"Well, whatever my sufferings had been, they were very short," I answered: and then I proceeded to tell him how I had been received at Moor House; how I had obtained the office of schoolmistress, etc. The accession of fortune, the discovery of my relations, followed in due order. Of course, St. John Rivers' name came in frequently in the progress of my tale. When I had done, that name was immediately taken up.
"This St. John, then, is your cousin?"
"You have spoken of him often: do you like him?"
"He was a very good man, sir; I could not help liking him."
"A good man. Does that mean a respectable well-conducted man of fifty? Or what does it mean?"
"St John was only twenty-nine, sir."
"'Jeune encore,' as the French say. Is he a person of low stature, phlegmatic, and plain. A person whose goodness consists rather in his guiltlessness of vice, than in his prowess in virtue."
"He is untiringly active. Great and exalted deeds are what he lives to perform."
"But his brain? That is probably rather soft? He means well: but you shrug your shoulders to hear him talk?"
"He talks little, sir: what he does say is ever to the point. His brain is first-rate, I should think not impressible, but vigorous."
"Is he an able man, then?"
"A thoroughly educated man?"
"St. John is an accomplished and profound scholar."
"His manners, I think, you said are not to your taste? - priggish and parsonic?"
"I never mentioned his manners; but, unless I had a very bad taste, they must suit it; they are polished, calm, and gentlemanlike."
"His appearance, - I forget what description you gave of his appearance; - a sort of raw curate, half strangled with his white neckcloth, and stilted up on his thick-soled high-lows, eh?"
"St. John dresses well. He is a handsome man: tall, fair, with blue eyes, and a Grecian profile."
(Aside.) "Damn him!" - (To me.) "Did you like him, Jane?"
"Yes, Mr. Rochester, I liked him: but you asked me that before."
I perceived, of course, the drift of my interlocutor. Jealousy had got hold of him: she stung him; but the sting was salutary: it gave him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy. I would not, therefore, immediately charm the snake.
"Perhaps you would rather not sit any longer on my knee, Miss Eyre?" was the next somewhat unexpected observation.
"Why not, Mr. Rochester?"
"The picture you have just drawn is suggestive of a rather too overwhelming contrast. Your words have delineated very prettily a graceful Apollo: he is present to your imagination, - tall, fair, blue-eyed, and with a Grecian profile. Your eyes dwell on a Vulcan, - a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered: and blind and lame into the bargain."
"I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like Vulcan, sir."
"Well, you can leave me, ma'am: but before you go" (and he retained me by a firmer grasp than ever), "you will be pleased just to answer me a question or two." He paused.
"What questions, Mr. Rochester?"
Then followed this cross-examination.
"St. John made you schoolmistress of Morton before he knew you were his cousin?"
"You would often see him? He would visit the school sometimes?"
"He would approve of your plans, Jane? I know they would be clever, for you are a talented creature!"
"He approved of them - yes."
"He would discover many things in you he could not have expected to find? Some of your accomplishments are not ordinary."
"I don't know about that."
"You had a little cottage near the school, you say: did he ever come there to see you?"
"Now and then?"
"Of an evening?"
"Once or twice."
"How long did you reside with him and his sisters after the cousinship was discovered?"
"Did Rivers spend much time with the ladies of his family?"
"Yes; the back parlour was both his study and ours: he sat near the window, and we by the table."
"Did he study much?"
"A good deal."
"And what did you do meantime?"
"I learnt German, at first."
"Did he teach you?"
"He did not understand German."
"Did he teach you nothing?"
"A little Hindostanee."
"Rivers taught you Hindostanee?"
"And his sisters also?"
"Did you ask to learn?"
"He wished to teach you?"
A second pause.
"Why did he wish it? Of what use could Hindostanee be to you?"
"He intended me to go with him to India."
"Ah! here I reach the root of the matter. He wanted you to marry him?"
"He asked me to marry him."
"That is a fiction - an impudent invention to vex me."
"I beg your pardon, it is the literal truth: he asked me more than once, and was as stiff about urging his point as ever you could be."
"Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me. How often am I to say the same thing? Why do you remain pertinaciously perched on my knee, when I have given you notice to quit?"
"Because I am comfortable there."
"No, Jane, you are not comfortable there, because your heart is not with me: it is with this cousin - this St. John. Oh, till this moment, I thought my little Jane was all mine! I had a belief she loved me even when she left me: that was an atom of sweet in much bitter. Long as we have been parted, hot tears as I have wept over our separation, I never thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another! But it is useless grieving. Jane, leave me: go and marry Rivers."
"Shake me off, then, sir, - push me away, for I'll not leave you of my own accord."
"Jane, I ever like your tone of voice: it still renews hope, it sounds so truthful. When I hear it, it carries me back a year. I forget that you have formed a new tie. But I am not a fool - go - "