Well, here we are. The awful truth is out: Mr. Rochester has a wife yet living. He can't marry Jane.
There was a time when I would imagine a whole alternate version of this book, where I waylaid Mr. Mason and kept him from interrupting the wedding, and Mr. and Mrs. Rochester lived happily ever after. Except, as I said in the post on chapter 25, I think now that they would have been miserable had they married at this point. So, while this chapter is still heartwrenchingly hard for me to read, I no longer daydream about besetting Mason with highwaymen.
And yeah, Rochester doesn't behave much like a bridegroom, does he? I know Jane was pretty used to his being strange and abrupt, but she's awfully trusting not to suspect something is up. He gives the impression of a desperate man about to commit a crime, come what may. Which, of course, he is.
But I just can't hate him. Or even be terribly angry with him. Maybe because I understand him so much here. I know what it's like to want something you can't have. I know what it's like to come up with a plan you think will gain you what you can't have. And I know what it feels like to have that plan destroyed by something unexpected at the very last minute. It's beyond infuriating. Do I approve of Rochester's bigamous plans? No. Do I understand why he made them? Yeah, I do.
As for Jane, wow, does she have a wealth of calmness? She's so composed, even as her world crumbles around her. Do you think her very innocence, the fact that she "never dreamed she was going to be entrapped into a feigned union with a defrauded wretch" (p. 341), makes her able to endure this jolt so calmly? Or is it her inner strength we've remarked on before? That can be our Discussion Question for the day.
I had totally forgotten that the whole reason Mr. Mason found out about the marriage was because Jane wrote to her uncle in Madeira! In fact, it wasn't Mason's idea to bust things up -- it was Jane's uncle trying to rescue her from a false marriage! So now I'm really sorry I kept imaginarily kidnapping Mason, since it wasn't his idea at all.
And finally, when Jane locks herself in her room and finally can think and feel, in the flood of her emotions, "One idea only still throbbed lifelike within me -- a remembrance of God" (p. 345). Oooooh, that gives me chills. Jane is strong, but not invincible, and when she is broken and distraught, she prays something out of the Psalms: "Be not far from me, for trouble is near; there is none to help" (p. 346). That's from Psalm 22, and you know... this is why we memorize Scripture, isn't it. So that, when we can barely form a coherent thought, we still have God's Word in our hearts and minds without having to think.
"Bigamy is an ugly word! I meant, however, to be a bigamist" (p. 340). (Yeah, this is a weird line to have as a favorite. But I love it anyway.)
"And this is what I wished to have (laying his hand on my shoulder); this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon" (p. 343).