When Mr. St. John went, it was beginning to snow; the whirling storm continued
all night. The next day a keen wind brought fresh and blinding falls; by twilight the
valley was drifted up and almost impassable. I had closed my shutter, laid a mat
to the door to prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and
after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled fury of the
tempest, I lit a candle, took down "Marmion," and beginning --
"Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Tweed's fair river broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone;
The massive towers, the donjon keep,
The flanking walls that round them sweep,
In yellow lustre shone" -
I soon forgot storm in music.
I heard a noise: the wind, I thought, shook the door. No; it was St. John Rivers,
who, lifting the latch, came in out of the frozen hurricane--the howling darkness--
and stood before me: the cloak that covered his tall figure all white as a glacier. I
was almost in consternation, so little had I expected any guest from the blocked-
up vale that night.
"Any ill news?" I demanded. "Has anything happened?"
"No. How very easily alarmed you are?" he answered, removing his cloak and
hanging it up against the door, towards which he again coolly pushed the mat
which his entrance had deranged. He stamped the snow from his boots.
"I shall sully the purity of your floor," said he, "but you must excuse me for once."
Then he approached the fire. "I have had hard work to get here, I assure you," he
observed, as he warmed his hands over the flame. "One drift took me up to the
waist; happily the snow is quite soft yet."
"But why are you come?" I could not forbear saying.
"Rather an inhospitable question to put to a visitor; but since you ask it, I answer
simply to have a little talk with you; I got tired of my mute books and empty
rooms. Besides, since yesterday I have experienced the excitement of a person
to whom a tale has been half- told, and who is impatient to hear the sequel."
He sat down. I recalled his singular conduct of yesterday, and really I began to
fear his wits were touched. If he were insane, however, his was a very cool and
collected insanity: I had never seen that handsome-featured face of his look
more like chiselled marble than it did just now, as he put aside his snow-wet hair
from his forehead and let the firelight shine free on his pale brow and cheek as
pale, where it grieved me to discover the hollow trace of care or sorrow now so
plainly graved. I waited, expecting he would say something I could at least
comprehend; but his hand was now at his chin, his finger on his lip: he was
thinking. It struck me that his hand looked wasted like his face. A perhaps
uncalled-for gush of pity came over my heart: I was moved to say -
"I wish Diana or Mary would come and live with you: it is too bad that you should
be quite alone; and you are recklessly rash about your own health."