"Where must I go, sir?"
"Your own way - with the husband you have chosen."
"Who is that?"
"He is not my husband, nor ever will be. He does not love me: I do not love him. He loves (as hecanlove, and that is not as you love) a beautiful young lady called Rosamond. He wanted to marry me only because he thought I should make a suitable missionary's wife, which she would not have done. He is good and great, but severe; and, for me, cold as an iceberg. He is not like you, sir: I am not happy at his side, nor near him, nor with him. He has no indulgence for me - no fondness. He sees nothing attractive in me; not even youth - only a few useful mental points. - Then I must leave you, sir, to go to him?"
I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but beloved master. He smiled.
"What, Jane! Is this true? Is such really the state of matters between you and Rivers?"
"Absolutely, sir! Oh, you need not be jealous! I wanted to tease you a little to make you less sad: I thought anger would be better than grief. But if you wish me to love you, could you but see how much Idolove you, you would be proud and content. All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence for ever."
Again, as he kissed me, painful thoughts darkened his aspect.
"My seared vision! My crippled strength!" he murmured regretfully.
I caressed, in order to soothe him. I knew of what he was thinking, and wanted to speak for him, but dared not. As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid, and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled.
"I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard," he remarked ere long. "And what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with freshness?"
"You are no ruin, sir - no lightning-struck tree: you are green and vigorous. Plants will grow about your roots, whether you ask them or not, because they take delight in your bountiful shadow; and as they grow they will lean towards you, and wind round you, because your strength offers them so safe a prop."
Again he smiled: I gave him comfort.
"You speak of friends, Jane?" he asked.
"Yes, of friends," I answered rather hesitatingly: for I knew I meant more than friends, but could not tell what other word to employ. He helped me.
"Ah! Jane. But I want a wife."
"Do you, sir?"
"Yes: is it news to you?"
"Of course: you said nothing about it before."
"Is it unwelcome news?"
"That depends on circumstances, sir - on your choice."
"Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision."
"Choose then, sir -her who loves you best."
"I will at least choose -her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?"
"A poor blind man, whom you will have to lead about by the hand?"
"A crippled man, twenty years older than you, whom you will have to wait on?"
"Most truly, sir."
"Oh! my darling! God bless you and reward you!"
"Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life - if ever I thought a good thought - if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer - if ever I wished a righteous wish, - I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth."
"Because you delight in sacrifice."
"Sacrifice! What do I sacrifice? Famine for food, expectation for content. To be privileged to put my arms round what I value - to press my lips to what I love - to repose on what I trust: is that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice."
"And to bear with my infirmities, Jane: to overlook my deficiencies."
"Which are none, sir, to me. I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector."
"Hitherto I have hated to be helped - to be led: henceforth, I feel I shall hate it no more. I did not like to put my hand into a hireling's, but it is pleasant to feel it circled by Jane's little fingers. I preferred utter loneliness to the constant attendance of servants; but Jane's soft ministry will be a perpetual joy. Jane suits me: do I suit her?"
"To the finest fibre of my nature, sir."
"The case being so, we have nothing in the world to wait for: we must be married instantly."
He looked and spoke with eagerness: his old impetuosity was rising.
"We must become one flesh without any delay, Jane: there is but the licence to get - then we marry."
"Mr. Rochester, I have just discovered the sun is far declined from its meridian, and Pilot is actually gone home to his dinner. Let me look at your watch."
"Fasten it into your girdle, Janet, and keep it henceforward: I have no use for it."
"It is nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, sir. Don't you feel hungry?"
"The third day from this must be our wedding-day, Jane. Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip."
"The sun has dried up all the rain-drops, sir. The breeze is still: it is quite hot."
"Do you know, Jane, I have your little pearl necklace at this moment fastened round my bronze scrag under my cravat? I have worn it since the day I lost my only treasure, as a memento of her."
"We will go home through the wood: that will be the shadiest way."
He pursued his own thoughts without heeding me.
"Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower - breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Hischastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane - only - only of late - I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.