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

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XIV

My Third and Most Peculiar Conversation with Mr Rochester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hope of what, sir?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘What about, sir?’

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

I sat and said nothing.

‘You are dumb, Miss Eyre.’

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

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

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

‘Do as you please, sir.’

‘That is no answer. Reply clearly.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Then you will degenerate still more, sir.’

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

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

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

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

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

He was thoughtful, and I stood to leave.

‘Where are you going?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘It has struck nine, sir.’

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

We shall see in the following chapters.

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

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

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

See you next week for chapter 15. 

Images from Pixabay

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

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter XIII

My First Conversation with Mr Rochester

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Let Miss Eyre be seated,’ said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And you came from—?’

‘From Lowood school, in—shire.’

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

‘Eight years.’

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

‘I have none.’

‘Do you remember them?’

‘No.’

‘Do you have any family?”

“None that I know of.”

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

‘For whom, sir?’

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

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

‘Who recommended you to come here?’

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

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

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

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

‘No, sir.’

‘Have you seen much society?’

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

‘Have you read much?’

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

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

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And you girls probably worshipped him.’

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

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

About ten.’

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

I assented.

‘Can you play?’

‘A little.’

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

I departed, obeying his directions.

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

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

‘No, indeed!’ I interjected.

‘Fetch me your portfolio.”

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

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

‘Where did you get your copies?’

‘Out of my head.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Well, is he?’

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

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

 ‘Why?’

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

‘What about?’

‘Family troubles, for one thing.’

‘But he has no family.’

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next week for chapter 14. 

Images from Pixabay

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

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 12

How I Met Mr Rochester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Whose house is it?’

‘Mr. Rochester’s.’

‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’

‘No, I have never seen him.’

‘He is not resident, then?’

‘No.’

‘Can you tell me where he is?’

‘I cannot.’

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

‘I am the governess.’

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

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

‘Yes, sir.’

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

‘No.’

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

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

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

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

‘What dog is this?’ I asked Leah.

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

I went upstairs to take off my things.

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next week for chapter 13. 

Images from Pixabay

Autumn in Jane Eyre

The autumn months of September, October and November witness major events in both Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester’s lives.

Jane Eyre starts narrating her autobiography in autumn, specifically in November, ‘a drear November day’ she calls it. The novel has an oppressive and gloomy beginning in which she tells the reader about her loveless and lonely childhood at Gateshead, with her heartless Aunt Reed and bullying cousins, Georgina and John.

Jane is trapped in a freezing outdoor climate with an equally frosty atmosphere inside the house, as she states in her very first paragraph.

‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.’

And there we have one of the major themes in the novel, freedom, or in this case lack of freedom represented by the confinement she is subject to outside, due to the weather, and inside as she is denied access to family reunions and even locked in a room.

However, Jane’s experience of Autumn is not always so miserable.

Eight years later, after graduating at Lowood and taking on a teaching position there, she decides she wants to widen her horizons, so she advertises for a job as a governess.

‘…towards the close of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

‘Are there any letters for J.E.?’ I asked.

And this is when she receives Mrs. Fairfax’s reply, offering her a job at Thornfield. Jane travels to Thornfield Hall that same autumn, specifically in October and she finds everything there pleasing.

She arrives in the evening, but she describes her first morning there as a ‘a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, 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, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’

Jane is finally feeling calm and happy which contrasts to the opening chapter which starts with a dreary autumn.

The reader and Jane can presume that her luck is changing and that a better life full of new opportunities lies ahead. She has her duties, which enable her to earn a salary, but she is not trapped at Thornfield. She is her own boss. No one bullies her. She’s starting to live her life as a free person, which is what Jane desires.

One of her most famous phrases in the novel is:

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Jane is a prisoner at the beginning of the novel, and she’s started her road to freedom once she arrives at Thornfield Hall.

The following November, Jane learns that she has inherited a fortune from her uncle John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, when St John gives her the solicitor’s letter and she confesses her real identity. It’s also when she learns St John and his sisters Mary and Diana are Jane’s cousins.

Another crucial event to the plot, which took place in autumn was the fire which burnt down Thornwood Hall. It occurred during the harvest, so probably between late September and early October.

It was a ‘dreadful calamity’ as Jane is told when she returns to find Rochester, but really, it meant that Rochester had become a widower and consequently a free man. It was a perfect end to her rival, the first Mrs Rochester, and although Mr Rochester was injured, he survived and was able to remarry.

Curiously Mr Rochester had married Bertha Antoinette Mason in Autumn, too.

‘I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D.—(a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield Hall, in the county of—, and of Ferndean Manor, in—shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at—church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church—a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.’’

So for Rochester his ill fated and according to his account, mistaken marriage, began and ended in autumn, specifically in October.

The novel ends in summer, but it is because of the events which occurred the previous autumn that they are both free at last.

Jane has refused St John’s offer of marriage and she has inherited a fortune, while Rochester has lost his main property but he is still a wealthy man and overall, he is free from his ‘mad’ wife.

‘I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal—one with whom I might argue—one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.’

They are both financially, emotionally and legally free, so they are able to marry for love and live as equals.

Jane believes she has her happy ending and urges her readers to believe it too, but as Orson Wells once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

 

I couldn’t let it go.

Jane Eyre leaves too many spaces between the lines. There are countless unanswered questions about Bertha, the first Mrs Rochester’s life and death, her brother, Richard’s role in his sister’s marriage and confinement, and Mr Rochester’s abundant lies and manipulation. On the other hand, what about Jane’s intelligence and fiercely independent nature, would she be content to spend the rest of her life exclusively devoted to an ailing and irritable husband in a remote, manor house?

There was so much that I wanted to explore, and that’s what led me to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but I warn you, it is not for any unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.

 

Letter H #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Husband

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. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Husband. Edward Rochester himself will tell us all about his life. This is Edward Rochester’s autobiography.

H

My name is Edward Fairfax Rochester. My honourable surname, dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. It’s etymology is related to a fortress, ‘chester’ meaning Roman fort in Old English. My family has lived in Yorkshire since the 12th century. My surname was briefly changed to ‘de Rochester’ after the Conquest, which was probably when my ancestor moved from Kent, where there were too many Norman invaders, to Yorkshire.

Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

My first famous ancestor was Damer de Rochester, a brave soldier who had been struck by a cannon ball on Marston Moor in 1642, fighting for the Parliamentarians against the Royalists. My father used to say that was why King George, whom he considered a vengeful man, had denied my grandfather a Peerdom.

My mother’s surname is also of ancient Anglo-Saxon origins. In this case, the Fairfax were landed gentry who have always lived in Yorkshire. My mother’s older brother, retained all the land, as was customary. Her father remarried, when his wife died, and her younger step-brother, was later disowned and became a clergyman. My mother was rather fond of her little brother, so she insisted my father should employ him as vicar at Hay church, and when he died, his wife, Mrs. Fairfax, was employed as our housekeeper.

Mrs. Fairfax was a good woman who knew her place and never boasted of her husband’s relationship with the landowning Fairfax family. My parents cut off their relationship with the Fairfax shortly after they married. My mother’s family considered the Rochesters too fierce and warlike. I’ll admit, my father was never a patient man, much like myself, but he was an honourable Rochester.

Haddon_Hall

Our house, Thornfield Hall, and the nearby church, was built by my ancestors in the 12th century, shortly after moving to Yorkshire. Additions were made in the 13th and the 17th centuries.

The Hay district church stood just beyond the gates of Thornfield Hall. It was a small village place of worship, which was erected, when the original house was built in the 12th century. My grandfather renovated the older derelict building. It was the church where my grandparents were buried, where my parents married and were buried, and where my brother, Roland, was buried, too, in the family vault at the front of the altar. It was the same altar where I had stood as Jane’s groom, twice. It is where we christened our son, too. My unfortunate first wife, Bertha Mason, was buried anonymously in the graveyard.

This quiet, secluded place of worship, which would also be my last resting place, had been Roman Catholic before Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical reform, and although we had become Anglicans, not wanting to vex the King, there are still many reminders of our ancient religion, both in the church and in our minds.

Adele

I once confessed to Jane that I had brought Adele over from France when her mother died on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work. Adele was my expiation, and she was the person who brought Jane to me, so perhaps we shouldn’t have swapped our ancient beliefs so easily. In any case, officially, I’m an Anglican.

I was the spare, the second son, who would not inherit my ancestor’s lands. I hated being second best to my brother, simply because he had been born first. He was a whining, fair-haired and sickly Fairfax, like my mother. I was my father, and grandfather’s living image. I was the Rochester, but my brother, Rowland Rochester was destined to inherit what was mine. I realized I would always be the aimless and unlikely replacement to my brother, and behaved recklessly in my youth.

My father and my brother schemed to get me as far away as possible, out of the country, to be rid of the troublesome young man I had become. So, my father provided me with a wealthy marriage. He had an old acquaintance, Mr. Mason, a West India planter and merchant, whose possessions were vast. Mason had a son, Richard and a daughter, Bertha Antoinette. He offered thirty thousand pounds as dowry for his daughter, and my father signed the deal. I left college and was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride already courted for me. My father told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty, and this was no lie. She was a beautiful woman, tall, dark, and majestic, and I was suitably dazzled. Her family wished to secure me because I was of a good race, but they did not tell me the truth until it was too late.

Bertha

Miss Mason was Mr. Mason’s step-daughter. She was a creole, like her mother, his first wife, who was shut up in a lunatic asylum, and there was a younger brother, who was a dumb idiot. I soon learned her splendid dresses, and demure glances were a farce, because she had been familiar with other men on the island. I had been tricked to marring her.

I found her nature wholly alien to mine, her tastes obnoxious to me, her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and singularly incapable of being led to anything higher. In short, she had a pigmy mind. I found that I could not pass a single evening, nor even a single hour of the day with her. Soon she showed me her outbreaks of violent and unreasonable temper.

I lived with that monster for four years, on that infernal island, until I received news that both my father and my brother had died, and the Rochester Estate was mine, at last. I brought her back with me. Her brother insisted and what could I do? He reminded me of the dowry and I told him that it was insufficient for everything I had put up with, and still had to endure.

I made sure she was well fed and comfortably hidden in my attic. I paid a trustworthy woman to look after her. She had everything she needed, but her madness spiraled after our arrival in England. She escaped and tried to burn the house down, on several occasions

I could not stand living under the same roof as her, even though I never saw her, but I heard her. I began to abhor Thornfield Hall, so I travelled to the continent in search of a good and intelligent woman. Instead I fell under the spell of the beautiful but fickle opera singer, Celine Varens.

Six months before Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall, Celine gave me her daughter, Adele, affirming she was mine. I tell you Pilot is more like me than Adele! Celine abandoned her child, and ran away to Italy with a musician or singer. I am convinced 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.

You see, my goodwill has always turned against me. I vowed never to become involved with a beautiful woman again.

Horse

One day, nine years after returning from Jamaica, I met a small, pale, elf-like creature who stole my heart. I fell in love with her youth, her naiveté, her quick, sharp mind and her generous spirit enraptured me. However, I soon learnt she was as independent and headstrong as I was selfish and scheming. I had to have her as my wife, not my employee or my mistress. I wanted her skin on my skin, our bodies joined as soon as possible, so I devised a plan.

I thought she was too young to realize she loved me yet, so I had to make her feel jealous,  I invited Blanche Ingram, a beautiful woman, who was the antithesis of Jane. Blanche was tall, with raven hair and dark eyes. She wore expensive clothes and jewels to catch a husband. She was also a snob and a bitch. I would tease them both nicely. It was a game for my enjoyment. I knew Jane would win. She already had my heart and Blanche was only after my money. I would never marry a dark beauty again, I had already done that once. I wanted a real, English rose, on this occasion. An intelligent, soul mate. I wanted Jane Eyre.

Wedding

After Jane left Thornfield Hall, when Richard Mason cruelly interrupted my first wedding attempt, the lunatic’s madness escalated. She succeeded in burning down the house, and when she went up to the battlements to throw herself down, I tried to save her. I swear that’s why I went up there, but she threw herself off, after burning down my ancestral home.

I had lied, and I had broken the law, God’s law and man’s law, to make Jane mine. I even tried to ruin her, by trying to convince her to be my mistress. I would have done anything in my power to have her back at my side, but she disappeared like a summer breeze. I became a desperate and brooding beast living in a decrepit and secluded manor house with two old servants.

I was crippled. On one arm, I had neither hand nor nails, but a mere, ghastly stump. My face had ugly burn marks, and I was almost blind. My eyes could only perceive a glow. Everything around me was a ruddy shapeless cloud, until a year later, when my fairy returned.

Mr. Rochester Blind

After the fire, I had a long time to think about my deeds. I did wrong to Jane. I would have sullied my innocent flower, breathed guilt on her purity. I began to experience remorse, repentance, and the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I prayed that Jane would return to me and promised the heavens that I would be a better man. When she returned to me, I humbly entreated my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto.

After we married, I recovered the sight of one eye, and learned to cater for my needs with one hand, instead of two. I held my son in my arms and saw he was a Rochester, like me, and thanked God for the second chance I had been awarded. I would try to be the man Jane Eyre deserved for the rest of my days.

I know some people don’t believe in me, and I can understand that. They think I can’t change, but I know I can. I’m not sorry for my past, I did what I had to do. I was a reckless youth and I married the wrong woman, but I was misled by my father and enticed by selfish women. None of it was my fault.

I’m only sorry for the unjust way I treated Jane. You may think I’m not good enough for Jane, and that’s true, too, but I’m going to try to be a better man for her. I will not go back to my gallivanting ways and I will never hurt her again.

Jane3

Dear Reader, do you believe him?