Jane Eyre HTML version

Chapter 15
Mr. Rochester did, on a future occasion, explain it. It was one afternoon, when he
chanced to meet me and Adele in the grounds: and while she played with Pilot
and her shuttlecock, he asked me to walk up and down a long beech avenue
within sight of her.
He then said that she was the daughter of a French opera-dancer, Celine
Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a "grande
passion." This passion Celine had professed to return with even superior ardour.
He thought himself her idol, ugly as he was: he believed, as he said, that she
preferred his "taille d'athlète" to the elegance of the Apollo Belvidere.
"And, Miss Eyre, so much was I flattered by this preference of the Gallic sylph for
her British gnome, that I installed her in an hotel; gave her a complete
establishment of servants, a carriage, cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, &c. In
short, I began the process of ruining myself in the received style, like any other
spoony. I had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame and
destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not to deviate an inch
from the beaten centre. I had--as I deserved to have--the fate of all other
spoonies. Happening to call one evening when Celine did not expect me, I found
her out; but it was a warm night, and I was tired with strolling through Paris, so I
sat down in her boudoir; happy to breathe the air consecrated so lately by her
presence. No,--I exaggerate; I never thought there was any consecrating virtue
about her: it was rather a sort of pastille perfume she had left; a scent of musk
and amber, than an odour of sanctity. I was just beginning to stifle with the fumes
of conservatory flowers and sprinkled essences, when I bethought myself to
open the window and step out on to the balcony. It was moonlight and gaslight
besides, and very still and serene. The balcony was furnished with a chair or two;
I sat down, and took out a cigar,--I will take one now, if you will excuse me."
Here ensued a pause, filled up by the producing and lighting of a cigar; having
placed it to his lips and breathed a trail of Havannah incense on the freezing and
sunless air, he went on -
"I liked bonbons too in those days, Miss Eyre, and I was croquant-- (overlook the
barbarism)--croquant chocolate comfits, and smoking alternately, watching
meantime the equipages that rolled along the fashionable streets towards the
neighbouring opera-house, when in an elegant close carriage drawn by a
beautiful pair of English horses, and distinctly seen in the brilliant city-night, I
recognised the 'voiture' I had given Celine. She was returning: of course my heart
thumped with impatience against the iron rails I leant upon. The carriage
stopped, as I had expected, at the hotel door; my flame (that is the very word for
an opera inamorata) alighted: though muffed in a cloak--an unnecessary
encumbrance, by-the-bye, on so warm a June evening--I knew her instantly by
her little foot, seen peeping from the skirt of her dress, as she skipped from the
carriage-step. Bending over the balcony, I was about to murmur 'Mon ange'--in a
tone, of course, which should be audible to the ear of love alone--when a figure
jumped from the carriage after her; cloaked also; but that was a spurred heel