The Governess of Thornfield

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FORTY-NINE

Consent to his demand is possible, but marriage to him would be dreadful. He does not have a husband’s heart for you, and it would be awful to bear the conscientious endearments he would bestow. He only sees you as a soldier and unmarried to him this would not grieve you.

“St. John, I am ready to go to India, but you are my adopted brother, and I, your adopted sister; let us not marry.”

He shakes his head. “Adopted fraternity will not do in this case. If you were my real sister it would be different, I should not seek a wife. But as it is, our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage. I cannot take a young, unmarried woman with me for in that light, you may any day be taken from me. As my wife, you are my coadjutor, and the sole help-meet I can influence efficiently in life and retain absolutely till death.”

You shudder at the callousness of his words. Though you still regard St. John with admiration, you can see that he has his own fallibilities that stem from his hardness and despotism. It will be difficult to resist his will but resist you must.

“I repeat, I consent to go with you as a fellow-missionary, but marriage would be a mere sham, I could not pledge the love of a wife to you before God when you no more have those feelings for me than I do for you.”

“Enough of love would come upon marriage. I assure you; you cannot go to India with me if you do not come as my wife. Society would see it as suspicious, and a female curate would never suit me.”

His tone is still cool and tranquil, but there is a livid paleness to his features that speaks to a rising passion kept ruthlessly in control. You know that your refusal to marry him is creating an estrangement between the two of you. You fear that in the future, the pure Christian in him will feel compelled on principle to act and speak to you in the usual way while extracting every nuance of interest and approval he had formally communicated. It would be his reproach to you, without ever voicing his displeasure. Grief at his coldness is slowly dulling your concerns. You do not wish to lose his brotherly affection. Perhaps he would not be so austere a husband…

The world seems still as you consider what to say next. Suddenly, an inexpressible feeling thrills through you. You hear a voice on the wind, softly calling - speaking your name! Three times, the voice calls to you and then nothing more.

“Oh, God!” you gasp, “What is it?”

It is impossible to know from where the voice sprang - it does not seem to have come from the earth, nor the air. It is a voice you know well though - the voice of Edward Rochester.

Standing up quickly you rush about, searching for the source. “Where are you?” you exclaim in utter consternation.

St. John follows you and attempts to detain you, but you break from him. With a look you tell him to ask no questions, and that you desire to be alone.

Your thoughts are tangled in your emotions, but after a fashion, you take on a new resolve, one that brings your soul calm. You must find out what has happened to Mr. Rochester.


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