#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter17 Part 1 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte ‘Blanche Ingram arrives at Thornfield Hall’

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XVII Part One

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.

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 part two of chapter 17. 

Images from Pixabay

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

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XVI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I heard a strange laugh.’

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

‘I was not dreaming,’ I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh, I never felt better.’

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

‘Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere?’

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

‘Do you expect him back to-night?’

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

‘Are there ladies at the Leas?’

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

‘What was she like?’

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

‘She was greatly admired, of course?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No: I am too thirsty to eat.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 16. 

Images from Pixabay

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

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XV Part II

The Night I Saved Mr Rochester’s Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is there a flood?’ cried Mr Rochester.

‘There has been a fire: get up, do.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Shall I call someone?”

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

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

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

‘How, sir?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You said I might go, sir.’

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

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

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

He paused, gazing at me in silence.

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

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

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

“What! you will go?’

‘I am cold, sir.’

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

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

He relaxed his fingers, and I was gone.

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 16. 

Images from Pixabay

Days of Yore #SoCS

This post is written in response to Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) prompt

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “your, you’re or yore” Use it in your post as a noun or a verb… or a name! Enjoy!

Socs Badge

Days of Yore

We all have our own days of yore. They start when we’re still children.

As soon as we’re old enough to have memories we can recall the days of yore.

Even so, the word yore has a distant sound to it, as if it refers to things which happened long before our own memories began.

The days of yore refer to the memories of others who have died generations before us. So why do they belong to us, too?

Perhaps their recollections are still alive in our collective unconscious. Don’t we all remember and re-imagine the same things?

Isn’t storytelling and all forms of literature a way of recalling and passing on events of the days of yore?

The big bad wolf, the fierce dragon, the handsome prince, the wicked stepmother, the Trojan Horse, the pairs of animals in Noah’s Arc, King Arthur’s Round Table, etc. Someone must have seen and recalled them of yore and passed on the memory, because, don’t we remember them as if we’d seen them ourselves?

The problem is, it’s like Chinese whispers, as the stories are passed down over generations they gradually change; they transform into something else, something later generations can relate to…

They say the legend of the mad woman confined to an attic was told to Charlotte Bronte on a visit to a local country house in her youth. Years later she recreated the legend in Bertha Mason, who became the catalyst in Jane Eyre and most famous secondary character in literary history.

I also shared Miss Bronte’s memories of the days of yore and remembered the story of the screams on the third floor and imagined that a baby was crying in that windowless attic, a baby who returned as a young woman to claim her birthright by her father’s deathbed: Annette Mason in The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

It happened of yore, but I remember it so well, don’t you?

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Letter P #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre the Prequel

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to tell you about the Prequel to Jane Eyre written almost a century after Jane Eyre was published.

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Wide Sargasso Sea, the Prequel to Jane Eyre

Although my main inspiration in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was Jane Eyre, its prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, written over a hundred years later by Jean Rhys, has been almost equally responsible. Both novels are complimentary and it is their combined stories, which have led to my sequel, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I read Wide Sargasso Sea, about thirty years after reading Jane Eyre. This short, but intense novel, which was written in the 1960s, tells the story of Bertha Mason in three parts: her childhood, before she met Mr. Rochester, their first meeting and arranged marriage and first four years of matrimony, and finally her death at Thornfield Hall.

After reading Wide Sargasso Sea, it’s impossible not to reread Jane Eyre with new insight and perspective.

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica, an island of the British West Indies to a Welsh doctor and a third-generation Creole of Scots ancestry. She must have understood Bertha Mason’s feeling of alienation in England herself, as she says in this eloquent quote:

Rhys quote

Rhys’ novel tells the formerly untold story of Bertha Antoinette Mason from her birth in Jamaica to her death at Thornfield Hall.

Antoinette who was silenced, imprisoned, and abused in Jane Eyre, is given a voice and a life, a real life, in Wide Sargasso Sea; a life Charlotte Bronte insinuated but never told. In Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette tells Rochester; “there is always the other side, always”, and that is the story Rhys weaves in Part One which Antoinette narrates.

Edward Rochester narrates Part Two and is shown up as the shady, unscrupulous character he became in Jane Eyre. His elder brother was to inherit the Rochester Estate, so his father arranged a marriage to a rich Jamaican heiress for Edward, his second son, or the ‘spare’. Rochester disliked Jamaica and although his wife was beautiful, he was not aware that she was Creole, and it displeased him, especially after marrying her and disposing of her generous dowry.

When he inherited the Rochester Estate due to both his brother and father’s sudden deaths, he decided it was time to return to England. That was when he locked Bertha away in a windowless, cold and damp attic, claimed he was unmarried and went gallivanting to France, as he himself admits to Jane.

The Third and Final Part is told once more by Antoinette, who not surprisingly, after ten years in an attic, has become the ‘madwoman in the attic’. She supposedly burns Thornfield Hall, endangering the lives of the rest of the occupants, and commits suicide.

Gilbert and Gubar’s seminal study on feminist literary criticism, Madwoman in the Attic, was written in honour of Bertha Mason. I’ve written several posts on this topic in previous posts on this blog:

My fascination with these two novels escalated when I taught Postcolonial Literature to undergraduates at the University of Córdoba. One of the topics on the syllabus was a comparison of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and that really sparked classroom discussion and my imagination. The idea of reinstating the first Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason, had been nagging at me for a long time, until I decided to reinstate Bertha Mason by bringing her daughter to life and back to the Rochester Estate in my Sequel to Jane Eyre, The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

 

The Moon in Jane Eyre Part Two: At Thornfield Hall I

The Moon in Jane’s Arrival At Thornfield Hall and First Encounters with Mr. Rochester.

This post is a continuation of a previous post on The Moon in Jane Eyre Part One: At Gateshead and Lowood which has been a very popular with readers interested in Jane Eyre. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet.

The moon makes many symbolic and significant appearances at Thornfield Hall, so this post will also come in two parts. This first part refers to Jane’s arrival at Thornfield hall and her first encounters with Mr. Rochester. The rest of her stay at Thornfield Hall will be covered in The Moon in Jane Eyre Part Three.

The Third Storey and The Attic at Thornfield Hall 

The moon makes its first appearance the day after Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. In the evening, once her first class with Adele was over, Mrs. Fairfax offered to show her around the house. The tour ended in the mysterious and uncanny third storey, which was devoid of the moonlight:

All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means coveted a night’s repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and
stranger birds, and strangest human beings,— all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight. If there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.’
‘So I think: you have no ghost, then?’
‘None that I ever heard of,’ returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
‘Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?’
‘I believe not.”

Jane and Mrs. Fairfax continue their tour to the attic, which Jane describes as black as a vault. They walk up a very narrow staircase and then with the help of a ladder through a trap-door to the roof of the hall and a view of the surrounding countryside, which Bertha is denied.

Bertha’s room was described as ‘windowless’ and the rest of the upper floor was dark and gloomy, probably due to small windows and heavy curtains. The moon, which has been a positive omen in Jane’s life, lighting her way in dark moments, and announcing the appearance of positive characters, is denied to Bertha who must live concealed in absolute darkness.

Notice also the lies Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane when she claims there are no legends of ghosts, yet all the servants are aware of Grace Poole’s secret charge in the attic and the strange noises, which they all hear on occasions.

The lack of moon in this instance indicates a moral as well as physical darkness, as it encloses falsehood, as well as captivity and concealment.

Illustration from Life and Works of the Sisters Brontë (1899).

Mr. Rochester’s Arrival

Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall in October. The following months passed by tranquilly, as Jane taught Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ‘ward’. One afternoon in January, Jane volunteered to take a letter to Hay, which was two miles away, for Mrs. Fairfax, because she thought it would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk. On her way, she sat on a style and observed Thornfield, and the surrounding countryside as she watched the rising moon. Jane tells us:

I lingered till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I then turned eastward. On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin murmurs of life.

The rising moon is heralding a singular event. A few minutes later, Mr. Rochester fell off his horse on the causeway. She describes their first meeting thus:

‘If you are hurt, and want help, 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;’ and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result 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; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Phases_of_the_Moon.png

The moon is not yet full, but it is ‘waxing’ or in the first quarter growing into a full moon, indicating the initial moments of a great event. After describing him in great detail, he asks her what she was doing on the causeway. There follows an important quote regarding the moon. Jane herself admits it is a positive omen, which assists her as she walks at night, and metaphorically through her own, uncertain life. It is also significant that the mood is shining directly on Thornfield Hall, signaling it out as a safe place for her.

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, ‘if you have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?’
‘From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter.’
‘You live just below—do you mean at that house with the battlements?’ pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that, by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
‘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.’

Rochester horse

Jane herself describes the moon as an element of security. It is her home, the place where she feels safe, which, at the moment, is Thornfield Hall. The moon lights her path, showing her the way to her errand and back home. It has also enabled her to scrutinise Mr. Rochester carefully, pointing out to her a person who will have a great influence on her life. We saw in part one, that Miss Temple was introduced to Jane in a similar way.

On her way back from posting the letter, she lingers at the gates of Thornfield Hall before entering. She watches the moon and the stars in awe, aware that something of great importance has occurred, although she is not yet able to fathom what has happened.

I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house—from the grey-hollow filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me—to that sky expanded before me,—a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins glow when I viewed them.
Little things recall us to earth; the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and stars, opened a side-door, and went in.

She soon realizes that the man she met was her employer. The following day, Mrs. Fairfax informs her that Mr. Rochester requires her presence for tea in the drawing-room. Mr. Rochester makes the usual inquiries an employer might make about her family, past life, and how she came to work at his house.

The conversation then takes a strange turn and he accuses her of being a witch and using magic, with the help of her ‘people’ and the moonlight, to throw him off his horse in their first meeting the previous day. She tells him jokingly there are no such beings in England any more.

‘I thought not. And so you were 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 I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned ice on the causeway?’
I shook my head. ‘The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago,’ said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. ‘And not even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of them. I don’t think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will ever shine on their revels more.’

He also asks her to play the piano and show him her drawings, and comments on one of them in particular:

These eyes in the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!’

The second painting he examines belongs to a Greek legend. It portrays the evening star and a hill with a woman’s bust rising into the sky, which he immediately identifies as Selena was a goddess of Greek mythology associated with the moon and even regarded as the personification of the moon. He asks Jane, “Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos.”

Selena is commonly depicted with a crescent moon, as in this picture, often accompanied by stars; or a lunar disc.

800px-Altar_Selene_Louvre_Ma508
The Moon-goddess Selene or Luna accompanied by the Dioscuri, or Phosphoros (the Morning Star) and Hesperos (the Evening Star). Marble altar, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. From Italy.

In Greek legend Latmos, or more correctly Mt Latmos, is where the goddess Selene first saw and fell in love with Endymion, vowing to protect him for ever. He tells her to leave him, as soon as he realizes that he has associated her with the goddess. It is interesting that Jane, herself, does not make this association. It is his own fear of the emotions she has stirred in him that makes him practically throw the three women out of the room.

It is interesting to notice how Mr. Rochester has a contrasting view of the moon to Jane’s. He fears the moon and considers it a negative omen. Mr. Rochester associates the moon with female love or lust, which he fears, and witchcraft, which he also associates with love spells. The reader is aware that he is a tormented man, and that this torment is due to unfavourable experiences with women. We have no proof yet, but it seems he does not want to fall prey to another woman brought to him by the moon. He probably also associates the moon with his wife’s lunacy, but of course, at this point, the reader is not yet aware of any of these events.

In part three we will learn more about why Mr. Rochester considers the moon as a negative omen.

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Madwoman in the Attic (Part II)

The madwoman in the attic has been reivindicated by both postcolonialists and feminists as a symbol of patriarchal oppression and social injustice. According to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, in her influential essay, Three women’s texts and a critique of imperialism, it is impossible to approach nineteenth-century British literature without bearing in mind that Imperialism, constituted “a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English.”

Spivak belongs to the so-called second-wave of feminist theoreticians writing mainly in the 1970s and 80s comprised by authors such as Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Kate Millet, whose Sexual Politics (1970) is the best known work of this period. Gilbert and Gubar’s work reviewed in my previous post was written within this time frame, as was Elaine Showalter’s influential and inspiring work on women novelists in A Literature of Their Own (1978), more recently revised in her article, Twenty Years on: “A Literature of Their Own” Revisited
Their views can be summarized in Barbara Johnson’s famous quote, “the question of gender is a question of language.” The feminist approach is based on the assumption that that gender difference is located in and transferred through language. And subsequently, the language used to transmit culture through literature, was high on their targets for criticism. However, Feminist Literary Criticism was soon to join forces with Postcolonial Criticism. Spivak was one of the first academics who related to the rise of feminisms among women of color in the area of Postcolonial Studies by examining the effects of political independence upon subaltern, or subproletarian women, in third world countries.

In the above mentioned article, Spivak has taken Charlotte Bronte´s novel and Jean Rhys’s 1960s ‘writing back’ or reinterpretation of the events prior to Jane Eyre’s appearance at Thornfield Hall, as her starting point for a literary reinterpretation of Patriarchy and Colonialism in their diverse representations of ‘the mad Creole’ (in Rochester’s words).

Firstly, I would like make it clear, as Spivak did herself, that this is in no way a criticism of the author, Charlotte Bronte, whose intentions we cannot fully gauge, but of the characters she recreated and we are free to reinterpret. In any case, it is my opinion, that Bronte was well aware of Rochester’s lack of character; after all she portrayed him in with all his faults. She was however subtle enough to show him through the ‘blind’ eyes of his beloved Jane Eyre, but that does not mean that her eyes are truthful. Jane is not a reliable narrator with respect to Rochester: she is a woman blindly in love. The reader, on the other hand need not be blindly in love with him, too. Although many have succumbed to his spell, Rochester is the real villain in Jane Eyre.

The figure of Bertha Mason is, according to Spivak, produced by the rise of imperialism. She is a white Jamaican Creole, who is portrayed both by Jane and Rochester (through Jane’s reinterpretation of Rochester’s words), on the frontier between the human and the animal. This is Jane’s famous description of her when she first saw her in her prison-attic at Thornfield Hall, after the interrupted wedding to Rochester:

“The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognized well that purple face,—those bloated features.”

Rochester’s description of her is no less pejorative. He refers to her as: “The lunatic is both cunning and malignant;”, and “What a pigmy intellect she had, and what giant propensities!”, and “Bertha Mason is mad; and she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three generations? Her mother, the Creole, was both a madwoman and a drunkard!—”

Forty years after Jane Eyre was published, Jean Rhys, was born on the Caribbean Island of Dominica, where she read the novel as a child, she was moved by Bertha Mason: “I thought I’d try to write her a life.” Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1965, is Bertha’s life from her childhood to her death.

Spivak’s essay reminds us that in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Narcissus’ madness is disclosed when he recognizes his other as his self: “iste ego sum.” in WSS Bertha Antoinette sees her other self in the mirror: “I went into the hall again with the tall candle in my hand. It was then that I saw her — the ghost. The woman with streaming hair. She was surrounded by a gilt frame but I knew her” (WSS, p. 154). The gilt frame encloses a mirror in whose reflection bertha sees her other self. But who is this other self? Is it Bertha or is it Jane Eyre? After this dream vision, Bertha finally understands her mission at Thornfield Hall: “now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do” (WSS, pp. 155-56), and she burns down the house and takes her life, ironically so that her other self (Jane Eyre) can become the heroine of Bronte’s novel and marry Mr. Rochester.

Bertha was originally created in Jane Eyre as a secondary, yet essential character within the novel. Any reinterpretation of this character must be based on surfacing the subtext of the original novel. That is, of unearthing the subtleties of her story. Bertha never speaks, she was metaphorically gagged, until Jean Rhys wrote her story and reminded us that everyone has the right to be heard albeit belatedly, in the 20th century, in spite of being denied a voice in the 19th century. Bertha cannot move or be seen, because she is literally confined in a windowless room. Unseen and Unheard. She is an invisible, voiceless, and imprisoned human being, and yet in spite of this Rochester has been hailed as the hero of the novel for over 160 years!

Well, it’s time to question Bertha’s madness and listen to what she had to say. It’s time to see her, hear her, and let her have a life! Jean Rhys started the ball rolling with her prequel WSS, and I’ve picked up the ball and kept it rolling with a sequel. My novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, (to be published very shortly on Amazon. There’s a preview on another page on this blog!), takes up the story twenty-three years after Bertha’s death. However, she is powerfully present throughout my novel, from page one. I have given Bertha a very strong voice. I’ve given her a daughter to speak up for her and claim her dues, and I’ve also reconciled her with Jane Eyre Rochester, who has grown up and out of love, so she can see Bertha as she really was, not as Rochester wanted her to be seen.