“Do you really love me? Me, who has not a friend in the world but you - if you are my friend; not a shilling but what you have given me?”
“Yes, you. I must have you for my own - entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly.”
A sense of unease fills you at his words. You cannot understand how a man of his station would truly wish to marry you. You remember that for men love can effervesce all too quickly. What of Miss Ingram and her hopes? Clearly his inconstancy could destroy not only your happiness but your prospects forever.
“Mr. Rochester, I cannot marry you.”
Despite the rising wind and the whisper of a storm overhead, the quiet that falls from your proclamation is deafening. A moment of true anguish seems to embrace the both of you.
“You will not marry me? I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions. I only want you.”
“Mr. Rochester, I do not believe you. You would perhaps think fondly of me for a little while and then tire of me within weeks. A man of your station could not be happy with someone as inconsequential as me. Did you not dismiss Miss Ingram very easily?”
“Miss Ingram? I would not - I could not marry Miss Ingram. I only feigned courtship of her to render you jealous. I accept how uncharitable this must make me seem, but I only love you - you strange, almost unearthly thing! I love you as my own flesh. Little skeptic, I swear my devotion to you!”
His face was very much agitated and very flushed, yet his passion only made you deepen your resolve. You think to say you cannot give an answer at the moment, in the hope that would give him some time to repent his declaration.
He sinks into the garden seat by the tree next to you. “You will not be convinced? I will wait then, and I will show you I mean my words. But oh, you torture me!”
He turns his face away as a sob escapes his lips. His sorrow affects you deeply, but for his sake, you turn and quickly walk back to the house. You do love him. Truly. But you cannot give yourself to someone with such a capricious history. Humans never enjoy complete happiness in this world, and you were not born for a different destiny to the rest of the species. Heartache now would defer the potential heartbreak of inconstant and failed love.
Several weeks pass in a manner you do not care to recount. Many times, Mr. Rochester pleads for you to believe his love and marry him, and each time you firmly decline. Eventually, you hear of an opportunity to teach the children of a village some miles off, and you quietly take your leave.
Sometimes you hear of Mr. Rochester, though you begged him to never contact you in your new life. He never marries and from all accounts has become a fixture at Thornfield - broken in sorrow and misery. Many years later, you have some regrets about your decision, especially as you feel a similar sense of despair in how your life has turned out.