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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Digital Library-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


the open air, and wandered about two days without crossing a
threshold: but twice in that space of time did I taste food; and it
was when brought by hunger, exhaustion, and despair almost to
the last gasp, that you, Mr. Rivers, forbade me to perish of want at
your door, and took me under the shelter of your roof. I know all
your sisters have done for me since-for I have not been insensible
during my seeming torpor-and I owe to their spontaneous,
genuine, genial compassion as large a debt as to your evangelical
charity.’ ‘Don’t make her talk any more now, St. John,’ said Diana,
as I paused; ‘she is evidently not yet fit for excitement. Come to the
sofa and sit down now, Miss Elliott.’

I gave an involuntary half start at hearing the alias: I had forgotten
my new name. Mr. Rivers, whom nothing seemed to escape,
noticed it at once.

‘You said your name was Jane Elliott?’ he observed.
‘I did say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient to be
called at present, but it is not my real name, and when I hear it, it
sounds strange to me.’ ‘Your real name you will not give?’ ‘No: I
fear discovery above all things; and whatever disclosure would
lead to it, I avoid.’ ‘You are quite right, I am sure,’ said Diana.
‘Now do, brother, let her be at peace a while.’ But when St. John
had mused a few moments he recommenced as imperturbably and
with as much acumen as ever.

‘You would not like to be long dependent on our hospitality-you
would wish, I see, to dispense as soon as may be with my sisters’
compassion, and, above all, with my charity (I am quite sensible of
the distinction drawn, nor do I resent it-it is just): you desire to be
independent of us?’ ‘I do: I have already said so. Show me how to
work, or how to seek work: that is all I now ask; then let me go, if it
be but to the meanest cottage; but till then, allow me to stay here: I
dread another essay of the horrors of homeless destitution.’
‘Indeed you shall stay here,’ said Diana, putting her white hand on
my head.

‘You shall,’ repeated Mary, in the tone of undemonstrative
sincerity which seemed natural to her.

‘My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you,’ said Mr. St.
John, ‘as they would have a pleasure in keeping and cherishing a
half-frozen bird, some wintry wind might have driven through
their casement. I feel more inclination to put you in the way of
keeping yourself, and shall endeavour to do so; but observe, my
sphere is narrow. I am but the incumbent of a poor country parish:
my aid must be of the humblest sort. And if you are inclined to
despise the day of small things, seek some more efficient succour
than such as I can offer.’ ‘She has already said that she is willing to
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