Mr. Rochester’s past
Soon I discovered what Mr. Rochester meant when he said he had done wrong. One afternoon, while walking in the gardens of Thornfield, he told me the story of his love-affair in Paris with a French dancer, Celine.
‘Yes, Miss Eyre, I was young and foolish then. I was so in love with her that I rented a house and hired servants for her. I gave her a carriage and jewels, in fact I threw away a fortune on her, just like any fool in love. One evening I visited her but found she was out, so I waited on her balcony, smoking a cigar. I heard her carriage arriving. Imagine my horror at seeing her step out followed by a man! You’re so young, you’ve never felt love or jealousy, have you, Miss Eyre? You are floating along a quiet river now, you don’t see the water boiling at the foot of the great rocks, but one day you’ll come to a point in life’s stream where the wild force of the waves may destroy you, where the noisy rushing water may drown you! I am calm enough now, calm enough to like living here at Thornfield. I like it because it’s old, and grey, and dark, and yet I hate — ‘ He did not finish what he was saying, staring angrily up at the windows on the top floor of his house. It was a look of disgust, pain and shame. I could not understand what he meant, and wanted to hear more about Celine, so I encouraged him to finish the story.
‘What happened when she entered the house, sir?’
‘Oh, I’d forgotten Celine! By the way, it’s strange my telling you all this, but I know my secret’s safe with you, and I know, too, that it can’t have an evil influence on you — your mind’s too strong for that. Yes, I listened to her conversation with her lover, an elegant young fool, and I knew I was no longer in love with her. So I walked into the room, told her our relationship was over, and challenged her lover to fight me. Next day I shot him in the arm during our fight, thought that was the end of the whole thing, and left France. But a few months before, Celine had had a baby girl, Adele, and she claimed that Adele was my child. She may be, although I doubt it. So when, a few years later, Celine abandoned Adele and ran away to Italy with a singer, I went to Paris and brought Adele back to grow up in England.’
I felt proud that Mr. Rochester had trusted me with the story of his past life. I thought a lot about his character, and although I was aware of his faults, I also saw his goodness and kindness to me. From now on, my happiest moments were spent with him. I could not have imagined a better companion.
One night I was woken by a slight noise. I felt sure someone was outside my bedroom door. As I hurried to lock it, I called, ‘Who’s there?’ There was a strange, inhuman sound, then I heard a door shut upstairs on the top floor. ‘Was that Grace Poole?’ I wondered, trembling. My curiosity made me open the door, and I found the corridor full of smoke. I saw it was coming from Mr. Rochester’s door, which was slightly open. I completely forgot my fears and rushed into his room. He lay fast asleep, surrounded by flames and smoke. Even his sheets were on fire.
‘Wake up! Wake up!’ I shouted desperately, throwing water over him to put out the flames. Not until the fire was almost out did he wake up, swearing to find himself so wet.
‘Is there a flood?’ he cried. ‘No, sir,’ I answered, ‘but there’s been a fire.’
‘Jane Eyre, is it you and your magic?’ he asked. ‘Have you put a spell on me again? Did you intend to drown me this time?’
‘Please get up, sir. Someone has plotted to kill you!’ and I explained what I had heard and how I had put out the fire. He looked very serious, and thought for a few seconds.
‘Shall I fetch Mrs. Fairfax, sir, or the servants?’ I asked. ‘No, why bother them? Just stay here for a moment. I’m going up to the top floor. Don’t call anyone. I’ll be back soon.’
I waited, cold and tired, in his room for what seemed a very long time. Then I saw the light of his candle approaching through the darkness, and he appeared, looking pale and depressed.
‘Did you see anything when you opened your bedroom door?’ he asked, glancing sharply at me.
‘No, sir, only a candle on the floor.’
‘But you heard a strange laugh, did you say?’
‘Yes, I’ve heard it before. Grace Poole laughs like that.’
‘That’s it. It must have been Grace Poole. You’ve guessed it. I shall consider what to do about it. But meanwhile I’m glad you’re the only person who knows anything about all this. Say nothing to anybody else, and now, go back to your own room.’
‘Good night, then, sir,’ I said, moving towards the door. ‘What! Are you leaving me already!?’ he said, seeming surprised, although he had just told me to go, ‘and so coldly?’
‘You said I should go, sir.’
‘But not without saying goodbye, not without a kind word or two. Why, you’ve saved my life. I hate being in debt to anyone, but with you it’s different, Jane. I’m happy to owe you my life.’ His voice was trembling as he took both my hands in his. ‘I knew, when I first saw you, that you would do me good. I saw it in your eyes when I met you. I was right to like your smile and the magic in your face.’ There was energy in his voice and a strange light in his eyes.
‘I’m glad I happened to be awake,’ I said, ‘but I must go now. I’m cold.’ I knew I could not control my feelings much longer, and I needed time to think. But he still held on to my hands. Then I thought of a way of escaping.
‘I think I hear the servants moving, sir,’ I said.
‘Well, leave me,’ he said, and let me go. That night, or what was left of it, I could not sleep. My mind was full of confusing pictures and disturbed emotions.