Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 20
I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to let down my
window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon, which was full and
bright (for the night was fine), came in her course to that space in the sky
opposite my casement, and looked in at me through the unveiled panes, her
glorious gaze roused me. Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her
disk--silver- white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half rose,
and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.
Good God! What a cry!
The night--its silence--its rest, was rent in twain by a savage, a sharp, a shrilly
sound that ran from end to end of Thornfield Hall.
My pulse stopped: my heart stood still; my stretched arm was paralysed. The cry
died, and was not renewed. Indeed, whatever being uttered that fearful shriek
could not soon repeat it: not the widest-winged condor on the Andes could, twice
in succession, send out such a yell from the cloud shrouding his eyrie. The thing
delivering such utterance must rest ere it could repeat the effort.
It came out of the third storey; for it passed overhead. And overhead--yes, in the
room just above my chamber-ceiling--I now heard a struggle: a deadly one it
seemed from the noise; and a half-smothered voice shouted -
"Help! help! help!" three times rapidly.
"Will no one come?" it cried; and then, while the staggering and stamping went
on wildly, I distinguished through plank and plaster:-
"Rochester! Rochester! for God's sake, come!"
A chamber-door opened: some one ran, or rushed, along the gallery. Another
step stamped on the flooring above and something fell; and there was silence.
I had put on some clothes, though horror shook all my limbs; I issued from my
apartment. The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations, terrified murmurs
sounded in every room; door after door unclosed; one looked out and another
looked out; the gallery filled. Gentlemen and ladies alike had quitted their beds;
and "Oh! what is it?"--"Who is hurt?"--"What has happened?"--"Fetch a light!"--"Is
it fire?"--"Are there robbers?"--"Where shall we run?" was demanded confusedly
on all hands. But for the moonlight they would have been in complete darkness.
They ran to and fro; they crowded together: some sobbed, some stumbled: the
confusion was inextricable.
"Where the devil is Rochester?" cried Colonel Dent. "I cannot find him in his bed."
"Here! here!" was shouted in return. "Be composed, all of you: I'm coming."
And the door at the end of the gallery opened, and Mr. Rochester advanced with
a candle: he had just descended from the upper storey. One of the ladies ran to
him directly; she seized his arm: it was Miss Ingram.
"What awful event has taken place?" said she. "Speak! let us know the worst at
"But don't pull me down or strangle me," he replied: for the Misses Eshton were
clinging about him now; and the two dowagers, in vast white wrappers, were
bearing down on him like ships in full sail.