Jane realizes that she must leave Thornfield. But when she steps out of her room, she finds Rochester waiting for her. He asks her forgiveness. Jane doesn't respond, though she secretly forgives him immediately. Rochester then pleads with her to come live with him in southern France. Though she still loves him deeply, Jane refuses to go with him and become his mistress.
Jane loves Rochester, and so forgiving him is easy. Yet she knows that love is not everything, and that becoming Rochester's mistress would ruin her in the eyes of the law and God. A mistress can never be the equal of her lover, so Jane refuses to go with him.
Rochester admits that he acted cowardly and wrong and tells Jane the full truth about his past. Rochester's father left his entire fortune to his eldest son, Rochester's older brother. Rochester's father tried to secure a fortune for Rochester by making him a partner with Mason in the West Indies and arranging a marriage for him to Bertha, who was promised a huge inheritance. Rochester met Bertha only briefly, but was dazzled by her exoticism and beauty. However, after marrying her, Rochester learned that Bertha's mother was not dead, as he had been told. Rather, she was insane. Bertha is herself violent, coarse, and profoundly self-indulgent. Before long, she also followed her mother into insanity.
Aside from Jane, Rochester never respected the women in his life as thinking individuals, and in turn he paid an awful price. Like Adèle, Bertha inherits bad traits from her foreign mother—an example of typical Victorian prejudice against foreigners. Whereas Brontë characterizes the French as fickle, she portrays people from the West Indies as exotic, sensual, and temperamental.
By this point Rochester's father and brother had died. Legally bound to Bertha, Rochester returned to England, secretly installed her at Thornfield, and hired Grace Poole to watch over her. He then left Thornfield and spent years looking for another wife, specifically a European woman. Finding no one, Rochester plunged into debauchery with many mistresses, including Céline Varens. In the end, consorting with mistresses made him disgusted with himself, as it seemed almost like buying a slave. Eventually, he returned to England with Adèle. Then he met Jane, whom he loved from the first moment.
Rochester tries to escape his past by covering it up, and then by hiding from it through cheap pleasures and mistresses. He comes to realize that taking mistresses can only cover up his pain for so long, since it is itself sinful and exploitative. While his generous act of taking in Adèle shows his underlying goodness, his inability to reveal his secrets shows his pride.
For an instant, Jane considers staying with Rochester, reasoning that she deserves a devoted man after a life of isolation and neglect. She also fears that she may never find another. Yet at the same time she knows that she will respect herself only if she does what she knows is right. Still, she remains at Thornfield. But that night, Jane's mother appears to her in a dream and tells her to flee temptation. Fighting her own desires, Jane sneaks away from Thornfield with her modest belongings and hires a carriage on an unknown road.
Jane's mother is a spirit, a supernatural entity, yet Jane's dream could also just be an expression of her subconscious. Either way, the spirit carries a religious message. It helps Jane to renounce temptation and give up what she loves most in order to preserve her virtue. In the end, Jane prizes her independence and self-worth above her love for Rochester.