Jane Eyre Chapters 11-15
Jane arrives in Millcote nearly sixteen hours later, cold and tired. A man is supposed to come to meet her at the George Inn, to drive her to Thornfield Hall. Finally the man comes, Jane is conveyed to Thornfield Hall, nearly an hour and a half drive from Millcote. She is greeted by Mrs. Fairfax that night, warmly, in a snug house adjacent to the Manor. Jane believes that Mrs. Fairfax is the owner of Thornfield Hall; she retires for bed in a snug room. The next day she finds out that Mrs. Fairfax is simply the housekeeper, and her future pupil, Miss Varens, is the ward of a Mr. Rochester. The next morning, Jane rises early and surveys the long hallways of the house; everything is very stately and imposing, dark and heavy.
Jane meets the pupil to whom she will be governess--Miss Adèle Varens and her "bonne" (Sophie, her nurse) from France. Adèle rattles off in French easily, as she has only just begun to learn English. Jane converses with her for a little while easily, being fluent from her years of study with Mme Pierrot, the French teacher at Lowood Institution. Adèle gives a short history of her life--her mother was an opera star in France who died a few years ago, of the friends who kept her for a while, and now Mr. Rochester who has promised to have her live with him in England. She is a sprightly and cheerful character, showing off her talents of singing, poetry recitation, dance and French to Jane Eyre.
Jane and Adèle retire to the library to do studies for half the day. After these studies Jane prepares a few drawing lessons for the next day, and while encountering Mrs. Fairfax, tries to exact an accurate character portrait of Mr. Rochester from her. Mrs. Fairfax is little help, not being very perceptive or descriptive; all that Jane can derive is that Mr. Rochester is a gentleman, likes his affairs to be exact, neat and managed, his family has always lived at Thornfield Hall, he is a just and fair landlord, and he is only slightly peculiar because he has traveled a lot, seen much of the world: he is enigmatic sometimes in his speech--one cannot tell if he is in jest or sincerity.
Mrs. Fairfax gives Jane a further tour of Thornfield Hall. The house is large and imposing, and according to Jane's mind, has the 'aspect of a home of the past'. To be exact, many paintings over the walls of relatives long past dead; the furniture spans the styles of the past several hundred years; Jane explains:
"All these relics gave...Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine to 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." Chapter 11, pg. 92
The old furniture and aura of heavy mystery do give Thornfield Hall an edge of romanticism for Jane. On the third floor, with Mrs. Fairfax, Jane ventures up the garret stairs to a set of passageways in the attic. Oddly and unexpectedly, she hears a sudden curious laugh coming from behind one door; the laugh is odd and almost monosyllabic--mirthless and preternatural. Jane calls for Mrs. Fairfax and asks her what the sound has come from. Mrs. Fairfax explains that it is Grace Poole, a servant hired to sew in the attic and assist the maid, Leah, with housework. Another hideous laugh erupts, and suddenly Grace Poole appears from behind the door. Mrs. Fairfax admonishes her and Leah to be much more quiet--Jane is a bit unnerved and suspicious, but she and Mrs. Fairfax leave without event and retire to dinner.
Jane surveys the features of those she attends to at Thornfield Hall, with contentedness. Mrs. Fairfax is pleasant to associate with and Jane feels much in control of the tutelage of Adèle; she is a perfectly docile and acceptable student, if not containing within in her character no particularly unique, superior or inferior talents--she is quite ordinary if not a little lacking in profundity for her age. Jane feels a good enough affection and connection to Adèle for their work together, and a satisfaction in the well-adjusted yet never harmful path she is preparing for Adèle. She also admits, while traversing the hills and long dim sky-line around Thornfield:
"I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach...I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes..." Chapter 12, pg. 95
Jane speaks of the visions--passionate, glowing, full of fire and life, which often rise in her imagination on some of her long ventures in the dark halls of Thornfield Hall; visions and adventures which she desires but has not actually experienced.
The odd and often hysterical laughter of what Jane assumes to be Grace Poole, in the attic, has become something of a regular occurrence to overhear. There is still the same ha! ha! and eccentric cackling, and often Jane sees Grace Poole coming and going from the attic rooms, carrying trays with tea, food or a porter pot. October, November and December pass quickly at Thornfield Hall. Jane is contented with her teaching and the company of the house's inmates.
On a particularly cold December day, Jane volunteers to take the two mile walk to Hay, a nearby town, to post a letter belonging to Mrs. Fairfax. Glad for the walk, Jane has agreed to Adèle's petition for a holiday from school, due to a cold. Toward the end of a rather calming and pleasant walk along the road peppered with new roses and hawthorn bushes, a rude noise of an approaching person on horseback rises in the distance. Jane sees a large lion-like hairy dog appear first bounding along without notice of Jane; a rider on horseback, a man, follows--galloping fast until he gives a sudden yell, and they both are down. The horse has slipped on a sheet of ice, and as Jane asks if her services are needed, the rider rises, readjusts the horse, and his own sprained ankle. While waiting she is able to survey the appearance of the traveler, who she is later to find out is Mr. Rochester. Rather cleverly, Mr. Rochester questions her unawares, of her mission and status, until he finds she is the governess of Thornfield Hall. She aids him to his horse, and after recovering his whip, he is off, and she once again on her way to Hay with the letter.
Jane arrives back at Thornfield Hall after delivering the letter; she finds the grate warm and Mrs. Fairfax announces that Mr. Rochester has just arrived--he is in the dining-room with Adèle and Pilot, the dog. The surgeon has just come in to see him, because he fell on the lane and has sprained his ankle: suddenly Jane realizes she has just met Mr. Rochester! Jane and Adèle share tea with Mr. Rochester that evening, at which point we are introduced to his brusque and commanding manner, although not mean in any way; he cross-examines Jane on have a dozen subjects, surveying her paintings and abilities, wittily engaging in pointed conversation.
We find from Mrs. Fairfax that Mr. Rochester is often changeful and abrupt because of his nature, and also because of family troubles which absorb him painfully; she gives a vague story of Mr. Rochester missing his dead brother, Rowland. She also speaks of financial arrangements which led to much discomfort for Mr. Rochester in his youth, dealing with inheritance. In any case, Mr. Rochester rarely spends more than a fortnight at once, at Thornfield Hall.
Over the next four weeks evening meetings commence from time to time, at the request of Mr. Rochester, with Jane, himself, often Adèle, and Mrs. Fairfax as well; between Jane and Rochester, conversation is full and playful, almost a mind-game of wits and who can be most perceptive and sharp of tongue. Often Mr. Rochester will see Jane for a while, and then be absorbed with important business with his tenants and lawyers for many days in succession. Jane herself admits that she does find Mr. Rochester quite peculiar, but not bad, just troubled, blunt, abrupt, direct and honest, altogether perceptive to a fault. Jane tells Mr. Rochester of her history and the Reeds, and begins to open up to her the history of his life.
But there are no lies between Jane and Mr. Rochester; rather they converse as almost equals even though they are of different classes and Mr. Rochester is over twenty years Jane's superior in age. In many ways, Mr. Rochester speaks to Jane rudely and sharply; he is commanding in nature and often very diminutive toward her although never in a cruel manner. She admonishes him though, that he is no superior for age or experience, or such arrogant vanity as that, but rather because she is a paided governess in his charge. When asked if she feels he is handsome, she blurts without even thinking first:
'Ah! By my word! There is something singular about you,' said he: 'you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-bye, when they are directed piercingly to my face; as just now, for instance); and when one asks you a question, or makes a remark to which you are obliged to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at least brusque. What do you mean by it?'
'Sir, I was too plain: I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about appearances; that tastes differ; that beauty is of little consequence, or something of that sort.'
'You ought to have replied no such thing...Just so: I think so: and you shall be answerable for it. Criticize me: does my forehead not please you?'" Chapter 14, pg. 115
Mr. Rochester does indeed enjoy Jane's sharp intellect, her rationale, and her teasing if not also sarcastic tongue. The two do get along on this point, and a friendship develops. Jane lets down her guard and begins to welcome her often nightly chats with Mr. Rochester. Rochester admits to feeling greatly at ease around Jane, because she is inclined to listen calmly and non-judgmentally to her speaker, rather than push to narrate, herself.
During one of these evenings, Mr. Rochester tells Jane the history of Adèle and her run-away mother-opera dancer, Céline Varens. He became terribly infatuated with the French Céline, and soon, her lover. She pledged affection and love of his, despite his "unhandsome appearance". All goes well until one night, as Rochester has come on a surprise visit to Céline's hotel-room, her spies her alighting from a carriage with another man--a stupid charge of the Vicomte--cheating on him. He waits until the two go up to her room, kiss, and have a general bad-mouthing session of Mr. Rochester and his hideousness. Then, springing from his hiding-place behind the curtain balcony, he releases Céline of all obligations to him, and informs her that she must vacate the premises immediately, as it has been his money which has paid for her food, jewelry, clothes, carriage and hotel. The supposed child by his seed and Céline, Adèle Varens, was abandoned when her mother ran away; soon Rochester took her up as his ward, although he doesn't believe she is really his child.
This orphan state of Adèle makes Jane ever more sympathetic and predisposed to sympathy for her small student, which she expresses to Rochester. Expressing a gratitude at the present state of her emotions and self at Thornfield Hall, she questions how long Mr. Rochester will stay; he has already outstayed previous records of visits by six weeks.
The night of her musings, Jane is awakened by the devious and hysterical laugh once again, but this time it is coming from directly behind her bedroom door. Raps sound on the door, she calls out to no answer. Rising from bed, Jane puts on her frock and shawl, opens the door to find a candle burning outside her door, and heaps of blue thick smoke coming from the direction of Mr. Rochester's room. Jane immediately runs into his room, finds him asleep while almost his entire bed, sheets, and bed-curtain are engulfed in flames. Immediately she gets his basin of water and her own, putting out the fire in the flying of water pitchers; she then wakes Mr. Rochester who is confused and cursing because he is seated in a puddle of water. When he rouses, she explains the whole situation to him, her actions, and about the fire. Jane guesses that it is the crazed and dangerous Grace Poole again who is to blame, to which he admits. Jane begins to leave, but Mr. Rochester attends her a few moments more, thanking her for saving him, his tone changed, his affection more vivid, saying:
"'You have saved my life: I have a please in owning you so immense a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an obligation: but you: it is different;--I feel your benefits no burden, Jane...I knew,' he continued, 'you would do me good in some way, at some time;--I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not...strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing...My cherished preserver, good night!'" Chapter 15, pg. 133
Jane is a bit taken aback by Mr. Rochester's passion and sincerity, but she retires to her chamber in search of sleep. None ever comes though, as she sits up all night thinking, her emotions contrast between surges of joy and feverish delirium, coming from she knows not where. Finally, dawn comes.