Jane enters the library and sees the old gypsy woman reading a prayer-book by the fire. Her hat and handkerchief throw shadows over her face.
The woman starts telling Jane her fortune; Jane is calm and amused, and doesn’t believe a word of it. When the woman describes Jane as lonely and unloved, Jane points out that almost anyone in her situation (governess at an isolated rural house) would fit that description. We’re guessing Jane wouldn’t believe in horoscopes, either.
Next the woman tells Jane that she is "very near happiness" and that everything is in place for her happily-ever-after ending, but that something needs to happen first. Jane refuses to be baited, and says she can’t guess the riddle.
Jane does seem at least a little interested – she pays the woman a shilling. The woman says she can’t read Jane’s palm, and that reading palms doesn’t work anyway, but that she can read Jane’s face. Jane’s much more willing to believe that you can read faces – remember all that phrenology stuff from Volume I, Chapter 14?
The woman tries to get Jane to tell her what she’s thinking and feeling. She even tries to prove that she knows Jane by describing how Jane likes to sit in the window seat, but Jane laughs at this and says that she must have learned that from the servants.
The woman admits that she knows Grace Poole. This is getting sinister.
Jane says that sometimes she thinks about saving up her money and starting a little school of her own, but the woman wants to talk about romance and marriage. Jane says she doesn’t care about those things.
The gypsy asks Jane about Mr. Rochester, and when she doesn’t say much in response, the gypsy suggests that Mr. Rochester is in love with Blanche Ingram. Jane admits that the rumor is that Rochester and Blanche are engaged, but corrects the woman on one thing – they’re not in love.
The old woman keeps talking about Mr. Rochester, and Jane says she wants to hear her own fortune, not his.
The gypsy asks Jane to kneel on the hearthrug and studies her face, describing its features: Jane’s eyes, which are "soft and full of feeling" but show that she’s laughing silently at the woman; Jane’s mouth, which the woman says is meant to laugh and talk and not be so stern all the time; and her forehead, which shows her insistence on reason and ethics.
In a moment, the woman’s voice changes – the old gypsy woman is Mr. Rochester in disguise, and he’s just been messing with everyone. He can’t bring himself to tease Jane any more, though, and so he lets her know who he is.
Rochester takes off his costume and asks Jane what she thinks. Jane’s not sure whether she’s upset. It bothers her that Rochester was trying to get her to "talk nonsense," maybe by getting her to admit that she’s attracted to him, but she didn’t end up saying anything embarrassing, so she thinks she can forgive him.
Rochester asks Jane to stay and tell him what everyone else was saying about the different "fortunes" he told the women and any other news. She tells him about Mason’s arrival, and he’s so horrified that he can’t even stand up anymore. Clearly, Mason’s presence means something terrible has happened, or will happen.
Jane helps Rochester to a chair. This is the second time he’s had to lean on her shoulder. (Remember the first, in Volume I, Chapter 12?)
Rochester tells Jane that he wishes they were alone on a deserted island together. She offers to do anything for him – even if she has to sacrifice her own life. He assures her that he’ll let her know if she can help.
Rochester sends Jane to get him a glass of wine and to see what everyone’s doing in the other room. She comes back and tells him everyone is laughing and chatting as usual; he seems a little relieved.
Rochester asks Jane what she would do if everyone else in the party rejected him; she says she wouldn’t care at all. He’s a little bit happier after this, and asks her to go and send Mason to see him. She does, and then goes to bed. Lying awake, she hears Mr. Rochester come upstairs with Mr. Mason, show him to a room politely, then go to his own room, and this makes her feel better.