a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be

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Senior Member
The quotation comes from Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (Chap. 27) | Genius

Quotation: “I used to enjoy a chance meeting with you, Jane, at this time: there was a curious hesitation in your manner: you glanced at me with a slight trouble—a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be—whether I was going to play the master and be stern, or the friend and be benignant. I was now too fond of you often to simulate the first whim; and, when I stretched my hand out cordially, such bloom and light and bliss rose to your young, wistful features, I had much ado often to avoid straining you then and there to my heart.”

Context: Mr. R was watching Jane muse.
Hi everyone! I don’t quite understand the bold part. I try to interpret it as below. Is it correct?

Hovering => Hesitating, wavering; uncertain (OED)
Caprice => 2 : a disposition to do things impulsively (M-W dictionary)

The sentence => a doubt showing your hesitation: you did not know what I might impulsively and unpredictably be and do.
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Haha - not an eagle exactly, I was thinking more of a cloud! :D

    The second 1/2 = caprice can be a singular thing, like a sudden change of mind, but is can also depict a mind that is subject to sudden whims or changes of direction. In this case I think he is talking about repeated cases and the fact that he has an unpredictable mind-set.


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The image that came to my mind was butterfly or a hummingbird.

    I understand "caprice" to mean "whim" (and keep in mind the adjective 'capricious") - Jane didn't know how Rochester might act, because his moods were often unpredictable.
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