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Chapter 16

I BOTH wished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day which followed this sleepless night: I wanted to hear his voice again, yet feared to meet his eye. During the early part of the morning, I momentarily expected his coming; he was not in the frequent habit of entering the schoolroom, but he did step in for a few minutes sometimes, and I had the impression that he was sure to visit it that day.
But the morning passed just as usual: nothing happened to interrupt the quiet course of Adele's studies; only soon after breakfast, I heard some bustle in the neighbourhood of Mr. Rochester's chamber, Mrs. Fairfax's voice, and Leah's, and the cook's- that is, John's wife- and even John's own gruff tones. There were exclamations of 'What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!' 'It is always dangerous to keep a candle lit at night.' 'How providential that he had presence of mind to think of the water-jug!' 'I wonder he waked nobody!' 'It is to be hoped he will not take cold with sleeping on the library sofa,' etc.

To much confabulation succeeded a sound of scrubbing and setting to rights; and when I passed the room, in going downstairs to dinner, I saw through the open door that all was again restored to complete order; only the bed was stripped of its hangings. Leah stood up in the window-seat, rubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke. I was about to address her, for I wished to know what account had been given of the affair: but, on advancing, I saw a second person in the chamber- a woman sitting on a chair by the bedside, and sewing rings to new curtains. That woman was no other than Grace Poole.

There she sat, staid and taciturn-looking, as usual, in her brown stuff gown, her check apron, White handkerchief, and cap. She was intent on her work, in which her whole thoughts seemed absorbed: on her hard forehead, and in her commonplace features, was nothing either of the paleness or desperation one would have expected to see marking the countenance of a woman who had attempted murder, and whose intended victim had followed her last night to her lair, and (as I believed), charged her with the crime she wished to perpetrate. I was amazed-confounded. She looked up, while I still gazed at her: no start, no increase or failure of colour betrayed emotion, consciousness of guilt, or fear of detection. She said 'Good morning, Miss,' in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner; and taking up another ring and more tape, went on with her sewing.

'I will put her to some test,' thought I: 'such absolute impenetrability is past comprehension.'

'Good morning, Grace,' I said. 'Has anything happened here? I thought I heard the servants all talking together a while ago.'

'Only master had been reading in his bed last night; he fell asleep with his candle lit, and the curtains got on fire; but, fortunately, he awoke before the bedclothes or the woodwork caught, and contrived to quench the flames with the water in the ewer.'

'A strange affair!' I said, in a low voice: then, looking at her fixedly- 'Did Mr. Rochester wake nobody? Did no one hear him move?'

She again raised her eyes to me, and this time there was something of consciousness in their expression. She seemed to examine me warily; then she answered-

'The servants sleep so far off, you know, Miss, they would not be likely to hear. Mrs. Fairfax's room and yours are the nearest to master's; but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing: when people get elderly, they often sleep heavy.' She paused, and then added, with a sort of assumed indifference, but still in a marked and significant tone- 'But you are young, Miss; and I should say a light sleeper: perhaps you may have heard a noise?'

'I did,' said I, dropping my voice, so that Leah, who was still polishing the panes, could not hear me, 'and at first I thought it was Pilot: but Pilot cannot laugh; and I am certain I heard a laugh, and a strange one.'

She took a new needleful of thread, waxed it carefully, threaded her needle with a steady hand, and then observed, with perfect composure-

'It is hardly likely master would laugh, I should think, Miss, when he was in such danger: you must have been dreaming.'

'I was not dreaming,' I said, with some warmth, for her brazen coolness provoked me. Again she looked at me; and with the same scrutinising and conscious eye.

'Have you told master that you heard a laugh?' she inquired.

'I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning.'

'You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the gallery?' she further asked.

She appeared to be cross-questioning me, attempting to draw from me information unawares. The idea struck me that if she discovered I knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing off some of her malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.

'On the contrary,' said I, 'I bolted my door.'

'Then you are not in the habit of bolting your door every night before you get into bed?'

'Fiend! she wants to know my habits, that she may lay her plans accordingly!' Indignation again prevailed over prudence: I replied sharply, 'Hitherto I have often omitted to fasten the bolt: I did not think it necessary. I was not aware any danger or annoyance was to be dreaded at Thornfield Hall: but in future' (and I laid marked stress on the words) 'I shall take good care to make all secure before I venture to lie down.'

'It will be wise so to do,' was her answer: 'this neighbourhood is as quiet as any I know, and I never heard of the hall being attempted by robbers since it was a house; though there are hundreds of pounds' worth of plate in the plate-closet, as is well known. And you see, for such a large house, there are very few servants, because master has never lived here much; and when he does come, being a bachelor, he needs little waiting on: but I always think it best to err on the safe side; a door is soon fastened, and it is as well to have a drawn bolt between one and any mischief that may be about. A deal of people, Miss, are for trusting all to Providence; but I say Providence will not dispense with the means, though He often blesses them when they are used discreetly.' And here she closed her harangue: a long one for her, and uttered with the demureness of a Quakeress.

I still stood absolutely dumfoundered at what appeared to me her miraculous self-possession, and most inscrutable hypocrisy, when the cook entered.

'Mrs. Poole,' said she, addressing Grace, 'the servants' dinner will soon be ready: will you come down?'

'No; just put my pint of porter and bit of pudding on a tray, and I'll carry it upstairs.'

'You'll have some meat?'

'Just a morsel, and a taste of cheese, that's all.'

'And the sago?'

'Never mind it at present: I shall be coming down before tea-time: I'll make it myself.'

The cook here turned to me, saying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for me: so I departed.

I hardly heard Mrs. Fairfax's account of the curtain conflagration during dinner, so much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over the enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and still more in pondering the problem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why she had not been given into custody that morning, or, at the very least, dismissed from her master's service. He had almost as much as declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her? Why had he enjoined me, too, to secrecy? It was strange: a bold, vindictive, and haughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of the meanest of his dependants; so much in her power, that even when she lifted her hand against his life, he dared not openly charge her with the attempt, much less punish her for it.

Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr. Rochester in her behalf; but, hard-favoured and matronly as she was, the idea could not be admitted. 'Yet,' I reflected, 'she has been young once; her youth would be contemporary with her master's: Mrs. Fairfax told me once, she had lived here many years. I don't think she can ever have been pretty; but, for aught I know, she may possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the want of personal advantages. Mr. Rochester is an amateur of the decided and eccentric: Grace is eccentric at least. What if a former caprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden and headstrong as his) has delivered him into her power, and she now exercises over his actions a secret influence, the result of his own indiscretion, which he cannot shake off, and dare not disregard?' But, having reached this point of conjecture, Mrs. Poole's square, flat figure, and uncomely, dry, even coarse face, recurred so distinctly to my mind's eye, that I thought, 'No; impossible! my supposition cannot be correct. Yet,' suggested the secret voice which talks to us in our own hearts, 'you are not beautiful either, and perhaps Mr. Rochester approves you: at any rate, you have often felt as if he did; and last night- remember his words; remember his look; remember his voice!'

I well remembered all; language, glance, and tone seemed at the moment vividly renewed. I was now in the schoolroom; Adele was drawing; I bent over her and directed her pencil. She looked up with a sort of start.

'Qu'avez-vous, mademoiselle?' said she. 'Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!' 'I am hot, Adele, with stooping!' She went on sketching; I went on thinking.

I hastened to drive from my mind the hateful notion I had been conceiving respecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me. I compared myself with her, and found we were different. Bessie Leaven had said I was quite a lady; and she spoke truth- I was a lady. And now I looked much better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had more colour and more flesh, more life, more vivacity, because I had brighter hopes and keener enjoyments.

'Evening approaches,' said I, as I looked towards the window. 'I have never heard Mr. Rochester's voice or step in the house to-day; but surely I shall see him before night: I feared the meeting in the morning; now I desire it, because expectation has been so long baffled that it is grown impatient.'

When dusk actually closed, and when Adele left me to go and play in the nursery with Sophie, I did most keenly desire it. I listened for the bell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with a message; I fancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester's own tread, and I turned to the door, expecting it to open and admit him. The door remained shut; darkness only came in through the window. Still it was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o'clock, and it was yet but six. Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-night, when I had so many things to say to him! I wanted again to introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she who had made last night's hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept her wickedness a secret. It little mattered whether my curiosity irritated him; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always prevented me from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation I never ventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.

Retaining every minute form of respect, every propriety of my station, I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy restraint; this suited both him and me.

A tread creaked on the stairs at last. Leah made her appearance; but it was only to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax's room.

Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester's presence.

'You must want your tea,' said the good lady, as I joined her; 'you ate so little at dinner. I am afraid,' she continued, 'you are not well to-day: you look flushed and feverish.'

'Oh, quite well! I never felt better.'

'Then you must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fill the teapot while I knit off this needle?' Having completed her task, she rose to draw down the blind, which she had hitherto kept up, by way, I suppose, of making the most of daylight, though dusk was now fast deepening into total obscurity.

'It is fair to-night,' said she, as she looked through the panes, 'though not starlight; Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a favourable day for his journey.'

'Journey!- Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere? I did not know he was out.'

'Oh, he set off the moment he had breakfast! He is gone to the Leas, Mr. Eshton's place, ten miles on the other side Millcote. I believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others.'

'Do you expect him back to-night?'

'No- nor to-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together, they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate.

Gentlemen especially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr. Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; though you would not think his appearance calculated to recommend him particularly in their eyes: but I suppose his acquirements and abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any little fault of look.'

'Are there ladies at the Leas?'

'There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters- very elegant young ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingram, most beautiful women, I suppose: indeed I have seen Blanche, six or seven years since, when she was a girl of eighteen. She came here to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have seen the dining-room that day- how richly it was decorated, how brilliantly lit up! I should think there were fifty ladies and gentlemen present- all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram was considered the belle of the evening.'

'You saw her, you say, Mrs. Fairfax: what was she like?'

'Yes, I saw her. The dining-room doors were thrown open; and, as it was Christmas-time, the servants were allowed to assemble in the hall, to hear some of the ladies sing and play. Mr. Rochester would have me to come in, and I sat down in a quiet corner and watched them. I never saw a more splendid scene: the ladies were magnificently dressed; most of them- at least most of the younger ones- looked handsome; but Miss Ingram was certainly the queen.'

'And what was she like?'

'Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr. Rochester's: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And then she had such a fine head of hair; raven-black and so becomingly arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest, the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends  below her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls.'

'She was greatly admired, of course?'

'Yes, indeed: and not only for her beauty, but for her accomplishments. She was one of the ladies who sang: a gentleman accompanied her on the piano. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet.'

'Mr. Rochester? I was not aware he could sing.'

'Oh! he has a fine bass voice, and an excellent taste for music.'

'And Miss Ingram: what sort of a voice had she?'

'A very rich and powerful one: she sang delightfully; it was a treat to listen to her;- and she played afterwards. I am no judge of music, but Mr. Rochester is; and I heard him say her execution was remarkably good.'

'And this beautiful and accomplished lady, she is not yet married.'

'It appears not: I fancy neither she nor her sister have very large fortunes. Old Lord Ingram's estates were chiefly entailed, and the eldest son came in for everything almost.'

'But I wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy to her: Mr. Rochester, for instance. He is rich, is he not?'

'Oh! yes. But you see there is a considerable difference in age: Mr. Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five.'

'What of that? More unequal matches are made every day.'

'True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain an idea of the sort. But you eat nothing: you have scarcely tasted since you began tea.'

'No: I am too thirsty to eat. Will you let me have another cup?'

I was about again to revert to the probability of a union between Mr. Rochester and the beautiful Blanche; but Adele came in, and the conversation was turned into another channel.

When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured to bring back with a strict hand such as had been straying through imagination's boundless and trackless waste, into the safe fold of common sense.

Arraigned at my own bar, Memory having given her evidence of the hopes, wishes, sentiments I had been cherishing since last night- of the general state of mind in which I had indulged for nearly a fortnight past; Reason having come forward and told, in her own quiet way, a plain, unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the real, and rabidly devoured the ideal;- I pronounced judgment to this effect:-

That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life; that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.

'You,' I said, 'a favourite with Mr. Rochester? You gifted with the power of pleasing him? You of importance to him in any way? Go! your folly sickens me. And you have derived pleasure from occasional tokens of preference- equivocal tokens shown by a gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependant and a novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe!- Could not even self-interest make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the brief scene of last night?-

Cover your face and be ashamed! He said something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatuus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication.

'Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: to-morrow, place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully, without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no displeasing irregularity; write under it, "Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain."

'Afterwards, take a piece of smooth ivory- you have one prepared in your drawing-box: take your palette, mix your freshest, finest, clearest tints; choose your most delicate camel-hair pencils; delineate carefully the loveliest face you can imagine; paint it in your softest shades and sweetest hues, according to the description given by Mrs. Fairfax of Blanche Ingram; remember the raven ringlets, the oriental eye;- What! you revert to Mr. Rochester as a model! Order! No snivel!- no sentiment!- no regret! I will endure only sense and resolution. Recall the august yet harmonious lineaments, the Grecian neck and bust; let the round and dazzling arm be visible, and the delicate hand; omit neither diamond ring nor gold bracelet; portray faithfully the attire, aerial lace and glistening satin, graceful scarf and golden rose; call it "Blanche, an accomplished lady of rank."

'Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them: say, "Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?"'

'I'll do it,' I resolved: and having framed this determination, I grew calm, and fell asleep.

I kept my word. An hour or two sufficed to sketch my own portrait in crayons; and in less than a fortnight I had completed an ivory miniature of an imaginary Blanche Ingram. It looked a lovely face enough, and when compared with the real head in chalk, the contrast was as great as self-control could desire. I derived benefit from the task: it had kept my head and hands employed, and had given force and fixedness to the new impressions I wished to stamp indelibly on my heart.

Ere long, I had reason to congratulate myself on the course of wholesome discipline to which I had thus forced my feelings to submit.

Thanks to it, I was able to meet subsequent occurrences with a decent calm, which, had they found me unprepared, I should probably have been unequal to maintain, even externally.
  
 
那个不眠之夜后的第二天,我既希望见到罗切斯特先生,而又害怕见到他。我很想再次倾听他的声音,而又害怕与他的目光相遇。上午的前半晌,我时刻盼他来。他不常进读书室,但有时却进来呆几分钟。我有这样的预感,那天他一定会来。

但是,早上像往常那么过去了。没有发生什么影响阿黛勒宁静学习课程的事情。只是早饭后不久,我听到罗切斯特先生卧室附近一阵喧闹,有费尔法克斯太太的嗓音,还有莉娅的和厨师的——也就是约翰妻子的嗓音,甚至还有约翰本人粗哑的调门,有人大惊小怪地叫着:“真幸运呀,老爷没有给烧死在床上!”“点蜡烛过夜总归是危险的。”“真是上帝保佑,他还能那么清醒,想起了水罐!”“真奇怪,他谁都没有吵醒!”“但愿他睡在图书室沙发上不会着凉!”

这一番闲聊之后,响起了擦擦洗洗,收拾整理的声音。我下楼吃饭经过这间房子,从开着的门后进去,只见一切都又恢复得井井有条。只有床上的帐幔都已拆除,莉娅站在窗台上,擦着被烟薰黑的玻璃。我希望知道这件事是怎么解释的,正要同她讲话,但往前一看,只见房里还有第二个人——一个女人,坐在床边的椅子上,缝着新窗帘的挂环。那女人正是格雷斯.普尔。

她坐在那里,还是往常那付沉默寡言的样子,穿着褐色料子服,系着格子围裙,揣着白手帕,戴着帽子。她专心致志地忙着手头的活儿,似乎全身心都扑上去了。她冷漠的额头和普普通通的五官,既不显得苍白,也不见绝望的表情,那种人们期望在一个蓄谋杀人的女人脸上看到的表情特征,而且那位受害者昨晚跟踪到了她的藏身之处,并(如我所相信)指控她蓄意犯罪。我十分惊讶,甚至感到惶惑。我继续盯着她看时,她抬起了头来,没有惊慌之态,没有变脸色,而因此泄露她的情绪和负罪感,以及害怕被发现的恐惧心理。她以平时那种冷淡和简慢的态度说了声:“早安,小姐,”又拿起一个挂环和一圈线带,继续缝了起来。

“我倒要试试她看,”我想,“那么丝毫不露声色是令人难以理解的”。

“早安,格雷斯,”我说,“这儿发生了什么事吗?我想刚才我听到仆人们都议论纷纷呢。”

“不过是昨晚老爷躺在床上看书,亮着蜡烛就睡着了,床幔起了火,幸亏床单或木板还没着火他就醒了,想法用罐子里的水浇灭了火焰。”

“怪事!”我低声说,随后目光紧盯着她,“罗切斯特先生没有弄醒谁吗!你没有听到他走动?”

她再次抬眼看我,这回她的眸子里露出了一种若有所悟的表情。她似乎先警惕地审视我,然后才回答道:

“仆人们睡的地方离得很远,你知道的,小姐,她们不可能听到。费尔法克斯太太的房间和你的离老爷的卧室最近,但费尔法克斯太太说她没有听到什么,人老了,总是睡得很死,”她顿了一顿,随后装作若无其事的样子,却以清楚而意味深长的语调补充说:“不过你很年轻,小姐,而且应当说睡得不熟,也许你听到了什么声音。”

“我是听到了,”我压低了声音说。这样,仍在擦窗的莉娅就不会听到我了。“起初,我以为是派洛特,可是派洛特不会笑,而我敢肯定,我听到了笑声,古怪的笑声”。

她又拿了一根线,仔细地上了蜡,她的手沉稳地把线穿进针眼,随后非常镇静地说:

“我想老爷处在危险之中是不大可能笑的,小姐,你一定是在做梦了。”

“我没有做梦,”我带着几分恼火说,因为她那种厚颜无耻的镇定把我激怒了。她又带着同样探究和警惕的目光看着我。

“你告诉老爷了没有,你听到笑声了?”她问道。

“早上我还没有机会同他说呢。”

“你没有想到开门往走廊里一瞧?”她往下问

她似乎在盘问我,想在不知不觉中把我的话掏出来。我忽然想到,她要是发觉我知道或是怀疑她的罪行,就会恶意作弄我,我想还是警惕为妙。

“恰恰相反,”我说,“我把门拴上了。”

“那你每天睡觉之前没有拴门的习惯吗?”

“这恶魔!她想知道我的习惯,好以此来算计我:”愤怒再次压倒谨慎,我尖刻地回答:“到目前为止我还是常常忽略了拴门,我认为没有这必要,我以前没有意识到在桑菲尔德还要担心什么危险或者烦恼,不过将来(我特别强调了这几个字),我要小心谨慎,弄得一切都安安全全了才敢躺下睡觉。”

“这样做才聪明呢,”她回答,“这一带跟我知道的任何地方都一样安静,打从府宅建成以来、我还没有听说过有强盗上门呢。尽管谁都知道,盘子柜里有价值几百英镑的盘子,而且你知道,老爷不在这里长住,就是来住,因为是单身汉也不大要人服侍,所以这么大的房子,只有很少几个仆人。不过我总认为过份注意安全总比不注意安全好,门一下子就能拴上,还是拴上门,把自己和可能发生的祸害隔开为好。小姐,很多人都把一切托付给上帝,但要我说呀,上帝不会排斥采取措施,尽管他只常常祝福那些谨慎采取的措施,”说到这里她结束了长篇演说。这番话对地来说是够长的了,而且口气里带着贵格会女教徒的假正经。

我依旧站在那里,正被她出奇的镇定和难以理解的虚伪弄得目瞪口呆时,厨师进门来了。

“普尔太太,”她对格雷斯说,“佣人的午饭马上就好了,你下楼去吗?”

“不啦,你就把我那一品特葡萄酒和一小块布丁放在托盘里吧,我会端到楼上去。”

“你还要些肉吗?”

“就来一小份吧,再来一点奶酪,就这些。”

“还有西米呢?”

“现在就不用啦,用茶点之前我会下来的,我自己来做。”

这时厨师转向我,说费尔法克斯太太在等看我,于是我就离开了。

吃午饭时候,费尔法克斯太太谈起帐幔失火的事。我几乎没有听见,因为我绞尽脑汁,思索着格雷斯.普尔这个神秘人物,尤其是考虑她在桑菲尔德的地位问题;对为什么那天早晨她没有被拘留,或者至少被老爷解雇,而感到纳闷。昨天晚上,他几乎等于宣布确信她犯了罪。是什么神秘的原因却使他不去指控她呢,为什么他也嘱咐我严守秘密呢,真也奇怪,一位大胆自负、复仇心切的绅士,不知怎地似乎受制于一个最卑微的下属、而且被她控制得如此之紧,甚至当她动手要谋害他时,竟不敢公开指控她的图谋,更不必说惩罚她了。

要是格雷斯年轻漂亮,我会不由得认为,那种比谨慎或忧虑更为温存的情感左右了罗切斯特先生,使他偏袒于她。可是她面貌丑陋,又是一付管家婆样子,这种想法也就站不住脚了。“不过,”我思忖道,“她曾有过青春年华,那时主人也跟她一样年轻。费尔法克斯太太曾告诉我,她在这里已住了很多年。我认为她从来就没有姿色,但是也许她性格的力量和独特之处弥补了外貌上的不足。罗切斯特先生喜欢果断和古怪的人,格雷斯至少很古怪。要是从前一时的荒唐(像他那种刚愎自用、反复无常的个性,完全有可能干出轻率的事来)使他落入了她的掌中,行为上的不检点酿成了恶果,使他如今对格雷斯所施加给自己的秘密影响,既无法摆脱,又不能漠视,那又有什么奇怪呢?但是,一想到这里,普尔太太宽阔、结实、扁平的身材和丑陋干瘪甚至粗糙的面容,便清晰地浮现在我眼前,于是我想:“不,不可能!我的猜想不可能是对的。不过,”一个在我心里悄悄说话的声音建议道:“你自己也并不漂亮,而罗切斯特先生却赞赏你,至少你总是觉得好像他是这样,而且昨天晚上——别忘了他的话,别忘了他的神态,别忘了他的嗓音!”

这一切我都记得清清楚楚:那语言,那眼神,那声调此刻似乎活生生地再现了。这时我呆在读书室里,阿黛勒在画画,我弯着身子指导她使用画笔,她抬起头,颇有些吃惊。

“Q'avez vous, Mademoiselle”她说“Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille,et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!”

“我很热,阿黛勒,这么躬着身!”她继续画她的速写,我继续我的思考。

我急于要把对格雷斯.普尔的讨厌想法,从脑海中驱走,因为它使我感到厌恶,我把她与自己作了比较,发现彼此并不相同。贝茜.利文曾说我很有小姐派头。她说的是事实,我是一位小姐。而如今,我看上去已比当初贝茜见我时好多了。我脸色已更加红润,人已更加丰满,更富有生命力,更加朝气蓬勃,因为有了更光明的前景和更大的欢乐。

“黄昏快到了,”我朝窗子看了看,自言自语地说。“今天我还没有在房间里听到过罗切斯特先生的声音和脚步声呢。不过天黑之前我肯定会见到他。早上我害怕见面,而现在却渴望见面了。我的期望久久落空,真有点让人不耐烦了。”

当真的暮色四合,阿黛勒离开我到保育室同索菲娅一起去玩时,我急盼着同他见面。我等待着听到楼下响起铃声,等待着听到莉娅带着口讯上楼的声音。有时还在恍惚中听到罗切斯特先生自己的脚步声,便赶紧把脸转向门口,期待着门一开,他走了进来。但门依然紧闭着,唯有夜色透进了窗户。不过现在还不算太晚,他常常到七、八点钟才派人来叫我,而此刻才六点。当然今晚我不应该完全失望,因为我有那么多的话要同他说,我要再次提起格雷斯.普尔这个话题,听听他会怎么回答,我要爽爽气气地问他,是否真的相信是她昨夜动了恶念,要是相信,那他为什么要替她的恶行保守秘密。我的好奇心会不会激怒他关系不大,反正我知道一会儿惹他生气,一会儿抚慰他的乐趣,这是一件我很乐意干的事,一种很有把握的直觉常常使我不至于做过头,我从来没有冒险越出使他动怒的界线,但在正边缘上我很喜欢一试身手。我可以既保持细微的自尊,保持我的身份所需的一应礼节,而又可以无忧无虑、无拘无束地同他争论,这样对我们两人都合适。

楼梯上终于响起了吱格的脚步声,莉娅来了,但她不过是来通知茶点己在费尔法克斯太太房间里摆好,我朝那走去,心里很是高兴,至少可以到楼下去了。我想这么一来离罗切斯特先生更近了。

“你一定想用茶点了,”到了她那里后,这位善良的太太说,“午饭你吃得那么少,”她往下说,“我担心你今天不大舒服。你看上去脸色绯红,像是发了烧。”

“啊!很好呀,我觉得再好没有了。”

“那你得用好胃口来证实一下,你把茶壶灌满让我织完这一针好吗,”这活儿一了结,她便站起来把一直开着的百叶窗放下。我猜想没有关窗是为了充分利用日光,尽管这时己经暮霭沉沉,天色一片朦胧了。

“今晚天气晴朗,”她透过窗玻璃往外看时说,“虽然没有星光,罗切斯特先生出门总算遇上了好天气。”

“出门?——罗切斯特先生到哪里去了吗,我不知道他出去了。”

“噢,他吃好早饭就出去了!他去了里斯。埃希顿先生那儿,在米尔科特的另一边,离这儿十英里,我想那儿聚集了一大批人,英格拉姆勋爵、乔治.林恩爵士、登特上校等都在。”

“你盼他今晚回来么?”

“不,——明天也不会回来。我想他很可能呆上一个礼拜,或者更长一点。这些杰出的上流社会的人物相聚,气氛欢快,格调高雅,娱乐款待,应有尽有,所以他们不急于散伙。而在这样的场合,尤其需要有教养有身份的人。罗切斯特先生既有才能,在社交场中又很活跃,我想他一定受到大家的欢迎。女士们都很喜欢他,尽管你会认为,在她们眼里他的外貌并没有特别值得赞许的地方。不过我猜想,他的学识、能力,也许还有他的财富和血统,弥补了他外貌上的小小缺陷。”

“里斯地方有贵妇、小姐吗?”

“有伊希顿太太和她的三个女儿——真还都是举止文雅的年轻小姐。还有可尊敬的布兰奇和玛丽.英格拉姆,我想都是非常漂亮的女人。说实在我是六七年前见到布兰奇的,当时她才十八岁。她来这里参加罗切斯特先生举办的圣诞舞会和聚会。你真该看一看那一天的餐室——布置得那么豪华,点得又那么灯火辉煌!我想有五十位女士和先生在场——都是出身于郡里的上等人家。英格拉姆小姐是那天晚上公认的美女。”

“你说你见到了她,费尔法克斯太太。她长得怎么个模样?”

“是呀、我看到她了,餐室的门敞开着,而且因为圣诞期间,允许佣人们聚在大厅里,听一些女士们演唱和弹奏。罗切斯特先生要我进去,我就在一个安静的角落里坐下来看她们。我从来没有见过这么光彩夺目的景象。女士们穿戴得富丽堂皇,大多数——至少是大多数年轻女子,长得很标致,而英格拉姆小姐当然是女皇了。”

“她什么模样?”

“高高的个子,漂亮的胸部,斜肩膀,典雅硕长的脖子,黝黑而洁净的橄榄色皮肤,高贵的五官,有些像罗切斯特先生那样的眼睛,又大又黑,像她的珠宝那样大放光彩,同时她还有一头很好的头发,乌黑乌黑,而又梳理得非常妥贴,脑后盘着粗粗的发辫,额前是我所看到过的最长最富有光泽的卷发,她一身素白,一块琥珀色的围巾绕过肩膀,越过胸前,在腰上扎一下,一直垂到膝盖之下,下端悬着长长的流苏。头发上还戴着一朵琥珀色的花,与她一团乌黑的卷发形成了对比。”

“当然她很受别人倾慕了?”

“是呀,一点也不错,不仅是因为她的漂亮,而且还因为她的才艺,她是那天演唱的女士之一,一位先生用钢琴替她伴奏,她和罗切斯特先生还表演了二重唱。”

“罗切斯特先生!我不知道他还能唱歌。”

“呵!他有一个漂亮的男低音,对音乐有很强的鉴赏力。”

“那么英格拉姆小姐呢,她属于哪类嗓子?”

“非常圆润而有力,她唱得很动听。听她唱歌是一种享受——随后她又演奏。我不会欣赏音乐,但罗切斯特先生行。我听他说她的演技很出色。”

“这位才貌双全的小姐还没有结婚吗?”

“好像还没有,我想她与她妹妹的财产都不多。老英格拉姆勋爵的产业大体上限定了继承人,而他的大儿子几乎继承了一切。”

“不过我觉得很奇怪,为什么没有富裕的贵族或绅士看中她,譬如罗切斯特先生,他很有钱,不是吗,”

“唉!是呀,不过你瞧,年龄差别很大。罗切斯特先生已快四十,而她只有二十五岁。”

“那有什么关系?比这更不般配的婚姻每天都有呢。”

“那是事实,但我不会认为罗切斯特先生会抱有那种想法。——可是你什么也没吃,从开始吃茶点到现在,你几乎没有尝过一口。”

“不,我太渴了,吃不下去。让我再喝一杯行吗?”

我正要重新将话题扯到罗切斯特先生和漂亮的布兰奇小姐有没有结合的可能性上,阿黛勒进来了,谈话也就转到了别的方面。

当我复又独处时,我细想了听到的情况,窥视了我的心灵,审察了我的思想和情感,努力用一双严厉的手,把那些在无边无际、无路可循的想象荒野上徘徊的一切,纳入常识的可靠规范之中。

我在自己的法庭上受到了传讯。记忆出来作证,陈述了从昨夜以来我所怀的希望、意愿和情感,陈述了过去近两周我所沉溺的一般思想状态。理智走到前面,不慌不忙地讲了一个朴实无华的故事,揭示了我如何拒绝了现实,狂热地吞下了理想。我宣布了大致这样的判决:

世上还不曾有过比简.爱更大的傻瓜,还没有一个更异想天开的白痴,那么轻信甜蜜的谎言、把毒药当作美酒吞下。

“你,”我说,“得宠于罗切斯特先生吗?你有讨他欢心的天赋吗?你有哪一点对他来说举足轻重吗?滚开!你的愚蠢让我厌烦。而你却因为人家偶尔表示了喜欢便乐滋滋的,殊不知这是一个出身名门的绅士,一个精于世故的人对一个下属、一个初出毛庐的人所作的暧昧表示。你好大的胆子,愚蠢得可怜的受骗者。——难道想到自身的利益都不能让你聪明些吗?今天早上你反复叨念着昨夜的短暂情景啦?——蒙起你的脸,感到羞愧吧,他说了几句称赞你眼晴的话、是吗?盲目的自命不凡者,睁开那双模糊的眼睛,瞧瞧你自己该死的糊涂劲儿吧!受到无意与她结婚的上司的恭维,对随便哪个女人来说都没有好处。爱情之火悄悄地在内心点燃,得不到回报,不为对方所知,必定会吞没煽起爱的生命;要是被发现了,得到了回报,必定犹如鬼火,将爱引入泥泞的荒地而不能自拔。对所有的女人来说,那简直是发疯。”

“那么,简.爱,听着对你的判决:明天,把镜子放在你面前,用粉笔绘出你自己的画像,要照实画,不要淡化你的缺陷,不要省略粗糙的线条,不要抹去令人讨厌的不匀称的地方,并在画像下面书上‘孤苦无依、相貌平庸的家庭女教师肖像。”

“然后,拿出一块光滑的象牙来——你在画盒子里有一块备着:拿出你的调色板,把你最新、最漂亮、最明洁的色泽调起来,选择你最精细的骆驼毛画笔,仔细地画出你所能想象的最漂亮的脸蛋,根据费尔法克斯太太对布兰奇.英格拉姆的描绘,用最柔和的浓淡差别,最甜蜜的色泽来画。记住乌黑的头发,东方式的眸子——什么!你把罗切斯特先生作为模持儿,镇静!别哭鼻子!——不要感情用事!——不要反悔!我只能忍受理智和决心。回忆一下那庄重而和谐的面部特征,希腊式的脖子和胸部,露出圆圆的光彩照人的胳膊和纤细的手。不要省掉钻石耳环和金手镯。一丝不差地画下衣服、悬垂的花边、闪光的缎子、雅致的围巾和金色的玫瑰,把这幅肖像画题作‘多才多艺的名门闺秀布兰奇。’”

“我会这么干的,”我打定了注意。决心一下,人也就平静下来了,于是便沉沉睡去。

我说到做到,一二个小时便用蜡笔画成了自己的肖像。而用了近两周的工夫完成了一幅想象中的布兰奇.英格拉姆象牙微型画。这张脸看上去是够可爱的,同用蜡笔根据真人画成的头像相比,其对比之强烈已到了自制力所能承受的极限。我很得益于这一做法。它使我的脑袋和双手都不闲着,也使我希望在心里烙下的不可磨灭的新印象更强烈,更不可动摇。

不久我有理由庆幸自己,在迫使我的情感服从有益的纪律方面有所长进。多亏了它,我才能够大大方方、平平静静地对付后来发生的事情,要是我毫无准备,那恐怕是连表面的镇静都是无法保持的。



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