Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 17
A week passed, and no news arrived of Mr. Rochester: ten days, and still he did
not come. Mrs. Fairfax said she should not be surprised if he were to go straight
from the Leas to London, and thence to the Continent, and not show his face
again at Thornfield for a year to come; he had not unfrequently quitted it in a
manner quite as abrupt and unexpected. When I heard this, I was beginning to
feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to
experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and
recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was
wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder--how I cleared up the mistake of
supposing Mr. Rochester's movements a matter in which I had any cause to take
a vital interest. Not that I humbled myself by a slavish notion of inferiority: on the
contrary, I just said -
"You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than to receive the
salary he gives you for teaching his protégée, and to be grateful for such
respectful and kind treatment as, if you do your duty, you have a right to expect
at his hands. Be sure that is the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you
and him; so don't make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures,
agonies, and so forth. He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be too self-
respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a
gift is not wanted and would be despised."
I went on with my day's business tranquilly; but ever and anon vague
suggestions kept wandering across my brain of reasons why I should quit
Thornfield; and I kept involuntarily framing advertisements and pondering
conjectures about new situations: these thoughts I did not think check; they might
germinate and bear fruit if they could.
Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight, when the post brought
Mrs. Fairfax a letter.
"It is from the master," said she, as she looked at the direction. "Now I suppose
we shall know whether we are to expect his return or not."
And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on taking my
coffee (we were at breakfast): it was hot, and I attributed to that circumstance a
fiery glow which suddenly rose to my face. Why my hand shook, and why I
involuntarily spilt half the contents of my cup into my saucer, I did not choose to
"Well, I sometimes think we are too quiet; but we run a chance of being busy
enough now: for a little while at least," said Mrs. Fairfax, still holding the note
before her spectacles.
Ere I permitted myself to request an explanation, I tied the string of Adele's
pinafore, which happened to be loose: having helped her also to another bun and
refilled her mug with milk, I said, nonchalantly -
"Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?"
"Indeed he is--in three days, he says: that will be next Thursday; and not alone
either. I don't know how many of the fine people at the Leas are coming with him: