'Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have said so.' I was torn between joy and guilt. She had money now, and friends in all probability; she could go where she wished, do what she wished. I could not.
'Yes- but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another. You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair- to wait on me like a kind little nurse (for you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit, which prompt you to make sacrifices for those you pity), and that ought to suffice for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for you: do you think so? Come- tell me.'
'I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think it better.' Her submissive words touched me to the core and I knew, however excruciatingly painful to me, that I could not ask her to stay: for stay she would, were I to beg it of her.
'But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet. You are young- you must marry someday.'
'I don't care about being married.' I almost laughed how familiar that stubborn tone was.
'You should care, Janet: if I were what I once was, I would try to make you care- but- a sightless block!' I was utterly useless.
After a pause, she said cheerfully, 'It is time someone undertook to rehumanise you.' Her soft little hands played with my hair. 'For I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort. You have a "faux air" of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about you, that is certain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds' claws or not, I have not yet noticed.'
'On this arm I have neither hand nor nails,' I said harshly, pulling my left arm from my shirt. 'It is a mere stump- a ghastly sight! Don't you think so, Jane?'
Her gentle words did not surprise me, because I knew her. 'It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes- and the scar of fire on your forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all this; and making too much of you,' she said softly, but there was an edge of something in her voice.
To mask the pain that her words about pity had given me, I said, 'I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrized visage.'
'Did you? Don't tell me so- lest I should say something disparaging to your judgment. Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a better fire, and have the hearth swept up. Can you tell when there is a god fire?'
I perceived, of course, that her sole aim at present was to be cheerful and thought it best to attempt the same. It was not difficult: her very presence filled me with life and light.
Remembering her question, I replied, 'Yes; with the right eye I see a glow- a ruddy haze.'
'And you see the candles?'
'Very dimly- each is a luminous cloud.'
I heard her soft footsteps return, stopping in front of me.
'Can you see me?'
'No, my fairy,' I said softly, trying my best to keep the sorrow out of my voice. 'But I am only too thankful to hear and feel you.'
'When do you take supper?'
'I never take supper.'
'But you shall have some tonight. I am hungry: so are you, I daresay, only you forget.' I could not help but smile: she had not changed. She summoned Mary, and I heard them tidy the room somewhat and tend the fire.
We talked all through supper, and long afterwards. I suppose she accomplished what she wanted: I was cheered, infinitely. I forced myself not to think of the possibility- no, the necessity of her leaving, and instead allowed myself to finally be happy. She seemed happy, as well, both of us talking and laughing like we used to.
Except I could not see her. I was terrified that one moment she would simply be gone: she would disappear again, just like she had all those months ago- the night she broke my heart.
If there was a pause in the conversation of but a moment- whenever I did not hear her I could not help but reach out and touch her, speak her name so that I knew I was not alone.
'You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?'
'I conscientiously believe so, Mr Rochester.
'Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone hearth?' I was begging for a reason, something to justify her existence and prove to myself that she really was here. 'I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was given me by you: I asked a question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your voice spoke at my ear.'
'Because I had come, in Mary's stead, with the tray.' What incomplete, sly answers did she give!
'And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you. Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past?' I mused quietly. 'Doing nothing, expecting nothing, merging night into day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again. Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? Tomorrow, I fear I shall find her no more.'
She did not reply, merely passed her hand over my brow, informed me that my eyebrows were scorched, and promised to apply something to make them grow back. Even her casual cheerfulness was not enough to pull me from my gloom.
'What is the use of doing me good in any way, beneficent spirit, when, at some fatal moment, you will again desert me- passing like a shadow, wither and how to me unknown, and for me remaining afterwards undiscoverable?'
She seemed determined to ignore me. 'Have you a pocket- comb about you, sir?'
'What for, Jane?'
'Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a fairy, but I am sure, you are more like a brownie.' She would tease me, but despair is a difficult habit to break.
'Am I hideous, Jane?'
'Very, sir: you always were, you know.'
'Humph!' I snorted, to cover my laugh. Perhaps, I thought, despair may not be so hard to get rid of after all. 'The wickedness has not been taken out of you, wherever you have sojourned.'
'Yet I have been with good people; far better than you: a hundred times better people; possessed of ideas and views you never entertained in your life: quite more refined and exalted.'
'Who the deuce have you been with?' I exclaimed, turning automatically; though what good looking at her would do I knew not.
'If you twist in that way you will make me pull the hair out of your head; and then I think you will cease to entertain doubts of my substantiality.'
'Who have you been with, Jane?' I would not be diverted.
'You shall not get it out of me tonight, sir; you must wait till tomorrow; to leave my tale half told, will, you know, be a sort of security that I shall appear at your breakfast table to finish it. By the bye, I must mind not to rise on your hearth with only a glass of water then: I must bring an egg at least, to say nothing of fried ham.' I shook my head slightly, a small smile playing about my lips. She would never cease to perplex me, that was certain- that was why I loved her.
'You mocking changeling- fairy-born and human-bred! You make me feel as I have not felt these twelve months. If Saul could have had you for his David, the evil spirit would have been exorcised without the aid of a harp.'
'There, sir,' she said, paying no mind to my ramblings, 'you are redd up and made decent. No I'll leave you: I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good-night.' Three days- she had been but three days away and it had felt like a million lifetimes that my Janet and I had been apart.
'Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?'
To my utter vexation, I did not receive an answer: instead she laughed and I heard her light footsteps spring up the steps to her room. I shook my head, laughing to myself in an attempt to keep the sickening fear at bay.
I slept fitfully that night, tossing and turning and wishing more than anything I could run upstairs and see with my own eyes that my Jane was really here; that she had not been an illusion or a dream or madness. I awoke frequently and a hazy image of her, during her absence, loving another haunted my sightless eyes- eyes that could see only dreams. Reality was invisible to me.