'And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst! Whatever- whoever you are- be perceptible to the touch or I cannot live!' I reached desperately, knowing the words I spoke would come true was I not granted this one request.
And, suddenly, my hand was held by both of hers. Her touch was like the first time I met her: she breathed new life into me.
'Her very fingers!' I cried; 'her small, slight fingers! If so, there must be more of her.' I wrenched my hand from her grasp for one terrifying moment but in an instant felt her arm, her shoulder, her waist; I pulled her at long last into my arms, holding on for dear life and swearing I would not let this dream go. Not like the others.
'Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape- this is her size-'
'And this is her voice,' she added almost playfully. 'She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am so glad to be near you again.'
'Jane Eyre! - Jane Eyre.' It was all I could manage.
'My dear master, I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out- I am come back to you.'
'In truth? -in the flesh? My living Jane?'
'You touch me, sir, - you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?'
'My living darling!' Even as I spoke the words I could not bring myself to believe them. To let myself believe was to expose my wounded soul to further injury. 'These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I cannot be so blest, after all my misery.' I was at war with myself: my bleak mind battled against the hunger of my heart and the thirst of my soul. 'It is a dream; such dreams as I have had at night when I have clasped her once more to my heart, as I do now; and kissed her, as thus- and felt that she loved me, and trusted that she would not leave me.'
'Which I never will, sir, from this day.'
'Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned- my life dark, lonely, hopeless- my soul athirst and forbidden to drink- my heart famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before you: but kiss me before you go- embrace me, Jane.' I clenched my jaw in an effort to hold back the tears that came with the lamentation of my heart, berating Sleep- for a dream it must be- for all of the empty dreams.
But she my fairy granted my wish and said, 'There sir- and there!' pressing her lips to my sightless eyes, brushing the hair from my temple and kissing that too.
Suddenly it was what I had never allowed it to be before- it was real. My Jane, my mustard seed, she was come back to me.
'It is you- is it, Jane? You are come back to me then?'
'And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast among strangers?' I said, voicing my worst fears.
'No, sir! I am an independent woman now.'
'Independent! What do you mean, Jane?'
'My uncle in Madeira is dead, and he left me five thousand pounds.' In all my misery I would never invent such a tale.
'Ah! this is practical- this is real! I should never dream that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant, as well as soft: it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it. – What, Janet! Are you an independent woman? A rich woman?'
'Quite rich, sir. If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening.' Is this all she desired now? Naught but friendship? Her arrival had mended my broken heart- if she stayed she may well shatter it again.
'But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt friends who will look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?' If she wished to go I would not stop her.
'I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.' Oh, this was torture- not knowing if it was for pity or for love that she stayed.
But I had to ask, 'And you will stay with me?'
'Certainly- unless you object. I will be your neighbor, your nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your companion- to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live.' I sighed and opened my mouth to speak, but could not. I closed my lips, unable to form the right words. I was lost in thought when I felt Jane start to withdraw, pulling herself from my embrace. I instinctively grasped her closer.
'No- no- Jane; you must not go. No- I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort of your presence- the sweetness of your consolation: I cannot give up these joys. I have little left in myself- I must have you. The world may laugh- may call me absurd, selfish- but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.' The words burst from my lips before I could stop them, the truth rushing out like a dam had been broken and the massive weight of the water below flooded out: no power on this earth could stop the torrent.
I regretted my rash words, however, as soon as I had uttered them. I held my breath, waited anxiously for her reply. Would she now scorn me in my desperate need? Or would she condemn herself to a life she could not bear- all because she pitied poor Edward Fairfax Rochester.