"Where? You, sir, have placed it before me."
"In what shape?"
"In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, — your bride."
"My bride! What bride? I have no bride!"
"But you will have."
"Yes; — I will! — I will!" He set his teeth.
"Then I must go: — you have said it yourself."
"No: you must stay! I swear it — and the oath shall be kept."
"I tell you I must go!" I retorted, roused to something like passion. "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you, — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; — it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, — as we are!"
"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester — "so," he added, enclosing me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips: "so, Jane!"
"Yes, so, sir," I rejoined: "and yet not so; for you are a married man — or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you — to one with whom you have no sympathy — whom I do not believe you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you — let me go!"
"Where, Jane? To Ireland?"
"Yes — to Ireland. I have spoken my mind, and can go anywhere now."
"Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation."
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
"And your will shall decide your destiny," he said: "I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions."
"You play a farce, which I merely laugh at."
"I ask you to pass through life at my side — to be my second self, and best earthly companion."
"For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it."
"Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too."
A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away — away — to an indefinite distance — it died. The nightingale's song was then the only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time passed before he spoke; he at last said —
"Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another."
"I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and cannot return."
"But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry."
I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
"Come, Jane — come hither."
"Your bride stands between us."
He rose, and with a stride reached me.
"My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, "because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?"
Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp: for I was still incredulous.
"Do you doubt me, Jane?"
"You have no faith in me?"
"Not a whit."
"Am I a liar in your eyes?" he asked passionately. "Little sceptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not — I could not — marry Miss Ingram. You — you strange, you almost unearthly thing! — I love as my own flesh. You — poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are — I entreat to accept me as a husband."
"What, me!" I ejaculated, beginning in his earnestness — and especially in his incivility — to credit his sincerity: "me who have not a friend in the world but you — if you are my friend: not a shilling but what you have given me?"
"You, Jane, I must have you for my own — entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly."
"Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight."
"Because I want to read your countenance — turn!"
"There! you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer."
His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes.
"Oh, Jane, you torture me!" he exclaimed. "With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!"
"How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion — they cannot torture."
"Gratitude!" he ejaculated; and added wildly — "Jane accept me quickly. Say, Edward — give me my name — Edward — I will marry you."
"Are you in earnest? Do you truly love me? Do you sincerely wish me to be your wife?"
"I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it."
"Then, sir, I will marry you."
"Edward — my little wife!"
"Come to me — come to me entirely now," said he; and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, "Make my happiness — I will make yours."
"God pardon me!" he subjoined ere long; "and man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her."