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‘Here is Miss Eyre, sir,’ said Mrs. Fairfax, in her quiet way. He
bowed, still not taking his eyes from the group of the dog and
‘Let Miss Eyre be seated,’ said he: and there was something in the
forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed
further to express, ‘What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre
be there or not? At this moment I am not disposed to accost her.’ I
sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness
would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or
repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh
caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent
quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.
Besides, the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt
interested to see how he would go on.
He went on as a statue would, that is, he neither spoke nor moved.
Mrs. Fairfax seemed to think it necessary that some one should be
amiable, and she began to talk. Kindly, as usual-and, as usual,
rather trite-she condoled with him on the pressure of business he
had had all day; on the annoyance it must have been to him with
that painful sprain: then she commended his patience and
perseverance in going through with it.
‘Madam, I should like some tea,’ was the sole rejoinder she got. She
hastened to ring the bell; and when the tray came, she proceeded to
arrange the cups, spoons, etc., with assiduous celerity. I and Adele
went to the table; but the master did not leave his couch.
‘Will you hand Mr. Rochester’s cup?’ said Mrs. Fairfax to me;
‘Adele might perhaps spill it.’ I did as requested. As he took the
cup from my hand, Adele, thinking the moment propitious for
making a request in my favour, cried out‘N’est-ce pas, monsieur,
qu’il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre dans votre petit
coffre?’ ‘Who talks of cadeaux?’ said he gruffly. ‘Did you expect a
present, Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?’ and he searched my
face with eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.
‘I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are
generally thought pleasant things.’
‘Generally thought? But what do you think?’ ‘I should be obliged
to take time, sir, before I could give you an answer worthy of your
acceptance: a present has many faces to it, has it not? and one
should consider all, before pronouncing an opinion as to its
nature.’ ‘Miss Eyre, you are not so unsophisticated as Adele: she
demands a “cadeau,” clamorously, the moment she sees me: you
beat about the bush.’ ‘Because I have less confidence in my deserts
than Adele has: she can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and
the right too of custom; for she says you have always been in the