فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

The future Mrs. Rochester

So I set out on the long journey back to Thornfield. Mrs. Fairfax had written to me while I was at Gateshead, telling me that the guests had all gone, and Mr. Rochester had gone to London to buy a carriage for his wedding. It was clear that he would be getting married very soon.

After a long day sitting in the coach, I decided to get out at Millcote, leave my luggage at the hotel, and walk across the fields to Thornfield. It was a warm June evening, and I felt glad to be going home. I had to remind myself sternly that Thornfield was not my permanent home, and that the person I was so looking forward to seeing was perhaps not even thinking of me.

And then I saw him! He was sitting on the gate ahead of me, writing in a notebook. He noticed me at once.

‘Hallo!’ he cried. I was trembling at the unexpected sight of him, and could not control my voice, so I approached in silence.

‘So it’s Jane Eyre!’ he continued. ‘Why didn’t you send for a carriage? It’s just like you to come on foot from Millcote. Now, what have you been doing for a whole month?’

‘I’ve been looking after my aunt, sir, who’s just died.’

‘You come from another world, Jane, from the world of the dead. I think you must be a spirit. And absent for a whole month! I’m sure you’ve quite forgotten me.’

Even though I knew I would soon lose him, he had such power to make me happy that I was in heaven listening to him.

‘Did Mrs. Fairfax tell you I’ve been to London?’ he asked.

‘Oh yes, sir, she did.’

‘And I expect she told you why I went there? Well, you must see the carriage I’ve bought, Jane. It will suit Mrs. Rochester perfectly. I only wish I were more handsome, as she’s so beautiful. Can’t you put one of your spells on me, to make me more attractive for her?’

‘That’s beyond the power of magic, sir,’ I replied, while thinking ‘To someone who loves you, you are handsome enough.’

Mr. Rochester was sometimes able to read my thoughts, but this time he just smiled warmly at me, and opened the gate.

‘Pass, friend,’ he said, ‘and welcome home!’

I could have just walked past him in silence, but something made me turn and say quickly, before I could stop myself, ‘Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I’m glad to come back to you, and wherever you are is my home - my only home.’ I ran across the field and into the house before he had time to answer.

Two weeks passed after my return, with no news of the wedding. There were no preparations at Thornfield, and no visits to the Ingram family, who lived only a few miles away. I almost began to hope.

It was the middle of summer, and every day the sun shone on the green fields, the white, baked roads, and the cool, dark woods. One evening, after Adele had gone to sleep, I went into the garden. I discovered a quiet place where I thought nobody would find me, but then I noticed Mr. Rochester had come into the garden too. Hoping to escape back to the house, I crept quietly behind him while he was bending over to admire an insect, but …

‘Jane,’ he said suddenly, ‘come and look at this beautiful insect. Oh, now he’s flown away. No, don’t go back to the house, Jane, on such a lovely night. Come and walk with me.’ I could not find a reason for leaving him, so I accompanied him in silence.

‘Jane,’ he began, ‘you like Thornfield, don’t you? And you even like little Adele, and old Mrs. Fairfax, don’t you?’

‘I do, sir, I really don’t want to leave them.’

‘What a pity!’ he sighed. ‘That’s what happens in life. No sooner have you got used to a place than you have to move on.’

‘Do I have to move on, sir? Leave Thornfield?’

‘I’m afraid you must, Jane.’

‘Then you are going to be married, sir?’

‘Exactly, Jane. And as you have pointed out, when I take the lovely Miss Ingram as my bride, you and Adele must leave the house, so I’m looking for a new job for you.’

‘I’m sorry to cause you trouble,’ I said miserably. ‘No trouble at all! In fact I’ve already heard of a very good job which would be just right for you, teaching the five daughters of an Irish family. You’ll like Ireland, I think. They’re such friendly people,’ he said cheerfully.

‘It’s such a long way away, sir!’ I was fighting to keep my tears back. There was an icy coldness in my heart.

‘Away from what, Jane?’

‘From England and from Thornfield and -‘

‘Well?’

‘From you, sir!’ I could not stop myself, and burst into tears immediately.

‘It certainly is very far away,’ he said calmly. ‘Let’s sit on this bench, Jane, like old friends saying goodbye. You know, I sometimes feel as if you and I were connected by a string tying our two hearts together, and if you went to Ireland, I think that string might break and I might bleed to death.’

‘I wish… I wish I’d never been born!’ I cried. ‘I wish I’d never come to Thornfield!’ No longer able to control my feelings, I poured out what was in my heart. ‘I can’t bear to leave! Because here I’ve been treated kindly. And because I’ve met you, Mr. Rochester, and I can’t bear never to see you again. Now I have to leave, I feel as if I’m dying!’

‘Why do you have to leave?’ he asked innocently. ‘Why?’ I repeated, amazed. ‘Because you’re marrying Miss Ingram - she’s your bride!’

‘My bride! I have no bride!’ he answered. ‘But I will have one, and you must stay!’

‘I can’t stay!’ I cried furiously. ‘Do you think I can watch another woman become your bride? Do you think I’m a machine, without feelings? Do you think, because I’m small and poor and plain, that I have no soul and no heart? Well, you’re wrong! I have as much soul and heart as you. It is my spirit that speaks to your spirit! We are equal in the sight of God!’

‘We are!’ repeated Mr. Rochester, taking me in his arms and kissing me. ‘Don’t struggle, Jane, like a wild restless bird!’

‘Let me go, Mr. Rochester. I am no bird, but a free human being,’ and I managed to break away.

‘Yes, Jane, you are free to decide. I ask you to walk through life with me, to be my constant companion.’

‘You’re laughing at me. You’ve already chosen your companion for life.’ I was crying quietly, while Mr. Rochester looked gently and seriously at me.

‘Jane,’ he said, ‘I ask you to be my wife. You are my equal, Jane. Will you marry me? Don’t you believe me?’

‘Not at all,’ I answered.

‘I’ll convince you! Listen, I don’t love Miss Ingram and she doesn’t love me. She only liked me for my wealth, and when I, disguised as the gipsy woman, told her that I had only a little money, she and her mother lost interest in me. You strange magical spirit, I love you! You, small and poor and plain, I ask you to marry me!’

‘You want to marry me?’ I cried, almost beginning to believe him. ‘But I have no friends, no money, no family!’

‘I don’t care, Jane! Say yes, quickly! It’s cruel to make me suffer like this! Give me my name, say, “Edward, I’ll marry you!” ‘ he cried, his face very pale in the moonlight.

‘Are you serious? Do you really love me? Do you honestly want me to be your wife?’ I asked.

‘I swear it.’

‘Then, Edward, I will marry you.’

‘My little wife!’ He held me in his arms for a long time, kissing me gently. Once he murmured, ‘No family! That’s good. No family to interfere!’ and then, ‘I don’t care what people think!’ and again and again, ‘Are you happy, Jane?’ I thought of nothing except the great happiness of being with him for ever.

But while we were talking the weather had changed. A strong wind was now blowing and there was a loud crack of thunder. Suddenly rain poured down, and although we hurried back to the house, we were quite wet when we arrived in the hall. We did not notice Mrs. Fairfax standing in the shadows.

‘Good night, my darling,’ he said, kissing me repeatedly. As I ran upstairs, I caught sight of the old lady’s shocked face.

‘Tomorrow I’ll explain to her,’ I thought. Just then I was too happy to think about anything except our bright future.

Outside, the storm continued furiously all night, and in the morning we discovered that the great tree at the bottom of the garden, which had stood for hundreds of years, had been hit by lightning and torn in half.

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