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Chapter 26

SOPHIE came at seven to dress me: she was very long indeed in accomplishing her task; so long that Mr. Rochester, grown, I suppose, impatient of my delay, sent up to ask why I did not come. She was just fastening my veil (the plain square of blond after all) to my hair with a brooch; I hurried from under her hands as soon as I could.
'Stop!' she cried in French. 'Look at yourself in the mirror: you have not taken one peep.'

So I turned at the door: I saw a robed and veiled figure, so unlike my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger. 'Jane!' called a voice, and I hastened down. I was received at the foot of the stairs by Mr. Rochester.

'Lingerer!' he said, 'my brain is on fire with impatience, and you tarry so long!'

He took me into the dining-room, surveyed me keenly all over, pronounced me 'fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes,' and then telling me he would give me but ten minutes to eat some breakfast, he rang the bell. One of his lately hired servants, a footman, answered it.

'Is John getting the carriage ready?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Is the luggage brought down?'

'They are bringing it down, sir.'

'Go you to the church: see if Mr. Wood (the clergyman) and the clerk are there: return and tell me.'

The church, as the reader knows, was but just beyond the gates; the footman soon returned.

'Mr. Wood is in the vestry, sir, putting on his surplice.'

'And the carriage?'

'The horses are harnessing.'

'We shall not want it to go to church; but it must be ready the moment we return: all the boxes and luggage arranged and strapped on, and the coachman in his seat.'

'Yes, sir.'

'Jane, are you ready?'

I rose. There were no groomsmen, no bridesmaids, no relatives to wait for or marshal: none but Mr. Rochester and I. Mrs. Fairfax stood in the hall as we passed. I would fain have spoken to her, but my hand was held by a grasp of iron: I was hurried along by a stride I could hardly follow; and to look at Mr. Rochester's face was to feel that not a second of delay would be tolerated for any purpose. I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did- so bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such steadfast brows, ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.

I know not whether the day was fair or foul; in descending the drive, I gazed neither on sky nor earth: my heart was with my eyes; and both seemed migrated into Mr. Rochester's frame. I wanted to see the invisible thing on which, as we went along, he appeared to fasten a glance fierce and fell. I wanted to feel the thoughts whose force he seemed breasting and resisting.

At the churchyard wicket he stopped: he discovered I was quite out of breath. 'Am I cruel in my love?' he said. 'Delay an instant: lean on me, Jane.'

And now I can recall the picture of the grey old house of God rising calm before me, of a rook wheeling round the steeple, of a ruddy morning sky beyond. I remember something, too, of the green grave-mounds; and I have not forgotten, either, two figures of strangers straying amongst the low hillocks and reading the mementoes graven on the few mossy head-stones. I noticed them, because, as they saw us, they passed round to the back of the church; and I doubted not they were going to enter by the side-aisle door and witness the ceremony. By Mr. Rochester they were not observed; he was earnestly looking at my face, from which the blood had, I daresay, momentarily fled: for I felt my forehead dewy, and my cheeks and lips cold. When I rallied, which I soon did, he walked gently with me up the path to the porch.

We entered the quiet and humble temple; the priest waited in his white surplice at the lowly altar, the clerk beside him. All was still: two shadows only moved in a remote corner. My conjecture had been correct: the strangers had slipped in before us, and they now stood by the vault of the Rochesters, their backs towards us, viewing through the rails the old times-stained marble tomb, where a kneeling angel guarded the remains of Damer de Rochester, slain at Marston Moor in the time of the civil wars, and of Elizabeth, his wife.

Our place was taken at the communion rails. Hearing a cautious step behind me, I glanced over my shoulder: one of the strangers- a gentleman, evidently- was advancing up the chancel. The service began.

The explanation of the intent of matrimony was gone through; and then the clergyman came a step farther forward, and, bending slightly towards Mr. Rochester, went on.

'I require and charge you both (as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed), that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it; for be ye well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful.'

He paused, as the custom is. When is the pause after that sentence ever broken by reply? Not, perhaps, once in a hundred years. And the clergyman, who had not lifted his eyes from his book, and had held his breath but for a moment, was proceeding: his hand was already stretched towards Mr. Rochester, as his lips unclosed to ask, 'Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?-' when a distinct and near voice said-

'The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment.'

The clergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk did the same; Mr. Rochester moved slightly, as if an earthquake had rolled under his feet: taking a firmer footing, and not turning his head or eyes, he said, 'Proceed.'

Profound silence fell when he had uttered that word, with deep but low intonation. Presently Mr. Wood said-

'I cannot proceed without some investigation into what has been asserted, and evidence of its truth or falsehood.'

'The ceremony is quite broken off,' subjoined the voice behind us. 'I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable impediment to this marriage exists.'

Mr. Rochester heard, but heeded not: he stood stubborn and rigid, making no movement but to possess himself of my hand. What a hot and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone, still watchful, and yet wild beneath!

Mr. Wood seemed at a loss. 'What is the nature of the impediment?' he asked. 'Perhaps it may be got over- explained away?'

'Hardly,' was the answer. 'I have called it insuperable, and I speak advisedly.'

The speaker came forward and leaned on the rails. He continued, uttering each word distinctly, calmly, steadily, but not loudly-

'It simply consists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living.'

My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never vibrated to thunder- my blood felt their subtle violence as it had never felt frost or fire; but I was collected, and in no danger of swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His whole face was colourless rock: his eye was both spark and flint. He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things. Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognise in me a human being, he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted me to his side.

'Who are you?' he asked of the intruder.

'And you would thrust on me a wife?'

'I would remind you of your lady's existence, sir, which the law recognises, if you do not.'

'Favour me with an account of her- with her name, her parentage, her place of abode.'

'Certainly.' Mr. Briggs calmly took a paper from his pocket, and read out in a sort of official, nasal voice:- date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at- church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church- a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason."'

'That- if a genuine document- may prove I have been married, but it does not prove that the woman mentioned therein as my wife is still living.'

'She was living three months ago,' returned the lawyer.

'How do you know?'

'I have a witness to the fact, whose testimony even you, sir, will scarcely controvert.'

'Produce him- or go to hell.'

'I will produce him first- he is on the spot. Mr. Mason, have the goodness to step forward.'

Mr. Rochester, on hearing the name, set his teeth; he experienced, too, a sort of strong convulsive quiver; near to him as I was, I felt the spasmodic movement of fury or despair run through his frame. The second stranger, who had hitherto lingered in the background, now drew near; a pale face looked over the solicitor's shoulder- yes, it was Mason himself. Mr. Rochester turned and glared at him. His eye, as I have often said, was a black eye: it had now a tawny, nay, a bloody light in its gloom; and his face flushed- olive cheek and hueless forehead received a glow as from spreading, ascending heart-fire: and he stirred, lifted his strong arm- he could have struck Mason, dashed him on the church-floor, shocked by ruthless blow the breath from his body- but Mason shrank away and cried faintly, 'Good God!' Contempt fell cool on Mr. Rochester- his passion died as if a blight had shrivelled it up: he only asked- 'What have you to say?'

An inaudible reply escaped Mason's white lips.

'The devil is in it if you cannot answer distinctly. I again demand, what have you to say?'

'Sir- sir,' interrupted the clergyman, 'do not forget you are in a sacred place.' Then addressing Mason, he inquired gently, 'Are you aware, sir, whether or not this gentleman's wife is still living?'

'Courage,' urged the lawyer,- 'speak out.'

'She is now living at Thornfield Hall,' said Mason, in more articulate tones: 'I saw her there last April. I am her brother.'

'At Thornfield Hall!' ejaculated the clergyman. 'Impossible! I am an old resident in this neighbourhood, sir, and I never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at Thornfield Hall.'

I saw a grim smile contort Mr. Rochester's lips, and he muttered-

'No, by God! I took care that none should hear of it- or of her under that name.' He mused- for ten minutes he held counsel with himself: he formed his resolve, and announced it-

'Enough! all shall bolt out at once, like the bullet from the barrel. Wood, close your book and take off your surplice; John Green (to the clerk), leave the church: there will be no wedding to-day.'  The man obeyed.

Mr. Rochester continued, hardily and recklessly: 'Bigamy is an ugly word!- I meant, however, to be a bigamist; but fate has out-manoeuvred me, or Providence has checked me,- perhaps the last. I am little better than a devil at this moment; and, as my pastor there would tell me, deserve no doubt the sternest judgments of God, even to the quenchless fire and deathless worm. Gentlemen, my plan is broken up:- what this lawyer and his client say is true: I have been married, and the woman to whom I was married lives! You say you never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at the house up yonder, Wood; but I daresay you have many a time inclined your ear to gossip about the mysterious lunatic kept there under watch and ward. Some have whispered to you that she is my bastard half-sister: some, my cast-off mistress. I now inform you that she is my wife, whom I married fifteen years ago,-

Bertha Mason by name; sister of this resolute personage, who is now, with his quivering limbs and white cheeks, showing you what a stout heart men may bear. Cheer up, Dick!- never fear me!- I'd almost as soon strike a woman as you. Bertha Mason is mad; and she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three generations! Her mother, the Creole, was both a mad-woman and a drunkard!- as I found out after I had wed the daughter: for they were silent on family secrets before.

Bertha, like a dutiful child, copied her parent in both points. I had a charming partner- pure, wise, modest: you can fancy I was a happy man. I went through rich scenes! Oh! my experience has been heavenly, if you only knew it! But I owe you no further explanation.

Briggs, Wood, Mason, I invite you all to come up to the house and visit Mrs. Poole's patient, and my wife! You shall see what sort of a being I was cheated into espousing, and judge whether or not I had a right to break the compact, and seek sympathy with something at least human. This girl,' he continued, looking at me, 'knew no more than you, Wood, of the disgusting secret: she thought all was fair and legal, and never dreamt she was going to be entrapped into a feigned union with a defrauded wretch, already bound to a bad, mad, and embruted partner! Come all of you- follow!'

Still holding me fast, he left the church: the three gentlemen came after. At the front door of the hall we found the carriage.

'Take it back to the coach-house, John,' said Mr. Rochester coolly:

'it will not be wanted to-day.'

At our entrance, Mrs. Fairfax, Adele, Sophie, Leah, advanced to meet and greet us.

'To the right-about- every soul!' cried the master; 'away with your congratulations! Who wants them? Not I!- they are fifteen years too late!'

He passed on and ascended the stairs, still holding my hand, and still beckoning the gentlemen to follow him, which they did. We mounted the first staircase, passed up the gallery, proceeded to the third storey: the low, black door, opened by Mr. Rochester's master-key, admitted us to the tapestried room, with its great bed and its pictorial cabinet.

'You know this place, Mason,' said our guide; 'she bit and stabbed you here.'

He lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door: this, too, he opened. In a room without a window, there burnt a fire guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. Grace Poole bent over the fire, apparently cooking something in a saucepan. In the deep shade, at the farther end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.

'Good-morrow, Mrs. Poole!' said Mr. Rochester. 'How are you? and how is your charge to-day?'

'We're tolerable, sir, I thank you,' replied Grace, lifting the boiling mess carefully on to the hob: 'rather snappish, but not 'rageous.'

A fierce cry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report: the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind-feet.

'Ah! sir, she sees you!' exclaimed Grace: 'you'd better not stay.'

'Only a few moments, Grace: you must allow me a few moments.'

'Take care then, sir!- for God's sake, take care!'

The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognised well that purple face,- those bloated features. Mrs. Poole advanced.

'Keep out of the way,' said Mr. Rochester, thrusting her aside:

'she has no knife now, I suppose, and I'm on my guard!'

'One never knows what she has, sir: she is so cunning: it is not in mortal discretion to fathom her craft.'

'We had better leave her,' whispered Mason.

'Go to the devil!' was his brother-in-law's recommendation.

''Ware!' cried Grace. The three gentlemen retreated simultaneously. Mr. Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled. She was a big woman, in stature almost equalling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the contest- more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow: but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. The operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells and the most convulsive plunges. Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators: he looked at them with a smile both acrid and desolate.

'That is my wife,' said he. 'Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know- such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what I wished to have' (laying his hand on my shoulder): 'this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder- this face with that mask- this form with that bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and remember with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged! Off with you now. I must shut up my prize.'

We all withdrew. Mr. Rochester stayed a moment behind us, to give some further order to Grace Poole. The solicitor addressed me as he descended the stair.

'You, madam,' said he, 'are cleared from all blame: your uncle will be glad to hear it- if, indeed, he should be still living- when Mr. Mason returns to Madeira.'

'My uncle! What of him? Do you know him?'

'Mr. Mason does. Mr. Eyre has been the Funchal correspondent of his house for some years. When your uncle received your letter intimating the contemplated union between yourself and Mr. Rochester, Mr. Mason, who was staying at Madeira to recruit his health, on his way back to Jamaica, happened to be with him. Mr. Eyre mentioned the intelligence; for he knew that my client here was acquainted with a gentleman of the name of Rochester. Mr. Mason, astonished and distressed as you may suppose, revealed the real state of matters. Your uncle, I am sorry to say, is now on a sick-bed; from which, considering the nature of his disease- decline- and the stage it has reached, it is unlikely he will ever rise. He could not then hasten to England himself, to extricate you from the snare into which you had fallen, but he implored Mr. Mason to lose no time in taking steps to prevent the false marriage. He referred him to me for assistance. I used all despatch, and am thankful I was not too late: as you, doubtless, must be also. Were I not morally certain that your uncle will be dead ere you reach Madeira, I would advise you to accompany Mr. Mason back; but as it is, I think you had better remain in England till you can hear further, either from or of Mr. Eyre. Have we anything else to stay for?' he inquired of Mr. Mason.

'No, no- let us be gone,' was the anxious reply; and without waiting to take leave of Mr. Rochester, they made their exit at the hall door. The clergyman stayed to exchange a few sentences, either of admonition or reproof, with his haughty parishioner; this duty done, he too departed.

I heard him go as I stood at the half-open door of my own room, to which I had now withdrawn. The house cleared, I shut myself in, fastened the bolt that none might intrude, and proceeded- not to weep, not to mourn, I was yet too calm for that, but- mechanically to take off the wedding-dress, and replace it by the stuff gown I had worn yesterday, as I thought, for the last time. I then sat down: I felt weak and tired. I leaned my arms on a table, and my head dropped on them. And now I thought: till now I had only heard, seen, moved- followed up and down where I was led or dragged- watched event rush on event, disclosure open beyond disclosure: but now, I thought.

The morning had been a quiet morning enough- all except the brief scene with the lunatic: the transaction in the church had not been noisy; there was no explosion of passion, no loud altercation, no dispute, no defiance or challenge, no tears, no sobs: a few words had been spoken, a calmly pronounced objection to the marriage made; some stern, short questions put by Mr. Rochester; answers, explanations given, evidence adduced; an open admission of the truth had been uttered by my master; then the living proof had been seen; the intruders were gone, and all was over.

I was in my own room as usual- just myself, without obvious change: nothing had smitten me, or scathed me, or maimed me. And yet where was the Jane Eyre of yesterday?- where was her life?- where were her prospects?

Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman- almost a bride, was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead- struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one night, fell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive. I looked at my love: that feeling which was my master's- which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle; sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr. Rochester's arms- it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh, never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted- confidence destroyed! Mr. Rochester was not to me what he had been; for he was not what I had thought him. I would not ascribe vice to him; I would not say he had betrayed me; but the attribute of stainless truth was gone from his idea, and from his presence I must go: that I perceived well. When- how- whither, I could not yet discern; but he himself, I doubted not, would hurry me from Thornfield. Real affection, it seemed, he could not have for me; it had been only fitful passion: that was balked; he would want me no more. I should fear even to cross his path now: my view must be hateful to him. Oh, how blind had been my eyes! How weak my conduct!

My eyes were covered and closed: eddying darkness seemed to swim round me, and reflection came in as black and confused a flow. Self-abandoned, relaxed, and effortless, I seemed to have laid me down in the dried-up bed of a great river; I heard a flood loosened in remote mountains, and felt the torrent come: to rise I had no will, to flee I had no strength. I lay faint, longing to be dead. One idea only still throbbed life-like within me- a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered, but no energy was found to express them-

'Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help.'

It was near: and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it- as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my lips- it came: in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me. The whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched, my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen mass. That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, 'the waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing: I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me.'

索菲娅七点钟来替我打扮,确实费了好久才大功告成。那么久,我想罗切斯特先生对我的拖延有些不耐烦了,派人来问,我为什么还没有到。索菲娅正用一枚饰针把面纱(毕竟只是一块淡色的普通方巾)系到我头发上,一待完毕,我便急急忙忙从她手下钻了出去。

“慢着!”她用法语叫道。“往镜子里瞧一瞧你自己,你连一眼都还没看呢。”

于是我在门边转过身来,看到了一个穿了袍子,戴了面纱的人,一点都不像我往常的样子,就仿佛是一位陌生人的影像。“简!”一个声音嚷道,我赶紧走下楼去。罗切斯特先生在楼梯脚下迎着我。

“磨磨蹭蹭的家伙,”他说,“我的脑袋急得直冒火星、你太拖拉了!”

他带我进了餐室,急切地把我从头到脚打量了一遍,声称我“像百合花那么美丽,不仅是他生活中的骄傲,而且也让他大饱眼福。”随后他告诉我只给我十分钟吃早饭,并按了按铃。他新近雇用的一个仆人,一位管家应召而来。

“约翰把马车准备好了吗?”

“好了,先生。”

“行李拿下去了吗?”

“他们现在正往下拿呢,先生。”

“上教堂去一下,看看沃德先生(牧师)和执事在不在那里。回来告诉我。”

读者知道,大门那边就是教堂,所以管家很快就回来了。

“沃德先生在法衣室里,先生,正忙着穿法衣呢。”

“马车呢?”

“马匹正在上挽具。”

“我们上教堂不用马车,但回来时得准备停当。所有的箱子和行李都要装好捆好,车夫要在自己位置上坐好。”

“是,先生。”

“简,你准备好了吗?”

我站了起来,没有男傧相和女傧相,也没有亲戚等候或引领。除了罗切斯特先生和我,没有别人。我们经过大厅时,费尔法克斯太太站在那里。我本想同她说话,但我的手被铁钳似地捏住了,让我几乎跟不住的脚步把我匆匆推向前去。一看罗切斯特先生的脸我就觉得,不管什么原因,再拖一秒钟他都不能忍耐了。我不知道其他新郎看上去是不是像他这付样子——那么专注于一个目的,那么毅然决然;或者有谁在那对稳重的眉毛下,露出过那么火辣辣,光闪闪的眼睛。

我不知道那天天气是好还是不好,走下车道时,我既没观天也没看地,我的心灵与眼目都集中在罗切斯特先生身上。我边走边要看看他好像恶狠狠盯着的无形东西,要感受那些他似乎在对抗和抵御的念头。

我们在教堂院子边门停了下来,他发现我喘不过气来了。“我爱得有点残酷吗?”他问。“歇一会儿,靠着我,简。”

如今,我能回忆起当时的情景:灰色的老教堂宁静地耸立在我面前;一只白嘴鸦在教堂尖顶盘旋;远处的晨空通红通红。我还隐约记得绿色的坟墩;也并没有忘记两个陌生的人影,在低矮的小丘之间徘徊,—边读着刻在几块长满青苔的墓石上的铭文。这两个人引起了我的注意,因为一见到我们,他们便转到教堂背后去了。我相信他们要从侧廊的门进去,观看婚礼仪式。罗切斯特先生并没有注意到这两个人,他热切地瞧着我的脸,我想我的脸一时毫无血色,因为我觉得我额头汗涔涔,两颊和嘴唇冰凉。但我不久便定下神来,同他沿着小径,缓步走向门廊。

我们进了幽静而朴实的教堂,牧师身穿白色的法衣,在低矮的圣坛等候,旁边站着执事。一切都十分平静,那两个影子在远远的角落里走动。我的猜测没有错,这两个陌生人在我们之前溜了进来,此刻背朝着我们,站立在罗切斯特家族的墓穴旁边,透过栅栏,瞧着带有时间印迹的古老大理石坟墓,这里一位下跪的天使守卫着内战中死于马斯顿荒原的戴默尔.德.罗切斯特的遗骸和他的妻子伊丽莎白。

我们在圣坛栏杆前站好。我听见身后响起了小心翼翼的脚步声,便回头看了一眼,只见陌生人中的一位——显然是位绅士——正走向圣坛。仪式开始了,牧师对婚姻的目的作了解释,随后往前走了一步,向罗切斯特先生微微欠了欠身子,又继续了。

“我要求并告诫你们两人(因为在可怕的最后审判日,所有人内心的秘密都要袒露无遗时,你们也将作出回答),如果你们中的一位知道有什么障碍使你们不能合法地联姻,那就现在供认吧,因为你们要确信,凡是众多没有得到上帝允许而结合的人,都不是上帝结成的夫妇,他们的婚姻是非法的。”

他按照习惯顿了一下,那句话之后的停顿,什么时候曾被回答所打破呢?不,也许一百年才有一次。所以牧师依然盯着书,并没有抬眼,静默片刻之后又说了下去,他的手已伸向罗切斯特先生,一边张嘴问道,“你愿意娶这个女人为结发妻子吗?”就在这当儿,近处一个清晰的声音响了起来:

“婚礼不能继续下去了,我宣布存在着一个障碍。”

牧师抬头看了一下说话人,默默地站在那里,执事也一样,罗切斯特先生仿佛觉得地震滚过他脚下,稍稍移动了一下,随之便站稳了脚跟,既没有回头,也没有抬眼,便说,“继续下去。”

他用深沉的语调说这句话后,全场一片寂静。沃德先生立即说:

“不先对刚才宣布的事调查一下,证明它是真是假,我是无法继续的。”

“婚礼中止了,”我们背后的嗓音补充道。“我能够证实刚才的断言,这桩婚事存在着难以克服的障碍。”

罗切斯特先生听了置之不理。他顽固而僵直地站着,一动不动,但握住了我的手。他握得多紧!他的手多灼人!他那苍白、坚定的阔脸这时多么像开采下来的大理石!他的眼睛多么有光彩!表面平静警觉,底下却犹如翻江倒海!

沃德先生似乎不知所措,“是哪一类性质的障碍?”他问。“说不定可以排除——能够解释清楚呢?”

“几乎不可能,”那人回答,“我称它难以克服,是经过深思熟虑后才说的。”

说话人走到前面,倚在栏杆上。他往下说,每个字都说得那么清楚,那么镇定,那么稳重,但声音并不高。

“障碍完全在于一次以前的婚姻,罗切斯特先生有一个妻子还活着。”

这几个字轻轻道来,但对我神经所引起的震动,却甚过于雷霆——对我血液的细微侵蚀远甚于风霜水火,但我又镇定下来了,没有晕倒的危险,我瞧了瞧罗切斯特先生,让他瞧着我。他的整张脸成了一块苍白的岩石。他的眼睛直冒火星,却又坚如燧石。他一点也没有否认,似乎要无视一切。他没有说话,没有微笑,也似乎没有把我看作一个人,而只是胳膊紧紧搂住我的腰,把我紧贴在他身边。

“你是谁?”他问那个入侵者。

“我的名字叫布里格斯—一伦敦××街的一个律师。”

“你要把一个妻子强加于我吗?”

“我要提醒你,你有一个太太。先生,就是你不承认,法律也是承认的。”

“请替我描述一下她的情况——她的名字,她的父母,她的住处。”

“当然。”布里格斯先生镇定自若地从口袋里取出了一个文件,用一种一本正经的鼻音读了起来:

“我断言并证实,公元××年十月二十日(十五年前的一个日子),英国××郡桑菲尔德府、及××郡芬丁庄园的爱德华.费尔法克斯.罗切斯特同我的姐姐,商人乔纳斯.梅森及妻子克里奥尔人、安托万内特的女儿,伯莎.安托万内特.梅森,在牙买加的西班牙镇××教堂成婚。婚礼的记录可见于教堂的登记簿——其中一份现在我手中。里查德.梅森签
字。”

“如果这份文件是真的,那也只能证明我结过婚,却不能证明里面作为我妻子而提到的女人还活着。”

“三个月之前她还活着,”律师反驳说。

“你怎么知道?”

“我有一位这件事情的证人,他的证词,先生,连你也难以反驳。”

“把他叫来吧——不然见鬼去。”

“我先把他叫来——他在场。梅森先生,请你到前面来。”

罗切斯特先生一听这个名字便咬紧了牙齿,抽搐似地剧烈颤抖起来,我离他很近,感觉得到他周身愤怒和绝望地痉挛起来。这时候一直躲在幕后的第二个陌生人,走了过来,律师的肩头上露出了一张苍白的脸来——不错,这是梅森本人。罗切斯特先生回头瞪着他。我常说他眼睛是黑的,而此刻因为愁上心头,便有了一种黄褐色,乃至带血丝的光。他的脸涨红了——橄榄色的脸颊和没有血色的额头,也由于心火不断上升和扩大而闪闪发亮。他动了动,举起了强壮的胳膊,——完全可以痛打梅森——把他击倒在地板上——无情地把他揍得断气——但梅森退缩了一下,低声叫了起来,“天哪!”一种冷冷的蔑视在罗切斯特先生心中油然而生。就仿佛蛀虫使植物枯萎一样,他的怒气消了,只不过问了一句,“你有什么要说的?”

从梅森苍白的唇间吐出了几乎听不见的回答。

“要是你回答不清,那就见鬼去吧,我再次要求,你有什么要说的?”

“先生——先生——”牧师插话了,“别忘了你在一个神圣的地方。”随后他转向梅森,和颜悦色地说,“你知道吗,先生,这位先生的妻子是不是还活着?”

“胆子大些,”律师怂恿着,——“说出来。”

“她现在住在桑菲尔德府,”梅森用更为清晰的声调说,“四月份我还见过她。我是她弟弟。”

“在桑菲尔德府!”牧师失声叫道。“不可能!我是这一带的老住客,先生,从来没有听到桑菲尔德府有一个叫罗切斯特太太的人。”

我看见一阵狞笑扭曲了罗切斯特先生的嘴唇,他咕哝道:

“不——天哪!我十分小心,不让人知道有这么回事,——或者知道她叫那个名字。”他沉思起来,琢磨了十来分钟,于是打定主意宣布道:

“行啦——一切都一齐窜出来了,就象子弹出了枪膛,——沃德,合上你的书本,脱下
你的法衣吧,约翰.格林(面向执事)离开教堂吧。今天不举行婚礼了。”这人照办了。

罗切斯特先生厚着脸皮毫不在乎地说下去。“重婚是一个丑陋的字眼!——然而我有意重婚,但命运却挫败了我,或者上天制止了我—一也许是后者。此刻我并不比魔鬼好多少。就像我那位牧师会告诉我的那样,必定会受到上帝最严正的审判——甚至该受不灭的火和不死的虫的折磨。先生们,我的计划被打破了!——这位律师和他顾客所说的话是真的。我结了婚,同我结婚的女人还活着!你说你在府上那一带,从来没有听到过一位叫罗切斯特太太的人,沃德。不过我猜想有很多次你想竖起耳朵,听听关于一个神秘的疯子被看管着的流言,有人已经向你耳语,说她是我同父异母的私生姐姐,有人说她是被我抛弃的情妇,——现在我告诉你们,她是我妻子——十五年前我同她结的婚——名字叫伯莎.梅森,这位铁石心肠的人的姐姐。此刻他四肢打颤,脸色发白,向你们表示男子汉们的心是多么刚强。提起劲来,迪克?——别怕我!——我几乎宁愿揍一个女人而不揍你。伯莎.梅森是疯子,而且出身于一个疯人家庭——一连三代的白痴和疯子!她的母亲,那个克里奥人既是个疯女人,又是个酒鬼!——我是同她的女儿结婚后才发现的,因为以前他们对家庭的秘密守口如瓶。伯莎像是—个百依百顺的孩子,在这两方面承袭了她母亲。我曾有过一位迷人的伴侣——纯洁、聪明、谦逊。你可能想象我是一个幸福的男人——我经历了多么丰富的场面:呵!我的阅历真有趣,要是你们知道就好了!不过我不再进一步解释了,布里格斯、沃德、梅森一—我邀请你们都上我家去,拜访一下普尔太太的病人,我的妻子!——你们会看到我受骗上当所娶的是怎样一个人,评判一下我是不是有权撕毁协议,寻求至少是符合人性的同情。“这位姑娘,”他瞧着我往下说,“沃德,对讨厌的秘密,并不比你们知道得更多。她认为一切既公平又合法,从来没有想到自己会落入骗婚的圈套,同一个受了骗的可怜虫结亲,这个可怜虫早已跟一个恶劣、疯狂、没有人性的伴侣结合!来吧,你们都跟我来?”

他依然紧握着我的手,离开了教堂。三位先生跟在后面。我们发现马车停在大厅的前门口。

“把它送回马车房去,约翰,”罗切斯特先生冷冷地说,“今天不需要它了。”

我们进门时,费尔法克斯太太、阿黛勒、索菲娅、莉娅都走上前来迎接我们。

“统统都向后转。”主人喊道,“收起你们的祝贺吧?谁需要它呢?一一我可不要!一
一它晚了十五年?”

他继续往前走,登上楼梯,一面仍紧握着我的手,一面招呼先生们跟着他,他们照办了。我们走上第一道楼梯,经过门廊,继续上了三楼。罗切斯特先生的万能钥匙打开了这扇又矮又黑的门,让我进了铺有花毯的房间,房内有一张大床和一个饰有图案的柜子。

“你知道这个地方,梅森,”我们的向导说,“她在这里咬了你,刺了你。”

他撩起墙上的帷幔,露出了第二扇门,又把它打开。在一间没有窗户的房间里,燃着一堆火,外面围着一个又高又坚固的火炉围栏,从天花板上垂下的铁链子上悬挂着一些灯。格雷斯.普尔俯身向着火,似乎在平底锅里炒着什么东西。在房间另一头的暗影里,一个人影在前后跑动,那究竟是什么,是动物还是人,粗粗一看难以辨认。它好象四肢着地趴着,又是抓又是叫,活象某种奇异的野生动物,只不过有衣服蔽体罢了。一头黑白相间、乱如鬃毛的头发遮去了她的头和脸。

“早上好,普尔太太?”罗切斯特先生说,“你好吗?你照管的人今天怎么样?”

“马马虎虎,先生,谢谢你,”格雷斯一面回答,一面小心地把烧滚了的乱七八糟的东西放在炉旁架子上。“有些急躁,但没有动武。”

一阵凶恶的叫声似乎揭穿了她报喜不报忧,这条穿了衣服的野狗直起身来,高高地站立在后腿上。

“哎呀,先生,她看见了你?”格雷斯嚷道,“你还是别呆在这儿。”

“只呆一会儿,格雷斯。你得让我呆一会儿。”

“那么当心点,先生!看在上帝面上,当心!”

这疯子咆哮着,把她乱蓬蓬的头发从脸上撩开,凶狠地盯着来访者。我完全记得那发紫的脸膛,肿胀的五言。普尔太太走上前来。

“走开,”罗切斯特先生说着把她推到了一边。“我想她现在手里没有刀吧?而且我防备着。”

“谁也不知道她手里有什么,先生,她那么狡猾,人再小心也斗不过她的诡计。”

“我们还是离开她吧。”梅森悄声说。

“见鬼去吧!”这便是他姐夫的建议。

“小心!”格雷斯大喝一声。三位先生不约而同地往后退缩,罗切斯特先生把我推到他背后。疯子猛扑过来,凶恶地卡住他喉咙,往脸上就咬。他们搏斗着。她是大个子女人,腰圆膀粗,身材几乎与她丈夫不相上下。厮打时显露出男性的力量,尽管罗切斯特先生有着运动员的体质,但不止一次险些儿被她闷死。他完全可以狠狠一拳将她制服,但他不愿出手,宁愿扭斗。最后他终于按住了她的一双胳膊。格雷斯递给他一根绳子,他将她的手反绑起来,又用身边的一根绳子将她绑在一把椅子上。这一连串动作是在凶神恶煞般地叫喊和猛烈的反扑中完成的。随后罗切斯特先生转向旁观者,带着刻毒而凄楚的笑看着他们。

“这就是我的妻子,”他说。“这就是我平生唯一一次尝到的夫妇间拥抱的滋味一—这就是我闲暇时所能得到的爱抚与慰藉,而这是我希望拥有的(他把他的手放在我肩上)。这位年青姑娘,那么严肃,那么平静地站在地狱门口,镇定自若地观看着—个魔鬼的游戏。我要她,是希望在那道呛人的菜之后换换口味。沃德和布里格斯,瞧瞧两者何等不同!把这双明净的眼睛同那边红红的眼珠比较一下吧.一—把这张脸跟那付鬼相一—这付身材与那个庞然大物比较一下吧,然后再来审判我吧。布道的牧师和护法的律师,都请记住,你们怎么来审判我,将来也会受到怎么样的审判。现在你们走吧,我得要把我的宝贝藏起来了。”

我们都走了出来。罗切斯特先生留后一步,对格雷斯.普尔再作了交代。我们下楼时律师对我说:

“你,小姐,”他说,“证明完全是无辜的,等梅森先生返回马德拉后,你的叔叔听说是这么回事会很高兴——真的,要是他还活着。”

“我的叔叔!他怎么样?你认识他吗?”

“梅森先生认识他,几年来爱先生一直与他丰沙尔的家保持通讯联系。你的叔叔接到你的信,得悉你与罗切斯特先生有意结合时,梅森先生正好也在,他是回牙买加的路上,逗留在马德拉群岛疗养的。爱先生提起了这个消息,因为他知道我的一个顾客同一位名叫罗切斯特先生的相熟。你可以想象,梅森先生既惊讶又难受,便披露了事情的真相。很遗憾,你的叔叔现在卧病在床,考虑到疾病的性质,一—肺病——以及疾病的程度,他很可能会一病不起。他不可能亲自赶到英国,把你从掉入的陷井中解救出来,但他恳求梅森先生立即采取措施,阻止这桩诈骗婚姻。他让我帮他的忙。我使用了一切公文快信,谢天谢地,总算并不太晚,无疑你也必定有同感。要不是我确信你还没赶到马德拉群岛,你的叔叔会去世,我会建议你同梅森先生结伴而行。但事情既然如此,你还是留在英国,等你接到他的信或者听到关于他的消息后再说。我们还有什么别的事需要呆着吗?”他问梅西森先生。

“不,没有了,—一我们走吧,”听者急不可耐地回答。他们没有等得及向罗切斯特先生告别,便从大厅门出去了。牧师呆着同他高傲的教区居民交换了几句劝导或是责备的话,尽了这番责任,也离去了。

我听见他走了,这时我已回到自己的房间里,正站在半掩着的门旁边。人去楼空,我把自己关进房间,拴上门,免得别人闯进来,然后开始——不是哭泣,不是悲伤,我很镇静,不会这样,而是——机械地脱下婚礼服,换上昨天我要最后一次穿戴的呢袍。随后我坐了下来,感到浑身疲软。我用胳膊支着桌子,将头靠在手上。现在我开始思考了。在此之前,我只是听,只是看,只是动——由别人领着或拖着,跟上跟下——观看事情一件件发生,秘密一桩桩揭开。而现在,我开始思考了。

早上是够平静的一—除了与疯子交手的短暂场面,一切都平平静静。教堂里的一幕也并没有高声大气,没有暴怒,没有大声吵闹,没有争辩,没有对抗或挑衅,没有眼泪,没有哭泣。几句话一说,平静地宣布对婚姻提出异议,罗切斯特先生问了几个严厉而简短的问题,对方作了回答和解释,援引了证据,我主人公开承认了事实,随后看了活的证据。闯入者走了,一切都过去了。

我像往常那样呆在我的房间里一—只有我自己,没有明显的变化。我没有受到折磨,损伤或者残害,然而昨天的简.爱又在哪儿呢?—一她的生命在哪儿?——她的前程在哪儿?

简.爱,她曾是一个热情洋溢、充满期待的女人——差一点做了新娘——再度成了冷漠、孤独的姑娘。她的生命很苍白,她的前程很凄凉。圣诞的霜冻在仲夏就降临;十二月的白色风暴六月里便刮得天旋地转;冰凌替成熟的苹果上了釉彩;积雪摧毁了怒放的玫瑰;干草田和玉米地里覆盖着一层冰冻的寿衣;昨夜还姹紫嫣红的小巷,今日无人踩踏的积雪已经封住了道路;十二小时之前还树叶婆娑、香气扑鼻犹如热带树丛的森林,现在已经白茫茫一片荒芜,犹如冬日挪威的松林,我的希望全都熄灭了——受到了微妙致命的一击,就像埃及的长子一夜之间所受到的一样。我观察了自己所抱的希望,昨天还是那么繁茂,那么光彩照人,现在却变得光秃秃、寒颤颤、铅灰色了——成了永远无法复活的尸体,我审视着我的爱情,我主人的那种感情——他所造成的感情,在我心里打着寒颤,象冰冷摇篮里的一个病孩,病痛已经缠身,却又难以回到罗切斯特先生的怀抱——无法从他的胸膛得到温暖。呵,永远也回不到他那儿去了,因为信念已被扼杀——信任感已被摧毁!对我来说,罗切斯特先生不是过去的他了,因为他已不像我所想象的那样。我不会把恶行加予他,我不会说他背叛了我,但是真理那种一尘不染的属性,已与他无缘了,我必须离他而去,这点我看得非常清楚,什么时侯起——怎样走——上哪儿去,我还不能明辨。但我相信他自己会急于把我从桑菲尔德撵走,他似乎已不可能对我怀有真情,而只有忽冷忽热的激情,而且受到压抑。他不再需要我了,现在我甚至竟害怕与他狭路相逢,他一见我准感到厌恶。呵,我的眼睛多瞎!我的行动多软弱!

我的眼晴被蒙住了,而且闭了起来。旋转的黑暗飘浮着似乎包围了我,思绪滚滚而来犹如黑色的浊流。我自暴自弃,浑身松弛,百无聊赖,仿佛躺在一条大河干枯的河床上,我听见洪水从远山奔泻而来,我感觉到激流逼近了,爬起来吧,我没有意志,逃走吧,我又没有力气。我昏昏沉沉地躺着,渴望死去。有一个念头仍像生命那样在我内心搏动——上帝的怀念,并由此而产生了无言的祈祷。这些话在我没有阳光的内心往复徘徊,仿佛某些话该悄声倾吐出来,却又无力去表达它们。

“求你不要远离我,因为急难临近了,没有人帮助我。”

急难确实近了,而我并没有请求上天消灾灭祸——我既没有合上双手,没有屈膝,也没有张嘴——急难降临了,洪流滚滚而来把我吞没。我意识到我的生活十分狐单,我的爱情己经失去,我的希望已被浇灭,我的信心受了致命的一击,这整个想法犹如—个色彩单调的块状物,在我头顶有力地大幅度摆动着。这痛苦的时刻不堪描述。真是“水灌进了我的灵魂,我陷入了深深的泥淖,觉得无处立足,坠进深渊,激流把我淹没了。”



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