Chapters 15 and 16
Jane narrates some of the story of Rochester’s affair with Ad'le’s mother.
She appealed to Rochester’s male ego through flattery and he believed that she returned the feelings he had for her.
However, one night he discovered her with a young Viscount and she proceeded
to mock Rochester’s unhandsome appearance.
He ended his affair but gave her money so that she could continue her career elsewhere. He obtained some satisfaction by wounding her lover in a duel. C'line abandoned her daughter soon after and Rochester brought her back to Thornfield as his ward. Jane doesn’t think less of Rochester over his affair with the French dancer; in fact she is impressed at his devotion to Ad'le even although she is probably not his child.
One night Jane hears noises outside her door, and at first she thinks it is
Pilot, but when she investigates she sees smoke pouring out of Rochester’s bedroom door, and using several basins of water she puts out the fire that threatens to engulf his bed.
Rochester indicates that it is Grace Poole who has set the fire and he makes Jane promise to keep the affair a secret.
The next day she comes into contact with Grace Poole – a rare occurrence -
and she is preparing new curtains for Mr. Rochester’s bedroom. She is a seamstress. She tells Jane that he had fallen asleep whilst reading and a candle had ignited the curtains and bedclothes.
Jane is puzzled by Grace Poole’s position in the house, and why Mr.
Rochester puts up with her behavior.
Rochester has left Thornfield to go to Millcote for a weeklong house party.
Mrs. Fairfax describes Blanche Ingram, who Mr. Rochester admires, as being a
striking and most beautiful woman.
The Gothic tone returns to the storyline. Mysterious noises awaken
Jane and she discovers the fire in Rochester’s bedroom.
Without Jane’s intervention, Rochester may have been killed as he was in a
deep sleep. Rochester acknowledges this by saying, “Why, you have saved my life – snatched me from a horrible and excruciating death '' at least shake hands.” Rochester held out his hand and Jane took
Seeing that there is no danger, Jane is anxious to return to her bedroom,
but Rochester is reluctant to let her go. He says, “I knew, you would do me good in some way, at some time: I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you:”
Jane eventually returns to her bedroom, but spends a restless night.
The reader wonders about Rochester as well. Does he propose to take
advantage of Jane? Does he have true feelings for her? He certainly speaks poetically, but the reader must question Jane’s objectivity due to her naivety with regard to men, and the world in general.
What we need to do is study the character of Rochester in detail. He
is not a womanizer, but has sought solace from the problems that are resident in Thornfield by having a series of relationships so that he can forget the past.
At heart, he is a caring man as is evident by his rescue of Ad'le. What he seeks is lasting happiness. Will he obtain this with Jane or Blanche?
The reader has the advantage over Jane. She does not know what to make
of the man, and her thoughts and feelings are in turmoil.
Not only is Jane puzzled with Rochester, but her encounter with Grace Poole
also raises doubts in her mind concerning this eccentric seamstress.
Jane knows that Rochester must have spoken to Grace Poole and presumably asked her to be secretive as well, but Grace doesn’t hesitate in telling Jane about the fire, and who was to blame.
If all these quandaries were not enough for Jane, Mrs. Fairfax brings her
right back down to earth by telling her that Mr. Rochester has left for a party with Blanche Ingram, one of the most beautiful women in the county, whom he admires.