Preparing for the wedding
I was a little nervous before seeing Mr. Rochester next morning. Was I really going to marry him, or was it all a dream? But I soon felt calmer when he came to meet me and kissed me.
‘Jane, you look well and smiling and pretty,’ he said. ‘You will be Jane Rochester in four weeks’ time, not a day more. I’ll send for my family jewels, which are kept in a London bank. They are for my bride, whether she’s a great lady or a governess.’
‘Oh no, sir!’ I cried. ‘I’m too plain for jewels! I’m not used to wearing them.’
‘I insist, Jane. Today I’m taking you in the carriage to Millcote to buy you some elegant clothes. In a month’s time we’ll have a quiet wedding in the local church, and after a few days in London we’ll travel through all the countries of Europe.’
‘Well, sir, you seem very eager to please me, but I wonder if you will agree to a request of mine.’
‘Ask me anything, Jane, anything!’
‘Indeed I will. This is my request. I ask you not to give me jewels and fine clothes.’
‘If that’s really your wish, I agree. But can’t you think of anything I can give you?’
‘Well, I’d like you to give me the answer to a question.’
He looked worried, and turned away from me.
‘Curiosity is dangerous,’ he said. ‘I may not be able to agree to this particular request. Well, what is it?’
‘How stern you look! I suppose that’s how you will look when we are married! This is what I want to know. Why did you take such trouble to make me believe you wished to marry Miss Ingram?’
He stopped frowning at once and smiled down at me.
‘Is that all? What a relief! All right, I shall have to confess although you may be angry with me, Jane — as angry as you were last night, when you told me we were equal. Well, I pretended to love Miss Ingram to make you madly jealous. I wanted you to be as much in love with me as I was with you.’
‘And I suppose you didn’t care at all about poor Miss Ingram’s feelings?’
‘She only has one feeling — pride. Were you jealous, Jane?’
‘Never mind, Mr. Rochester. One more request — please explain everything to Mrs. Fairfax. She looked so shocked last night!’
When I visited the old housekeeper later that day, I found she was amazed by the news that I was going to marry the master.
‘I would never have thought it!’ she kept repeating. ‘Mr. Rochester, so proud and such a gentleman! To marry his governess!’ She examined me closely, as if to discover the reason for this strange event, and shook her head, still puzzled. ‘He’s twenty years older than you! He could be your father!’
‘No, indeed, Mrs. Fairfax,’ I replied crossly. ‘He looks much younger than that!’
‘Is he really going to marry you for love?’ she asked.
I was so hurt by her amazement that tears came to my eyes.
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Do you think he couldn’t possibly love me?’
‘No, no, Miss Eyre, but you must realize that this is a very unusual situation. You must be careful of your reputation. I advise you to keep him at a distance until you are married.’
Although I was upset by the old lady’s words, I followed her advice, and in the weeks before the wedding I went on teaching Adele as usual. Only in the evenings did I spend some time with Mr. Rochester, and I was careful not to allow him to hold me in his arms or kiss me. Sometimes he was angry with me and called me a ‘hard little thing’ or ‘a cruel spirit’, but I preferred that to being called ‘my darling’. I saw that Mrs. Fairfax approved of my correct behaviour, and I knew that he respected me for it. But it was not easy for me I would rather have shown him my love. My future husband was becoming my whole world, and more than that, my hope of heaven. At last the night before the wedding arrived. My clothes were packed and I was ready. But I was anxious to see Mr. Rochester, who had been away on business, so I ran out of the quiet house to meet him on the road. A wild, stormy wind was blowing, and in the garden I passed the wreck of the great tree. Then suddenly I saw him riding towards me.
‘You see!’ he shouted. ‘You can’t do without me! Jump up on to my horse!’ Together we rode back to Thornfield. While he ate dinner, I sat quietly beside him. He looked closely at me.
‘You look sad, Jane,’ he said. ‘Is anything wrong? Are you nervous about your new life?’
‘No,’ I replied firmly. ‘I’m not worried about that, because I love you. But last night I had a strange dream, a terrible dream! It was dark and windy outside, and before I went to sleep I could hear a dog growling in the distance. In my dream I was carrying a small child in my arms down a long road. I was trying to catch up with you, but I couldn’t.’
‘And you still worry about a foolish dream, when I’m close to you? But say you love me again, Jane.’
‘I do love you, Edward. But I haven’t finished my story.’
‘Is there more? Well, go on.’
‘I dreamed that Thornfield was totally destroyed, just a heap of stones. I was still carrying the child, but now I could see you riding away into the distance. I knew you would never come back! Then I woke up.’
‘That’s all then, Jane. Nothing to worry about.’
‘No, wait. There was candle-light in my room, and a strange shape examining the wedding dress hanging in my cupboard. My blood ran cold. It wasn’t Mrs. Fairfax or any of the servants, it wasn’t even Grace Poole. It was a horrible sight!’
‘Describe the shape, Jane!’
‘It looked like a tall woman, with long thick dark hair hanging down. She took up the beautiful veil you bought me, put it on her own head, then turned to admire herself in the mirror. It was then that I saw her wild, inhuman face! She removed the veil, tore it in two and threw it on the floor.’
‘And then?’ Mr. Rochester seemed almost nervous. ‘She came to my bedside, put her candle close to my face and stared fiercely at me. I must have fainted, and I suppose she left. Now can you tell me who or what that woman was?’
‘Jane, you are too sensitive. That was just a dream. Don’t think about it any more!’ he answered comfortingly.
‘That’s just what I said to myself when I woke up this morning, but when I looked on the floor, there was the veil, torn in two halves!’ I felt Mr. Rochester suddenly tremble.
‘To think what might have happened!’ he cried, throwing his arms around me. ‘Thank God it was only the veil!’ After a few moments he said calmly, ‘Now, Jane, be sensible. That woman must have been Grace Poole. There is no other explanation.’
‘Perhaps you’re right,’ I admitted slowly. ‘One day I’ll explain to you why I keep her in my house. But tonight, go and sleep in Adele’s room. You’ll be quite safe there. Just dream about our future!’