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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