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Jane finds employment as a governess at the estate of Thornfield for a little girl, Adèle. After much waiting, Jane finally meets her employer, Edward Rochester, a brooding, detached man who seems to have a dark past. Other oddities around Thornfield include the occasional demonic laugh Jane hears emanating from the third-story attic. Rochester always attributes it to Grace Poole, the seamstress who works up there, but Jane is never fully convinced, and the fire she has to put out one night in Rochester's bedroom plants further doubts.
Meanwhile, Jane develops an attraction for Rochester, not based on looks (both are considered plain) but on their intellectual communion. However, the higher social standing of the beautiful Miss Ingram seemingly vaults her above Jane. Though Rochester flirts with the idea of marrying Miss Ingram, he is aware of her financial ambitions for marriage. An old acquaintance of Rochester's, Richard Mason, visits Thornfield and is severely injured from an attack‹apparently from Grace‹in the middle of the night in the attic. Jane, baffled by the circumstances, tends to him, and Rochester confesses to her that he made an error in the past that he hopes to overturn by marrying Miss Ingram. He says that he has another governess position for Jane lined up elsewhere.
Jane returns to Gateshead for a while to see the dying Mrs. Reed. When she returns to Thornfield, Rochester says he knows Miss Ingram is after him only for his money, and he asks Jane to marry him. Jane accepts, but a month later, Mason and a solicitor, Mr. Briggs, interrupt the ceremony by revealing that Rochester already has a wife: Bertha Mason, Mason's sister, a lunatic who is kept in the attic in Thornfield.
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