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at once noticed that hand. It was no more the withered limb of eld
than my own; it was a rounded supple member, with smooth
fingers, symmetrically turned; a broad ring flashed on the little
finger, and stooping forward, I looked at it, and saw a gem I had
seen a hundred times before. Again I looked at the face; which was
no longer turned from me-on the contrary, the bonnet was doffed,
the bandage displaced, the head advanced.
‘Well, Jane, do you know me?’ asked the familiar voice.
‘Only take off the red cloak, sir, and then-’ ‘But the string is in a
knot-help me.’ ‘Break it, sir.’ ‘There, then-“Off, ye lendings!”’ And
Mr. Rochester stepped out of his disguise.
‘Now, sir, what a strange idea!’ ‘But well carried out, eh? Don’t
you think so?’ ‘With the ladies you must have managed well.’ ‘But
not with you?’ ‘You did not act the character of a gipsy with me.’
‘What character did I act? My own?’ ‘No; some unaccountable one.
In short, I believe you have been trying to draw me out-or in; you
have been talking nonsense to make me talk nonsense. It is scarcely
fair, sir.’ ‘Do you forgive me, Jane?’ ‘I cannot tell till I have thought
it all over. If, on reflection, I find I have fallen into no great
absurdity, I shall try to forgive you; but it was not right.’ ‘Oh, you
have been very correct-very careful, very sensible.’ I reflected, and
thought, on the whole, I had. It was a comfort; but, indeed, I had
been on my guard almost from the beginning of the interview.
Something of masquerade I suspected. I knew gipsies and fortune-
tellers did not express themselves as this seeming old woman had
expressed herself; besides I had noted her feigned voice, her
anxiety to conceal her features. But my mind had been running on
Grace Poole-that living enigma, that mystery of mysteries, as I
I had never thought of Mr. Rochester.
‘Well,’ said he, ‘what are you musing about? What does that grave
smile signify?’ ‘Wonder and self-congratulation, sir. I have your
permission to retire now, I suppose?’ ‘No; stay a moment; and tell
me what the people in the drawing-room yonder are doing.’
‘Discussing the gipsy, I daresay.’ ‘Sit down!- Let me hear what they
said about me.’ ‘I had better not stay long, sir; it must be near
eleven o’clock. Oh, are you aware, Mr. Rochester, that a stranger
has arrived here since you left this morning?’
‘A stranger!- no; who can it be? I expected no one; is he gone?’ ‘No;
he said he had known you long, and that he could take the liberty
of installing himself here till you returned.’ ‘The devil he did! Did
he give his name?’ ‘His name is Mason, sir; and he comes from the
West Indies; from Spanish Town, in Jamaica, I think.’ Mr.
Rochester was standing near me; he had taken my hand, as if to