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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 15

Rochester keeps his promise not to "be conventional" with Jane. One day, as they walk together on the grounds of the mansion, he confesses that Celine Varens, Adele's mother, was his mistress. The love affair ended on a sour note when Rochester went to visit Celine unexpectedly one night and overheard her making fun of him in a conversation with a French officer. Celine, who had been a dancer with the French opera, later ran off to Italy with still another lover, abandoning Adele. He tells Jane he doesn't believe that Adele is his child but has decided to take responsibility for seeing that she grows up away from the "slime and mud" of Paris in a wholesome English atmosphere.

NOTE:

For many young Englishmen, a trip to Paris meant their first chance to live away from the watchful eyes of their families-hence, the English view of Paris as a very immoral place.

Even while Mr. Rochester is making this frank confession, there are hints that he's not telling Jane everything. At one point he interrupts his story to glare darkly in the direction of Thornfield's battlements. He tells Jane that he has seen a vision of his destiny taunting him: "You like Thornfield? Like it if you can! Like it if you dare!"


Not long after, Jane is wakened in the middle of the night by a "demoniac laugh"- this time coming from right outside her bedroom. When she opens her door, she smells something burning. Someone has set fire to the heavy curtains around Mr. Rochester's bed. Jane tries to wake him, but the smoke has made him groggy. She douses the flames with a pitcher of water, which rouses him. When she tells him about hearing Grace Poole's laugh in the hall, he agrees-not very convincingly-that it must have been Grace who set the fire. Rochester makes Jane promise not to mention the incident to anyone.

When Jane starts to go back to her room, Rochester hints in a roundabout way that she might like to stay and comfort him. She ignores the suggestion, but secretly she is thrilled by this evidence of Rochester's interest in her. She is already well on her way to falling in love.

NOTE:

Manners and morals have changed so much since the 19th century that it's possible you won't realize how daring this last scene actually is. For a governess to be in her employer's bedroom in the middle of the night was rather risque, no matter how good a reason there might be for it. Even more than most women, governesses had to be very careful of their reputations. A hint of scandal, even if there was no basis for it, could make it impossible to find work. What wife would hire a governess who might be tempted to carry on with her husband or a grown son? This is one reason why Jane is very careful not to let anyone, even Rochester himself, know how she really feels about him.

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