbelonged to you." "to me?bless you, child; what an idea! to me!
i am only the housekeeper--the manager. to be sure i am distantly related to therochesters by the mother's side, or at least my husband was; he was a clergyman,incumbent of hay--that little village yonder on the hill--and that church nearthe gates was his. the present mr. rochester's mother was afairfax, and second cousin to my husband: but i never presume on the connection--infact, it is nothing to me; i consider myself quite in the light of an ordinary housekeeper: my employer is always civil,and i expect nothing more." "and the little girl--my pupil!"
"she is mr. rochester's ward; hecommissioned me to find a governess for her.he intended to have her brought up in --- shire, i believe. here she comes, with her 'bonne,' as shecalls her nurse." the enigma then was explained: this affableand kind little widow was no great dame; but a dependant like myself. i did not like her the worse for that; onthe contrary, i felt better pleased than ever. the equality between her and me was real;not the mere result of condescension on her
part: so much the better--my position wasall the freer. as i was meditating on this discovery, alittle girl, followed by her attendant, came running up the lawn. i looked at my pupil, who did not at firstappear to notice me: she was quite a child, perhaps seven or eight years old, slightlybuilt, with a pale, small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curlsto her waist. "good morning, miss adela," said mrs.fairfax. "come and speak to the lady who is to teachyou, and to make you a clever woman some day."she approached.
"c'est la ma gouverante!" said she,pointing to me, and addressing her nurse; who answered--"mais oui, certainement." "are they foreigners?" i inquired, amazed at hearing the frenchlanguage. "the nurse is a foreigner, and adela wasborn on the continent; and, i believe, never left it till within six months ago. when she first came here she could speak noenglish; now she can make shift to talk it a little: i don't understand her, she mixesit so with french; but you will make out her meaning very well, i dare say."
fortunately i had had the advantage ofbeing taught french by a french lady; and as i had always made a point of conversingwith madame pierrot as often as i could, and had besides, during the last seven years, learnt a portion of french by heartdaily--applying myself to take pains with my accent, and imitating as closely aspossible the pronunciation of my teacher, i had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in the language, and wasnot likely to be much at a loss with mademoiselle adela. she came and shook hand with me when sheheard that i was her governess; and as i
led her in to breakfast, i addressed somephrases to her in her own tongue: she replied briefly at first, but after we were seated at the table, and she had examinedme some ten minutes with her large hazel eyes, she suddenly commenced chatteringfluently. "ah!" cried she, in french, "you speak mylanguage as well as mr. rochester does: i can talk to you as i can to him, and so cansophie. she will be glad: nobody here understandsher: madame fairfax is all english. sophie is my nurse; she came with me overthe sea in a great ship with a chimney that smoked--how it did smoke!--and i was sick,and so was sophie, and so was mr.
rochester. mr. rochester lay down on a sofa in apretty room called the salon, and sophie and i had little beds in another place.i nearly fell out of mine; it was like a shelf. and mademoiselle--what is your name?""eyre--jane eyre." "aire?bah! i cannot say it. well, our ship stopped in the morning,before it was quite daylight, at a great city--a huge city, with very dark housesand all smoky; not at all like the pretty clean town i came from; and mr. rochester
carried me in his arms over a plank to theland, and sophie came after, and we all got into a coach, which took us to a beautifullarge house, larger than this and finer, called an hotel. we stayed there nearly a week: i and sophieused to walk every day in a great green place full of trees, called the park; andthere were many children there besides me, and a pond with beautiful birds in it, thati fed with crumbs." "can you understand her when she runs on sofast?" asked mrs. fairfax. i understood her very well, for i had beenaccustomed to the fluent tongue of madame pierrot.
"i wish," continued the good lady, "youwould ask her a question or two about her parents: i wonder if she remembers them?" "adele," i inquired, "with whom did youlive when you were in that pretty clean town you spoke of?""i lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the holy virgin. mama used to teach me to dance and sing,and to say verses. a great many gentlemen and ladies came tosee mama, and i used to dance before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them:i liked it. shall i let you hear me sing now?"
she had finished her breakfast, so ipermitted her to give a specimen of her accomplishments. descending from her chair, she came andplaced herself on my knee; then, folding her little hands demurely before her,shaking back her curls and lifting her eyes to the ceiling, she commenced singing asong from some opera. it was the strain of a forsaken lady, who,after bewailing the perfidy of her lover, calls pride to her aid; desires herattendant to deck her in her brightest jewels and richest robes, and resolves to meet the false one that night at a ball,and prove to him, by the gaiety of her
demeanour, how little his desertion hasaffected her. the subject seemed strangely chosen for aninfant singer; but i suppose the point of the exhibition lay in hearing the notes oflove and jealousy warbled with the lisp of childhood; and in very bad taste that pointwas: at least i thought so. adele sang the canzonette tunefully enough,and with the naivete of her age. this achieved, she jumped from my knee andsaid, "now, mademoiselle, i will repeat you some poetry."assuming an attitude, she began, "la ligue des rats: fable de la fontaine." she then declaimed the little piece with anattention to punctuation and emphasis, a
flexibility of voice and an appropriatenessof gesture, very unusual indeed at her age, and which proved she had been carefullytrained. "was it your mama who taught you thatpiece?" i asked. "yes, and she just used to say it in thisway: 'qu' avez vous donc? lui dit un de ces rats; parlez!'she made me lift my hand--so--to remind me to raise my voice at the question. now shall i dance for you?""no, that will do: but after your mama went to the holy virgin, as you say, with whomdid you live then?"
"with madame frederic and her husband: shetook care of me, but she is nothing related to me.i think she is poor, for she had not so fine a house as mama. i was not long there. mr. rochester asked me if i would like togo and live with him in england, and i said yes; for i knew mr. rochester before i knewmadame frederic, and he was always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys: but you see he has not kept his word, for hehas brought me to england, and now he is gone back again himself, and i never seehim."
after breakfast, adele and i withdrew tothe library, which room, it appears, mr. rochester had directed should be used asthe schoolroom. most of the books were locked up behindglass doors; but there was one bookcase left open containing everything that couldbe needed in the way of elementary works, and several volumes of light literature, poetry, biography, travels, a few romances,&c. i suppose he had considered that these wereall the governess would require for her private perusal; and, indeed, theycontented me amply for the present; compared with the scanty pickings i had now
and then been able to glean at lowood, theyseemed to offer an abundant harvest of entertainment and information. in this room, too, there was a cabinetpiano, quite new and of superior tone; also an easel for painting and a pair of globes. i found my pupil sufficiently docile,though disinclined to apply: she had not been used to regular occupation of anykind. i felt it would be injudicious to confineher too much at first; so, when i had talked to her a great deal, and got her tolearn a little, and when the morning had advanced to noon, i allowed her to returnto her nurse.
i then proposed to occupy myself tilldinner-time in drawing some little sketches for her use. as i was going upstairs to fetch myportfolio and pencils, mrs. fairfax called to me: "your morning school-hours are overnow, i suppose," said she. she was in a room the folding-doors ofwhich stood open: i went in when she addressed me. it was a large, stately apartment, withpurple chairs and curtains, a turkey carpet, walnut-panelled walls, one vastwindow rich in slanted glass, and a lofty ceiling, nobly moulded.
mrs. fairfax was dusting some vases of finepurple spar, which stood on a sideboard. "what a beautiful room!"i exclaimed, as i looked round; for i had never before seen any half so imposing. "yes; this is the dining-room. i have just opened the window, to let in alittle air and sunshine; for everything gets so damp in apartments that are seldominhabited; the drawing-room yonder feels like a vault." she pointed to a wide arch corresponding tothe window, and hung like it with a tyrian- dyed curtain, now looped up.
mounting to it by two broad steps, andlooking through, i thought i caught a glimpse of a fairy place, so bright to mynovice-eyes appeared the view beyond. yet it was merely a very pretty drawing-room, and within it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, on which seemed laidbrilliant garlands of flowers; both ceiled with snowy mouldings of white grapes and vine-leaves, beneath which glowed in richcontrast crimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on the pale parianmantelpiece were of sparkling bohemian glass, ruby red; and between the windows large mirrors repeated the general blendingof snow and fire.
"in what order you keep these rooms, mrs.fairfax!" said i. "no dust, no canvas coverings: except thatthe air feels chilly, one would think they were inhabited daily." "why, miss eyre, though mr. rochester'svisits here are rare, they are always sudden and unexpected; and as i observedthat it put him out to find everything swathed up, and to have a bustle of arrangement on his arrival, i thought itbest to keep the rooms in readiness." "is mr. rochester an exacting, fastidioussort of man?" "not particularly so; but he has agentleman's tastes and habits, and he
expects to have things managed inconformity to them." "do you like him? is he generally liked?""oh, yes; the family have always been respected here. almost all the land in this neighbourhood,as far as you can see, has belonged to the rochesters time out of mind.""well, but, leaving his land out of the question, do you like him? is he liked for himself?""i have no cause to do otherwise than like him; and i believe he is considered a justand liberal landlord by his tenants: but he
has never lived much amongst them." "but has he no peculiarities?what, in short, is his character?" "oh! his character is unimpeachable, isuppose. he is rather peculiar, perhaps: he hastravelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the world, i should think.i dare say he is clever, but i never had much conversation with him." "in what way is he peculiar?" "i don't know--it is not easy to describe--nothing striking, but you feel it when he speaks to you; you cannot be always surewhether he is in jest or earnest, whether
he is pleased or the contrary; you don't thoroughly understand him, in short--atleast, i don't: but it is of no consequence, he is a very good master."this was all the account i got from mrs. fairfax of her employer and mine. there are people who seem to have no notionof sketching a character, or observing and describing salient points, either inpersons or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class; my queries puzzled,but did not draw her out. mr. rochester was mr. rochester in hereyes; a gentleman, a landed proprietor-- nothing more: she inquired and searched nofurther, and evidently wondered at my wish
to gain a more definite notion of hisidentity. when we left the dining-room, she proposedto show me over the rest of the house; and i followed her upstairs and downstairs,admiring as i went; for all was well arranged and handsome. the large front chambers i thoughtespecially grand: and some of the third- storey rooms, though dark and low, wereinteresting from their air of antiquity. the furniture once appropriated to thelower apartments had from time to time been removed here, as fashions changed: and theimperfect light entering by their narrow casement showed bedsteads of a hundred
years old; chests in oak or walnut,looking, with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads, liketypes of the hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushionedtops were yet apparent traces of half- effaced embroideries, wrought by fingersthat for two generations had been coffin- dust. all these relics gave to the third storeyof thornfield hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory. i liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintnessof these retreats in the day; but i by no
means coveted a night's repose on one ofthose wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought old english hangings crustedwith thick work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and stranger birds, andstrangest human beings,--all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallidgleam of moonlight. "do the servants sleep in these rooms?"i asked. "no; they occupy a range of smallerapartments to the back; no one ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if therewere a ghost at thornfield hall, this would be its haunt."
"so i think: you have no ghost, then?""none that i ever heard of," returned mrs. fairfax, smiling."nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?" "i believe not.and yet it is said the rochesters have been rather a violent than a quiet race in theirtime: perhaps, though, that is the reason they rest tranquilly in their graves now." "yes--'after life's fitful fever they sleepwell,'" i muttered. "where are you going now, mrs. fairfax?"for she was moving away. "on to the leads; will you come and see theview from thence?"
i followed still, up a very narrowstaircase to the attics, and thence by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roofof the hall. i was now on a level with the crow colony,and could see into their nests. leaning over the battlements and lookingfar down, i surveyed the grounds laid out like a map: the bright and velvet lawnclosely girdling the grey base of the mansion; the field, wide as a park, dotted with its ancient timber; the wood, dun andsere, divided by a path visibly overgrown, greener with moss than the trees were withfoliage; the church at the gates, the road, the tranquil hills, all reposing in the
autumn day's sun; the horizon bounded by apropitious sky, azure, marbled with pearly white.no feature in the scene was extraordinary, but all was pleasing. when i turned from it and repassed thetrap-door, i could scarcely see my way down the ladder; the attic seemed black as avault compared with that arch of blue air to which i had been looking up, and to that sunlit scene of grove, pasture, and greenhill, of which the hall was the centre, and over which i had been gazing with delight. mrs. fairfax stayed behind a moment tofasten the trap-door; i, by drift of
groping, found the outlet from the attic,and proceeded to descend the narrow garret staircase. i lingered in the long passage to whichthis led, separating the front and back rooms of the third storey: narrow, low, anddim, with only one little window at the far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridorin some bluebeard's castle. while i paced softly on, the last sound iexpected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. it was a curious laugh; distinct, formal,mirthless.
i stopped: the sound ceased, only for aninstant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low. it passed off in a clamorous peal thatseemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated but in one,and i could have pointed out the door whence the accents issued. "mrs. fairfax!"i called out: for i now heard her descending the great stairs."did you hear that loud laugh? who is it?" "some of the servants, very likely," sheanswered: "perhaps grace poole."
"did you hear it?"i again inquired. "yes, plainly: i often hear her: she sewsin one of these rooms. sometimes leah is with her; they arefrequently noisy together." the laugh was repeated in its low, syllabictone, and terminated in an odd murmur. "grace!" exclaimed mrs. fairfax. i really did not expect any grace toanswer; for the laugh was as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any i ever heard;and, but that it was high noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness accompanied the curious cachinnation; but that neitherscene nor season favoured fear, i should
have been superstitiously afraid.however, the event showed me i was a fool for entertaining a sense even of surprise. the door nearest me opened, and a servantcame out,--a woman of between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and with a hard, plain face: any apparition less romantic or less ghostlycould scarcely be conceived. "too much noise, grace," said mrs. fairfax."remember directions!" grace curtseyed silently and went in. "she is a person we have to sew and assistleah in her housemaid's work," continued the widow; "not altogether unobjectionablein some points, but she does well enough.
by-the-bye, how have you got on with yournew pupil this morning?" the conversation, thus turned on adele,continued till we reached the light and cheerful region below. adele came running to meet us in the hall,exclaiming-- "mesdames, vous etes servies!" adding,"j'ai bien faim, moi!" we found dinner ready, and waiting for usin mrs. fairfax's room.