#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 #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