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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 22

The 100-mile coach trip from Gateshead back to Thornfield takes Jane two days.

Jane didn't write ahead to tell Mrs. Fairfax when she was coming back, and she decides to leave her trunk at the station in Millcote village and walk the last few miles to Thornfield. On her way to the house, she surprises Mr. Rochester, who is seated in the meadow, writing. Rochester exclaims that Jane's unexpected arrival is another proof that she's an elf. Hearing that Mrs. Reed has died, he says of Jane: "She comes from the other world-from the abode of people who are dead...." Jane, for her part, can't help feeling delighted that Rochester has obviously
missed her.

But Jane's happiness at being back at Thornfield is clouded by the prospect of Mr. Rochester's forthcoming marriage. He tells Jane that he has just ordered a fine new carriage for the use of the future Mrs. Rochester, presumably Blanche Ingram.

NOTE:

Rochester comments that his bride will look like Queen Boadicea in the new carriage-a double-edged compliment. Boadicea was the warrior queen who fought against the Romans during the first century B.C., and Mr. Rochester seems to be hinting that married life with Blanche Ingram promises to be less than peaceful.

Jane knows that if Rochester does marry Blanche, Adele will be sent away to school and she'll have to find a new job. She tries to prepare herself to leave Thornfield, but over the next two weeks she can't see any evidence that the wedding is actually being planned. Mr. Rochester isn't even bothering to visit the Ingrams, who live less than 20 miles away. Little by little, Jane allows herself to hope that the marriage is not going to take place after all.

By now, she can't deny to herself that she is very much in love with Mr. Rochester.

CHAPTER 23

It is Midsummer Eve.

NOTE:

This holiday, celebrated on June 23, is associated with the supernatural. Unlike Halloween, whose theme is ghosts and the world of the dead, Midsummer Eve is a time when otherwise sensible people fall foolishly in love. There is also a superstition that on this night young women can find out whether or not their lovers have been true to them.


Shortly after sunset, Jane is walking in the orchard when she smells the aroma of Mr. Rochester's cigar. Not trusting herself to be alone with him, she tries to make her way back to the house. But Rochester catches up with her. He tells Jane that the time has come to give her notice; he has found a new position for her with a family in Ireland, the O'Galls. Jane breaks down in sobs at the news, admitting that she loves Thornfield and is filled with "terror and anguish" at the prospect of parting from Mr. Rochester forever.

At this, Rochester's mood changes completely. He tells Jane that he no longer thinks about marrying Blanche and only told Jane he did in order to shock her into revealing her true feelings for him. "I have no bride!" he exclaims, and drawing Jane close, kisses her passionately on the lips.

At first Jane thinks Rochester is proposing an affair. And then, when he begins to talk about marriage, she thinks that he is making fun of her.

"Am I a liar in your eyes?" Rochester asks, offended.

You may recall that this is the same charge that was leveled at Jane earlier in the story by Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst. Jane, faced with Rochester's insistent declarations of love, begins to think that Rochester must be sincere.

Rochester goes on to tell Jane that he never really cared for Blanche Ingram and that, in order to test her love for him, he spread the rumor that he was not nearly as rich as he seemed to be. After that Blanche's interest in marriage had cooled considerably.

Now completely reassured, Jane admits that she has been in love with Rochester all along. The two of them embrace again. For the first time she calls him by his first name-"Dear Edward!" He calls her "my little wife." "Come to me-come to me entirely now," he says.

But suddenly, just when everything seems to be resolved between the lovers, Rochester becomes very troubled. "God pardon me!" he exclaims as he holds Jane close to him, "and man meddle not with me...."

Jane is confused. Who would want to interfere with their love?

Suddenly a shadow blocks out the light of the moon and a roaring wind races through the meadow. A loud crack of thunder startles Jane, and she burrows her face against Rochester's shoulder. Then the rain starts to pour down, forcing the lovers to run back to the house for shelter. The storm rages fiercely for two hours.

The next morning Jane learns that a bolt of lightning struck the venerable old horse-chestnut tree in the orchard, splitting its trunk in two. Remember that Jane has told us she believes in omens and premonitions. The chestnut tree struck by lightning must be an omen-but of what? Is it a sign of the unleashing of the lovers' passion? Or does it warn that God is displeased with their union?

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