فصل 18

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فصل 18

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

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?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘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. di@k 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.’

‘And what did you do, sir, when you had brought her here?’

‘I travelled all over Europe, Jane. I was looking for a good and intelligent woman to love-‘

‘But you couldn’t marry, sir,’ I interrupted.

‘I believed I could. I thought I might find some reasonable woman who would understand my case and accept me.’

‘Well, sir, did you?’

‘Not in Europe, Jane, where I spent ten long years looking for an ideal. I tried taking mistresses, like Celine, the French dancer. But finally, bitter and disappointed with my wasted life, I returned to Thornfield on a frosty winter afternoon. And when my horse slipped and fell on the ice, a little figure appeared and insisted on helping me. In the weeks that followed, I began to depend on that bird-like little figure for my happiness and new interest in life.’

‘Don’t talk any more of the past, sir,’ I said, wiping a secret tear from my eye.

‘No, Jane, you’re right, the future is much brighter. You understand now, don’t you? I’ve wasted half my life in misery and loneliness, but now I’ve found you. You are at the centre of my heart. It was stupid of me to try to marry you like that without explaining. I should have confessed everything, as I do now, and appealed to your great generosity of spirit. I promise to love you and stay with you for ever. Jane, promise me the same.’

A pause. ‘Why are you silent, Jane?’

This was a terrible moment for me. In the struggle and confusion that was going on in my heart I knew that he loved me and I loved him, but I also knew that I must leave him!

‘Jane, just promise me, “I will be yours”.’

‘Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours.’ Another pause.

‘Jane,’ he said, with a gentleness that cut into my soul, ‘Jane, do you intend us to live apart for ever?’

‘I do.’

‘Jane,’ (bending towards me and kissing me), ‘is that still your intention?’

‘It is,’ I replied, pulling away from him.

‘Oh Jane, this is a bitter shock. It would not be wicked to love me.’

‘It would be wicked to do what you want.’

‘Jane, just imagine my horrible life when you have gone. I shall be alone with that mad woman upstairs. Where shall I find friendship, and hope?

‘You can only trust in God and yourself. Live without doing wrong, and die hoping to go to heaven.’

‘That’s impossible without you! And … and you have no family to offend by living with me!’ He was beginning to sound desperate. I knew that what he said was true. However, in my heart I also knew I was right to leave.

He seemed to read my thoughts. Rushing furiously across the room, he seized me violently and stared fiercely into my eyes. He could have broken me in two with one hand, but he could not break my spirit. Small and weak as I was, I stared firmly back at him. ‘Your eyes, Jane,’ he said, ‘are the eyes of a bird, a free, wild being. Even if I break your cage, I can’t reach you, beautiful creature! You’ll fly away from me. But you could choose to fly to me! Come, Jane, come!’ He let me go, and only looked at me. How hard it was to resist that look! ‘I am going,’ I said.

‘Does my deep love mean nothing to you? Oh Jane, my hope, my love, my life!’ and he threw himself despairingly on the sofa. I had reached the door, but I could not leave. I walked back, bent over him, and kissed his cheek.

‘Goodbye, my dear master!’ I said. ‘May God protect you!’

‘Without your love, Jane, my heart is broken,’ he said. ‘But perhaps you will, so generously, give me your love after all-‘ He jumped up with hope in his eyes, holding out his arms to me. But I turned and ran out of the room.

That night I only slept a little, dreaming of the red room at Gateshead. The moonlight shone into my bedroom, as it did then, and I saw a vision on the ceiling, a white figure looking down on me. It seemed to whisper to my spirit: ‘Daughter, leave now before you are tempted to stay.’

‘Mother, I will,’ I answered. And when I woke up, although it was still dark outside, I wrapped up some spare clothes in a parcel, and put a little money in a purse. As I crept downstairs, I could hear Mr. Rochester in his room, walking up and down and sighing. I could find heaven in this room if I wanted. I just had to enter and say, ‘I will love you and live with you through life until death!’ My hand moved towards the handle. But I stopped myself, and went miserably downstairs and out of the house.

Setting out on the road, I could not help thinking of Mr. Rochester’s despair when he found himself abandoned. I hated myself for wounding him, and for perhaps driving him to a life of wickedness, or even death. I wanted desperately to be with him, to comfort him, but somehow I made myself keep walking, and when a coach passed, I arranged to travel on it as far as my money would pay for. Inside the coach I cried the bitterest tears of my life.

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