Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 16

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“And the sago?”w

“Never mind it at present: I shall be coming down before teatime: I’ll make it myself.”

The cook here turned to me, saying that Mrs. Fairfax was waiting for me: so I departed.

I hardly heard Mrs. Fairfax’s account of the curtain conflagration during dinner, so much was I occupied in puzzling my brains over the enigmatical character of Grace Poole, and still more in pondering the problem of her position at Thornfield and questioning why she had not been given into custody that morning, or, at the very least, dismissed from her master’s service.  He had almost as much as declared his conviction of her criminality last night: what mysterious cause withheld him from accusing her?  Why had he enjoined me, too, to secrecy?  It was strange: a bold, vindictive, and haughty gentleman seemed somehow in the power of one of the meanest of his dependants; so much in her power, that even when she lifted her hand against his life, he dared not openly charge her with the attempt, much less punish her for it.

Had Grace been young and handsome, I should have been tempted to think that tenderer feelings than prudence or fear influenced Mr. Rochester in her behalf; but, hard-favoured and matronly as she was, the idea could not be admitted.  “Yet,” I reflected, “she has been young once; her youth would be contemporary with her master’s: Mrs. Fairfax told me once, she had lived here many years.  I don’t think she can ever have been pretty; but, for aught I know, she may possess originality and strength of character to compensate for the want of personal advantages.  Mr. Rochester is an amateur of the decided and eccentric: Grace is eccentric at least.  What if a former caprice (a freak very possible to a nature so sudden and headstrong as his) has delivered him into her power, and she now exercises over his actions a secret influence, the result of his own indiscretion, which he cannot shake off, and dare not disregard?”  But, having reached this point of conjecture, Mrs. Poole’s square, flat figure, and uncomely,w dry, even coarse face, recurred so distinctly to my mind’s eye, that I thought, “No; impossible! my supposition cannot be correct.  Yet,” suggested the secret voice which talks to us in our own hearts, “you are not beautiful either, and perhaps Mr. Rochester approves you: at any rate, you have often felt as if he did; and last night—remember his words; remember his look; remember his voice!”

I well remembered all; language, glance, and tone seemed at the moment vividly renewed.  I was now in the schoolroom; Adèle was drawing; I bent over her and directed her pencil.  She looked up with a sort of start.

“Qu’ avez-vous, mademoiselle?” said she.  “Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!”w

“I am hot, Adèle, with stooping!”  She went on sketching; I went on thinking.

I hastened to drive from my mind the hateful notion I had been conceiving respecting Grace Poole; it disgusted me.  I compared myself with her, and found we were different.  Bessie Leaven had said I was quite a lady; and she spoke truth—I was a lady.d  And now I looked much better than I did when Bessie saw me; I had more colour and more flesh, more life, more vivacity, because I had brighter hopes and keener enjoyments.

“Evening approaches,” said I, as I looked towards the window.  “I have never heard Mr. Rochester’s voice or step in the house to-day; but surely I shall see him before night: I feared the meeting in the morning; now I desire it, because expectation has been so long baffled that it is grown impatient.”

X [w] sago?”


A starch derived from the pith of palm trees and associated in the English mind with the Caribbean and the sugar plantations there. 

X [w] uncomely,


X [w] “Qu’ avez-vous, mademoiselle?” said she. “Vos…

"What is bothering you, Mlle.? Your fingers are trembling like the fire, and your cheeks are red; but red as cherries."


X [d] I was a lady.


Jane is not a "lady" in the conventional sense; she is a young governess. But Bessie means that Jane has the manners and deportment of a lady, and that is how Jane understands the word as applied to her. When she uses it of herself, she may also be including the refined nature of her mind.