You wake before dawn and dress. You have a task to fulfill and you must get it over with quickly. You pack your few possessions, and your purse containing twenty shillings into a parcel. Tying on your straw bonnet and pinning your shawl, you save your slippers till you are out of the house - to avoid alerting the ear of someone you know must be listening for your movements.
Drearily you depart Thornfield. A mile off, beyond the fields, you know of a road that has a regular coach route. Once there, you sit and rest until the coach’s arrival. The driver promises to take you as far as your money will allow.
In time you arrive at a crossroads, and the driver will take you no further. There is a sign directing you to a small town nearby, which is probably as good a place as any to conceal your location from Mr. Rochester. You hope that you are now far enough from his influence, for to be discovered by him would be disastrous. Another meeting might erode your resolve and your resistance to becoming an instrument of evil to what you wholly love.
Only when the coach has gone do you realize you left your parcel inside.
You have nowhere to go, so at first, you pass hours in nature. You are reluctant to entreat cold charity from your fellow-creatures when almost certain repulse is to be expected. On the heath near a ridge, dew falls and the breeze whispers - nature seems benign and good. Tonight, you will be her guest as she will lodge you without price. Though a sad heart trembles and clamors for Mr. Rochester, you feel nestled and protected.
A few days pass as you wander - unsure of what you can do to find occupation or lodging. Your hunger is rarely appeased during these three days of destitute wandering. Once, a farmer was eating his supper of bread and cheese and you asked him for a piece. Probably he thought of you as an eccentric lady who had taken a fancy to his loaf. At another cottage, a little girl was about to throw a mess of cold porridge into a pig-trough and you asked her for the lot. Each day you seek employment, but none is to hand. Each day you hope to be delivered from your physical and mental suffering, but you awaken cold and alone.
One evening, as you roam over a dim landscape of heath and moss, you notice a light in a house far off. As you seek shelter from the rain, on instinct, you move towards the light which appears to be from a candle in a window. Sinking on the doorstep of the house your strength utterly fails you. A pang of exquisite suffering heaves your heart. Worn out, you cannot stir another step, nor even reach up to knock on the door. “I can but die,” you say to yourself.
“All men must die,” says a voice quite close to hand; “but all are not condemned to meet a lingering death such as yours would be if you perished here of want.”
Go to FORTY-TWO