I’ve just received an email confirming that my latest publication, Resurgam: An Eyre Hall Series Novella has been accepted as a New Release Alert on BookBub! It’s my first BookBub deal and I’m really excited! It means my US followers, will be receiving an email from BookBub today with information about my book launch which was two days ago on 20th September!
Nine years after her marriage to Edward Rochester, Jane has everything she ever wished for. She is married to the man she loves and they have a healthy eight-year-old son. They live in a grand house, Eyre Hall, built on the grounds of Thornfield Hall.
Jane has the family she longed for and all the comforts money can buy, and yet she is discontented. Mrs Rochester is dissatisfied with her opulent lifestyle, and she is tormented by cryptic nightmares in which Helen, her deceased best friend from Lowood Institution for Orphans, begs Jane for help.
When another friend from Lowood, Mary Anne Wilson, appears unexpectedly at Eyre Hall with distressing news, Jane realises she will not recover her peace of mind, fortitude, and passion unless she finds a way to keep the promise she made to Helen when she was a penniless orphan.
Resurgam is a standalone novella which can be read as a prequel to The Eyre Hall Series. The events narrated take place between 1853 and 1854, eleven years before Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One of The Eyre Hall Series.
The evening I was upset and belittled by Mr Rochester and his distinguished guests
It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when I was to join the party in the drawing-room enter repair with Adele, who had been in a state of ecstasy all day. Sophie dressed her in a pink satin frock with a sash and arranged her curls in drooping clusters.
I wore my best dress (the silver-grey one, purchased for Miss Temple’s wedding, and never worn since), smoothed my hair and attached the pearl brooch, my sole ornament.
When we descended to the drawing-room, it was vacant; they were still seated at dinner. Adele sat on the footstool while I retired to a window-seat, and taking a book from a table near endeavoured to read.
The curtain was swept back from the arch and eight tall ladies, many dressed in white, flocked in. I rose and curtseyed; one or two bent their heads in return, the others only stared at me.
They dispersed about the room, moving like a flock of white plumy birds. Mrs. Eshton, a handsome woman and two of her daughters, Amy and Louisa. Lady Lynn was a large, haughty-looking, stout woman of about forty, richly dressed in a satin robe and a band of gems. Mrs. Dent was less showy; but, I thought, more lady-like. She had a slight figure, a pale, gentle face, and fair hair. But the three most distinguished and the loftiest of stature were the Dowager Lady Ingram, a splendid woman for her age, and her daughters, Blanche and Mary, both attired in spotless white.
Lady Ingram had a fierce and a hard eye: it reminded me of Mrs. Reed’s. Her voice was deep, its inflections very pompous, very dogmatical,—very intolerable, in short. I regarded Blanche with special interest to see whether her appearance was such as I should fancy, likely to suit Mr. Rochester’s taste.
Her face was like her mother’s; the same low brow, high features, and same pride. She laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip. She played on Mrs Dent’s ignorance of botany in a manner that was decidedly not good-natured. She played the piano and sang with a fine voice and she talked French apart to her mamma, with fluency and a good accent. Most gentlemen would admire her.
Adele rose, advanced to meet them, made a stately reverence, and said, ‘Bon jour, mesdames.’
Miss Ingram had looked down at her with a mocking air, and exclaimed, ‘Oh, what a little puppet!’
Lady Lynn had remarked, ‘It is Mr. Rochester’s ward, I suppose—the little French girl he was speaking of.’
Mrs. Dent had kindly taken her hand and given her a kiss.
Amy and Louisa Eshton had cried out simultaneously— ‘What a love of a child!’
And then they had called her to a sofa, where she now sat, ensconced between them, chattering alternately in French and broken English; absorbing the ladies’ attention and getting spoilt to her heart’s content.
The collective appearance of the gentlemen, all costumed in black, was impressive. Henry and Frederick Lynn were very dashing sparks indeed; and Colonel Dent was a fine soldierly man. Mr. Eshton, the magistrate of the district, was gentleman-like with white hair and dark eyebrows and whiskers. Lord Ingram, like his sisters, was very tall and handsome; but he shared Mary’s apathetic and listless look.
Mr Rochester came in last. I tried to concentrate my attention on my netting-needles, but distinctly beheld his figure, and inevitably recalled the moment when I last saw him, holding my hand, and surveying me with eyes that revealed a heart full and eager to overflow. Yet now, we were so far estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me. He took a seat at the other side of the room and began conversing with some of the ladies.
I had an acute pleasure at gazing at him without being observed, like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless.
Most true is it that ‘beauty is in the eye of the gazer.’ My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth,—all energy, decision, will,—were not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me. I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.
I saw Mr. Rochester smile:- his stern features softened; his eye grew both brilliant and gentle, its ray both searching and sweet. He was talking to Louisa and Amy Eshton. ‘He is not to them what he is to me,’ I thought: ‘he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am sure he is—I feel akin to him; I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him.
I knew I should conceal my sentiments. I must remember that he cannot care much for me:- and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.
Blanche Ingram is standing alone at the table, waiting to be sought; but she will not wait too long. Mr. Rochester stands on the hearth as solitary as she stands by the table: she confronts him, taking her station on the opposite side of the mantel- piece.
‘Mr. Rochester, I thought you were not fond of children?’
‘Nor am I.’
‘Then, what induced you to take charge of such a little doll as that?’ (pointing to Adele). ‘Where did you pick her up?’
‘I did not pick her up; she was left in my hands.’
‘You should have sent her to school.’
‘I could not afford it: schools are so dear.’
‘Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with her just now—is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still, behind the window-curtain. You pay her, of course, and you have them both to keep in addition.’
‘I have not considered the subject,’ said he indifferently, looking straight before him.
‘No, you men never do consider economy and common sense. Mary and I have had, I should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable and the rest ridiculous, were they not, mama?’
‘My dearest, don’t mention governesses. I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetency and caprice. I thank Heaven I have now done with them!’
Mrs. Dent whispered something in her ear; I supposed, from the answer elicited, it was a reminder that one of the anathematised race was present.
‘I noticed her; I am a judge of physiognomy, and in hers I see all the faults of her class.’
‘What are they, madam?’ inquired Mr. Rochester aloud.
‘Ask Blanche; she is nearer you than I.’
‘Oh, don’t refer him to me, mama! I have just one word to say of the whole tribe; they are a nuisance. Not that I ever suffered much from them; I took care to turn the tables. We played tricks on ours. Theodore, do you remember those merry days?’
‘Yes, to be sure I do,’ drawled Lord Ingram.
‘No more need be said: I move the introduction of a new topic. Mr. Rochester, do you second my motion?’
‘Madam, I support you on this point, as on every other.’
‘Eduardo, are you in voice to-night?’
‘Donna Bianca, if you command it, I will be.’
She tossed her head with all its curls, as she moved to the piano, where she had now seated herself with proud grace.
‘Mr. Rochester, now sing, and I will play for you.’
‘I am all obedience,’ was the response.
‘Take care, then: if you don’t please me, I will shame you by showing how such things SHOULD be done.’
‘Now is my time to slip away,’ thought I: but the tones that then severed the air arrested me. Mr. Rochester possessed a fine voice: a mellow, powerful bass, into which he threw his own feeling, his own force; finding a way through the ear to the heart, and there waking sensation strangely. I waited till the last deep and full vibration had expired and then I quitted my sheltered corner and made my exit by the side-door.
Thence a narrow passage led into the hall: in crossing it, I stopped to tie my sandal on the mat at the foot of the staircase. I heard the dining-room door unclose; a gentleman came out; rising hastily, I stood face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.
‘How do you do?’ he asked.
‘I am very well, sir.’
‘Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?’
‘I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir.’
‘What have you been doing during my absence?’
‘Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual.’
‘And getting a good deal paler than you were—as I saw at first sight. What is the matter?’
‘Nothing at all, sir.’
‘Did you take any cold that night you half drowned me?’
‘Not she least.’
‘Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.’
‘I am tired, sir.’
He looked at me for a minute.
‘And a little depressed,’ he said. ‘What about? Tell me.’
‘I am not depressed.’
‘But I affirm that you are so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes—indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming. Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don’t neglect it. Now go. Send Sophie for Adele. Goodnight, my—‘ He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly left me.
Jane feels anxious about spending time with Mr Rochester’s distinguished guests in the drawing room. She knows her position in the household is barely above a servant’s. She feels inadequate next to the elegantly dressed and gemmed guests.
She admits to the reader that she is hopelessly in love with her employer, although she’s convinced that he has no feelings for her.
She has a dreadful evening, hiding by the window, being ignored and ridiculed and watching Blanche Ingram flirt with Mr Rochester, who appears to follow her lead.
There is a great deal of angst in this part of the chapter. The reader feels sympathy for Jane and understands her unease and emotional distress. We are also wondering how she could ever fit into Rochester’s world, even if he ever asked her to be part of it. The rigidness, hypocrisy and cruelty of Victorian society seems to point to a dead end for our protagonist. She will always be a poor governess in their eyes.
Mr Rochester’s behaviour is cruel. He ignores her while she’s in the room, teases her when he follows her out into the corridor, and finally insists that she should return to the drawing room every evening while his friends are at Thornfield.
Jane is upset and we can imagine that she’s going to cry her heart out in her room.
All the happiness and independence she had gained at Thornfield has dissolved and turned into misery. Poor Jane feels as excluded and destitute as she did when she was an unloved and bullied child at Gateshead.
Where will Jane go from here? Will she leave Thornfield at once, or will she stand up for herself? Is Mr Rochester interested in Blanche? Why is he adamant to make Jane suffer the criticism of his tactless and haughty guests?
My First glimpse of Blanche Ingram and Mr Rochester’s Elegant Guests
Ten days passed, and Mr Rochester had still not returned. When Mrs. Fairfax said he had frequently quitted in an abrupt and unexpected manner to travel to London and thence to the continent, I felt a sickening sense of disappointment. But rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order, saying to myself, ‘You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield., further than to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protégé. Don’t make him the object of your fine feelings. He is not of your order; be too self-respecting to lavish your love where such a gift is not wanted.’
I went on with my day’s business tranquilly. Vague suggestions wandered across my brain of reasons why I should quit Thornfield.
Mr. Rochester had been absent upwards of a fortnight when Mrs Fairfax received a letter from the master.
‘Mr. Rochester is not likely to return soon, I suppose?’ I asked nonchalantly.
‘Indeed, he is—in three days, next Thursday, on time for dinner at six. He sends directions for all the best bedrooms to be prepared; and the library and drawing-rooms are to be cleaned out; I am to get more kitchen hands from the George Inn, at Millcote, and from wherever else I can; and the ladies will bring their maids and the gentlemen their valets: so we shall have a full house of it.’
The three days were, as she had foretold, busy enough. Three women were got to help; and such scrubbing, such brushing, such washing of paint and beating of carpets, such taking down and putting up of pictures, such polishing of mirrors and lustres, such lighting of fires in bedrooms, such airing of sheets and featherbeds on hearths, I never beheld, either before or since.
Adele ran quite wild in the midst of it: the preparations for company and the prospect of their arrival seemed to throw her into ecstasies. From school duties she was exonerated: Mrs. Fairfax had pressed me into her service, and I was all day in the storeroom, helping her and the cook; learning to make custards and cheesecakes and French pastry, to truss game and garnish desert-dishes.
During the intervening period I had no time to nurse chimeras; and I believe I was as active and gay as anybody.
Still, now and then, I received a damping check to my cheerfulness; and was, in spite of myself, thrown back on the region of doubts and portents and dark conjectures.
This was when I chanced to see the third-storey staircase door (which of late had always been kept locked) open slowly and give passage to the form of Grace Poole. She would descend to the kitchen once a day, only for an hour, eat her dinner, smoke a moderate pipe on the hearth, and go back, carrying her pot of porter with her, for her private solace, in her own gloomy, upper haunt, as companionless as a prisoner in his dungeon. The strangest thing of all was that not a soul in the house discussed her employment or pitied her isolation. I once overheard part of a dialogue between Leah and one of the charwomen.
‘She gets good wages, I guess?’
‘Yes,’ said Leah; ‘I wish I had as good; not that mine are to complain of,—there’s no stinginess at Thornfield; but they’re not one fifth of the sum Mrs. Poole receives. I should not wonder but she has saved enough to keep her independent if she liked to leave; but I suppose she’s got used to the place; and then she’s not forty yet, and strong and able for anything. It is too soon for her to give up business.’
‘She is a good hand, I daresay,’ said the charwoman. ‘Ah!—she understands what she has to do,—nobody better,’ replied Leah significantly; ‘and it is not everyone could fill her shoes—not for all the money she gets.’
‘That it is not!’ was the reply. ‘I wonder whether the master—’
Here Leah turned and perceived me, and she instantly gave her companion a nudge.
‘Doesn’t she know?’ I heard the woman whisper.
Leah shook her head, and the conversation was, of course, dropped. I gathered from their conversation that there was a mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery, I was purposely excluded.
Thursday afternoon arrived; it was drawing to an end now; but the evening was even warm, and I sat at work in the schoolroom with the window open. It had been one of those spring days which, towards the end of March or the beginning of April, rise shining over the earth as heralds of summer.
‘It gets late,’ said Mrs. Fairfax, who had assumed her best black satin gown, her gloves, and her gold watch; for it was her part to receive the company. I had allowed Sophie to apparel Adele in one of her short, full muslin frocks. For myself, I had no need to make any change; I should not be called upon to quit my schoolroom, which had become a pleasant refuge in time of trouble.’
‘They’ll be here in ten minutes,’ said John.
Adele flew to the window. I followed, taking care to stand on one side, so that, screened by the curtain, I could see without being seen.
At last wheels were heard; four equestrians galloped up the drive, and after them came two open carriages. Fluttering veils and waving plumes filled the vehicles; two of the cavaliers were young, dashing-looking gentlemen; the third was Mr. Rochester, on his black horse, Mesrour, Pilot bounding before him; at his side rode a lady, and he and she were the first of the party. Her purple riding-habit almost swept the ground, her veil streamed long on the breeze; mingling with its transparent folds, and gleaming through them, shone rich raven ringlets.
‘Miss Ingram!’ exclaimed Mrs. Fairfax, and away she hurried to her post below.
Adele petitioned to go down; but I must not on any account think of venturing in sight of the ladies, either now or at any other time, unless expressly sent for.
A joyous stir was now audible in the hall: gentlemen’s deep tones and ladies’ silvery accents blent harmoniously together, and distinguishable above all, though not loud, was the sonorous voice of the master of Thornfield Hall, welcoming his fair and gallant guests under its roof. Then light steps ascended the stairs; and there was a tripping through the gallery, and soft cheerful laughs, and opening and closing doors, and, for a time, a hush.
‘Don’t you feel hungry, Adele?’
‘Mais oui, mademoiselle: voile cinq ou six heures que nous n’avons pas mange.’
‘Well now, while the ladies are in their rooms, I will venture down and get you something to eat.’
And issuing from my asylum with precaution, I sought a backstair which conducted directly to the kitchen. All in that region was fire and commotion, with servants bustling about everywhere. Threading this chaos, I at last reached the larder; there I took possession of a cold chicken, a roll of bread, some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with this booty I made a hasty retreat.
I had regained the gallery, which, being windowless, was dark: quite dark now, for the sun was set and twilight gathering. The guests stood grouped together at the other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet, subdued vivacity before descending the staircase. Their collective appearance had left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never received.
Adele peeped through the schoolroom door, which she held ajar. ‘What beautiful ladies!’ cried she in English. ‘Oh, I wish I might go to them! Do you think Mr. Rochester will send for us by- and-bye, after dinner?’
‘No, indeed, I don’t; Mr. Rochester has something else to think about. Never mind the ladies to-night; perhaps you will see them to-morrow: here is your dinner.’
I allowed Adele to sit up much later than usual; for she declared she could not possibly go to sleep while the doors kept opening and shutting below, and people bustling about.
When the evening was far advanced, a sound of music issued from the drawing-room. A lady who sang to the piano, a duet followed, and then a glee and joyous conversational murmur filled up the intervals. At eleven I carried Adele off to bed. It was near one before the gentlemen and ladies sought their chambers.
The next day was as fine as its predecessor and the party set off to an excursion early in the forenoon, some on horseback, the rest in carriages; I witnessed both the departure and the return. Miss Ingram, as before, was the only lady equestrian; and, as before, Mr. Rochester galloped at her side; the two rode a little apart from the rest. I pointed out this circumstance to Mrs. Fairfax.
‘You said it was not likely they should think of being married,’ said I, ‘but you see Mr. Rochester evidently prefers her to any of the other ladies.’
‘Yes, I daresay: no doubt he admires her.’
‘And she him,’ I added; ‘look how she leans her head towards him as if she were conversing confidentially; I wish I could see her face; I have never had a glimpse of it yet.’
‘You will see her this evening,’ answered Mrs. Fairfax. ‘I remarked to Mr. Rochester how much Adele wished to be introduced to the ladies, and he said: ‘Oh! let her come into the drawing-room after dinner; and request Miss Eyre to accompany her.’’
‘Yes; he said that from mere politeness: I need not go, I am sure,’ I answered.
‘Well, I observed to him that as you were unused to company, I did not think you would like appearing before so gay a party—all strangers; and he replied, in his quick way—‘Nonsense! If she objects, tell her it is my wish; and if she resists, say I shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.’’
‘I will not give him that trouble,’ I answered. ‘I will go, if no better may be; but I don’t like it. Shall you be there, Mrs. Fairfax?’
‘No; I pleaded off, and he admitted my plea. I’ll tell you how to avoid the embarrassment of making a formal entrance, which is the most disagreeable part of the business. You must go into the drawing-room while it is empty, before the ladies leave the dinner-table; choose your seat in any quiet nook you like; you need not stay long after the gentlemen come in, unless you please: just let Mr. Rochester see you are there and then slip away—nobody will notice you.’
‘Will these people remain long, do you think?’
‘Perhaps two or three weeks, certainly not more.”
It was with some trepidation that I perceived the hour approach when I was to repair with my charge to the drawing-room.
This chapter starts with Jane’s angst because Mr Rochester left without a word, and according to Mrs Fairfax, he may not return for another year, as has happened on other occasions.
Jane is still curious about Mrs Poole, who Jane observes spends one hour a day downstairs and 23 in her room on the third storey. She also finds out there is a secret related to Mrs Poole and Thornfield by overhearing the end of a conversation between Leah and one of the new maids brought in for the guests.
‘Leah shook her head, and the conversation was, of course, dropped. I gathered from their conversation that there was a mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery, I was purposely excluded.’
However, Jane investigates no further and soon receives news of Mr Rochester’s imminent return with a host of wealthy and distinguished guests. Jane observes them in awe from the schoolroom and a hidden corder in the corridor. She hides in the staircase with Adele to listen to their merry-making in the drawing-room in the evening. Once again Jane is as excluded from any type of enjoyment as she was at Gateshead with her aunt and cousins.
Jane also observes that Mr Rochester is spending is spending a lot of time with Blanche Ingram, whom he obviously favours over the other eligible young ladies.
Jane is unpleasantly surprised when Mrs Fairfax tells her that Mr Rochester insists Jane and Adele should be present in the drawing-room that evening.
Jane will come face to face with Blanche and all the other affluent visitors. How will she feel and react? Why does Mr Rochester want her to interact with his guests? Is it a test? Does he wish to humiliate her?
The plot thickens! See you next week for chapter XVII Part 2.
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.
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.’
‘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!
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!
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?
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?’
‘And you came from—?’
‘From Lowood school, in—shire.’
‘Ah! a charitable concern. How long were you there?’
‘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?’
‘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?’
‘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?’
‘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?’ ‘
‘And you stayed there eight years: you are now, then, eighteen?’
‘Can you play?’
‘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.’
‘Partly because it is his nature and partly because he has painful thoughts.’
‘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!
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.
‘Whose house is it?’
‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’
‘No, I have never seen him.’
‘He is not resident, then?’
‘Can you tell me where he is?’
‘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.’
‘You have not an umbrella that I can use as a stick?’
“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!
This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts, and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
May 5 question – Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?
Have my readers’ responses surprised me? Definitely!
I have over a hundred written reviews on Amazon, and over two hundred reviews on Goodreads, which may not seem like a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me. The fact that so many readers, people I don’t know and who may never have heard of me, a relatively little known author, in a vast ocean of millions of books and writers, have been motivated to read my books and taken the trouble to write a review, amazes me.
I feel encouraged by the good reviews, which fortunately account for the majority, and that used to surprise me when I started publishing, seven years ago, in 2014, because I was very insecure!
I used to feel upset when I got a negative review, again, because I was very insecure, but now I’m less insecure and I appreciate them too, because some are useful, and at least they all count as reviews!
At first, I was surprised that so many readers disliked my novel because they thought I had treated Mr Rochester too harshly. In my defense, I’d say I didn’t lock him in a windowless attic, or make him suffer any physical torture! He lived a good life, with his wife and son, even though he went back to some of his old ways.
I mean, locking your wife in an attic in dire conditions, hidden from everyone (in spite of being a moneyed heiress), and pretending you’re single to the point of intending bigamy (until your wedding was interrupted at the altar) with an innocent nineteen-year-old, is pretty objectionable behaviour, even for 19th century standards.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the fact that Mr Rochester has been an icon of passionate love, aka the brooding Byronic hero/lover, who is brought to his feet due to the love of a ‘good’ woman, for almost 200 years, but that’s due to an erroneous interpretation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is the protagonist the reader should root for, not Rochester. Jane is the independent, resourceful and single-minded nineteen-year-old woman who stood up to a manipulative rake and won him over on her terms, with her money (Spoiler alert: at the end of the novel she becomes an heiress herself), once he was a widower, and once she had made her way in the world working and living on her own, a feat not all women achieve, even nowadays.
I’d love to continue to be surprised by my readers, and I hope to surprise them too with more novels. I started by writing The Eyre Hall which will become The Eyre Hall Series shortly, as two new novels, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall and Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall are coming soon!
Take a look at my provisional banner, I’m still making changes and adapting the covers. Do you like them?
If you’d like to read or reread Jane Eyre, I’m posting one chapter a week, every Friday, in flash fiction, directly from the original novel, for readers who prefer to read an abridged version, here, just click on the banner below: