A fortnight has passed since you came back to Thornfield. Mrs. Fairfax and Adele greeted you with pleasing happiness at your return. Mr. Rochester’s reaction was less effusive, but you sensed a calm content in his continuing to invite you to sit with him in the evenings. Nothing was said of his upcoming marriage and there seemed to be no preparation for the event.
After evenfall one day, the beautiful weather induces you to take a stroll in the gardens by the house. Sweet-brier, southern-wood, jasmine, and rose yield their sacrifice of incense, but another scent alerts you to the proximity of another wanderer in the garden.
The smell of Mr. Rochester’s cigar causes you to look around but no moving from is visible. You must flee. You make for the wicket leading to the shrubbery, but it is too late.
“Jane, come and look at this fellow.”
Sadly, your mind fails in framing some excuse to leave. It worries you to walk at this hour alone with Mr. Rochester - it may be seen as improper - but you cannot find a reason to leave him. Following with lagging step you peer at the moth perched on his hand.
“Look at his wings,” says he; “he reminds me rather of a West Indian insect; one does not often see so large a night-rover in England. There! He is flown.” The moth makes good his escape, but you are unable to follow his example.
“Miss Governess,” he recommences, as the two of you enter the laurel-walk, slowly straying in the direction of the great horse-chestnut tree, “Thornfield is a pleasant place in the summer, is it not?”
“You would not like to leave us I’m sure, but it is always the way of events in this life. No sooner have you settled in a pleasant resting-place than a voice calls to you to rise and move on.”
This was a shock you had not prepared yourself for. “Must I move on sir?”
“I believe you must, indeed. You remember that, as rumor has intimated to you, I am shortly to enter into the holy estate of matrimony and in the event, little Adèle must trot forthwith to a school and you must get a new situation.”
“Yes, sir, I will advertise immediately; and meantime, I suppose --” here words fail you as your voice is not quite under your command.
“In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom,” continues Mr. Rochester; “and while you were away, I looked for employment for you. I heard through my future mother-in-law of a place that I think will suit. It is to be the governess of a family in Connaught, Ireland.”
“That is a long way off, sir.” Again, you lose control of your voice. The thought of leaving Thornfield strikes coldness in your heart. It seems that destiny will rush between you and what you naturally and inevitably love.
“No matter, a girl of your sense will not mind the journey. I never go over to Ireland, not having much of a fancy for the country, so I do believe this will be our last meeting together. We have been good friends, have we not?”
“Come, we will sit here in peace tonight. Do you know, I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you - it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel and two hundred miles or so of land come between us, I have a nervous notion that cord of communion will be snapped and I will bleed inwardly. As for you, you’d forget me.”
“That I never should.” You are unable to repress your sobs and as they come out convulsively now. “I wish I had never been born, nor ever come to Thornfield!” you cry.
“Because you are sorry to leave it?”
“Yes, because I love Thornfield. I have lived a full and delightful life here. I have not been trampled on; I have not been petrified. I have talked with what I reverence and delight in - an original, vigorous, and expanded mind. I have known you Mr. Rochester and it strikes me with anguish that I must be torn from you forever.”
“Why must you leave then?”
“You have set that path for me - your bride will not permit my staying.”
“Bride? What bride? I have no bride?”
Infuriating man! “But you will have.”
“Yes, I will. And I say you must stay; I swear you must!”
“No, I must go! Do you think I can stay and become nothing to you? That I am a machine without feelings and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips? Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little that I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you and full as much heart! I am not talking to you through the medium of custom and conventionalities; it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave and we stood at God’s feet, equal - as we are!”
“As we are!” repeats Mr. Rochester - as he gathers you in his arms and presses his lips to yours. “Yes, so we are,” he murmurs.
“Sir, you are good as a married man! I have seen you with her and don’t believe you truly love her. I would scorn such a union; therefore, I am better than you - let me go!”
“Please be still and listen to me. I have no bride save you, if you will have me. It is only you that I love; poor, obscure and plain as you are. You are my equal and my likeness. Will you marry me?”
Doubt, confusion, and tentative joy cloud your judgment. Did he not claim he would marry Blanche just a few moments ago? Could he really love you and wish to marry you? What answer should you give him?
To accept Mr. Rochester’s proposal, go to THIRTY-SIX
To decline marrying Mr. Rochester, go to THIRTY-FIVE