#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter16 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte ‘Enter Blanche Ingram, Jane’s Rival for Mr Rochester’s affections.’

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XVI

How I realised I was no rival for Blanche Ingram, an accomplished lady of rank.

I both wished and feared to see Mr. Rochester on the day which followed this sleepless night. During the early part of the morning, I momentarily expected his coming; he did step into the schoolroom for a few minutes sometimes, but nothing interrupted the quiet course of Adele’s studies.

After breakfast I heard some bustle in Mr. Rochester’s chamber and the servants’ voices, discussing the fire, which they attributed ton a candle. ‘What a mercy master was not burnt in his bed!’

I saw through the open door that all was again restored to complete order. Leah stood was rubbing the panes of glass dimmed with smoke. Grace Poole sat on a chair by the bedside, staid and taciturn-looking, as usual, in her brown stuff gown, check apron, white handkerchief, and cap, intent on sewing rings to new curtains.

She said ‘Good morning, Miss,’ in her usual phlegmatic and brief manner. I did not see any evidence of a woman who had attempted to murder her employer, who had, as I believed, charged her with the crime. She looked up, while I gazed at her: no consciousness of guilt, or fear of detection.

‘Good morning, Grace,’ I said. ‘Has anything happened here?’

‘Master fell asleep with his candle lit, and the curtains got on fire; but, fortunately, he awoke before the bed-clothes or the wood-work caught, and contrived to quench the flames with the water in the ewer.’

‘Did Mr. Rochester wake nobody? Did no one hear him move?’

She seemed to examine me warily and answered. ‘Mrs. Fairfax’s room and yours are the nearest to master’s; but Mrs. Fairfax said she heard nothing. Perhaps you may have heard a noise?’

‘I heard a strange laugh.’

She spoke with perfect composure—‘It is hardly likely master would laugh when he was in such danger. You must have been dreaming.’

‘I was not dreaming,’ I said.

‘Have you told master that you heard a laugh?’ she inquired.

‘I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him this morning.’

‘You did not think of opening your door and looking out into the gallery?’ she further asked.

The idea struck me that if she discovered I knew or suspected her guilt, she would be playing of some of her malignant pranks on me; I thought it advisable to be on my guard.

‘On the contrary,’ said I, ‘I bolted my door.’

‘It will be wise so to do,’ was her answer.

I was dumfoundered at what appeared to me her miraculous self-possession and most inscrutable hypocrisy.

Cook told me Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for me: so I departed, puzzling my brains over the enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and wondering why she had not been given into custody or dismissed from her master’s service.

After classes, when Adele left me to play in the nursery with Sophie, I keenly listened for the bell to ring below with a message from Mr. Rochester which did not arrive. Still it was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o’clock, and it was yet but six. Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to- night, when I had so many things to ask him!

Leah made her appearance to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax’s room. Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester’s presence.

‘You must want your tea,’ said the good lady, as I joined her; ‘you ate so little at dinner. Are you not well today? You look flushed and feverish.’

‘Oh, I never felt better.’

‘It is fair tonight, though not starlight. Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a favourable day for his journey.’

‘Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere?’

‘He set of the moment he had breakfasted! He is gone to the Leas, Mr. Eshton’s place, ten miles on the other side Millcote. I believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others.’

‘Do you expect him back to-night?’

‘No—nor tomorrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together, they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate. Mr. Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; I suppose his acquirements and abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any little fault of look.’

‘Are there ladies at the Leas?’

‘There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters—very elegant young ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blanche and Mary Ingram, most beautiful women. Blanche came here to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave six years ago. You should have seen the dining-room that day—how richly it was decorated, how brilliantly lit up! I should think there were fifty ladies and gentlemen present—all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram was considered the belle of the evening.’

‘What was she like?’

“Miss Ingram was certainly the queen. Tall, fine bust, sloping shoulders; long, graceful neck: olive complexion, dark and clear; noble features; eyes rather like Mr. Rochester’s: large and black, and as brilliant as her jewels. And then she had such a fine head of hair; raven- black and so becomingly arranged: a crown of thick plaits behind, and in front the longest, the glossiest curls I ever saw. She was dressed in pure white; an amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below her knee.’

‘She was greatly admired, of course?’

‘Yes, indeed: and not only for her beauty, but for her accomplishments. She and Mr. Rochester sang a duet.’

‘Mr. Rochester? I was not aware he could sing.’

‘Oh! he has a fine bass voice, and an excellent taste for music.’

‘And Miss Ingram: what sort of a voice had she?’

‘A very rich and powerful one. Mr. Rochester said her execution was remarkably good.’

‘And this beautiful and accomplished lady, she is not yet married?’

‘It appears not: I fancy neither she nor her sister have very large fortunes. Old Lord Ingram’s estates were chiefly entailed, and the eldest son came in for everything almost.’

‘But I wonder no wealthy nobleman or gentleman has taken a fancy to her: Mr. Rochester, for instance. He is rich, is he not?’

‘Oh! yes. But you see there is a considerable difference in age: Mr. Rochester is nearly forty; she is but twenty-five.’

‘What of that? More unequal matches are made every day.’

‘True: yet I should scarcely fancy Mr. Rochester would entertain an idea of the sort. But you eat nothing: you have scarcely tasted since you began tea.’

‘No: I am too thirsty to eat.’

When once more alone, I reviewed the information I had got; looked into my heart, examined its thoughts and feelings, and endeavoured to bring back with a strict hand into the safe fold of common sense.

That a greater fool than Jane Eyre had never breathed the breath of life; that a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.

‘YOU,’ I said, ‘a favourite with Mr. Rochester? YOU gifted with the power of pleasing him? YOU of importance to him in any way? Go! your folly sickens me. Poor stupid dupe!

Cover your face and be ashamed! He said something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their bleared lids! It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it.

‘Listen, Jane Eyre, you are no match for the beautiful Blanche Ingram, an accomplished lady of rank. You are a governess, disconnected, poor, and plain.’

I had reason to congratulate myself on the course of wholesome discipline to which I had thus forced my feelings to submit. Thanks to it, I was able to meet subsequent occurrences with a decent calm, which, had they found me unprepared.

****

In the first part of this chapter, Jane is astonished that Mr Rochester has informed the staff that he provoked the fire by falling asleep with a lighted candle in the room, and subsequently put it out with his ewer. Grace Poole has not been reprimanded or dismissed, and implicitly denies any hand in the event. There is another allusion to Bertha’s presence in this chapter as she tells Grace Poole that she heard strange laughter. Grace suggests that Jane bolt her room at night.

Jane is looking forward to asking Mr Rochester about this strange turn of events, but Mrs Fairfax informs her that he has left to visit his friends, the Eshton’s, where he will stay for some weeks, at a party for fine, fashionable people. The reader, like Jane wonders what’s going on in the third story. The staff, and especially Grace Poole are hiding something or someone, who could be dangerous.

The second part of the chapter is devastating for Jane. Poor Jane feels that her employer has made a fool of her by pretending to enjoy her company. She learns that he is popular with the ladies, which is something he had already told her, but she naively thought it was in his past. She also learns she has a specific rival for his affections in the beautiful and accomplished Blanche Ingram, who is looking for a rich husband, as her brother will inherit her father’s entailed estate.

We learn that Jane had hoped to marry Mr Rochester. ‘It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her;’, but she realises she is no match for Blanche Ingram. She chastises herself for believing a poor governess could aspire to marry her wealthy employer. The first-time reader will think she is probably right, or perhaps not? But why has Mr Rochester taken French leave? Has he been toying with Jane? When will he come back? Is he looking for a bride?

After a brief period of happiness, our young heroine is dejected once more. Where will Jane go from here? Will she stay and watch him marry another woman, or will she leave? And what about the strange laughter on the third floor?

The plot thickens! See you next week for chapter XVII.

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 16. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter15 Part II #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte ‘Who Set Mr Rochester’s room on fire?’

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XV Part II

The Night I Saved Mr Rochester’s Life

When Mr Rochester met me unexpectedly, the encounter seemed welcome. He had always a word and sometimes a smile for me and when summoned by formal invitation to his presence; I was honoured by a cordiality of reception that made me feel I really possessed the power to amuse him, and that these evening conferences were sought as much for his pleasure as for my benefit.

I talked comparatively little, but I heard him talk with relish. I had a keen delight in receiving the new ideas he offered. I felt at times as if he were my relation rather than my master: yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did not mind that; I saw it was his way. Yet I had not forgotten his faults; indeed, I could not, for he brought them frequently before me. He was proud, sardonic and moody. Sometimes when I read to him, found him sitting in his library alone, with his head bent on his folded arms; and, when he looked up, a morose, almost a malignant, scowl blackened his features. I cannot deny that I grieved for his grief, whatever that was, and would have given much to assuage it.

I asked myself what alienated him from the house and if he would leave again soon. Mrs. Fairfax said he seldom stayed here longer than a fortnight at a time; and he has now been resident eight weeks. If he left how joyless sunshine and fine days will seem!

That night I was startled wide awake on hearing a peculiar and lugubrious murmur, just above me. The night was drearily dark. I rose and sat up in bed, listening. The sound was hushed. My heart beat anxiously: my inward tranquillity was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck two. Just then it seemed as if fingers had swept the panels of my chamber door in groping along the dark gallery outside.

I said, ‘Who is there?’ chilled with fear. I wondered if it might be Pilot, who not unfrequently found his way up to Mr. Rochester’s chamber.

I began to feel the return of slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A demoniac laugh uttered, as it seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door and later at my bedside. I rose, looked round, and could see nothing. Something gurgled and moaned. Steps retreated up the gallery towards the third-storey staircase. A door opened and closed, and all was still.

I thought it might be Grace Poole. Returning to my chamber, I perceived the air quite dim, as if filled with smoke, and became aware of a strong smell of burning. Mr. Rochester’s door was ajar, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I flew into the chamber. Tongues of flame darted round the bed. The curtains were on fire and Mr. Rochester lay motionless in deep sleep.

‘Wake! wake!’ I cried, but the smoke had stupefied him. I rushed to his basin and ewer filled with water and deluged the bed and its occupant.

‘Is there a flood?’ cried Mr Rochester.

‘There has been a fire: get up, do.”

‘In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre?’ he demanded. ‘What have you done with me, witch, sorceress? Who is in the room besides you? Have you plotted to drown me?’

‘In heaven’s name, get up. Somebody has plotted something: you cannot too soon find out who and what it is.’

I brought a candle, and he surveyed the bed, all blackened and scorched, the sheets drenched, the carpet round swimming in water.

‘What is it? And who did it?’ he asked. I briefly related to him the strange laugh I had heard in the step ascending to the third storey.

He listened very gravely; his face, as I went on, expressed more concern than astonishment; he did not immediately speak when I had concluded.

“Shall I call someone?”

‘Not at all: just be still. I will wrap you with my cloak. I am going to leave you a few minutes. Remain where you are till I return. I must pay a visit to the second storey. Remember, don’t call anyone.’

I was left in total darkness and silence until he re-entered, pale and very gloomy.

‘I have found it all out. It is as I thought.’

‘How, sir?’

‘Did you see anything when you opened your chamber door.’

‘No, sir, only the candlestick on the ground.’

‘But you heard an odd laugh? You have heard that laugh before, I should think, or something like it?’

‘Yes, sir. Grace Poole laughs in that way.’

‘Just so. Grace Poole—you have guessed it. You are no talking fool: say nothing about it. and now return to your own room. I shall do very well on the sofa in the library for the rest of the night. It is near four:- in two hours the servants will be up.’

‘Good-night, then, sir,’ said I, departing.

‘What!’ he exclaimed. ‘Are you quitting me already, and in that way?’

‘You said I might go, sir.’

‘But you have saved my life!—snatched me from a horrible and excruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutual strangers! At least shake hands.’

He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one, them in both his own.

‘I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt.”

He paused, gazing at me in silence.

‘Goodnight again, sir. There is no debt, benefit, burden, obligation, in the case.’

‘I knew you would do me good in some way, at some time;—I saw it in your eyes when I first be- held you. My cherished preserver, goodnight!’ He spoke with a strange fire in his look.

‘I am glad I was awake,’ I said, and turned to leave.

“What! you will go?’

‘I am cold, sir.’

‘Cold? Go, then, Jane; go!’ But he still retained my hand, and I could not free it.

‘I think I hear Mrs. Fairfax move, sir,’ said I.

He relaxed his fingers, and I was gone.

I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned, I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea. Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.

****

Chapter XV is very long. It includes several important scenes, so I have divided it into two parts. This is part two, in which Jane saves Mr Rochester’s life by putting out a fire in his room the middle of the night.

Jane starts this part of the chapter by telling us how Mr Rochester is now kind and courteous towards her, frequently summoning her company in the evenings. She is obviously impressed by his conversation, which must stroke his ego enormously.

He has been at Thornfield for eight weeks, and as he claims to dislike the building, Jane dreads the moment he will leave. She has obviously developed a crush on her employer and he is also taken by her.

I love the gothic elements in the chapter. Jane experiences the eerie atmosphere in the darkened house at night, the strange laughter and scraping in the corridor, and the spooky third story door closing.

Shortly after the peculiar events, Jane investigates and finds Mr Rochester’s bed is on fire. This event marks a major turning point in their relationship. They share a secret (he is adamant no-one should know what happened, although the servants will undoubtedly see the evidence the following day). He realises he is indebted to Jane and confirms his attraction to her by his physical contact (he won’t let go of her hand) and grateful words and gestures.

Mr Rochester also tells Jane a major lie, which is understandable, but it will have devastating consequences in their future relationship. He can’t bring himself to admit his ‘mad’ wife is locked in his attic, so he lets Jane believe the fire was Grace Poole’s doing.

Where do we they go from here? Will he leave and forget her, or will he seduce her?

On the other hand, will she succumb, will she reject him, or will she find out what is happening in the attic, right above her room?

Surprising events are in store. Find out next week in chapter XVI!

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 16. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter15 Part I #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte ‘Who was Adele Varens’s Father?’

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. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter14 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte ‘Mr Rochester Flirts with Miss Eyre, his ward’s Governess!’

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XIV

My Third and Most Peculiar Conversation with Mr Rochester

For several subsequent days I saw little of Mr. Rochester. He would sometimes pass me haughtily and coldly, acknowledging my presence by a distant nod or a cool glance, and sometimes bow and smile with gentlemanlike affability. One day he had company to dinner and sent for my portfolio to exhibit its contents. Soon after his acquaintances left, a message came that Adele and I were summoned to his presence.

Adele was gratified to see a little carton, on the table when we entered the dining-room.

‘Ma boite! ma boite!’ exclaimed she, running towards it.

‘Yes, there is your ‘boite’ at last: take it into a corner, and open it in silence: tiens-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?’

She untied the cord and exclaimed, ‘Oh ciel! Que c’est beau!’

‘Come forward Miss Eyre; be seated,’ demanded the master, drawing a chair near his own. ‘Don’t draw that chair farther off, Miss Eyre; sit down exactly where I placed it—if you please, that is. Confound these civilities! I continually forget them.”

When Mrs. Fairfax arrived, knitting-basket in hand, he instructed her to entertain Adele and turned to me. “Now, Miss Eyre, draw your chair still a little farther forward: you are yet too far back.”

The dining-room, which had been lit for dinner, filled the room with a festal breadth of light; the large fire was all red and clear. Mr. Rochester sat in his damask-covered chair and looked much less gloomy. He was in his after-dinner mood; more expanded than the frigid and rigid temper of the morning.

‘You examine me, Miss Eyre,’ said he: ‘do you think me handsome?’

The answer slipped from my tongue before I was aware. ‘No, sir.’

‘Ah! By my word! There is something singular about you,’ said he. “What do you mean by such a brusque answer?”

‘Sir, I was too plain; I beg your pardon. I should have said that tastes mostly differ, and beauty is of little consequence, or something of that sort.’

‘You stick a sly penknife under my ear! Go on: what fault do you find with me, pray? I suppose I have all my limbs and all my features like any other man?’

‘Mr. Rochester, allow me to disown my first answer. It was only a blunder.’

‘Criticise me: does my forehead not please you? Am I a fool?’

‘Far from it, sir. You would, perhaps, think me rude if I inquired in return whether you are a philanthropist?’

‘No, young lady, I am not a general philanthropist; but I bear a conscience. I once had a kind of rude tenderness of heart. When I was as old as you, I was a feeling fellow, but Fortune has knocked me about and now I flatter myself I am hard and tough. Does that leave hope for me?’

‘Hope of what, sir?’

‘Of my final re-transformation back to flesh?’

‘Decidedly he has had too much wine,’ I thought; and I did not know what answer to make to his queer question:

‘You looked very much puzzled, Miss Eyre; and though you are not pretty any more than I am handsome, yet a puzzled air becomes you.”

With this announcement he rose from his chair, and stood, leaning his arm on the marble mantelpiece.

‘I am disposed to be gregarious and communicative tonight,’ he repeated, ‘and that is why I sent for you. You puzzled me the first evening I invited you down here. I have almost forgotten you since: other ideas have driven yours from my head; but to-night I am resolved to learn more of you—therefore speak.’

‘What about, sir?’

‘Whatever you like. I leave both the choice of subject and the manner of treating it entirely to yourself.’

I sat and said nothing.

‘You are dumb, Miss Eyre.’

I was dumb still. He bent his head a little towards me, and with a single hasty glance, seemed to dive into my eyes. ‘Stubborn?’ he said, ‘and annoyed. I put my request in an absurd, almost insolent form. Miss Eyre, I beg your pardon. The fact is, once for all, I don’t wish to treat you like an inferior: that is, I claim only such superiority as must result from twenty years’ difference in age and a century’s advance in experience. It is by virtue of this superiority, and this alone, that I desire you to have the goodness to talk to me a little now, and divert my thoughts, which are cankering as a rusty nail.’

I was not insensible to his condescension, which was almost an apology. ‘I am willing to amuse you. Ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them.’

‘Do you agree with me that I have a right to be masterful, abrupt, and perhaps exacting, on the grounds I have battled through a varied experience with many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you have lived quietly with one set of people in one house?’

‘Do as you please, sir.’

‘That is no answer. Reply clearly.’

‘I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.’

‘Humph! Promptly spoken. Leaving superiority out of the question, then, you must still agree to receive my orders now and then, without being piqued or hurt by the tone of command. Will you?’

I smiled. Mr. Rochester seems to forget that he pays me 30 pounds per annum for receiving his orders.

‘The smile is very well,’ said he, catching instantly the passing expression; ‘but speak too.’

‘I was thinking, sir, that very few masters would trouble themselves to inquire whether or not their paid subordinates were piqued and hurt by their orders.’

‘What! you are my paid subordinate, are you? Oh yes, I had forgotten the salary! Well then, on that mercenary ground, will you agree to let me hector a little?’

‘I am sure, sir, nothing free-born would submit, even for a salary.’

‘Humbug! Most things freeborn will submit to anything for a salary. However, I mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its inaccuracy. Not three in three thousand raw school-girl-governesses would have answered me as you have just done. But I don’t mean to flatter you: if you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it. And yet you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few good points.’

‘And so may you,’ I thought. My eye met his as the idea crossed my mind.

‘Yes, yes, you are right,’ said he; ‘I have plenty of faults of my own. I have a past existence. I was thrust on to a wrong tack at the age of one-and-twenty and have never recovered the right course since. I envy you your peace of mind, your clean conscience, your unpolluted memory.”

‘How was your memory when you were eighteen, sir?’

‘I was your equal at eighteen. Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre, but now I am a commonplace sinner. Remorse is the poison of life.’

‘Repentance is said to be its cure, sir.’

‘Reformation may be its cure; and I could reform, but since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I WILL get it, cost what it may.’

‘Then you will degenerate still more, sir.’

‘Possibly: yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure? And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee gathers on the moor.’

‘It will sting—it will taste bitter, sir.’

‘How do you know, you have no right to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries.’

‘I only remind you of your own words, sir: you said error brought remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence.’

‘Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre. I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint. Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have been.’

He was thoughtful, and I stood to leave.

‘Where are you going?’

‘To put Adele to bed: it is past her bedtime.’

‘You are afraid of me, because I talk like a Sphynx.’

‘Your language is enigmatical, sir: but though I am bewildered, I am certainly not afraid.’

‘You are afraid—your self-love dreads a blunder.’

‘In that sense I do feel apprehensive—I have no wish to talk nonsense.’

‘If you did, it would be in such a grave, quiet manner, I should mistake it for sense. Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don’t trouble yourself to answer—I see you laugh rarely. The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man to smile too gaily, speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you. You are still bent on going?’

‘It has struck nine, sir.’

‘Wait a minute: Adele is not ready to go to bed yet.”

Adele spread out her dress, she chasseed across the room to Mr. Rochester and wheeled lightly round before him on tip-toe, then dropped on one knee at his feet, thanking him for his present and asking, ‘C’est comme cela que maman fai- sait, n’est-ce pas, monsieur?’

‘Precisely!’ was the answer; ‘and, ‘comme cela,’ she charmed my English gold out of my British breeches’ pocket. I have been green, too, Miss Eyre. My Spring is gone, however, but it has left me that French floweret on my hands. I keep it and rear it rather on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work. I’ll explain all this some day. Goodnight.’

****

This is Mr Rochester’s third conversation with his ward’s governess, and he is clearly flirting as well as teasing her, in plain sight, while Adele and Mrs Fairfax are in the same room. It is an intense conversation in which he claims to have many regrets about the mistakes of his youth. He says he was thrust onto a wrong tack at twenty-one, and never recovered the right course since.

He claims to ‘lay down good intentions’ as a result of their conversation, and following Jane’s suggestions that repentance is the cure to remorse.

He says Adele’s mother ‘charmed my English gold out of my British breeches’ pocket’, which is a surprisingly vulgar way of describing his ward and Jane’s pupil’s mother.

To a modern reader, he comes across as a typical Byronic hero. That is a pompous, wealthy and privileged, pleasure-seeker. In his own words: “I have a right to get pleasure out of life: and I will get it, cost what it may,” who is trying to impress a naive, eighteen-year-old girl. Jane is obviously attracted to him and interested in ‘saving his soul’, but is he redeemable? And at what cost to Jane?

We shall see in the following chapters.

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. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter13 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte Jane and Mr Rochester’s first conversation at Thornfield Hall. Sparks fly!

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XIII

My First Conversation with Mr Rochester

I did not see Mr. Rochester that night. I discerned in the course of the following morning that Thornfield Hall was a changed place I liked better. The outer world was flowing through it with visitors and fresh voices, as Mr. Rochester attended estate business in the library, which we were asked to vacate. We carried our books to an apartment upstairs.  Adele would not sit still or be quiet, imagining which present Mr Rochester had brought her from his travels. “Il y aura le dedans un cadeau pour moi,”

Mrs. Fairfax informed us that Mr. Rochester would be glad if we had tea with him in the drawing-room that evening at six o’clock.

“You had better change your frock,” she said. “I always dress for the evening when Mr. Rochester is here.”

So, I replaced my black stuff dress with one of black silk and a single little pearl ornament, which Miss Temple gave me as a parting keepsake.

When I entered the drawing room, Adele and Pilot sat by the fire, while Mr Rochester, who appeared not to notice our entrance, was half reclined on a couch with his foot supported by the cushion. I recognised my traveller’s jetty eyebrows, square forehead, and decisive nose, and grim expression. He was broad chested and thin, flanked, though neither tall nor graceful.

‘Here is Miss Eyre, sir,’ said Mrs. Fairfax.

‘Let Miss Eyre be seated,’ said he.

Shortly, he said, ‘Madam, I should like some tea,’ and when the tray came, we sat at the table and Mrs Fairfax poured the tea, but the master did not leave his couch.

‘Will you hand Mr. Rochester’s cup?’ said Mrs. Fairfax, and I did as requested.

Adele asked him in French if he had a present for me. “N’est-ce pas, monsieur, qu’il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre dans votre petit coffre?”

‘Are you fond of presents, Miss Eyre?” and he searched my face with eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing.

‘I hardly know, sir; I have little experience of them: they are generally thought pleasant things.’

“I have examined Adele, and find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement.’

‘Sir, you have now given me my ‘cadeau;’ I am obliged to you: it is the reward teachers most covet—praise of their pupils’ progress.’

‘You have been resident in my house three months?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And you came from—?’

‘From Lowood school, in—shire.’

‘Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?’

‘Eight years.’

‘Eight years! You must be tenacious of life. No wonder you have rather the look of another world. I marvelled at where you had got that sort of face. When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet. Who are your parents?’

‘I have none.’

‘Do you remember them?’

‘No.’

‘Do you have any family?”

“None that I know of.”

‘Were you waiting for your people when you sat on that stile?’

‘For whom, sir?’

‘For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them. Did you spread that damned ice on the causeway?’

I shook my head. ‘The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago.’

‘Who recommended you to come here?’

‘I advertised, and Mrs. Fairfax answered my advertisement.’

“Miss Eyre has been an invaluable companion to me, and a kind and careful teacher to Adele,” said Mrs Fairfax.

 ‘Don’t trouble yourself to give her a character,’ returned Mr. Rochester: ‘I shall judge for myself. She began by felling my horse. I have to thank her for this sprain.’ The widow looked bewildered.

‘Miss Eyre, have you ever lived in a town?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Have you seen much society?’

‘None but the pupils and teachers of Lowood, and now the inmates of Thornfield.’

‘Have you read much?’

‘Only such books as came in my way; and they have not been numerous or very learned.’

‘You have lived the life of a nun: no doubt you are well drilled in religious forms. Brocklehurst, who I understand directs Lowood, is a parson, is he not?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And you girls probably worshipped him.’

‘I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst; and I was not alone in the feeling. He is a harsh man; at once pompous and meddling; he cut off our hair, starved us.”

‘What age were you when you went to Lowood?’ ‘

About ten.’

‘And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?’

I assented.

‘Can you play?’

‘A little.’

‘Go into the library—I mean, if you please.—(Excuse my tone of command; I am used to saying, ‘Do this,’ and it is done: I cannot alter my customary habits for one new inmate.)—take a candle with you and play a tune.’

I departed, obeying his directions.

‘You play like any other English school-girl; perhaps rather better than some, but not well.’

When I returned, Mr. Rochester asked me about my sketches. “Adele showed me some sketches this morning, which she said were yours. Were they entirely of your doing, or did a master aid you?’

‘No, indeed!’ I interjected.

‘Fetch me your portfolio.”

He deliberately scrutinised each sketch and painting. ‘And when did you find time to do them? They have taken much time, and some thought.’

‘I did them in the last two vacations I spent at Lowood, when I had no other occupation.’

‘Where did you get your copies?’

‘Out of my head.’

They were watercolours. The first depicted clouds, rolling over a swollen sea with a half-submerged mast, on which sat a large, dark cormorant, below the bird and mast. A drowned corpse glanced through the green water, wearing a washed or torn bracelet.

The second picture contained the dim peak of a hill, and rising into the dark blue twilight sky was a woman’s shape to the bust, whose forehead was crowned with a star, the eyes shone dark and wild, and on her neck lay a pale reflection like moonlight and a vision of the Evening Star.

The third showed the pinnacle of an iceberg piercing a polar winter sky, with a muster of northern lights along the horizon. In the foreground, a colossal white head inclined towards the iceberg, with a hollow, despairing eye.

‘Were you happy when you painted these pictures?’ asked Mr. Rochester presently.

‘I was absorbed, sir: yes, and I was happy. To paint them was to enjoy one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known.’

‘That is not saying much. Your pleasures, by your own account, have been few. Did you sit at them long each day?’

‘It was the vacation, and I sat at them from morning till night.’

‘The drawings are, for a schoolgirl, peculiar.” He said, wondered on their meaning and told me to put them away and instructed me to take Adele to bed.

He endured Adele’s kiss and said, ‘I wish you all goodnight, now,’ making a movement of the hand towards the door, in token that he was tired of our company, and wished to dismiss us.

‘You said Mr. Rochester was not strikingly peculiar, Mrs. Fairfax,’ I observed.

‘Well, is he?’

‘I think so. He is very changeful and abrupt.’

‘True, but if he has peculiarities of temper, allowance should be made.’

 ‘Why?’

‘Partly because it is his nature and partly because he has painful thoughts.’

‘What about?’

‘Family troubles, for one thing.’

‘But he has no family.’

‘Not now, but he has had—or, at least, relatives. He lost his elder brother a few years since. The present Mr. Rochester has not been long in possession of the property; only about nine years.’

‘Was he so very fond of his brother as to be still inconsolable for his loss?’

‘I believe there were some misunderstandings between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr. Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep up the consequence of the name; and, soon after he was of age, some steps were taken that were not quite fair, and made a great deal of mischief. He has ever been resident at Thornfield for a fortnight together. Perhaps he thinks it gloomy.’

I should have liked a clearer answer, but Mrs. Fairfax did not wish to elaborate.

****

This chapter, which takes place in the drawing room, is highly anticipated by the reader. Their first meeting was dramatic and unexpected, but this second one is their first regular conversation at Thornfield, and it does not disappoint. Mr Rochester and Jane are clearly attracted to and interested in each other. Jane is a naïve eighteen-year-old governess, but she does not shy away from their conversation, in fact she replies to all his questions with confidence and intelligence. In fact, if it were a contemporary novel, we would say that they engaged in ‘witty banter’.  

Mr Rochester shows a keen interest in his employee, asking her personal questions about her family and experience in life. He praises her qualities as a teacher, and he takes an interest in her skills such as drawing and music.

Jane is also interested in her employer, as well as a detailed physical description. She considers his character is peculiar, unpredictable and moody, but she is more curious than displeased. She is eager to know more about him, but Mrs Fairfax shares little information.

We learn he was the younger brother, the second son, or the ‘spare’ of the older brother and heir to the estate. His father made other financial provisions for him when he was young, because his older brother would inherit the estate. We later learn that this consisted of an arranged marriage with a Jamaican heiress, who is currently locked in his attic.

He never intended to inherit or live at Thornfield Hall, but he had to do so when his father and older brother, Rowland, died. We know nothing of the circumstances of their deaths or his mother.

The plot thickens… Don’t miss out on next weeks’ chapter!

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 14. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter12 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte Jane meets Mr Rochester, at last!

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 12

How I Met Mr Rochester

My pupil was a lively child, who had been spoilt but became obedient, teachable and made reasonable progress. We were both content in each other’s society. Mrs Fairfax, John and his wife, Leah the housemaid, and Sophie the French nurse, were decent people; but in no respect remarkable and I grew restless at Thornfield.

I would climb the three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and longed to reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I and acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach.

 Women feel the need to exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, just as men do and it is narrow-minded to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

Some days I heard Grace Poole’s strange laugh and eccentric murmurs, others she would come out of her room with a tray go down to the kitchen and return bearing a pot of porter. I made some attempts to draw her into conversation, but she replied with monosyllables.

October, November, December passed and one fine, calm afternoon in January, tired of sitting still in the library I put on my bonnet and cloak and volunteered to take Mrs. Fairfax’s letter to be posted in Hay which was two miles away.

I walked in utter solitude and leafless repose, under the low-gliding and pale-beaming sun. If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound for there was not a leaf to rustle. I sat down on a stile in the middle of the causeway, which was covered by a sheet of ice, where a little brooklet, now congealed, had overflowed after a rapid thaw some days since.

A loud metallic clatter on the causeway meant a horse was approaching. I sat still to let it go by. In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies tenanted my mind. As dusk fell and the horse approached, I remembered Bessie’s tale of a ‘Gytrash,’ which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers.

The horse was very near, but not yet in sight; when, a great black and white dog which looked like Bessie’s Gytrash, passed me, and the horse followed,—a tall steed, and on its back a rider. He passed, I went on and a sliding sound and a clattering tumble, arrested my attention. Man and horse were down; they had slipped on the sheet of ice which glazed the causeway. The dog came bounding back, and seeing his master in a predicament, and hearing the horse groan, barked till the evening hills echoed the sound, and then he ran up to me, as there was no other help at hand.

I walked down to the traveller. ‘Are you injured, sir? Can I do anything?’

‘You must just stand on one side,’ he answered, rose, stooped to feel his foot and leg, apparently something ailed them, for he halted to the stile whence I had just risen, and sat down.

I was in the mood for being useful, for I now drew near him again.

‘If you are hurt, sir, I can fetch someone either from Thornfield Hall or from Hay.’

‘Thank you: I shall do. I have no broken bones, only a sprain;’ but as he tried his foot, he extorted an involuntary ‘Ugh!’

Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped. I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest. He had a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted just now; he was past youth, but had not reached middle-age; perhaps he might be thirty-five. I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked.

I had hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one. If even this stranger had smiled and been good-humoured, I should have gone on my way, but the frown and roughness of the traveller, set me at my ease.

‘I cannot think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horse.’

He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in my direction before.

‘I should think you ought to be at home yourself,’ said he, ‘Where do you come from?’

‘From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight.”

‘Do you mean at that house with the battlements?’ he said, pointing to Thornfield Hall.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Whose house is it?’

‘Mr. Rochester’s.’

‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’

‘No, I have never seen him.’

‘He is not resident, then?’

‘No.’

‘Can you tell me where he is?’

‘I cannot.’

‘You are not a servant at the hall, of course. You are—‘ He stopped, ran his eye over my simple dress, black merino cloak, and black beaver bonnet. He seemed puzzled to decide what I was; I helped him.

‘I am the governess.’

‘Ah, the governess!’ he repeated; ‘deuce take me, if I had not forgotten! The governess!’ and again my raiment underwent scrutiny.

He rose from the stile, his face expressing pain when he tried to move. ‘I cannot commission you to fetch help,’ he said; ‘but you may help me a little yourself, if you will be so kind.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?’

‘No.’

“I must beg of you to come here. Excuse me,’ he continued: ‘necessity compels me to make you useful.’ He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, and leaning on me with some stress, limped to his horse and sprang to his saddle, grimacing.

‘Thank you; now make haste with the letter to Hay, and return as fast as you can,’ he said and bound away.

I walked on. The incident was of no romance, or interest, yet it marked a change in my monotonous life. I was weary of a passive existence and the new face was dissimilar to all the others because it was masculine, dark, strong, and stern. I had it still before me when I entered Hay, and I saw it as I walked all the way home.

I lingered at the gates of the gloomy house and became aware of a cheerful mingling of voices. I hastened to Mrs. Fairfax’s room but only found a great black dog, just like the Gytrash of the lane.

‘What dog is this?’ I asked Leah.

‘He came with the master, Mr. Rochester. Mrs Fairfax and Miss Adele are in the dining-room, and John is gone for Dr Carter, the surgeon; for master has had an accident; his horse fell and his ankle is sprained.’

I went upstairs to take off my things.

****

The chapter begins with a mundane exposition of the three months which have passed, since her arrival in October. It is January and she is bored and restless at Thornfield. Jane is obviously an ambitious young girl who longs for excitement. There is an interesting feminist reflection on how women were viewed at her time, and how she views herself, as a person with a voice, an opinion and the desire to express it, in spite of identifying the gender roles which oppress women.    

It is also noteworthy that she hears the laugh of the person she believes to be Grace Poole, although she has her doubts (sorry for the spoiler, but I think we all know it’s Mr Rochester’s mad wife, who is confined in the attic). In retrospect, she would have realised she suspected there was someone in the attic, other than Grace, all along, but at the time she believed what she was told. The servants must know, but Jane, Adele and Sophie are unaware of the presence of another woman in the attic. Charlotte Bronte, builds suspense, as neither reader nor protagonist know what’s going on, although they suspect that it’s something ‘spooky’ or strange.

This second part of the chapter is the most exciting so far. Jane tells us how she met Mr Rochester, when his horse slipped on the ice on the causeway on his way to Thornfield Hall. It is not romantic, as she herself says, but it is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to her. She admits that her experience of men is limited, but the traveller obviously left an impression on her, as she couldn’t get him out of her mind, until she returned to Thornfield and discovered he was Mr Rochester.

The chapter ends rather flatly, ‘I went upstairs to take off my things’, after discovering the mysterious stranger was the owner of Thornfield, and therefore her boss, and we know nothing about her surprise or how she felt about his behaviour.

It is Mr Rochester’s first lie, by omission, on this occasion. He refuses to disclose his identity, presumably for his amusement, as there is no other reason to do so. In his first encounter, he is already toying with Jane. There is obviously going to be a romance, but we fear he is going to use his age and position to control the information she receives. I’d call that manipulation from their first meeting. But love is blind. The question is, will she be able to tame the Byronic hero/rake? 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 13. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter11 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 11

How I Arrived at Thornfield Hall

I arrived at the George Inn at Millcote at eight o’clock in the evening, after a sixteen hour coach ride from Lowton, where a man with a one-horse conveyance took me the final six more miles to Thornfield Hall.

I alighted and a maid-servant showed me in to a cosy room with a cheerful fire. An elderly lady, I fancied was Mrs Fairfax, sat a in widow’s cap and black silk gown sat in a high-backed, old-fashioned armchair, with a large cat sat at her feet.

As I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet me. She conducted me to her own chair, removed my shawl and bonnet-strings, and told Leah, the maid, to bring me some hot negus and a sandwich. I was surprised to receive more attention than I ever had before. My heart warmed to the worthy lady who was so pleased to see me.

I learned that Leah, John and his wife were the rest of the staff, and that my pupil was Miss Varens, who had a nurse, Sophie.

She showed me upstairs to my small apartment, next to hers. A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude, but I was glad to find a small, modern bedroom, with gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood, that my spirits.

I was now at last in safe haven, and the impulse of gratitude swelled my heart. I knelt down at the bedside and offered up thanks. My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room, no fears. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly.

The following day I wore a Quaker like plain, black frock and clean white tucker. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer. I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked.

Everything appeared very stately and imposing to me, as I was so little accustomed to grandeur. I stepped over the threshold and onto the lawn and surveyed the front of the three-storey mansion, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery.

Mrs Fairfax greeted me with an affable kiss and shake of the hand. ‘How do you like Thornfield?’ she asked. I told her I liked it very much.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be getting out of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it rather oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor.’

‘Mr. Rochester!’ I exclaimed. ‘Who is he?’

‘The owner of Thornfield,’ she responded quietly. ‘Did you not know he was called Rochester?’

‘I thought,’ I continued, ‘Thornfield belonged to you.’ ‘I am only the housekeeper—the manager. My husband, who was a clergyman at Hay church, was a second cousin to Mr Rochester on his mother’s side.’

‘And the little girl—my pupil!’

‘She is Mr. Rochester’s ward; he commissioned me to find a governess for her.’

My pupil was perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale, small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist.

‘Good morning, Miss Adela,’ said Mrs. Fairfax. ‘Come and speak to the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some day.’ She approached, speaking French to her nurse.

‘Are they foreigners?’ I inquired, amazed at hearing the French language.

‘The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent. She arrived here six months ago. She spoke no English. Now she talks it a little: I don’t understand her, she mixes it so with French; but you will make out her meaning very well, I dare say.’

I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady, and I had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in the language.

‘Ah!’ cried she, in French, ‘you speak my language as well as Mr. Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can Sophie. She will be glad nobody here understands her.

Mrs Fairfax asked me to inquire about her parents.

“I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin. Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses. A great many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it. Shall I let you hear me sing now?’

She sang a song from some opera and recited ‘La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine.’

‘After your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as you say, with whom did you live?’

‘With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she is nothing related to me. I was not long there. Mr. Rochester asked me if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I said yes because he was always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys.’

After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom. I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply: she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt it would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I had got her to learn a little, and when the morning had advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to her nurse.

Mrs Fairfax showed me the imposing dining-room and a pretty drawing room and within it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, crimson couches and ottomans. All of which she kept in readiness for Mr. Rochester’s rare and unexpected visits.

When I asked her about the owner she replied, ‘The family have always been respected here. Almost all the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged to the Rochesters time out of mind. I believe he is considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants. His character is unimpeachable, although he is rather peculiar, perhaps. He has travelled a great deal, and I dare say he is clever, but I never had much conversation with him. He is a very good master.’

Then she showed me the rest of the grand house and some of the third-storey rooms, with its eerie relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory.

‘Do the servants sleep in these rooms?’ I asked.

‘No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.’

‘Are there any legends or ghost stories?’

‘None that I ever heard of,’ returned Mrs. Fairfax.

I followed up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall. I was now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests. Leaning over the battlements, I surveyed the grounds. On my way down, I lingered in the long passage and the two rows of small black doors and a laugh struck my ear. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder.

‘Mrs. Fairfax!’ I called out. ‘Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?’

‘Some of the servants, very likely,’ she answered: ‘perhaps Grace Poole, a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid’s work. Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together.’

The door nearest me opened, and a middle-aged servant with a set square figure and red hair came out.

‘Too much noise, Grace,’ said Mrs. Fairfax. ‘Remember directions!’ Grace curtseyed silently and went in.

****

Jane arrives at Thornfield Hall and is well received by Mrs Fairfield and her pupil. Adele Varens. She feels safe and valued in a comfortable room and a grand house.

It’s a long chapter with a great deal of information about Mr Rochester, the absent owner, Adele’s background and the all about the house and the servants.

The contemporary reader and everyone at Thornfield Hall knows who was really laughing in the spooky third storey.

The chapter ends on a warning omen; all is not as pleasant as it would seem.

The background chapters are over and we now come to the suspenseful part of the novel, and reader is eager to find out about the mysterious owner and the origin of the strange laughter. How exciting!

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 12. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter10 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapte10

How I Advertised and was offered a post at Thornfield near Millcote

The number of victims during the typhus outbreak had drawn public attention on the school and by degrees various facts were made known which excited public indignation, such as the unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the food; the wretched clothing and accommodations.

As a result, several wealthy and benevolent residents in the county financed a more convenient building in a better situation, and improvements were made in diet and clothing.   

Mr. Brocklehurst, who, from his wealth and family connections, could not be overlooked, still retained the post of treasurer; but he was aided in the discharge of his duties by gentlemen who knew how to combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness.

I remained at Lowood for eight years after its regeneration, six as a student. I had an excellent education and excelled in all my studies; I rose to be the first girl of the first class. And two as a teacher.

Miss Temple stood by me in the stead of mother, governess, and, latterly, companion. But destiny, in the shape of the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, came between us. She married, removed with her husband, to a distant county, and consequently was lost to me.

After she left, I longed to enter the real world, where a varied field of hopes, fears and liberty, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek knowledge of life amidst its perils.

A kind fairy dropped the suggestion on my pillow. ‘You must enclose an advertisement and the money to pay for it under a cover directed to the editor of the Herald. You must post it at the post office at Lowton where I can inquire in about a week after you send your letter, if any reply comes, and act accordingly.’

So, I followed my fairy’s suggestion and posted the following advertisement: ‘A young lady accustomed to tuition is desirous of meeting with a situation in a private family where the children are under fourteen. She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music.’

When I returned a week later, a letter had arrived. I read it in my room with an inch of candle, which remained.

‘If J.E., is in a position to give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a situation can be offered her where there is but one pupil, a little girl, under ten years of age; and where the salary is thirty pounds per annum. J.E. is requested to send references, name, address, and all particulars to the direction:-‘Mrs. Fairfax, Thornfield, near Millcote.’

I knew it was a large manufacturing town seventy miles nearer London than the remote county where I now resided. Before accepting the offer I had to secure references, so I told the superintendent I had a prospect of getting a new situation where the salary would be double what I now received and asked if they would permit me to mention them as references. Mr. Brocklehurst informed Mrs. Reed as my natural guardian. She replied that ‘I might do as I pleased: she had long relinquished all interference in my affairs.’ The committee agreed to furnish me with a testimonial of character and capacity, signed by the inspectors of that institution, which I forwarded to Mrs. Fairfax, who then offered me the post of governess in her house.

I met Bessie who told me Miss Georgiana eloped and had to return home with her mother and her sister, John Reed had been thrown out of college for misconduct. She also told me an uncle of mine a wine merchant from Madeira had visited Mrs Reed.

I packed the same trunk I had brought with me eight years ago from Gateshead and took the coach from Lowton to Millcote.

****

This chapter jumps ahead eight years, informing us that over this time Jane has become an excellent student and respected teacher. Jane has grown up and is now emotionally and intellectually ready to leave behind Gateshead and Lowood, and start the third stage of her journey, at Thornfield Hall.

So far, the novel has given us all of Jane’s childhood as backstory and even the first time reader, who is not aware of the plot, is aware that her preparation is complete and her real journey is about to begin.

 

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 11. 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter9 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 9

Resurgam: When Helen Burns Died In My Arms

The frosts of winter ceased, and the hardships of Lowood lessened. Serene May brought days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft gales. Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green and flowery and its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life.

The forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of pestilence, breathed typhus through its crowded walls, and the seminary was transformed into a hospital. Disease became an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor.

Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed.

Miss Temple’s whole attention was absorbed by the patients. She lived in the sick room. The girls who were fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove them left, some went home only to die, others died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly.

But I, and the rest who continued well, rambled in the wood, like gipsies, from morning till night doing what we liked. We lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst never came near Lowood and the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor provided with comparative liberality, and besides, there were fewer to feed.

My favourite place was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the middle of the beck, which was broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me. My chosen comrade, Mary Ann Wilson, was witty and original. She was older than I and knew more of the world, so she told me many things I liked to hear.

Helen had been removed to the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption. On sunny afternoons, I watched Miss Temple take her into the garden wrapped in a blanket from the schoolroom window, as I was not allowed to speak to her.

One evening on returning from my walk I saw Mr. Bates, the surgeon, with a nurse and I asked her, ‘How is Helen Burns?’

‘Very poorly. Mr. Bates has been to see her.’

‘And what does he say about her?’

‘He says she’ll not be here long.’

“Where is she?”

‘She is in Miss Temple’s room.’

That night when my companions in the dormitory were all wrapt in profound repose, I crept out and set off in quest of Helen. I had to give her one last kiss and exchange with her one last word before she died.

I found the door slightly ajar and saw the outline of Helen’s body in a little crib. 

‘Helen!’ I whispered softly, ‘are you awake?’

She was pale, wasted, but quite composed. ‘Can it be you, Jane? Why are you here?’

‘I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.’

‘You are just in time probably.’

‘Are you going home, Helen?’

‘Yes; to my last home. I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.’

‘But where are you going, Helen?’

‘I am going to God.’

‘Where is God? What is God?’

‘My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.’

‘You are sure that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?’

‘I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.’

‘And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?’

‘You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.’

I lay with my face hidden on her neck and she said, ‘I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.’

‘I’ll stay with you, Helen; no one shall take me way.’

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

The next morning, I was carried back to the dormitory and learnt that Miss Temple had found me laid in the little crib with my arms round Helen’s dead body.

Her grave is in Brocklehurst churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word ‘Resurgam.’

This chapter is a disturbing combination of carefree time away from school, frolicking in the woods in the budding spring, during the month of May, and the dreadful typhus outbreak, which affected half of the girls at Lowood.

Jane made a new friend and was allowed to run wild in the woods, while the teachers looked after the sick girls. Unfortunately, her best friend, Helen Burns, was taken ill and later died in her arms. The way ten-year-old Jane recounts these dreadful events in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they are not such dreadful hardships, is disquieting.

I still remember the first time I read the paragraph in which she describes how Helen died in her arms while she slept, and it still sends shivers up my spine. I suppose hardship, death and disease were a normal part of Victorian life, but the degree of acceptance, bordering on lack of feeling, is heart wrenching. 

I found her narration of the typhus epidemic detached, as if the suffering of so many girls didn’t affect her and she was happy to spend her days having fun in the woods.

The way she narrates Helen’s death is also strangely disconnected. She must have been cold and breathing with difficulty when she died, but Jane says nothing of that, or how she feels about her friend’s death. Her reaction, the next day, when she found out her friend had died in her arms is oddly cool. The little girl has learned to control her deepest thoughts and emotions from everyone, including the reader.    

The event definitely affected her as she tells the reader she returned in 15 years’ time, at 25, after she had married Mr Rochester, to lay a headstone on her friend’s grave. The word ‘resurgam’ is Latin for “I shall rise again.” And it’s found in the Bible referred to the resurrection of Christ on the third day. Helen was fervently religious, as we can see from the extract. Helen was a fundamental influence in Jane’s religious beliefs and faith in God, especially regarding life after death. 

After everything she has already gone through, the reader is now more aware than ever that Jane will survive any crisis life throws in her way.

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 10! 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter8 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 8

How I was promoted to a higher class

Five o’clock struck; school was dismissed, and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I ventured to descend from the stool, sat on the floor, and overwhelmed by grief, I wept. I had been crushed and trodden on and ardently I wished to die.

Helen Burns approached with my coffee and bread. ‘Come, eat something,’ she said and sat beside me; but I would have choked in my present condition.

‘Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?’

‘There are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.’

‘But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise me.’

‘Jane, not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you.’

‘How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?’

‘Mr. Brocklehurst is little liked here. Had he treated you as a favourite, you would have found enemies. Teachers and pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly feelings will prevail if you persevere in doing well.’

I put my hand into hers, and she chafed my fingers gently to warm them. ‘If others don’t love me, I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.’

‘Hush, Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits who are commissioned to guard us. God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward of happiness and glory.’

Helen’s words had calmed me. I rested my head on her shoulder and we reposed in silence until Miss Temple approached.

‘Jane Eyre, I want you in my room. Helen Burns may come too.’

We walked through the intricate passages and mounted a staircase to her apartment, which contained a cheerful fire.  

‘Have you cried your grief away?’ she asked.

‘I have been wrongly accused. Everybody thinks me wicked.’

‘If you continue to act as a good girl, you will satisfy us.’ said she, passing her arm round me. ‘And now tell me who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?’

‘Mrs. Reed, my uncle’s wife. My uncle made her promise on his deathbed that she would always keep me.’

‘When a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own defence.’

So I told her the story of my sad childhood. I mentioned Mr. Lloyd’s visit after the frightful episode of the red room.

‘I shall write to Mr Lloyd; if his reply agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now.’

She kissed me and keeping me at her side she addressed Helen Burns.

‘How is the pain in your chest? Have you coughed much to-day?’

‘I am a little better.’

‘Tonight, you are my visitors.’ She rang her bell.

‘Barbara,’ she said to the servant who answered it, ‘I have not yet had tea; bring tea and bread and butter for these two young ladies.’

When Barbara said Mrs. Harden, the housekeeper, had refused the extra food, Mrs Temple unlocked a drawer, and gave us some seedcake which tasted like nectar and ambrosia.

Then I was struck with wonder as Helen and Miss Temple spoke of nations and times past; of countries far away; and books they had read, including French and Latin texts.

The following morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote ‘Slattern’ on a piece of pasteboard and bound it round Helen’s forehead as a punishment for her untidiness. The moment Miss Scatcherd left, I tore it off and thrust it into the fire.

About a week later, Miss Temple received Mr Lloyd’s reply in which he corroborated my account, and Miss Temple assembled the whole school and announced that I was completely cleared.

Thus relieved of a grievous load, I resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty. I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts. In a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class and in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and drawing.

I learned the truth of Solomon’s words: ‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.’

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.

This chapter begins with ten-year-old Jane going as far as to wish her own death after the humiliation suffered because of Mr Brocklehurst’s false accusations.

Although Helen’s words console her, it is Miss Temple’s kindness and her promise to get in touch with Mr Lloyd in order to clear Jane’s name that she is hopeful, Jane finally regains her self-esteem and motivation and her life takes an unexpected turn for the best when her name is cleared and her efforts are rewarded and she can learn French and Drawing, her favourite subjects.

Despite its dire beginning, we have a hopeful chapter in Jane’s childhood, at last.  

Her knowledge of French is what will enable her to become Adele’s governess, and her Mr Rochester is impressed with her drawings when he meets her. Jane is learning to control her temper and the value of hard work to improve her station in life.

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 9! 

Images from Pixabay