Jane Eyre Chapters 16-20
Jane rises early the next morning, and on her way downstairs, comes upon Grace Poole sewing rings on the curtains in Mr. Rochester's room. She is suspicious of Grace obviously, and begins to question her about the previous night's events. But Grace is only indifferent and says that Mr. Rochester fell asleep with the candle lit, reading, and thus his bedclothes caught on fire. Jane is non-plussed by the entire interrogation, which begins to be more of one led by Grace. Jane is suspect as to why Rochester would keep an insane woman like Grace in the house, under employment; she ventures that perhaps they used to be lovers, but quickly dismisses such a possibility. This train of thought leads her to her own thoughts about herself from last night, and Rochester's words--a sudden flush comes over her appearance. Grace Poole and she are very different; as Bessie said, she is a lady, even if she is not beautiful.
She soon finds out that Mr. Rochester has left that morning for the Leas, Mr. Eshton's place, who is a fellow rich acquaintance, to dine, play, and be entertained for perhaps a week or more. Mrs. Fairfax then describes the appearance of the most attractive of that party, a Miss Blanche Ingram: Blanche is beautiful, exotic with sloping shoulders, a long graceful neck, olive complexion, noble features, a gay personality, lots of talents like song and music, bright brilliant eyes, and a full head of fine black curls. From Mrs. Fairfax's description, it is obvious that Rochester and Blanche often pair up and entertain each other, and Jane unconsciously feels immediately jealous. After this, Jane resides her to extinguishing completely any passionate notions she held for Rochester, or that she felt he held for herself. She chastises herself sharply for being so arrogant, so vain, so above her own class and station in life to imagine such feelings to exist.
She draws a grave and plain self-portrait of herself, "the plain, poor governess" and a striking miniature in bright colors of the famed Blanche, to remind herself of this fact. Mr. Rochester does not return for another week and a half, until Mrs. Fairfax receives a letter that he, and all his fine guests will be arriving the coming Thursday. The house is set into a bluster of cleaning, cooking and decoration of all the spare rooms as a result; classes are suspended temporarily for Adèle, as Jane is helping to cook and Adèle is too wound up to study.
Finally the grand party arrives, led by Mr. Rochester on his horse, Mesrour, and alongside a lady horsewoman, who is Blanche Ingram. The party enters, sits to dinner, all the while Jane and Adèle keep out of sight. Jane and Adèle are finally shown in to the drawing-room of guests by Mrs. Fairfax, where Adèle plays the adorable puppet, and Jane is quite unnoticed or disdained by the uptight guests. The men finally join the female guests in the drawing-room, and Jane is given the opportunity to examine both Blanche and Mr. Rochester side by side.
Jane realizes while watching Rochester with his crew, that she has fallen in love with him, despite her better efforts to 'extirpate' the growing seeds of such a love. The rest of the night proceeds, while the ladies chat and gush with the men, quite loudly and affectedly. Jane leaves near the end quickly, but is apprehended warmly by Rochester in the hallway; he expresses concern for her tired appearance and his affectionate and intimate tone has returned. He wishes that she and Adèle be present at the festivities every night, at his request.
The party stays for almost another two weeks, Jane at attention every night. She is now convinced that Mr. Rochester is planning to marry Blanche Ingram, for he does nothing but court he, but with dispassion and a touch of sarcasm: Jane can never tell if he truly means his felicitousness or is in mockery. Blanche on the other hand, she can read like a book--she is false, annoying, silly, conniving, boring and immensely stupid as well as superficial. Despite Jane's surging feelings of pain about the implied impending marriage, she sees where Blanche misses the mark of her talk and repartee with Rochester, where if she had just been more sincere or less affected, she might have won his heart. Throughout this time, Jane is terribly confused as to the reason for Rochester's decision, even though he has alluded only to the "fact that I will be married soon!", since they do not seem to get along. Her thoughts on the marriage are validated when a silly game of charades by the guests reveals Rochester and Blanche to be partnering up in a mock-marriage ceremony.
A mystery man, a Mr. Mason arrives while Rochester is apparently 'away on business' one day. Jane notices him immediately as quite the opposite sort of fellow than Rochester, and she thinks it is odd that they should be close friends. Suddenly the doorman announces that an old crone, a hag palmist is at the door, demanding to tell the fortunes of the young and single women in the room. The arrogant women guests are either outraged or pampered with vanity; Blanche calms the rest of the crowd by saying she wants her fortune read, and leaves immediately. But she returns twenty minutes later quite changed--her face is straight and humorless, she is not gay at all. A bunch of other ladies go in as a group, and then finally Jane, at the request of the hag herself.
Jane is suspicious and has no feelings for the game. She notices that the hag is oddly dressed and mysteriously not female, but being in such a changed and odd state from Mr. Rochester's absence, she doesn't notice that much. The hag asks leading questions, telling more the fortune of Rochester than Jane herself, which she comments on. The Sibyl comments on the impending marriage of Blanche and Rochester, as Jane becomes terribly carried away with her jealousies and thoughts regarding this very subject. Finally, after a prolonged time while the Sibyl has regarded her face in the gleam of the fire, Jane becomes suspicious--the hag is no hag but actually Mr. Rochester:
"Where was I? Did I wake or sleep? Had I been dreaming? Did I dream still? The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her gesture, and all were familiar tome as my own face in a glass--as the speech of my own tongue...I looked...The flame illuminated her hand stretched out: roused now, and on the alert for discoveries, I at once noticed that hand. It was no more the withered limb of eld than my own; it was a rounded supple member, with smooth fingers...a broad ring flashed on the little finger, and stooping forward, I looked at it, and saw a gem I had seen a hundred times before. Again, I looked at the face; which was no longer turned from me--
'Well, Jane, do you know me?' asked the familiar voice...
And Mr. Rochester stepped out of his disguise." Chapter 19, pg. 177-8
Rochester reveals himself to Jane, much to her surprise! He explains his prank for personal reasons related to his guests--one in particular that he informed Blanche Ingram, under the guise of the Sybil, that Rochester's fortune was only one-third of its true sum. Jane is about to leave, but tells Rochester of the man who has come to see him, a Mr. Mason from the West Indies. Rochester is suddenly struck cold and shocked; he questions Jane as to how much this man has told his guests, but Jane assures him that they are happy and joyful inside. Immediately, she shows Mr. Mason into see Mr. Rochester.
That night strange things occur! Jane is woken up in the middle of the night by a voice directly above her room which is laughing, screaming, shrieking and yelling for Rochester's name. Jane gets up immediately and leaves her room; all the other guests are up in the dark hallways as well, most the women shrieking and almost passing out from the dark and scare. No one can decide who it is--a robber, someone is ill? Finally Rochester emerges from the third floor attic room, as the young, female guest annoyingly cling about him. He abruptly explains that a servant on the third floor has simply had a nightmare--thought she saw an apparition and so proceeded to scream and shriek like mad. This reason suffices for the guests, whom he persuades to return to their rooms. But Jane is aware that it is a lie, and she returns to her room, sitting up in bed, waiting lest Rochester should need her help with anything.
Indeed a knock at her door does sound almost an hour later; it is Mr. Rochester and he requests that she come upstairs with him, that he needs her aid in something. They fetch a sponge and smelling salts, and go upstairs to the room where Grace Poole usually stays. There, Jane finds the man, Mr. Mason bleeding terribly and almost unconscious. Rochester instructs Jane to soak up the blood that is coming from his deep wounds, while Rochester quickly sends for the doctor. Jane is alone. Almost two hours later, her nerves well-enough shaken by random laughs and the terror of the violence, Rochester returns with a doctor, Carter, who sees to quickly bandaging and cleaning the man's wounds. Jane hears their conversation and comes to understand that the raving woman, presumably Grace Poole, has actually cut and bitten Mr. Mason's shoulder and arm, badly. Quickly, Mr. Mason is carted downstairs before anyone wakes, and sent away in a carriage with the doctor, Rochester saying that he will visit him in a few days.
Jane is ragged, tired, and emotionally drained. Nevertheless, she and Rochester walk and sit in the garden for a few moments, as dawn is rising, before going inside. He gives Jane a red rose from the garden, and they vaguely discuss the night's events. Rochester gives Jane no further information about the event, only telling her that he must keep Grace Poole on, for reasons she will someday understand. Rochester speaks to Jane of her character, her goodness in helping him, and doing what will please him, as she herself says. He speaks how she is knowledgeable of the difference between right and wrong, which carries over to her actions. Finally, Rochester asks Jane to suppose that a man, very early in his youth, had made a great injurious mistake, an error. But now, that man wanted to redeem himself, to make his life better, through another fellow creature--would this be right? Jane replies that the inner spiritual and moral rules of a man are never determined by anyone but himself.
Continuing with his pretense of marrying Blanche Ingram, he infers that this marriage shall renew him, to Jane. Jane's heart falls a bit, but she does not show it. Instead, she listens as he cries,
"'But the instrument--the instrument! God, who does the work, ordains the instrument. I have myself--I tell it you without parable--been a worldly, dissipated, restless man; and I believe I have found the instrument of my cure, in--'" Chapter 20, pg. 192
Rochester alludes to an instrument, once pure and clean, which may renew him--all too soon to be--Jane.