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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 20

Once again Jane is awakened during the night-this time not by laughter, but by an agonized scream.

The scream wakes everyone in the house, but only Jane has heard the cries for help coming from the room directly above her own. Mr. Rochester says a servant had a nightmare, and he sends the rest of the household back to their rooms. Jane, however, gets dressed, guessing that he is going to need her help. Sure enough, he returns in a few minutes and leads her to one of the locked rooms on the third floor. There Jane finds Mr. Mason, his face white as a corpse's and one arm soaked in blood.

Rochester asks Jane to nurse Mr. Mason while he goes for a doctor. Before leaving, however, he warns Mason and Jane that they are not to speak to each other, no matter what happens.

Jane hears the unearthly laughter of Grace Poole in the next room, and she hardly knows what she's more afraid of-that Grace will manage to break through the door and attack again or that Mr. Mason will die before Mr. Rochester returns. When the doctor comes, he discovers that, besides the stab wounds, there are teeth marks on Mr. Mason's shoulder. "She bit me," Mr. Mason mutters. "She sucked the blood; she said she'd drain my heart."


This frightening revelation convinces Jane that Grace Poole is a monster. But she's still puzzled. Why does Mr. Rochester keep a woman like Grace in the house? And why does he seem to be afraid of Mr. Mason?

As soon as Mason can be moved, he is hustled out a side door of the house. He'll be cared for by Carter, the doctor, until he is well enough to leave England.

Rochester calls Jane to come out into the garden, and they wander down a quiet walk to an ivy-covered alcove. Jane tries to question him about the night's events. His answers aren't very satisfactory. He repeats that he won't feel safe until Mr. Mason is out of England and then talks vaguely about how a man can be haunted all his life by an error of his youth. What if such a man found a "gentle, gracious stranger" who could bring him peace of mind? Rochester asks. Would he be justified in joining his life to hers, even if it meant going against custom?

Just what is Mr. Rochester talking about? Is he suggesting that he might marry Blanche-a woman some might consider too young for him. Or is he hinting at something even more daring-such as marriage to a mere governess? Notice that Jane never tells us in so many words exactly what she thinks Mr. Rochester has in mind. In any case, her answer avoids the issue. She tells Rochester that no man should depend on another human being for his entire happiness. He should look to God instead.

At this, Mr. Rochester turns sarcastic. He suggests that he may be marrying Miss Ingram after all and even asks Jane whether she would be willing to sit up with him on the night before his wedding.

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