Mr. Rochester’s explanation
Sometime in the afternoon I recovered a little, but I felt faint as I stood up, and realized I had not eaten anything all day. So I opened my bedroom door and almost fell over Mr. Rochester, who was sitting in a chair just outside.
‘I’ve been waiting for you all this time, Jane,’ he said. ‘And I haven’t heard you scream or shout or cry. Aren’t you angry with me? I never meant to hurt you. Will you ever forgive me?’
He sounded so sincere that I forgave him at once in my heart. ‘Scold me, Jane! Tell me how wicked I am!’ he said. ‘Sir, I can’t. I feel tired and weak. I want some water.’
He took me in his arms and carried me downstairs to the library, where he put me in front of the fire, and gave me a glass of wine. I began to feel better. He bent to kiss me, but I turned my face determinedly away.
‘What!’ he cried. ‘You refuse to kiss me! Because I’m Bertha Mason’s husband? Is that it?’
‘I know you very well, Jane. I know how firm you are when you’ve decided something. You’re planning to destroy my hope of happiness. You intend to be a stranger to me from now on. And if I’m friendly towards you in future, you’ll remind yourself, «That man nearly made me his mistress — I must be ice-cold to him,» and ice-cold is what you’ll be.’
‘It’s true, sir,’ I said, trying to stop my voice from trembling, ‘that everything around me has changed, so I must change too. Adele must have a new governess.’
‘Oh, Adele will go to boarding school. I’ve already decided that. And you and I will both leave this house, this narrow stone hell, this house of living death. We can never be happy here, under the same roof as that woman. Oh, I hate her!’
‘You shouldn’t hate her, sir,’ I said. ‘It’s not her fault she’s mad, poor thing.’
‘Jane, my darling, it’s not because she’s mad that I hate her. If you were mad, I wouldn’t hate you. I’d look after you lovingly. But why talk of madness? We are all ready to travel, everything is packed. Tomorrow we’ll leave. I have a place to go to, where nobody will find us or talk about us-‘
‘And take Adele with you, sir, she’ll be a companion for you,’ I interrupted. ‘I knew I had to tell him soon.’
‘Adele? What do you mean, Jane? She’s going to school. I don’t want her, I want you with me. Do you understand?’
I did, but I slowly shook my head. He was becoming angry, and was staring fiercely at me. He looked as if he was about to lose control. I was not at all afraid, because I knew I still had the power to calm him. So I took his hand and stroked it, saying,
‘Sit down, sir, I’ll talk or listen to you as long as you like.’ I had been struggling with tears for some time and now I let them flow freely. It was a great relief.
‘Don’t cry, Jane, please be calm,’ he begged.
‘How can I be calm when you’re so angry?’
‘I’m not angry, but I love you so much, and your pale little face looked so stern and decided.’ He tried to put his arm round me, but I would not let him.
‘Jane!’ he said sadly, ‘you don’t love me, then?’
‘I do love you,’ I answered, ‘more than ever, but this is the last time I can say it. There is only one thing for me to do, but you’ll be furious if I mention it.’
‘Oh, mention it! If I’m angry, you can always burst into tears,’ he said, with a half-smile.
‘Mr. Rochester, I must leave you. I must start a new life among strangers.’
‘Of course. I told you we would leave. I’ll ignore that nonsense about you leaving me. You’ll be Mrs. Rochester and I’ll be your husband until I die. We’ll live happily and innocently together in a little white house I have in the south of France. Jane, don’t shake your head, or I’ll get angry.’
‘Sir, your wife is alive,’ I dared to say, although he was looking aggressively at me, ‘and if I lived with you like that, I’d be your mistress.’
‘I’m a fool!’ he said suddenly. ‘I haven’t told you the whole story! Oh, I’m sure you’ll agree when you know everything! Listen, Jane, you know that my father loved money very much?’
‘I heard someone say that, yes, sir.’
‘Well, he hated the idea of dividing the family property, so he left it all to my elder brother. But that meant I would be poor unless I married a rich wife, so he decided I should marry Bertha Mason, the daughter of his wealthy friend Jonas Mason. I was young and easily impressed, so when I saw her in the West Indies, beautiful and elegantly dressed, I thought I loved her. What a fool I was then! After the wedding I learned that my bride’s mother and younger brother were both mad. Dick Mason will probably be in the same state one day. My father knew all this, but did not tell me. I soon found that Bertha and I had nothing in common. Not only was she coarse and stupid, her madness also made her violent. I lived with her for four years. By now my father and brother were dead, so I was rich, but I considered myself poor, because I was tied to a mad wife until death.’
‘I pity you, sir, I do pity you.’
‘Pity, Jane, is an insult from some people, but from you I accept it as the mother of love. Well, I had moments of despair when I intended to shoot myself, but in the end I decided to bring the mad woman back to Thornfield Hall, where nobody knew that we were married. She has lived here ever since. Even Mrs. Fairfax and the servants don’t know the whole truth about her. But although I pay Grace Poole well, and trust her absolutely, she sometimes drinks too much and allows the creature to escape. Twice she has got out of her room at night, as you know. The first time she nearly burnt me in my bed, and the second time she visited you, and must have been reminded of her own wedding day by seeing your wedding dress.’