After she is taken in by the Rivers siblings, Jane spends three days recuperating in bed. On the fourth day, she feels well again and follows the smell of baking bread into the kitchen, where she finds Hannah. Jane criticizes Hannah for judging her unfairly when she asked for help, and Hannah apologizes. Hannah tells the story of Mr. Rivers, the siblings’ father, who lost most of the family fortune in a bad business deal. In turn, Diana and Mary were forced to work as governesses—they are only at Marsh End (or Moor House) now because their father died three weeks ago. Jane then relates some of her own story and admits that Jane Elliott is not her real name. St. John promises to find her a job.
Jane befriends Diana and Mary, who admire her drawings and give her books to read. St. John, on the other hand, remains distant and cold, although he is never unkind. After a month, Diana and Mary must return to their posts as governesses. St. John has found a position for Jane, running a charity school for girls in the town of Morton. Jane accepts, but St. John presumes that she will soon leave the school out of restlessness, perhaps because he himself is quite restless. His sisters suspect he will soon leave England for a missionary post overseas. St. John tells his sisters that their Uncle John has died and left them nothing, because all his money went to another, unknown, relative. Jane learns that it was Uncle John who led Mr. Rivers into his disastrous business deal.
At Morton, the wealthy heiress Rosamond Oliver provides Jane with a cottage in which to live. Jane begins teaching, but to her own regret, she finds the work degrading and disappointing. While on a visit to Jane, St. John reveals that he, too, used to feel that he had made the wrong career choice, until one day he heard God’s call. Now he plans to become a missionary. The beautiful Rosamond Oliver then appears, interrupting St. John and Jane’s conversation. From their interaction, Jane believes that Rosamond and St. John are in love.
Jane’s students become more familiar and endeared to her, and Jane becomes quite popular among them. At night, though, she has troubling nightmares that involve Rochester. Jane continues to pay attention to the relationship between St. John and Rosamond, who often visits the school when she knows St. John will be there. Rosamond asks Jane to draw her portrait, and as she is working on it one day, St. John pays her a visit. He gives her a new book of poetry (Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion) and looks at the drawing. She offers to draw him a duplicate, and then boldly declares that he ought to marry Rosamond. St. John admits that he loves her and is tempted by her beauty, but he explains that he refuses to allow worldly affection to interfere with his holy duties. The flirtatious, silly, and shallow Rosamond would make a terrible wife for a missionary. Suddenly, St. John notices something on the edge of Jane’s paper and tears off a tiny piece—Jane is not certain why. With a peculiar look on his face, he hurries from the room.
Marsh End and Morton are the setting of the novel’s fourth phase. Here Jane develops a new sense of belonging, and proves herself capable of finding like-minded companions with whom she is not romantically involved.
The fact that Diana and Mary Rivers are also governesses puts them on an equal footing with Jane. Although Jane left Thornfield convinced that she had made the right decision, she harbored uncertainty as to whether she would ever find a sense of belonging without sacrificing her autonomy. Jane’s stay at Marsh End proves to her that she is not doomed to be forever alienated from the world, that a balance between community and autonomy can be achieved. Now, as an integrated member of the Rivers household, Jane realizes that one may give and accept love from others in equal exchange.
When St. John gives Jane Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion, and Jane-the-narrator comments that this was a new book, it seems as if Brontë is providing a definitive statement about when the events of the novel take place, since Marmion was first published in 1808. However, other characters in Jane Eyre refer to books published after this date. Blanche Ingram, for instance, refers to Byron’s poem The Corsair in Chapter 33, but Byron’s book wasn’t published until 1814. Brontë was obviously not especially concerned with fixing her story in a precise and consistent relation to historical dates, and perhaps she selected the texts mentioned in her novel for other reasons.