For a week, Jane doesn’t hear anything about what Rochester’s doing; she tries to discipline herself and stop thinking about it, but she can’t. She starts wondering if she should quit her job as Adèle’s governess and get a new one somewhere else.
After another week (so now two weeks have gone by since the fire and Rochester’s sudden departure), Mrs. Fairfax receives a letter from Rochester telling her that he’s coming back to Thornfield in a few days with a bunch of friends.
Everyone spends the three days making frantic preparations for all the guests – except Adèle, who is an absolute pest and keeps getting underfoot.
Jane is also helping Mr. Fairfax get the house ready for everyone, which is why Adèle has nothing better to do than flounce around being obnoxious.
When Jane isn’t busy working, she wonders what’s going on with Grace Poole, who spends almost all her time alone on the third floor and doesn’t help anyone with anything.
Jane overhears a conversation between one of the maids, Leah, and another servant, a charwoman (house cleaner). Apparently Grace Poole gets paid more than anyone else at Thornfield, and Leah thinks that what Grace does for Mr. Rochester is well worth the money. Jane doesn’t learn any more than that, because they notice her listening and stop talking. The charwoman is surprised that Jane doesn’t know Thornfield’s secret, but nobody seems to want to tell her.
Finally it’s Thursday, the day Mr. Rochester said he would arrive with his guests. Everyone puts on their nicest clothes and sits around waiting for them to arrive. When they finally ride up, some in carriages and some on horses, a beautiful woman in a purple dress is riding beside Rochester. It’s Blanche Ingram!
The visitors enter, and Jane sits with Adèle, half-listening to their noise and half trying to keep Adèle from running down and bothering them.
The women come upstairs to change their clothes after the trip, and Jane sneaks downstairs to get something that she and Adèle can eat for dinner. She’s not sneaking because she isn’t supposed to have dinner – she’s sneaking because she doesn’t want anyone to see her.
Unfortunately, Jane doesn’t make it back upstairs before the ladies start coming down, so she has to stand still at the end of a dark hallway and hope they don’t notice her.
The women pass, and Jane and Adèle both feel pretty awed by their fancy clothes and even fancier attitudes. Jane, Adèle, and Adèle’s nurse Sophie eat the food Jane’s scrounged up in the kitchen, forgotten by pretty much everyone and listening a little to the bustle downstairs.
Adèle can’t sleep for all the noise and excitement, so Jane sits with her at the top of the stairs listening to the women play on the piano and to Blanche and Mr. Rochester singing duets. Eventually Adèle falls asleep and Jane puts her to bed.
The party doesn’t break up until one in the morning, and Jane still hasn’t seen Rochester at all. He seems to have forgotten her completely.
The next day, Rochester and his guests take advantage of the nice weather and go out riding to see something or other nearby, Jane doesn’t know what. Jane watches them leave and come back from her window, noticing how Mr. Rochester and Blanche Ingram are riding together on their own, apart from everyone else.
Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that Mr. Rochester wants Adèle and Jane to come and socialize with everyone after dinner this evening. Jane tries to make an excuse, but Mrs. Fairfax tells her that Rochester insisted she come and that he said he would fetch her if she refused.
Adèle shows her true prissy-princess colors and goes crazy getting herself ready when she hears that she’s going to make an appearance at the party. She keeps Jane and Sophie busy getting her ready, and then Jane and Adèle go and wait in a the drawing room for the party to finish their dinner
The guests finish eating and the ladies enter the drawing room; Jane curtseys to them, and some of them nod to her, while others pretty much ignore her. (The men are still in the dining room; it was traditional at formal Victorian dinner parties for the women to leave the table first, go to another room, and chat or read; the men stayed behind, drinking and talking separately. Then, when the men feel ready, they come and join the women.)
Jane explains who the different women are. There are eight of them, four older women and four younger: Mrs. Eshton and her daughters Amy and Louisa; the Dowager Lady Ingram and her daughters Blanche and Mary; Lady Lynn; and Mrs. Colonel Dent. "Dowager" means that Lady Ingram is a widow, and "Mrs. Colonel" means that Mrs. Dent’s husband is, you guessed it, a Colonel.
We’ll tell you now that most of these women are minor characters and aren’t too important to the plot of the novel. Important points to notice:
The Dowager Lady Ingram reminds Jane of Mrs. Reed, which probably means she’s just as spiteful and malicious.
Blanche is incredibly beautiful, and she looks just the way Mrs. Fairfax described her to Jane – which means that she looks like the portrait Jane drew of her without having seen her yet. Creepy.
Blanche is also really clever, but in a nasty Mean Girls way instead of a quiet dorky Jane Eyre way.
Jane decides that Blanche is "majestic" but possibly not Rochester’s type.
Adèle, in her usual bratty way, starts demanding attention from the ladies. A few of them start spoiling her and petting her and she’s as happy as a pig in…um, let’s just say she’s being a little princess and loving it.
After a little while, the gentlemen come in to join the ladies and everyone drinks coffee. There are six men, including Mr. Rochester; the others are Henry and Frederick Lynn, Colonel Dent, Mr. Eshton, and Lord Ingram. Henry and Frederick are Lady Lynn’s sons; Colonel Dent, obviously, is Mrs. Colonel Dent’s husband; Mr. Eshton is Mrs. Eshton’s husband and the father of Amy and Louisa, and Lord Ingram is the Dowager Lady Ingram’s son and the brother of Blanche and Mary. Got all that? Don’t worry, it’s not super-important. Just focus on Blanche and her mom. And Jane and Rochester, of course.
As Mr. Rochester comes in, Jane tries to focus on her knitting (she’s making a beaded silk purse). She remembers the last moment she saw him, where he didn’t want to let go of her hand and they were alone together, and wonders what’s happened to change everything and make him so distant.
When Jane’s sure that Mr. Rochester isn’t looking at her, she lets herself look up and stare at him. Even though he’s not handsome in the usual way, she realizes that to her he’s waaay hot. She also figures out something we’ve known for a few chapters now: despite her best efforts, she’s in love with him.
Jane compares Rochester to the other men in the room; even though most people would probably think they’re more handsome than he is, she has different taste.
Jane decides that she and Rochester are alike; they have more in common with each other than he does with anyone else in the room. They’re kindred spirits. Still, she doesn’t think he’ll ever be interested in her – she’s too far beneath him.
Everyone pairs off to chat, and Blanche flirts with Rochester. Unfortunately, Blanche’s idea of flirting is to talk about how "detestable" and "ridiculous" governesses are, basically insulting Jane right to her face (although she’s talking to Rochester, not Jane).
Blanche and her brother tell stories about how they (and, to a small extent, their sister Mary) used to torment their previous governesses. Let’s see, who do they sound like? Where else in this novel have we seen a brother, two sisters, and a widowed mother who are all vicious and selfish? Hmm, sounds like John, Eliza, and Georgiana Reed and their mother, doesn’t it?
Some of the other women start talking about their experiences with their governesses, and Blanche changes the subject; she doesn’t want anyone else to have a chance to say something clever. She asks Rochester to sing a duet with her.
Before Blanche and Rochester begin singing, they banter about what sort of man Rochester is and Blanche hints that he’s just the type of man she wants for a husband: an ugly guy who worships her, instead of someone as handsome as she is. Nudge, nudge, Edward!
Blanche and Rochester sing, and Jane wants to leave, but she’s mesmerized by Rochester’s voice. As soon as he finishes, she slips out into the hallway, but she has to stop and retie her sandal.
Rochester comes out after Jane and asks why she didn’t come and talk to him in the drawing room. He wants her to come back, but he can tell she’s about to cry, so he lets her go – but first he insists that she join the party every night while they’re there. He stops just short of calling her by some term of endearment – and then leaves.