Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XV Part I
How I Discovered Adele Varens’ Background
One afternoon, when Mr Rochester chanced to meet me and Adele in the grounds: and while she played with Pilot and her shuttlecock, he asked me to walk along the beech avenue and told me she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer.
‘I cherished such a ‘grande passion’ for her mother, Céline Varens that I installed her in an hotel and behaved like a spoony, giving her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage, cashmeres, and diamonds. Until I happened to call one evening when she did not expect me. It was a warm night, so I stepped out on to the balcony, sat down, and took out a cigar,—I will take one now, if you will excuse me.’
Here ensued a pause.
‘I watched the equipages that rolled along the fashionable streets towards the neighbouring opera-house, when I recognised the ‘voiture’ I had given Celine. My flame (that is the very word for an opera inamorata) alighted and a figure jumped from the carriage after her.’
He turned to me and continued.
‘You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to be given which shall waken it. You will come to a craggy pass in the channel, where the whole of life’s stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult.’
He looked up to the sky.
‘I like that sky of steel; the sternness and stillness of the world under this frost. I like Thornfield, its antiquity, its retirement, its old crow-trees and thorn trees, its grey facade, and lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin: and yet how long have I abhorred the very thought of it, shunned it like a great plague-house.’
He lifted his eye to the battlements, ground his teeth and was silent. Pain, shame, ire, impatience, disgust, detestation, seemed momentarily to hold a quivering conflict in the large pupil dilating under his ebon eyebrow.
Adele here ran before him with her shuttlecock. ‘keep at a distance, child,” he cried harshly.
‘Did you leave the balcony, when Mdlle. Varens entered?’ I asked.
‘Oh, I had forgotten Celine! Well, to resume. When I saw my charmer thus come in accompanied by a cavalier, the green snake of jealousy, rising on undulating coils from the moonlit balcony, glided within my waistcoat, and ate its way in two minutes to my heart’s core. Strange that I should choose you for the confidant of all this, young lady; passing strange that you should listen to me quietly, as if it were the most usual thing in the world for a man like me to tell stories of his opera-mistresses to a quaint, inexperienced girl like you! But I know I am confessing to a unique mind. I do not mean to harm it. The more you and I converse, the better; for while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me.’
He proceeded with his tale.
‘I remained in the balcony. ‘I drew the curtain over the open window, leaving an opening through which I could take observations. Celine’s chamber-maid entered, lit a lamp, left it on the table, and withdrew. The couple removed their cloaks and I recognised him as the a brainless and vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in society, the fang of the snake Jealousy was instantly broken; because at the same moment my love for Celine sank under an extinguisher. A woman who could betray me for such a rival was not worth contending for; she deserved only scorn; less, however, than I, who had been her dupe.
‘Their frivolous, mercenary, heartless, and senseless, conversation was wearisome. Then they insulted me as coarsely as they could. Celine pointed out my personal defects and physical deformities.’
Adele here came running up again.
‘Monsieur, John has just been to say that your agent has called and wishes to see you.’
‘Ah! in that case I must abridge. I opened the window, walked in upon them; liberated Celine from my protection; gave her notice to vacate her hotel; offered her a purse for immediate exigencies; disregarded screams, hysterics, prayers, protestations, convulsions; made an appointment with the vicomte for a meeting at the Bois de Boulogne. Next morning, I had the pleasure of leaving a bullet in one of his arms. But unluckily the Varens, six months before, had given me this filette Adele, who, she affirmed, was my daughter; and perhaps she may be, though I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in her countenance: Pilot is more like me than she. Some years after I had broken with the mother, she abandoned her child, and ran away to Italy with a musician or singer. I acknowledged no natural claim on Adele’s part to be supported by me, nor do I now acknowledge any, for I am not her father; but hearing that she was quite destitute, I took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an English country garden. Mrs. Fairfax found you to train it; but now you know that it is the illegitimate offspring of a French opera- girl, you will perhaps think differently of your post and protegee: you will be coming to me some day with notice that you have found another employment.’
‘No: Adele is not answerable for either her mother’s faults or yours: I have a regard for her; and now that I know she has been forsaken by her mother and disowned by you, sir, I shall cling closer to her than before. How could I possibly prefer the spoilt pet of a wealthy family, who would hate her governess as a nuisance, to a lonely little orphan, who leans towards her as a friend?’
After he left I stayed out a few minutes longer with Adele and Pilot. She had inherited a superficiality of character from her mother, hardly congenial to an English mind. I sought in her features a likeness to Mr. Rochester, but found none. It was a pity: if she could but have been proved to resemble him, he would have thought more of her.
Chapter XV is very long, so I have divided it into two parts. This is part one, in which Mr Rochester tells Jane about Adele’s mother and his relationship with her. He is partly honest with Jane, telling her that his mistress, Céline, told him he was the girl’s father, but he also describes Céline as unfaithful and claims to doubt his paternity. He says he accepted her as his ward out of pity. He is not fond of Adele and asks her to keep away, while he’s talking to Jane.. Jane is also wondering about his paternity.
Mr Rochester is very clever in his strategy. He convinces Jane of Celine’s unfaithfulness, although he has little proof, and persuades Jane to doubt his paternity. One cannot help wondering if such a selfish and arrogant man would look after a child he suspected was not his.
The next part of the chapter is very exciting. Bertha Mason, the present Mrs Rochester who is confined in the attic at Thornfield Hall, makes a brief appearance and causes havoc at Thornfield Hall. Find out more next week!
The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.
I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.
If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.
See you next week for chapter 15 Part II.
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