Jane Eyre (Chapter 21, page 1 of 18)


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Chapter 21

Presentiments are strange things! and so are sympathies; and so are
signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has
not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life,
because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies, I believe,
exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly
estranged relatives asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the
unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose workings
baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be
but the sympathies of Nature with man.

When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard
Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a
little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of
trouble, either to one's self or one's kin. The saying might have
worn out of my memory, had not a circumstance immediately followed
which served indelibly to fix it there. The next day Bessie was
sent for home to the deathbed of her little sister.

Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for
during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that
had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes
hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched
playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in
running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing
one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me;
but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore,
it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I
entered the land of slumber.

I did not like this iteration of one idea--this strange recurrence
of one image, and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour
of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this baby-
phantom I had been roused on that moonlight night when I heard the
cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned
downstairs by a message that some one wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax's
room. On repairing thither, I found a man waiting for me, having
the appearance of a gentleman's servant: he was dressed in deep
mourning, and the hat he held in his hand was surrounded with a
crape band.

"I daresay you hardly remember me, Miss," he said, rising as I
entered; "but my name is Leaven: I lived coachman with Mrs. Reed
when you were at Gateshead, eight or nine years since, and I live
there still."

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