Study Guide

Jane Eyre Volume 1, Chapter 15

By Charlotte Brontë

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Volume 1, Chapter 15

  • One day, while Rochester and Jane are walking in the garden outside Thornfield, Rochester explains his relationship to Adèle’s mother, Céline Varens, more explicitly. It’s a pretty exciting story, so sit back as Rochester begins his tale:
  • Céline was a French opera-dancer with whom Rochester fell in love—and he thought she loved him, too.
  • Rochester became Céline’s sugar daddy: he paid for her to live in an expensive hotel and have lots of servants and every possible luxury. In fact, all this was almost too expensive even for the wealthy Rochester, and he was well on his way to spending his whole fortune on her.
  • One evening, Rochester went to Céline’s place and she was out, so he sat on the balcony waiting for her. He saw her come back to the hotel in the carriage he was paying for... with another guy.
  • Rochester breaks into his own story to comment on the way jealousy poisons everything—for a long time he even hated being at Thornfield because… he stops before telling us why.
  • There’s a long pause while Rochester and Jane stroll along the path and Rochester seems to be wrestling with himself. He tells Jane that he is fighting with a witchy specter of his destiny, and that now he’s defying her and daring to enjoy being at Thornfield.
  • Adèle comes close to Rochester and Jane as she’s playing, and Rochester orders her away. Jane prompts him to continue his story.
  • Before Rochester continues, he notes again how strange it is that he’s telling all this to Jane—what kind of guy tells his eighteen-year-old employee about his sordid affair with a French mistress? But he knows, he says, that Jane is made to be a confidante, and that what he’s telling her won’t hurt her and may help him. Then he continues the story:
  • Rochester stayed hidden on the balcony behind the curtains, waiting for Céline and her lover to come in.
  • Céline and the other guy entered, and Rochester stopped being jealous, because the guy was a cruel idiot Rochester had met before. Rochester decided right away that Céline wasn’t worth his time if she would have an affair with such a loser.
  • Rochester continued to hide and listen to them, but was mostly bored by their lame conversation. He was a bit irritated when they started insulting him behind his back, especially because Céline used to compliment him to his face constantly. (That’s why he was so glad Jane was honest about his looks.)
  • Adèle runs up and interrupts the story, saying that someone has come to see Mr. Rochester. Rochester quickly finishes the story for Jane:
  • Rochester walked in, turned Céline out in the street with a little money to see her through the next few days, and arranged a duel with the lover the next day, at which he shot the guy in the arm. And that was that.
  • But Rochester couldn’t just wash his hands of the whole thing because, six months earlier, Céline had given birth to Adèle. She claimed that Adèle was Rochester’s daughter. He doesn’t think so, but she could be.
  • Several years later, Céline abandoned Adèle and ran off to Italy with another guy.
  • Rochester still didn’t think Adèle was his daughter (or so he claims to Jane), but he felt sorry for her and brought her back to England to grow up under better circumstances.
  • Having finished the story, Rochester asks Jane if now she feels differently about her job as Adèle’s governess. Jane answers that she cares even more about the girl now that she knows Adèle is practically an orphan.
  • Rochester goes in, and Jane stays outside playing with her pupil and the dog. She is more tender to Adèle after hearing the story.
  • That evening, as she’s going to sleep, Jane thinks about what Rochester told her. Most of the story, she decides, is common enough, but the moment where Rochester freaked out while thinking about Thornfield still seems weird. Still, she can’t explain it, so she starts thinking about something else—how Rochester treats her.
  • Jane’s glad that Rochester trusts her so much and that he always seems pleased to see her. He still does most of the talking when they’re together, but she likes to learn from him and respond to his thoughts. She feels like they’re family, not master and servant.
  • Jane decides that Rochester has it in him to be a good person and hopes that she can help him deal with his past, whatever it might be.
  • And Jane wonders—a bit ominously, we think—how long he’ll be able to stay at Thornfield before whatever it is that he hates about the place crops up again. She knows she’ll really regret it if he leaves.
  • Lying awake in bed worrying, Jane hears something strange. She tries to tell herself that it’s nothing, but then she hears the demonic laugh that usually comes from the attic. Someone is outside her bedroom door!
  • Jane gets up, locks the door, and demands to know who’s there. There’s no answer, but she hears footsteps walking away.
  • Determined to talk to Mrs. Fairfax, Jane unbolts the door and leaves the room—only to discover a lit candle sitting outside her door and the hallway filled with smoke. The door to Mr. Rochester’s room is open, and the smoke is billowing out of it.
  • Hardly thinking, Jane runs into Rochester’s room, where she finds the bed curtains on fire. She tries to shake Rochester awake, but he’s already half unconscious from inhaling the smoke, so she’s forced to throw a nearby basin of water over him. She manages to put out most of the fire and wake him up.
  • Rochester’s first reaction is to swear, and his second one is to call Jane a fairy and a sorceress.
  • Jane runs to get the candle from the hall, and she and Rochester look at the wet, scorched bed. She tells him about the laugh she heard and how she came to find him there.
  • Strangely, Rochester’s not surprised—just worried. Jane asks if she should call Mrs. Fairfax or someone else, but Rochester instructs her to stay in his room alone while he goes up to the third floor with the candle.
  • After a long time, while Jane sits in the dark waiting for him, Rochester comes back and says that it’s just what he thought happened... but he doesn’t explain this thought to Jane.
  • Rochester makes sure that Jane didn’t see anything, and then accepts her theory that it is the seamstress Grace Poole who caused the damage. He tells Jane to say nothing about the whole incident.
  • When Jane starts to leave, Rochester stops her, takes her hand, and thanks her for saving his life. He seems to want to say something else, but he doesn’t... and he won’t let go of her hand.
  • Eventually, Jane convinces Rochester that she has to leave before Mrs. Fairfax comes, and he releases her. Jane goes back to bed, but, unsurprisingly, she can’t sleep.

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