Jane Eyre: Novel Summary: Chapters 17-18
Chapter 17: After ten days there is no word from Rochester, and Mrs. Fairfax says that she would not be surprised if he was gone a year. Jane tries not to be upset by this, convincing herself that she should have no bearing on the actions of her master. After a fortnight a letter from Mr. Rochester comes, saying that he will be home in three days with company. All of the rooms are cleaned and more servants are hired to make ready for the company and the servants they will bring with them. Jane notices that while everyone is doing all they can to prepare, Grace Poole stays up on the third story and only comes down to eat. Jane thinks it odd that no one else seems to notice her strange behavior. She overhears two of the servants talking about Grace, and saying that it is good that she gets paid well, because not everyone could do what she does. When they see Jane, one servant quiets the other, who asks, "Doesn't she know?" to which the first servant answers negatively.
The guests arrive Thursday evening, and Mrs. Fairfax sees that Miss Ingram is among them. The next day Jane notices that Miss Ingram and Mr. Rochester seem to prefer each other. Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that Rochester wants her to bring Adele into the drawing room after dinner. Adele and Jane enter the room before the others, and when the women come in, only a few nod to Jane, while the others just stare.
Jane describes each of the eight women in the room. Coffee is brought in, and the gentlemen enter. Rochester does not speak to Jane, but stands by the fireplace with Miss Ingram. Jane can not stop looking at him, and she tells the reader that she did not mean to love him. When asked why he does not send Adele to school, Rochester says that it is too expensive. The others say that having a governess is also expensive, and then many go into stories about how useless and silly governesses are. Even this does not make Rochester look at Jane. Miss Ingram tries to change the subject by getting Rochester to sing. He does, and Jane hears he has a wonderful voice, and when he is done, she slips out of the room.
He follows her into the hall, and Jane is on the verge of tears. He asks her what is wrong, and says that if he had the time he would talk to her about it, but that he must get back to his guests. He also tells her that he expects her to appear in the drawing room every evening with the guests, and when they part he says "Good-night, my-" and stops, bites his lip, and re-enters the room.
Chapter 18: One evening in the drawing room the party decides to play charades. Rochester picks his team, and of course Miss Ingram is on it. A man from the party asks Miss Ingram if they should ask Jane to play, and she returns that "she looks too stupid for any game of the sort." Rochester's team plays out a dumbshow where he and Miss Ingram are married, and the other team solves the charade as 'bridewell.' It is then the other team's turn, but Jane cannot relate what their charade was, as she spent the whole time staring at Rochester and Miss Ingram.
Jane says that she could not feel real jealousy, as Miss Ingram was "too inferior to excite the feeling." Jane goes on to say that "she was very showy, but she was not genuine; she had a fine person, many brilliant attainments, but her mind was poor, her heart barren by nature." Jane also relates that she and the other guests had noticed a spiteful antipathy that Miss Ingram had for Adele. She would push her away and order her from the room. Jane says that if Miss Ingram was a noble woman and had won Rochester's heart, she could have admired her, but she sees that Rochester is not won over by her. Jane is surprised that it seems that it is Rochester's intention to marry for interest and connections, but Jane feels herself unjustified in judging him or Miss Ingram for conforming to the ideas of their class.
One day Rochester is summoned to Millcote on business, and the party feels his absence and are not as animated. A stranger arrives saying he is an old friend of Rochester's and will stay until he returns. Jane overhears that the man's name is Mr. Mason, and that he knows Rochester from his travels in the West Indies. Jane is surprised that Rochester's travels took him to such distant shores. The footman enters the room and says that there is a gypsy in the house that will not leave until she tells the fortunes to the party. Miss Ingram wants her brought in. The gypsy is shown into the library and states that she will see no men, but only young and single ladies.
Miss Ingram goes first, but when she comes out fifteen minutes later all of the joy she went in with is gone. She sits in a corner pretending to read, but Jane notices she does not turn any pages. Other of the female guests then go in together, and all come out saying how amazing it was that the gypsy seemed to know them and their wishes so well. The footman then comes up to Jane, saying that the gypsy knows that there is yet another young single woman, and Jane says she will go.