The manor-house of Ferndean was a building of considerable antiquity,
moderate size, and no architectural pretensions, deep buried in a wood. I had
heard of it before. Mr. Rochester often spoke of it, and sometimes went there.
His father had purchased the estate for the sake of the game covers. He would
have let the house, but could find no tenant, in consequence of its ineligible and
insalubrious site. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished, with the
exception of some two or three rooms fitted up for the accommodation of the
squire when he went there in the season to shoot.
To this house I came just ere dark on an evening marked by the characteristics
of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain. The last mile I
performed on foot, having dismissed the chaise and driver with the double
remuneration I had promised. Even when within a very short distance of the
manor- house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of
the gloomy wood about it. Iron gates between granite pillars showed me where to
enter, and passing through them, I found myself at once in the twilight of close-
ranked trees. There was a grass-grown track descending the forest aisle
between hoar and knotty shafts and under branched arches. I followed it,
expecting soon to reach the dwelling; but it stretched on and on, it would far and
farther: no sign of habitation or grounds was visible.
I thought I had taken a wrong direction and lost my way. The darkness of natural
as well as of sylvan dusk gathered over me. I looked round in search of another
road. There was none: all was interwoven stem, columnar trunk, dense summer
foliage--no opening anywhere.
I proceeded: at last my way opened, the trees thinned a little; presently I beheld a
railing, then the house--scarce, by this dim light, distinguishable from the trees;
so dank and green were its decaying walls. Entering a portal, fastened only by a
latch, I stood amidst a space of enclosed ground, from which the wood swept
away in a semicircle. There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad
gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest.
The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed
and narrow: the front door was narrow too, one step led up to it. The whole
looked, as the host of the Rochester Arms had said, "quite a desolate spot." It
was as still as a church on a week-day: the pattering rain on the forest leaves
was the only sound audible in its vicinage.
"Can there be life here?" I asked.
Yes, life of some kind there was; for I heard a movement--that narrow front-door
was unclosing, and some shape was about to issue from the grange.
It opened slowly: a figure came out into the twilight and stood on the step; a man
without a hat: he stretched forth his hand as if to feel whether it rained. Dusk as it
was, I had recognised him--it was my master, Edward Fairfax Rochester, and no
I stayed my step, almost my breath, and stood to watch him--to examine him,
myself unseen, and alas! to him invisible. It was a sudden meeting, and one in