Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 16

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When dusk actually closed, and when Adèle left me to go and play in the nursery with Sophie, I did most keenly desire it.  I listened for the bell to ring below; I listened for Leah coming up with a message; I fancied sometimes I heard Mr. Rochester’s own tread, and I turned to the door, expecting it to open and admit him.  The door remained shut; darkness only came in through the window.  Still it was not late; he often sent for me at seven and eight o’clock, and it was yet but six.  Surely I should not be wholly disappointed to-night, when I had so many things to say to him!  I wanted again to introduce the subject of Grace Poole, and to hear what he would answer; I wanted to ask him plainly if he really believed it was she who had made last night’s hideous attempt; and if so, why he kept her wickedness a secret.  It little mattered whether my curiosity irritated him; I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always prevented me from going too far; beyond the verge of provocation I never ventured; on the extreme brink I liked well to try my skill.  Retaining every minute form of respect, every propriety of my station, I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy restraint; this suited both him and me.

A tread creaked on the stairs at last.  Leah made her appearance; but it was only to intimate that tea was ready in Mrs. Fairfax’s room.  Thither I repaired, glad at least to go downstairs; for that brought me, I imagined, nearer to Mr. Rochester’s presence.

“You must want your tea,” said the good lady, as I joined her; “you ate so little at dinner.  I am afraid,” she continued, “you are not well to-day: you look flushed and feverish.”

“Oh, quite well!  I never felt better.”

“Then you must prove it by evincing a good appetite; will you fill the teapot while I knit off this needle?”  Having completed her task, she rose to draw down the blind, which she had hitherto kept up, by way, I suppose, of making the most of daylight, though dusk was now fast deepening into total obscurity.

“It is fair to-night,” said she, as she looked through the panes, “though not starlight; Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a favourable day for his journey.”

“Journey!—Is Mr. Rochester gone anywhere?  I did not know he was out.”

“Oh, he set off the moment he had breakfasted!  He is gone to the Leas, Mr. Eshton’s place, ten miles on the other side Millcote.  I believe there is quite a party assembled there; Lord Ingram, Sir George Lynn, Colonel Dent, and others.”

“Do you expect him back to-night?”

“No—nor to-morrow either; I should think he is very likely to stay a week or more: when these fine, fashionable people get together, they are so surrounded by elegance and gaiety, so well provided with all that can please and entertain, they are in no hurry to separate.  Gentlemen especially are often in request on such occasions; and Mr. Rochester is so talented and so lively in society, that I believe he is a general favourite: the ladies are very fond of him; though you would not think his appearance calculated to recommend him particularly in their eyes: but I suppose his acquirements and abilities, perhaps his wealth and good blood, make amends for any little fault of look.”

“Are there ladies at the Leas?”

“There are Mrs. Eshton and her three daughters—very elegant young ladies indeed; and there are the Honourable Blancheh and Mary Ingram, most beautiful women, I suppose: indeed I have seen Blanche, six or seven years since, when she was a girl of eighteen.  She came here to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave.  You should have seen the dining-room that day—how richly it was decorated, how brilliantly lit up!  I should think there were fifty ladies and gentlemen present—all of the first county families; and Miss Ingram was considered the belle of the evening.”

X [h] the Honourable Blanche

Class

Denoting that she is the unmarried, eldest daughter of a lord.